08s GIRLS ARE TWO GOOD IN ROCHESTER!
TAKE IT AS RED...the victorious 08s Girls White squad with the coaching staff after their win in the Lakefront Classic
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER’S 08 Girls squad made their first road trip to the States for the Lakefront Classic in Rochester - and returned with two out of the three squads winning the tournament.
The club’s female program has a lofty reputation to live up to given the work put in over the last decade to churn out a conveyor belt of players who have earned Provincial, Regional Excellence and Canadian National Team slots.
There are high hopes for both the 07s and 08s to carry on that success story and the first steps for the U11s in America were promising under the guidance of Head Coach Euan Montgomerie.
The top Green squad scorched to victory in their Final after winning every group game as they beat host club Lakefront SC 5-1 on their own turf.
And that was followed up by the White squad also triumphing with a 2-1 clinching win of their own over Pittsford Mustangs.
Euan reflected: “All three divisions of girls teams played a fantastic brand of soccer over the weekend with two winning their flights.
“They faced different challenges such as no heading, no retreat line, very direct play from US teams but they all coped very well.
“They also coped extremely well in high pressure situations with them playing in Finals for the first time and with one team holding their nerve to win on penalties.
“However, as much as it was great to win two flights, I got as much pleasure seeing all the girls cheer each other on at different games, showing a real togetherness.”
For the 07s Girls this was their second trip to the Rochester tournament and another key step in their development.
In November these girls will make the switch from Grassroots to Competitive within the club as they will make up the squads at OPDL (Provincial), CSL (Regional) and TSA (District) level.
In 2018 the 07s set a record for the club at this level sweeping all three flights and that weekend was always going to be very tough to replicate.
This tournament can be a shock to the system for developing Canadian players, when our new OPDL 06 Girls played there they were technically sound and losing Finalists but left stunned at the size and speed of their American rivals.
This time round the 07s also discovered the fine margins of tournament play in the USA.
All three squads were edged out in the group stages in extremely tight matches.
Head Coach Euan sensed the disappointment of his players but was philosophical as this gifted group looks to the challenges ahead in the next six months.
He stressed: “As with the 08s, all of the rosters had to cope with a very direct physical style of play from the US teams.
“Whilst it was a mixed weekend in terms of results, there was some fantastic skill and passages of play from all three rosters.
“Playing in a high pressure environment where a lot of the games were won or lost by one goal should help them enormously moving forward for the summer season and onto the next stage of their development.”
SUCCESSFUL MISSION FOR THE DOUBLE 07s!
A TIME TO LEARN...the 07s Boys Greens take instructions from coach Andy King and Grassroots manager Tom Waud
TWO tournament wins, four Finals appearances and a rollercoaster of emotions in a fun-packed soccer weekend Stateside.
The North Toronto Nitros Soccer U11 and U12 Boys squads’ annual trip to the Lakefront Classic in Rochester is always a highlight of the club’s travel calendar and yet again it didn’t disappoint.
Our 07s Boys Green and White squads both won their brackets with their counterparts in the 08s groups at the same level both reaching the Final of their competitions before being edged out.
Throughout the entire boys program all six teams who travelled did the club proud and for Head Coach Andy King it was an experience to treasure.
The gifted 07s Green squad clinched their title with a 1-0 win over Toronto rivals East York in the Final.
At the same time on an adjacent pitch the White team were securing their own glory with a 2-1 clincher over American rivals Rochester Lancers Academy.
That meant a scene to remember as both teams ran towards each other at time-up to celebrate and Andy smiled: “The most rewarding moment was seeing the two winners charge towards each other to celebrate each others’ success as both finals ended at the same time.
“There is a real feeling of togetherness within this pool and that is something our program is very big on promoting to the players.
“It certainly bodes well as players move towards the 11v11 game after the Summer season.”
Our club has high hopes for this 07s Boys program with the depth of talent that has been nurtured in it.
Last year the White squad secured the Rochester honours but for many of the Green squad players this was a chance to bury the memory of a gut-wrenching last-gasp semi-final loss in 2018.
They did that in style and the triumphs are a fitting bookend as their time in the Grassroots division begins to draw to a close.
Andy is excited to see the next steps of this group’s journey and he reasoned: “I think credit has to go to the outstanding coaching staff who have worked with this talented pool over the past five years in the various development programs at NTSC.
“It was great to see all three teams win their groups before moving on to the knockout rounds, playing some breathtaking soccer on the way.”
For the 08s Boys this was their first experience of a scores and standings tournament in the States.
The Rochester experience gives our teams - brought up to play out from the back in a passing philosophy - a first look at very different styles of the Beautiful Game.
Andy confessed: “I think it was a real eye opener for them to see a very contrasting style of play from many of the US teams that they faced.
“Those teams were very direct and physical which gave the players very different challenges and problems to solve, especially given that heading is banned at U11 in the States! The boys stood up to those challenges very admirably.”
The Lakefront Classic has been a great proving ground for young Nitros players over the last few years.
North Toronto Nitros Soccer is now a name respected and known at U11 and U12 level because of our exploits winning flights over both the boys and girls programs there.
That first feeling of scores and standings was something the competitive 08s boys relished and Head Coach Andy said: “I was delighted that all of the U11 teams experienced some success and put in some excellent performances.
“I think they’ll learn just as much from the taste of elimination, how it felt to lose on penalties or to concede a late goal in a game.
“Overall it was a great learning experience for all and one that we’d like to do all over again.”
The Grassroots teams now return to their summer seasons in the Toronto Soccer Association leagues and look forward to their weeks in the Nitros Academy.
For the 07s Boys the next steps will be OPDL, CSL and TSA soccer with the 08s this winter taking over their mantle as the top group in the boys program.
ADAM HEMATI: FROM NITROS TO FACING XAVI
TACKLING AN ICON....Adam Hemati (left) in a midfield duel with Barcelona legend Xavi as Persepolis take on Qatar's Al Saad
FROM Nitros to facing the legendary Xavi and playing in front of 110,000 fans in the Asian Champions League Final.
Adam Hemati is living a soccer life less ordinary.
The 24-year-old midfielder is now starring for Iranian giants Persepolis in a land dominated by his club’s bitter rivalry with their historic foes Esteghlal.
Yet Hemati’s roots lie in The 6ix with North Toronto Nitros Soccer where he grew up as a player under the watchful gaze of coach Hermann Kingue.
