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Soccer players preparing for changes

By: Randy Pascal – Playback

 | Dec 26, 2013 - 10:53 AM |
With changes to the Ontario Soccer Association (OSA) provincial program in the works, the satellite group in Northern Ontario might also soon be dealing with alterations. File photo.

With changes to the Ontario Soccer Association (OSA) provincial program in the works, the satellite group in Northern Ontario might also soon be dealing with alterations. File photo.

With changes to the Ontario Soccer Association (OSA) provincial program in the works, the satellite group in Northern Ontario might also soon be dealing with alterations.

In the meantime, the 30 or so youngsters from across the north that form the local satellite group, including a half dozen from Sault Ste. Marie and a trio from North Bay, gathered at the Sudbury Indoor Soccer centre one last time before Christmas.

"The satellite program was designed originally as part of the provincial program for players not in the GTA to stay at home and get the training they need," explained former soccer professional Brian Ashton.

Attracting players primarily aged 14 to 17 who have already taken part at the initial regional talent identification phase (U-13), the program seeks to keep the northern crew on the radar, raising the bar with most skillful soccer teens in the area.

"You can work on more complex things with these kids, striking the ball with a bit of a swerve, teaching combination plays," said Ashton. "You can fit that into a training session here."

Goalie Hunter Adams, 13, has now spent four years fine-tuning his craft, and he encounters little challenge identifying areas of his game where the improvement is more than a little noticeable.

"One-on-one defending and corner kicks," said Adams. "With corner kicks, you have to be aggressive, and you have to know how far you can go and how far not to go. I'm taller and I jump pretty well, so I can usually clear the ball out.

"I prefer to punch it to where there are no players, so my guys have at least a 50/50 chance to come up with the ball."

Benefitting from the satellite practice sessions that finds numerous older players testing his ability, Adams is also the only goaltender in the group, a bit of a double-edged sword, at times.

"It's good, because you get more playing time," he said. "But there's no real competition against you, so it's me playing against me right now."

At just 12 years of age, Mackenzie Watkins of Valley East ranks among the youngest players on the floor.

First introduced to soccer with the Valley East Soccer Association at the age of four, Watkins eventually graduated to the tutelage of coach Marilyn Bodson and the more competitive arm of the sport, playing under the umbrella of the Greater Sudbury Soccer Club.

While she has lined up on just about every position on the pitch, Watkins prefers defence and midfielder.

"I like setting up goals instead of scoring them," she said. "I'm more of a playmaker."

With that in mind, Watkins spends plenty of time at this level working on her defensive play, ensuring she maintains proper positioning.

"Brian has told us that most players in Northern Ontario like to just try and go in and take the ball, rather than waiting patiently," Watkins stated.

"What I usually do, when I know they're really good with their feet, is wait until they make a move and then step in with my foot."

Exposed to training counterparts who are mostly at least a few years her elder, Watkins sees a need to pay this experience forward.

"We get to learn from the older kids, and then when we're older, we can teach the younger kids and they can learn from us."

With the success that has been seen lately from the likes of Cloe Lacasse, Jenna Hellstrom and Michael Marcantognini, among others, there is plenty of learning on the go.

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