'There's talent in this town' says Soccer Canada's development chief of Yellowknife
Jason deVos was in the N.W.T as part of cross-country soccer tour
One of Canada's most decorated international soccer players says youngsters in the North have the talent to compete with their counterparts in southern Canada.
Jason deVos, Canada Soccer's top development official, wrapped up a visit to the Northwest Territories and likes what he sees.
"I'm hugely impressed by the calibre of people involved in grassroots soccer in our country," he said, "Especially in the rural areas, some of the more isolated areas."
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DeVos is in the middle of a tour of grassroots soccer organizations across the country. He was in Yellowknife and Behchocko last week, speaking with local officials and meeting young players.
"There's talent in this town," he said. "There are 10, 11, 12 year olds who are as good here as anywhere in the country. The challenge for us is, how do we get those kids to the level their talent should take them to?"
At one time, deVos was one of those talented young players himself. He is a product of the Canadian development system and is a decorated Canadian international and professional player.
His 20-year playing career included stints with Canada's national team, clubs in the English Premier League and the Montreal Impact in the Major League Soccer. In August he was tasked with developing the game at the grassroots level across the country.
"We have to focus on the entire player pool and we have to create a system that puts in the needs of those players first and the way we do that is to allow all of them the same opportunities to develop," he said.
One of the biggest challenges for high quality soccer players in the Northwest Territories is the limited number of players in such a huge territory, explained Ollie Williams, the president of N.W.T Soccer. That makes it difficult for quality players to move ahead into elite training camps and clubs.
To address that, N.W.T Soccer is signing an agreement with the Saskatchewan Soccer Association to allow players from the Northwest Territories to play at development camps in Saskatchewan.
N.W.T Soccer is also looking at restructuring Yellowknife's soccer clubs to better unify the system and get more youth involved in the sport, Williams said.
"We're trying to give kids an opportunity to succeed at what they want to succeed at," he said.
"That doesn't mean making the Canadian national team. If you just want to kick a soccer ball around and have fun for the rest of your life, you should have the opportunity to do that."
With files from Loren McGinnis