Adam credits Hermann with giving him the self-belief to craft a soccer future in Iran and he reflected: “We played against Kashima Antlers of Japan in the Asian Champions League Final and in the home leg we had 110,000 fans at the game.
“I was standing in the line-up thinking: “How did I get here from Nitros!”
“It was an unbelievable experience and one I will never forget.
“We drew that one 0-0 but lost out 2-0 on aggregate in the end.
“I played against Xavi in the run to the Final and I got a picture with him which was something to treasure against someone I had watched all those times for Barcelona and Spain.
“Someone else beat me to his jersey, though!
“It was his last ever game for his final club as a player, Al Saad of Qatar, against my team which was pretty special.”
At Nitros there is a mantra inside the coaching room that our experienced and cosmopolitan technical staff all truly stick to and believe in.
Players don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
For Adam, Hermann sums that approach up and he recalled: “Coach Kingue came into my football life when I was 15, I’d been with Hearts Azzurri and done well but I needed a new direction.
“That was such a key time in my development, we had promotions and a lot of success together.
“There are things I learned from Hermann then that I still apply to my game now as a professional.
“He has such a depth of inside knowledge of the game and even at a high level now I find players who don’t understand the concepts he taught me.
“Hermann was truly instrumental, those were the four most important years in my development.”
Adam’s parents were born and raised in Iran, he was born and bred in Canada.
This wide world of soccer story took a key twist with the intervention of a battle-hardened former Cameroon international who knew the highs and lows of playing in Europe.
The Hemati family grew to have total trust in Hermann’s guiding presence in their son’s life.
Adam smiled: “My mum and dad would tell Hermann that when I was on the pitch at training he became my father AND my mother.
“And, yes, I remember that in training he would be yelling and screaming sometimes and pulling us into the right positions but it showed the passion he has. That he cares.
“When you feel that the guy who is developing you cares more than you do it pushes you.
“In training he could be so vocal and then in games he would sit quietly and watch.
“In the game you got to express yourself and in training that was your learning time. He gives you both.
“He kept you on a chain in practice and then he set you free in the match, that helped me so much.”
Three years ago, still in the midst of his schooling at Ryerson University, the chance arose for Adam to travel to his parents’ homeland and train with the country’s biggest club Persepolis.
It was an opportunity that was to change the course of his life yet at first he confesses he treated that trip as a soccer holiday.
Adam stressed: “I got super-lucky to have that chance but I was looking at it as an experience to enjoy so to be honest I just had fun on the field.
“I did well and the coach liked me and wanted to sign me but I was still at school back here at Ryerson.
“They told me to go back and finish school and then I returned on trial and I got my contract.
“In Year One I played one game for eight minutes with the first team. That was pretty difficult.
“It was tough for me, I was living on the bench and it took a toll but mentally I got through it.
“Now I have had a lot more playing time and I have scored my first goal and played in a lot of big games.
“Our average attendance for games is between 45,000 to 55,000 people. The fans there are crazy, there are two big teams.
“There is Persepolis and Esteghlal and it is like Manchester United and Chelsea, Red v Blue.”
We caught up with Adam to share a coffee with coach Hermann and fellow Nitros alumni Niba MacDonald of Slovakia’s FC Nitra in the bustle of Yonge and Eglinton.
Both players were relishing their vacations back home before they return to two very different lands for pre-season training.
For Adam life now has strict guidelines compared to his upbringing in The 6ix.
He revealed: “I have moved to an Islamic country with a different culture, no drinking, no clubs.
“In truth that has helped me, I just focus on my football and I have no other barriers, the language I knew because of my family.
“It’s so much easier for me than it has been for Niba who has adapted to a new country in Europe where he didn’t speak a word of the language at first.
“He has faced so many difficulties and overcome them, it’s very impressive to me.
“With me I have my family ties there and I worry only about my football.
“That’s why whenever I think about Niba’s situation I take my hat off to his determination to succeed. It’s not easy.”
Hemati and MacDonald are shining examples of what can be achieved with an inner strength and a core devotion to improving yourself as a player.
So what would they say to the aspiring Nitros players who dream of following in their cleat marks and making it to the world of professional soccer?
Adam said: “If I had some advice for any young Nitros player reading this it would be to always believe in yourself to the fullest.
“There will always be a coach or even a team-mate who doesn’t think you are good enough.
“Every coach I had besides Hermann told me I wasn’t good enough or I didn’t understand the game enough to get to the top level.
“When I was a youth player they’d pick the fastest and the strongest and that wasn’t me.
“I tried to to come early to practice and be the last to leave and I took the views of those who didn’t rate me as a personal challenge to me.
“So to young players I’d say the most important aspect is your work ethic. Train outside of the Nitros as well as when you are there, that’s what makes the difference.”
NIBA MacDONALD: STARRING IN SLOVAKIA
OVERCOMING OBSTACLES....Niba MacDonald is focused on improving as a player in Slovakia with FC Nitra
NIBA MacDONALD needed a platform to show the world what he has as a soccer player, Hermann Kingue and North Toronto Nitros gave him it.
That’s the way the 24-year-old defender sees it and he will always have a debt of gratitude to his mentor and the club who helped mould him.
The Cameroon star is sparkling right now for FC Nitra in the top division of Slovakian football.
Yet just four years ago making it big in Europe was a distant dream and he recalled: “When I first came to Canada in 2015 I didn’t have the opportunity to play but Hermann gave me that chance.
“I will always be grateful for that because without that kindness I wouldn’t be where I am today.
“I played Under-21 with him and then we got the chance to play in League One when North Toronto got the licence.
“That was huge for me, it was a platform and I got to Europe on the back of that.
“League One got me noticed, I won some individual awards there that raised my profile and it meant I could have a shot at Europe which was my dream.”
Hermann’s empathy with the battles his countryman faced was a key component in Niba’s rise.
MacDonald had found a kindred spirit who could coach, coax and cajole the best out of him.
Niba revealed: “I learned so much from Hermann and I will always be grateful to him.
“Hermann has experience on the field as a pro player in Europe and also now as an excellent coach.
“He told me what I would need to make it, when Hermann is on the field it is business and he is demanding of you but players need that.”
Niba was a stand-out in League One, powerful and dominant as he stamped his authority on the division.
It was a key part of his education but more testing lessons were to come as he chased his dreams in Europe.
