Highlanders FC are pleased to announce the integration between the Victoria Highlanders Football Club and Thomas Niendorf’s Pacific Elite Soccer Institute (PSI). The academy, run out of the Westshore by Niendorf, will fully integrate into the Highlanders organization as the newly named Highlanders FC Residency Program.
“We are extremely excited to integrate the Highlanders program with Thomas’ PSI Academy,” stated Highlanders co-owner Brett Large. “This will provide even more opportunities for young athletes to pursue not only their sports dreams but their life goals as well. Development has always been a staple within the Highlanders organization and something we pride ourselves on. We want to see these players using the experiences they’ve gained here and apply it to their future. This program is about getting the players ready for the next step as they look towards their soccer future.”
The PSI Academy has produced a number of players that have become a part of the Highlanders organizations whether it be the USL League Two First Team, the Pacific Coast Soccer League Second Team, or affiliated clubs such as the Vancouver Island Soccer League based and 2019 Jackson Cup winning Westcastle United. These players include Joshua and Jonathan Walter, Sean Young, Goteh Ntignee, Simon Stacey, Alec-Michael Petrizzi, and many more.
Joshua Walter and his brother Jonathan recently moved to Germany to pursue professional soccer opportunities along with fellow PSI graduate Alec-Michael Petrizzi. Meanwhile, Sean Young became an integral part of the Highlanders midfield during the 2019 USL League Two season, and Goteh Ntignee made the USL League Two Top 50 Prospects list this past season finishing at 27th overall.
“The integration between the organizations allows us to support young and gifted student athletes to develop their skills within the game of soccer and as a person with the best possible conditions to succeed on and off the field,” stated Highlanders head coach Thomas Niendorf. “It will create a competitive and progressive development environment for young players in the 15 to 21 years of age range. It also provides a consistent development pathway, combining the resources of the Highlanders Residency Program and USL League Two team year-round, with four to five years of development stages.”
These development stages include:
- Year 1 & 2 – Highlanders Residency Academy (Grade 11 & 12) – U-19 Team
- Year 3 – Post-graduation year – U-19 Team/U-21 Development Team
- Year 4 – USL League Two Team
The additions of a U-19 team in the Vancouver Island Soccer League and U-21 development team (traveling) will help create more opportunities for the players as they move through the system. With development being an important focus for the Highlanders as an organization, the chance to operate a Residency program will help foster that development from the First Team down to the U-19 team.
“The U19 team in the VISL gives young players the experience playing against men in a competitive environment and, importantly, have regularly scheduled games. Getting time against men early on helps you to make the adjustment faster when you make the jump to pro,” added Niendorf. “The U-21 development team serves as a stepping stone towards professional opportunities, a defined and proven pathway for players to progress to the professional ranks. It creates the appropriate identification and profiling environment. Highlanders FC have now established conditions that allow us to recruit and develop professional prospects.”