'Opens their eyes a little bit': P.E.I. soccer players learn from pro academy

About 30 young P.E.I. girls participated in soccer drills and scrimmages Wednesday night lead by Marinos Papageorgopoulos, the director and associate head coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC Academy Centre.

18 players will also travel to Vancouver in April for a chance to impress college and university coaches

A provincial group of under 15 girls trained with a coach from the Vancouver Whitecaps Academy Centre on Wednesday Night in Stratford. (Stephanie Brown/CBC News)

About 30 young P.E.I. girls participated in soccer drills and scrimmages Wednesday night lead by Marinos Papageorgopoulos, the director and associate head coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC Academy Centre. 

The players from the under 15 girls division were at the indoor soccer field in Stratford. This first training session was the result of a partnership between the P.E.I. Soccer Association and Vancouver Whitecaps FC Academy Centre.

Papageorgopoulos arrived on the Island Wednesday morning, and will stay for four days doing training sessions with players, education sessions with the provincial coaches, and providing information to parents.

'Boots on the ground' partnership

Papageorgopoulos said his trip to the Island was to support the coaches, player development, and to identify players.

"It's not just a partnership that we provide resources in terms of curriculum and sessions," Papageorgopoulos said.

"It's a partnership where boots on the ground is what's important, not just for us but for the local association here where the players can actually see and feel and touch what the partnership means. Where a coach from Vancouver comes in and runs sessions for the local players

Marinos Papageorgopoulos is the director and associate head coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC Academy Centre. (Stephanie Brown/CBC News)

Johnathan Vos, the technical director with the P.E.I. Soccer Association said there were tryouts in November and December for the winter provincial training program, which the Whitecaps Academy training has been added to.

Vos said the cost of the winter provincial program is $600.

Team to play in Vancouver

A team of 18 players from the girls under 15 division will travel to Vancouver in April. They will play in a four-day tournament in front of about 150 coaches from colleges and universities across the U.S. and Canada.

Vos said this is a chance for the girls to be exposed to what soccer is like at a higher level, early on.

The players listened while they got instructions on drills. (Stephanie Brown/CBC News)

"A lot of them with be 14 or 15-year-olds, it will be an early start for them, just to give them a taste. It will be a good growth experience for them," said Vos.

"It kind of opens their eyes a little bit, of maybe what it takes to get to the next level. It is part of a player pathway, our players now have a foot in the door, that opportunity is there."

'Take your skills to the next level'

Thirteen-year-old Elly Dobson will be going to Vancouver as part of the team. She said she's excited to visit the city and play in the tournament.

"It's a good opportunity to take your skills to the next level," Dobson said.

Elly Dobson is 13 years old, and will be going to Vancouver in April with the team. (Stephanie Brown/CBC News)

Papageorgopoulos said only a small percentage of players end up going pro, so this showcase gives players a chance to be recognized.

"These girls come to Vancouver and showcase themselves in front of those [coaches] to hopefully get an offer in terms of a scholarship for an education," he said.

The players going to Vancouver have to cover the costs of the trip, which the P.E.I. Soccer Association has estimated could be around $1,900.

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