PRIZE GUY....League One rivals voted Niba one of the division's star men, a talent confirmed with a move to Europe
He confessed: “This has been a tough adventure for me in Slovakia and such a learning experience, I am there on my own.
“I have to concentrate in every session because I know at that level one bad session and I can lose my slot in the team.
“It’s tougher for foreign players there as you always have to play every game like a FINAL to prove you are worth the slot above the native players.
“The league has sides like Slovan Bratislava who make Champions League and Europa League and the pace is so high.
“I am back on vacation right now and I watched the Toronto FC game and the pace of MLS seemed so slow compared to what I am experiencing.”
Life in what is still a developing league like Slovakia’s throws challenges at a player that some in North America couldn’t imagine.
The quality of the soccer is at times not matched by the strength of the infrastructure behind the clubs.
Niba admitted: “There are different experiences in Europe, you have worries if you will be paid on time in some countries.
“Yet right now money simply can’t be the main focus for me, I just want to keep playing at a good level and getting better as a player.
“It’s not about the money for me right now, that can come in good time God willing.
“It’s about playing and improving, my contract is up at FC Nitra this summer so I have to see what is on the on the table whether it be there or elsewhere.”
Whatever the next step is MacDonald has proved his worth in a very demanding environment.
His club FC Nitra finished ninth in the Slovakian top bracket last season and he feels he has grown so much as a player.
Niba said: “Our home gates are around 8,000 fans and the biggest team in the league is the champions and that very famous name in European football in Slovan Bratislava.
“The biggest difference from life in Canada when I arrived in Slovakia was just the sheer pace of play.
“At first it was difficult to adapt but I kept at in training because I was driven by the image of coming back to Canada and people saying I had failed there.
“The language barrier is still there for me but I can speak a little of it now as I have a teacher and keep learning each day.
“We got past in English at first and I taught myself to cook my own food every day and you get by. You have to.”
Niba remains close with his former League One team-mates at Nitros and knows the size of the club now in the youth ranks.
He believes the pathway is there for those with the desire and talent to follow in his footsteps.
So what does he think is the most important quality an ambitious young Nitros player should have?
He stressed: “For me it is summed up in one word. Belief. Keep fighting and working hard because God gave you talent in this game.
“You are blessed with the opportunity you have at this club, believe me, I come from a tougher upbringing in Cameroon.
“If one other word follows belief in importance it would be hunger. That has to come from within when you come from a nice family background and you are not worrying about anything else outside of the game.
“You have to have that hunger to improve and become the best player you can be.”
HERMANN'S PRIDE IN ADAM AND NIBA
THE MAN IN IRAN...a joyful Adam Hemati celebrates his first goal for Persepolis, a developing career crafted at the Nitros
ADAM HEMATI and Niba MacDonald are now plying their trade as professional soccer players in the starkly contrasting leagues of Iran and Slovakia.
Yet they will never forget the debt they owe to North Toronto Nitros Soccer and our vastly experienced coach Hermann Kingue.
Both players see Hermann, now head of Nitros’ Competitive Programs, as the key mentor in their soccer lives.
In an in-depth special on ntsoccer.com today we speak to both players about their rise from Nitros to the pro world but first we asked Coach Kingue if he always believed they had what it takes to make it.
Hermann, himself a former professional player in Europe with Cameroon international honours, recalled: “Adam was always first to practice even though he didn’t live locally, in four years together I think he missed two sessions.
“That gives you right away an idea of the determination of the player.
“He didn’t care what people said around him and who doubted him, he had that desire inside and I know he could make it.”
Whilst Adam’s key development took place in the older ages of the Nitros’ youth programs it was the advent of League One that proved key for Niba.
Hermann was in charge of Nitros’ men’s side who shone at that level and the two had a deep connection as MacDonald hails from Kingue’s homeland of Cameroon.
There they have both experienced the hardships of a very different soccer landscape to the one they have found in Canada.
Hermann smiled: “I remember at first that Niba was astonished by the facilities we practiced on here in North Toronto.
“I remember one session we arrived at the grass field and it was beautiful and freshly cut.
“MacDonald smiled at me and said: “At home people might EAT this grass rather than play football on it!”
“He wanted to play on there 24 hours that day and not go home. Again I knew he had what you need inside to make it.”
Last week both players were back in Toronto on their summer vacations before they return to Asia and Europe to continue their developing careers.
That gave ntsoccer.com the chance to catch up with them to find out about the effect our club - and Hermann - had on their lives.
For coach Kingue there is just a feeling of pride in the two Nitros alumni, not just as players but as PEOPLE.
He reasoned: “We have two players from Nitros who have made it in the top leagues in Iran and Slovakia.
“We talk a lot about culture now and these two should be an inspiration to the young players at the club.
“My experience is that too many young Canadian players take everything for granted.
“They are not as focused as they should be and they should use Adam and Niba as examples of what can be achieved.”
OLIVIA: FROM HOUSE LEAGUE TO CANADA CALL-UP
FLY THE FLAG...Olivia celebrates her call-up with her club coach Marc Maunder at OPDL's opening outdoor practice this week
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER’S Olivia Mancini has been called up to the Canada Women’s National Team U-17 camp in Markham next month.
From House League with Nitros to Team Canada it’s the next step in a thrilling journey for the combative, left-sided central defender who is a hugely popular figure throughout the club.
Olivia is part of a squad gathered from the length and breadth of the country for the get-together from May 5-10.
She will train alongside players from Canada Soccer’s Super REX Centres in British Columbia, Ontario and Québec as well as Regional EXCEL Centres from across the nation.
This week ntsoccer.com caught up with our latest National Team prospect after OPDL training at Esther Shiner Stadium and Liv smiled: “It’s incredible to think that I have been at this club since I was six years old playing in the House League at Eglinton Park.
“This club has been such a huge part of my life and from Nico Gerrard to Andy King and Marc Maunder now all the coaches have helped me so much.
“The new Technical Director Billy Wilson has also been a big influence in the next steps, giving me opportunities and encouraging me to kick on.
“I have been in the REX sessions before and I had heard some talk about a possible national call-up which is exciting but you stay focused then when it comes true? That’s different!
“I am really proud of what I have achieved so far but I don’t want to stop here.”
Mancini follows in the cleat marks of her club mate Sonia Walk who, under the guidance of Nitros coach Marko Milanovic, blossomed into a player who was a key member of the Canada U17 squad.
For Olivia, Sonia’s story is something she has drawn on as she goes from strength to strength in her own journey.
