Vikes grow the game in Fort St. John

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July 29,2014(ISN) – VICTORIA – This year marked the seventh-consecutive summer that the University of Victoria Vikes soccer program headed north to put on a week-long camp for local youth soccer clubs in Fort St. John, B.C. Over 70 campers aged 9-16 benefited from expertise of Vikes soccer players from Jul. 21-25.

“The organizers up in Fort St. John are great and they make it so easy for us to just show up and coach,” says Bruce Wilson who will enter his 27th year this fall as head coach of the Vikes men’s soccer program. “We have kids who have been attending the camp for two or three years now and we get to watch them grow and learn. They really love the Vikes.”

Wilson isn’t new to the two-day journey through the B.C. interior. Five years prior to the Fort St. John camp the Vikes ran similar camps in Dawson Creek. The Fort St. John soccer clubs have since convinced Wilson to set up shop in their hometown and since 2008 Wilson has never looked back.

“Our three main purposes for the camp are to give experience to my players as coaches, ensure all the campers enjoy themselves and for everyone to make a new friend,” adds Wilson.

Full commitment is required from all of the coaches, which includes several former and current Vikes. Accompanying Wilson this year were alumni James Rhodes and Justin Manz, as well as fourth year Alex Redpath, second year Lindsay Machin and fourth year Carlita Branion-Calles.

“Our coaches are very professional, knowledgeable and organized, of course, all while having fun,” explains Wilson. “We provide all the equipment, the Gatorade and iconic Vikes t-shirts. We do our best to replicate the UVic Vikes soccer camps environment and make it as UVic as possible.”

One of the most popular activities during the week is the World Cup tournament. On Mondays the kids are assigned to a country and as world cup teams they then scrimmage against each another throughout the week. With the Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup recently wrapping up, the participants were exceptionally excited about playing like the pros this summer.

“It’s difficult for 16 and 17-year-old athletes who want to pursue the sport to get good exposure to high-level soccer,” adds Wilson. “Unfortunately (being so far away) does hinder their development when striving for a spot on the Vikes compared to a Vancouver or Victoria-based player who gets regular, high-level training. These camps are giving them some of that needed exposure.”

With that said, Wilson is quick to promote the University of Victoria, in general, as an excellent experience.

“Many of the kids in Fort St. John may not know there is a university on the island. This gives us a chance to spread the word, to make them aware of the and to think about attending UVic. Even if they don’t play for the Vikes, Victoria is a great place to be.”

Wilson also hopes to extend his northern connections by adding a second week onto his journey next summer. Soccer clubs from Penticton have posed interest in hosting the Vikes for a summer camp.

The final Vikes soccer summer camp opportunity at the University of Victoria will occur the week of Aug. 15. Registration is open to participants aged 8-18.

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