And she reasoned: “With me what Sonia Walk has achieved is without doubt an inspiration because I knew she had also started with Nitros when she was really young, at U9 I think.
“Like me she grew up as a player here and to watch her play for Canada and get an MVP award just makes you both admire that - and want to match it.”
News of Liv’s call-up delighted Nitros Technical Director Billy Wilson who said: “It is terrific for Olivia to make this next step, she has grown up as a player in the OPDL environment to complete with the best of the best from across the country and deserves huge credit.
“She has had a taste of the REX already and this camp will be a national experience under the watchful eyes of the National EXCEL staff.”
Hot on the heels of a historic fourth place finish at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay last year, with Nitros alumni Sonia at holding midfield in that line-up, Canada Soccer’s women’s youth teams are looking ahead to international competitions through 2020 at the U-15, U-17 and U-20 levels.
FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS...Nitros alumni Sonia Walk, an inspiration for Liv, with coach Marko Milanovic at Academy
The May 2019 camp will feature 27 players at the U-17 level many of whom like Olivia are taking part in their first national camp.
Olivia, though, will see some familiar faces in the Team Canada locker-room with Nitros alumni Nicola Golen, now at DeRo United, and Olivia Smith also in the squad.
All of these girls are now role models for those who will follow in their wake at the club and Billy stressed: “It’s inspirational for any young player in the North Toronto set-up right now because the pathway in our female program is so well-defined.
“Especially on the female side of the game in Canada there is an advanced path there if you are good enough.
“So for us to have a player who has been with our club since she was six years old to reach these heights is such a tribute to the program.”
Beyond the May camp, Canada will hold additional national U-17 camps in September and December as well as national U-20 camps in July and August 2019.
The ultimate goal for these players is to help Canada to qualify for - and shine in - the 2020 edition of the U17 World Cup which will be held in India.
Olivia’s first task is to impress in this one, though, and her club coach Marc Maunder is thrilled for his dedicated player.
He saluted the work being done within the Ontario Player Development League and he insisted: “The female OPDL program is once again showing success developing players for the high performance arenas.
“I feel congratulations are due to the players and coaches involved in creating such a healthy environment.
“Olivia’s selection is recognition for all the hard work she has put in to get to this level.”
It all begins this weekend for Olivia in Markham and while she admits to some butterflies in the pit of her stomach it’s an experience she is going to cherish.
She revealed: “I have meetings, fitness testing and training sessions to look forward to and while there are nerves there I am relishing the chance I have now.
“I have to look to concentrate on what I can bring at that level, speed, my strength on my left foot at centre-back. And my tackling I guess!
“My ultimate dreams are firstly to play for the full Canadian team and then play professionally if I can.”
CANADA SQUAD (Hometown and club)
GK- Ann Stéphanie Fortin | CAN / CS Longueuil
GK- Sierra Giorgio | CAN / Vaughan SC
GK- Rosalie Stabile | CAN / AS Brossard
CB- Olivia Mancini | CAN / North Toronto SC
CB- Jade Rose | CAN / Unionville Milliken SC
FB- Nicola Golen | CAN / DeRo United FA
FB- Nyema Ingleton | CAN / Calgary South West United
FB- Mia Pante | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite
FB- Mira Pierre-Webster | CAN / Whitby Iroquois SC
FB- Daniela Ramirez | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite
FB- Arianna Rose | CAN / Woodbridge SC
FB- Jaylyn Wright | CAN / CS Lakeshore
M- Ella Gagno | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite
M- Floriane Jourde | CAN / AS Monteuil Laval
M- Annika Leslie | CAN / Halifax City SC
M- Keera Melenhorst | CAN / West Ottawa SC
M- Thaea Mouratidis | CAN / Unionville-Milliken SC
M- Isabella Muzzolini | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite
M- Nikayla Small | CAN / United FA
M- Olivia Smith | CAN / North Toronto SC
M- Sadie Waite | CAN / London Youth Whitecaps
M- Holly Ward | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite
F- Alexie Bellerose | CAN / CS Chomedey
F- Audrey Chelsie François | CAN / CS Monteuil Laval
F- Magali Gagné | CAN / CS Lakeshore
F- Miya Grant-Clavijo | CAN / Unionville-Milliken SC
F- Sabrina Préval Gentile | CAN / AS Mascouche
JOY AS 15 NITROS MAKE TEAM ONTARIO SQUADS
A HIGH PERFORMANCE ENVIRONMENT...only 22 of the best in the province made each Team Ontario squad for this weekend
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER will this week have a fabulous FIFTEEN players representing our club for the Ontario Soccer Provincial Teams against Quebec in the prestigious annual series.
We have players in five of the six different age groups in another impressive haul for NT and everyone at the club is proud of their achievement and wishes them every shred of good fortune in the series of matches.
Each year the competition gets tougher to land these honours and each year our young players step up to the mark.
Standards are improving throughout the province on both the male and female sides and Nitros Technical Director Billy Wilson, who coached at Provincial level in his time at Ontario Soccer, said: “It is a massive honour for any young player to represent the province as a member of the Ontario Soccer Provincial Team.
“The Club is delighted that 15 of our players have been selected to participate in the inter-provincial competition series against Quebec.”
At Under-14s Girls keeper Maya Sanchez-Ceccarelli and the gifted Teija Murray-Powell represent Nitros with their club mates Rufina Abdurusul, Jessica Collantes and Olivia Mancini getting the call at 15s.
A year up in the U16 bracket Tierra Garniss and Alya Ruken - making her third Provincial squad in succession - look ahead to clashing with the best Quebec has to offer.
On the boys side at U15s talented front men Dino Custovic and Abdul Hamad are Nitros' chosen ones.
And at 16s our all-conquering double OPDL champions are recognised with SIX of coach Marko Milanovic’s players making the trip.
Anthony Aromatario, striker De’kwon Barrow, Dennis Escobar, Pablo Hempelmann. Kael Dimitrov and Andrew Tenai will form the backbone of Team Ontario at that level.
TD Billy told ntsoccer.com that each Nitros player who has made the cut now has a duty to act as a role model for every up and coming player at the club.
He stressed: “To be recognised as one of the top 22 players in your age group in the province that provides 70% of National Team players is a testament to the talent and dedication of each individual.
“That has to inspire some of our younger players coming through our OPDL and Grassroots programs.”
Team Ontario began the series with Quebec today (Friday) at the Centre Sportif Rosanne-Laflamme in Saint-Hubert.
“This is an annual benchmark for our Ontario players to measure themselves against some of the best competition in the country,” said Gary Miller, Ontario Soccer Director of Soccer Operations.
“This competition is an opportunity to see players before they progress to higher levels of the game and proudly represent their Club or Academy and Ontario.”
The Ontario provincial teams will play squads from Quebec, three times over the three days, offering them the opportunity to play against top-level competition in a high-performance environment. This Inter-Provincial Competition includes Canada Soccer Excel Technical Staff on hand to scout players for potential invites to the Canada Soccer National Excel program.
In addition, scouts from Toronto FC, Canadian and North American universities will be in attendance.
“Even in this condensed competition format, this weekend offers a good gauge of how well Ontario Clubs and Academies are developing players,” said Bryan Rosenfeld, Senior Manager of High Performance. “These types of competitions set them up well for the next stage of their development and their careers.”
The Provincial program is available to all Ontario Soccer registered players who are competing at either an U14, U15 or U16 age group.
The Ontario Provincial Development League (OPDL) is the primary venue in which potential Provincial Team Players are detected.
06 BOYS REACH LAST FOUR IN THE CAPITAL
RED-DY TO LISTEN...the OPDL rookies are fully focused on this team talk from Technical Director Billy Wilson in Ottawa
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER 06 OPDL Boys geared up for their first season at Provincial level with a trip to Ottawa for the Wesley Clover Cup and stormed to a last four finish.
The boys - who will be guided by the vastly experienced Ian Skitch for the new campaign when he begins his NT tenure next week - were coached by the club’s Technical Director Billy Wilson for this experience.
And it was a positive trip for the U13 squad to the nation’s capital both on and off the field.
Billy has relished working with the group as the club await the arrival of new coach Ian and the Nitros TD said: “The Ottawa trip provided the boys with a valuable opportunity to not only get some additional 11v11 game time but it also allowed the boys to grow as a group OFF the field which is always important when a new team is put together.”
The boys kicked off the tournament with a 1-1 draw with Etoile de L’est Rush in their first section match with Charlie Connolly grabbing the Nitros goal.
They then found top gear in game two as they outclassed OGSC Hornets Regional side 8-1 to set up a crucial third game to come out of the group stages.
Goals in the second clash came from a Jackson Sorger hat-trick, Albert Malaj (2), Anthony Williams, Christian Chong and Michael Lee.
Part of the learning experience on these trips is producing a performance when it is needed and the 06 Boys were up to the challenge in their third outing.
A controlled display of attacking football against OISC 2006 gave the team a 5-0 triumph with Albert Malaj (2), Yoav Yshaia, Michael Lee and Adam Bielanski on target this time.
The team had come out of the section unbeaten, scoring 14 goals for the loss of just two.
And Billy reflected: “We selected this tournament as we knew the teams participating would provide us with a different kind of competition from what we are used to in the GTA and especially the OPDL.
A TALL ORDER...Nitros skipper Albert Malaj meets up with one of his counterparts before a Wesley Clover Cup clash
"The teams from Quebec were very athletic and favoured a more direct approach which is something that is new to many of our boys but I felt that the team coped well with the physical advantage of their opponents and it didn’t prevent us from imposing ourselves and sticking to our identity which we have been working on over the indoor season."
That victory set up a semi-final clash against a tough and physical Chomedy side from Quebec and although Nitros made a good start with a goal from Theo Martin they were eventually defeated 4-1 as their rivals’ power told in the second-half.
For coach Billy, though, the Ottawa excursion showed the promise the boys have ahead of their first OPDL season.
And he said: “This is an exciting group of young players who have real clarity in terms of how the game should be played, which is aligned to North Toronto Soccers entire OPDL program and they are excited to challenge themselves against the best players and teams from across the province.”
With their Ottawa memories now in their lockers the 06 Boys are deep in preparations for the big OPDL kick-off next weekend.
They will face Hamilton United in their opener on Saturday May 4 at the Ontario Soccer Stadium as excitement rises ahead of the new campaign.
NITROS CSL GIRLS LIFT DOUBLE THEN SHINE IN CINCINATTI
HITTIN' THE ROAD...the Nitros 02 Hangar League champions get set to head for the Cincinatti Blue Chip showcase
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER’S 2002 Girls CSL squad have completed a glory double in the fiercely competitive indoor Hangar League after winning the Play-Off Final for the second year on the spin.
Head Coach Shane O’Flaherty’s side battled back bravely from being two goals behind against SC Toronto in the big shootout to once more clinch the title.
Goals from Tara Davis (2), Camille Flammia and Rosie Nicholls gave Nitros a dramatic 4-3 win after they had edged a tight semi-final against their own club mates from the 2003 team a week earlier.
And proud coach Shane said: “It’s a great achievement for the girls to do the league and Play-Off double and be back to back Play-Off Champions.
“In the Final in truth we started slowly and SC took their chances well to be 3-1 up at the break.
“It was an important team talk then and I feel they took the words on board and sparked themselves to life in the second-half.
“Tara scored early in the second period and when SC received two yellow cards - which meant they were down to four players for a little over a minute - we piled on the pressure and got an equaliser through Rosie Nicholls.
“To be honest when SC got back to full strength I thought the game looked destined to a penalty shootout but the girls had other ideas.
“Tara popped up with the winner to complete what was a terrific comeback and I was thrilled for the team.”
Seven days before that tense Final the 02s just pipped a very well-organised 03s squad 1-0 with a match-clinching strike from the gifted Paige Reynolds proving the difference between two well-matched sides.
Shane stressed: “I was very impressed with our younger opponents that night, they defended so well.
“We hit the woodwork on occasions but they also had chances and they were a tough side to get the better of.”
For 03s coach Callum Fleming, one of the club’s emerging talents in the technical area and a former League One midfielder with Nitros, the last four showdown simply whetted his appetite for the outdoor season.
He said: “I felt for the girls as they put a lot of effort into the preparation for that match.
“They stuck to the game plan really well and defended so well against our older club mates and could easily have sneaked it.”
Hot on the heels of that Hangar League double Shane’s squad headed for the States for the Cincinnati Blue Chip college showcase.
Against Cleveland in the opener Emma Mazzei got Nitros off to a flyer with a stunning 25-yard volley that would spark a thrilling 6-2 win.
Mia Vandekas made it two and although the Americans pulled one back Tara Davis got in one on one on the keeper to score and make it 3-1.
Coach Shane was delighted with the adventure his team were showing and he reflected: “That was summed up when Katherine Rita bombed forward from the left-back position to play a nice one-two with the striker before coolly slotting home from close range.”
Cleveland again battled back to make it 4-2 but Nitros put the game to bed when great hustling from Arianna Bill saw her win the ball just inside her own half.
She looked up to see Vandekas in space and played a ball over the top for Mia to run onto.
Shane smiled: “Mia actually had acres of space to advance into and give herself a close range shot but she had other ideas and decided to smash it into the top corner from 25 yards out!”
With five minutes left some great work from 03s call up striker Sammy York ended with her being fouled in the box which resulted in a penalty.
Captain Rosie Nichols stepped up to slot the ball home and ensure it was a raucous and victorious bus journey back to the hotel.
The team’s second showcase clash against Ohio saw them face tougher opposition and they went down to a 3-0 defeat.
Shane stressed: “I felt we were a little unlucky in that one as the first goal was a deflection from a corner kick off one of our players.
“They had real pace in attack, though, and it took us until after the break to adjust to that and organise our offside trap to catch them on multiple occasions.
“By then we were two down but still in the game until we lost a third one on the counter-attack as we pushed forward.”
As ever in the States at this time of year there is always the risk of a pre-season tournament being affected by the weather.
That’s how it proved for the girls with Game Three called off but it was still a rewarding trip.
For hard-working coach Shane the build-up to the outdoor season is complicated by the fact that he is in the throes of completing his UEFA B coaching licence as another member of the Nitros’ Technical Staff improves their standing in the game.
Shane revealed: “I have been working all winter on my licence and now have one trip back home to Ireland to hopefully complete it.
“There are times when it is difficult fitting all the assignments around my day job and practice and games with the girls but it will be worth it in the end.”
Shane’s dedication to this squad has certainly brought results over the past two years.
He told ntsoccer.com: “They are a great group to work with and they have had another excellent winter season.
“We are all looking forward to seeing what we can achieve together this summer.”
NITROS LAUNCH BEYOND PULSE TECHNOLOGY
FINGER ON THE PULSE...Nitros OPDL 06 girls attacker Samara Golger gets ready to put on her SmartBelt and get to work
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER has stepped into a new era for the club with our OPDL teams as the players wear their state of the art Beyond Pulse heart-rate monitors on the practice fields.
The club’s partnership with the groundbreaking technology firm means that the coaches and players can have instant access to key metrics on their performance in a session.
This helps the Nitros coaches to plan the right type of dynamic and exciting practices to keep our players engaged and active every time they step on the pitch.
For the players it’s a vital and innovative tool to help measure elements of their performance as they learn to take ownership of their own development.
NT Technical Director Billy Wilson was at the heart of opening night as he guided the 06 Boys and the 04 girls OPDL squads through their first sessions with the new technology.
And Billy told ntsoccer.com: “The correct periodisation of training is so important for clubs and coaches to understand as we seek to provide players with access to appropriate training environments.
“A massive part of creating and periodising any training program is understanding the exact times that players can be pushed physically, and when they require the training load to be reduced during times of rest and recovery.
“By adopting technology such as Beyond Pulse we are now able to gather data and track player progression.
“Most importantly it means we can INDIVIDUALISE the workload that each player experiences on a weekly basis to ensure the needs of each player is considered during our planning.”
The easy to use SmartBelts that the players wear with a disc-sized monitor under their practice shirts measure four key areas that the coaches can assess immediately after the session.
Heart Rate, Active Participation, Distance Covered and At Speed (maximum sprint rate) data is captured from all the players as they play and fed into the Beyond Pulse app at the end of each workout.
The coaches can then use this to help determine which activities brought the level of engagement and intensity they wanted and how their overall session flowed.
They can also look in-depth at the players’ involvement and pinpoint areas of improvement working together with each athlete.
OPDL Hub coaches Marc Maunder, Marko Milanovic and Iain King have now had two weeks of pre-season to monitor the launch of the system during practices at Downsview Dome and the club’s winter training base at Toronto Soccerplex.
Beyond Pulse has been a resounding success as the coaches now educate themselves in how to use the data wisely as it helps to determine the load they place on the players each night.
Billy reasoned: “The data collected serves as an innovative coach development tool for our staff as we can now access reports that show the activity levels of each player within the training environment.
“By monitoring the individual players activity levels we can evaluate whether the session allowed players the appropriate time on task to achieve the session objectives set out.
“Was the warm up completed properly? Was there a good flow to the session? Did the coach minimise the time spent during coaching interventions?”
Nitros decided to make the move into this exciting partnership with Beyond Pulse after a fascinating presentation last June by former Manchester United midfielder Mark Wilson who is head of Brand and Partnerships with Beyond Pulse.
Mark and his former Reds team-mate Danny Webber met with the club’s coaching staff to unveil the Beyond Pulse blueprint and discuss how it could be tailored to the Nitros programs.
Nine months later BP’s head of Education and Research Michael Sup was delighted to hear the hugely positive feedback of how the system worked on opening night.
Michael said: “It is really exciting for us to have North Toronto Soccer Club using our technology.
“Our goal is to help empower coaches with an insight in to their sessions that perhaps they never had before.
“It has been a pleasure working with the North Toronto staff because they see the value in the data to help support all components of player-centred learning.”
The journey of education for the coaches with Beyond Pulse is in its infancy but already the coaching room is comparing notes on sessions, seeing what functions brought the desired intensity to practice.
Importantly, too the technology can help a coach frame the sessions that should perhaps be more detailed and technical and about rest recovery than pushing players to the limit.
Michael feels that is a key factor in using Beyond Pulse and he stressed: “By encouraging their coaches to reflect on the data after each session, this supports them in planning and delivering engaging sessions for the players – something that is clearly a priority for this youth soccer organisation.
“We are delighted to be working alongside a club with such strong player development values and are thrilled to see the players now starting to enjoy working with their Smart Belts.”
As a club North Toronto Nitros Soccer are always looking at ways to maximise the potential of our young athletes.
This is about using every edge we can to make them the best players they can be and to keep them in love with the Beautiful Game.
Over the first few months of 2019 North Toronto Nitros Soccer has seen another female player, Jill Sutherland, sign a NCAA Division One contract with Central Michigan Chippewas.
On the boys side our 04s OPDL midfielder Adrian Panaite became the latest one to roll off the conveyor belt of talent and join the Toronto FC Major League Soccer Academy side.
To keep racking up achievements and progress like that the coaching staff seek every asset that can help us. Beyond Pulse is now a key part of that tool kit.
SKITCH: I'M SO GLAD I'VE MADE THE SWITCH
A COACHING MENTOR...Ian (far right) before one of the coaching courses he oversaw in Alberta, a project he relished
IAN SKITCH played in NCAA Division One, he has coached at both Provincial and Varsity level, he lives and breathes in this game to work alongside those who strive for excellence.
That’s why the vastly-experienced Skitch believes he has found the perfect environment for his next challenge at North Toronto Nitros Soccer.
The club is delighted to confirm that Ian is making the moving from Alberta to take over as the new Head Coach of our 06 Boys and 04 Girls OPDL squads.
Ian first fell in love with soccer in his hometown of Peterborough, Ontario, and went on play for the Provincial team before landing a scholarship at Philadelphia University where he was an ever-present over his four years in the program.
He would go on to work for Ontario Soccer as a Regional Coach and the move to Nitros is a homecoming he is savouring.
Ian told ntsoccer.com: “Southern Ontario is my home and where our roots are.
“The opportunity to come back and combine my coaching with being close to family and friends is a huge attraction.
“It’s something my wife and I have been thinking about for some time now. Canada is a great country from coast to coast to coast and I love it all but especially the people and places of southern Ontario.”
Ian moved to Ontario Soccer back in 2003 and headed up a highly productive regional training program.
The success of his work there saw him progress into coach education and land a key role a master coach developer.
He remained a key presence in the Provincial Training Centre where he worked with many players who kicked on to represent Canada at both youth and senior levels.
Now he returns to soccer in Ontario in 2019 and as part of the new OPDL Coaching Hub alongside colleagues Marc Maunder, Marko Milanovic and Iain King.
Ian will check into Nitros at the end of April ahead of the big OPDL kick-off on May 4/5 and he smiled: "I used to think I knew the football landscape of Ontario like the back of my hand but I am not too sure that rings true any more!
“I fully recognise times will have changed but I still believe Ontario has the best football culture in the country.
“In my experience the best players to work with are still here, in particular in and around the GTA, so I very much look forward to working with the players at the club.”
It’s seven years now since Ian took the decision to move west and help to transition Alberta Soccer’s coaching program from the old to the new.
He has worked worked tirelessly developing coaches and he leaves believing that the hard graft done in that province has significantly moved the game forward.
Ian reasoned: “The opportunity in Alberta was right in my wheelhouse allowing me to build upon the work I had done in Ontario and take it to a new level working from an almost blank canvas.
“I knew I could operate as an agent of change as sweeping transformations to coaching education programs were being developed and implemented.
“It was also an opportunity to have a different and closer relationship with Canada Soccer as we worked together to facilitate that change and improve our programs.
“Either fairly or unfairly I may have been seen as 'old-school' as I headed west and I saw it as an opportunity to highlight the progressive football person that I really am.
“And I don't think, I KNOW, that we took the program to a new level of efficiency, respect and credibility leaving it in a far better place than when I was coming into the role.”
For North Toronto Nitros Soccer Technical Director Billy Wilson the chance to add another highly respected coach to the mix in the OPDL Coaching Hub was too good to miss.
Billy feels the 06 Boys and 04 Girls will greatly benefit from Ian’s guidance and he said: “In addition to working within North Toronto’s OPDL program, Ian will support the North Toronto Grassroots Development and Competitive programs during the indoor seasons.
“He will also act as a valuable resource in the areas of Coach Development and Technical planning.
“We are confident that the entire North Toronto Soccer organisation will benefit from Ian’s knowledge and experience.”
Nitros’ OPDL athletes come into the program with dreams of their own, whether it be scholarships, playing for Team Ontario, making it pro or simply being part of a rewarding team environment.
Ian’s varied career as a player and coach gives him a unique insight into how he can help the Nitros he will work with achieve those goals.
Adding the title of Varsity Head Coach to his repertoire is a key piece of that as he now has the knowledge of five years working at Concordia University in Edmonton to draw upon.
There Ian has built a successful program and it was a level of soccer that he always wanted to test himself at.
He stressed: “That job has been vital in my continued growth as a coach.
“I had always wanted that challenge and I have enjoyed it tremendously despite that fact that it's warts and all at times.
“I think it will help make me a better leader to the players in our care at Nitros.
“They need quality advice and support to make the best decisions possible about extending their playing careers through the various post secondary systems.
“This is especially relevant as the university system becomes a more legitimate pathway to the professional game.”
Playing in Philly gave Ian memories he cherishes, now he wants to find out what drives a new generation of players at North Toronto.
That will be a big part of a journey he can’t wait to embark upon.
Ian reflected: “I treasure my experience to this day and loved every second of my time in the NCAA.
“Living abroad and having your education essentially paid for was a fantastic experience on a whole host of levels.
“Put simply I was always motivated to be the best I could be and the NCAA gave me the forum but that was a different era.
“It will be interesting now to get to know the players and find out what motivates THEM.
“I want it to be something from the INSIDE, the outside motivations of succeeding in soccer may be exciting but you need to have a true love of the game with passion to learn and grow within it.”
Nitros’ OPDL Coaching Hub now holds two Canadian A Licence holders and two UEFA A Licence coaches.
Ian also brings with him a NSCAA Premier Diploma, The English FA Advanced Youth Award, and the USSF National Youth Licence.
In common with all our coaches his journey of education continues as he is currently an Advanced Coaching Diploma candidate with the Canadian Sport Institute working toward Level 4 and 5 NCCP coach certification.
Now, though, his man focus turns to the Nitros and working with the two OPDL squads he will guide through this coming season.
The call from the North Toronto Nitros Soccer TD came at just the right time.
Ian revealed: To come back to Ontario I wanted to be sure I found a leading, progressive and stable organisation to be a part of and I know I've found that in North Toronto.
“When Billy made the call I was immediately sold about the role and the possibilities it brings.
“I'm an easy sell for those striving for excellence. I like ambition and Billy clearly has that as does this club.”
NITROS ARE UP TO UNIVERSITY EXAMINATION IN STATES
IN THE SEAT OF LEARNING...Nitros and the Yale Bulldogs before our girls' clash against the Ivy League powerhouse team
NORTH TORONTO NITROS College Prep team emerged with a feeling of pride from a weekend of soccer learning at the top level of the American University game.
Head coach Chris Vickers led his side into a tough two-game schedule knowing it would give the girls an invaluable insight into the demanding standard required at this level.
And both on and off the field it was to prove a magnificent experience for the Nitros prospects.
They kicked off on Saturday night with a thrilling 1-1 draw against the University of Bridgeport Purple Knights who are the reigning NCAA Division II champions.
Tierra Garniss grabbed the goal for the Nitros and it’s a performance put into perspective when you consider the Knights lost just four matches in their 25-game campaign on the way to championship glory last season.
Coach Chris reflected: “The University of Bridgeport were a very good team, looking to constantly play through us and they were very creative in the final third, causing a lot of problems for us.
“Yet I feel that going away as a group really helped players gel together.
“From waking up and sharing breakfast through to dinner together they were living in each other’s pockets.
“It allowed the players to have constant interactions with players they may not have had a previous chance to do so with.
“As well as this we had set up group activities to bond the team. On the field, I believe after a great day Saturday around Bridgeport spent together we were in very high spirits and this showed in our game and how well we played that evening.”
NITROS ON THREE...the NT girls get set to step onto the turf in a clash with one of America's top University side
The second clash against Yale University Bulldogs on Sunday morning saw a tougher lesson in Ivy League surroundings in New Haven, Connecticut.
A goal from the prolific Madeline Penman-Derstine was not enough as Yale put the foot on the gas in the second-half to ease to a 5-1 triumph.
That game, though, gave the girls a telling indication of the standards they need to reach as they chase their own dreams at this level of soccer.
Chris told ntsoccer.com: “Yale University were very athletic and again like Bridgeport they always had the courage and quality to try to play through us.
“The quality of opposition in both of these matches was very high and extremely challenging.
“These trips are very important for the players, they give a real perspective of what a soccer environment is like at various styles of schools.
“I believe they are vital excursions because they also expose our players to the standards and values of a university soccer player.”
Over the coming weeks we will have news and interviews from Nitros who have successfully walked the path from club soccer to playing at some of North America’s leading colleges and universities.
North Toronto Nitros Soccer is proud of our alumni and they are an inspiration for the upcoming athletes who are now bidding to follow in their cleat marks.
JOY AS NITROS' TFC THREE CLINCH CONTRACTS
FLYIN' TILTACK...Ryan is on a high after penning his Toronto FC contract this week
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER’S Grassroots Program has produced THREE of the players who will represent Toronto FC in the Under-12 Major League Soccer Academy set-up this season.
The club was this week proud to see our alumni goalkeepers Ryan Tiltack and Michael Konstantopoulos and defender Jack Hayeems sign on the dotted line for TFC at the BMO Training Academy.
All three players came through our ranks in the gifted 07 Boys group last year and their development is testimony to the hard work they put it while they wore the Nitros colours.
Both Ryan and Jack come from Nitros families with their sisters still playing for the club with Michael growing as a no1 when he came in to replace fellow keeper Tiltack when he first drew attention from our hometown professional club.
Their elevation to the TFC Academy is a big moment for the club who bred them and Manager of Grassroots Tom Waud said: “All of our coaches want what is best for our players.
“With the quality of staff working within our Grassroots programs it was only a matter of time for players to be recognised.
“I feel this is the start of many more to graduate from North Toronto Nitros Soccer to the highest youth level of soccer in North America.”
Tom is currently at the helm of NT’s burgeoning Grassroots division which covers the ages of U8-U12 where the TFC trio graduated from.
The new structure within the club sees a coherent strategy for the developing talents that seeks more than ever to ensure each is nurtured at the right pace with the correct coaching available to them.
Tom stressed: “These players being recognised by TFC is no accident, all three players have worked tirelessly to get this opportunity.
“This is a real team effort, coaches, players and parents who have been involved with these players have helped them develop the tools needed to play at this level.
“Developing players at young ages it a tough task. Patience and perseverance is the key, it takes time for players to improve, there is no miracle potion for success in soccer.”
At NT the coaching staff pride themselves on truly CARING for each player in the program.
That’s something Tom feels is key to the development of the players - and the enjoyment they take from being a Nitro.
He pointed out: “The positive learning environment created by all staff involved with these players is so important.
“The opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them is crucial. These mistakes aren’t failures but learning opportunities.”
A SOCCER STUDENT...Jack Hayeems has a high soccer IQ says former coach Iain King
Iain King, now working in the club’s OPDL Coaching Hub, was Head Coach of the 07 Boys as the TFC three made their final steps towards the big move up.
He gave an insight into the three players and told ntsoccer.com: “Ryan just makes lights-out saves. His quiet dedication to becoming a top level goalkeeper was always evident and he has taken that work-rate and humility into improving at TFC. He has all the tools to make it in my opinion but it’s a long road, it’s up to him now.
“Michael was such a fun character to work with, so keen to get better and follow in Ryan’s footsteps when he came in as his replacement.
“It’s a big tribute to him both as a person and a keeper that it happened so quickly and we only had him for one season.
“Jack Hayeems simply has perhaps the highest soccer IQ of all the kids I have had the privilege to coach here.
“He was an 11-year-old boy and it was like talking to a MAN, he grasps concepts of the game in a heartbeat. A terrific footballer.
“We played an exhibition game recently with our 06 Boys against the TFC 07s at BMO Training Academy and it was a real source of pride to see the three boys with their TFC kit on.
“The whole club is delighted for them and we look forward to their next steps.”
GLOVE STORY...Michael's work ethic saw him graduate to a Pro Academy
THE CULTURE CLUB: TRAVELLING TOGETHER A BIG HIT
TRUE COLOURS...the 05s and 06s girls were together to help launch the club's new identity and kits at Toronto Soccerplex
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER Head of OPDL Marc Maunder has hailed the growing unity in the club’s female program after another successful adventure Stateside at the weekend.
The 05s and 06s girls squads shared a team bus and hotel as they both competed in the Global Premier Soccer March Madness tournament in Waltham, Massachusetts.
Both squads cheered on their club mates with 05s Head Coach Marc and OPDL Hub coaching colleague Iain King of the 06s working together in the technical area and assisting each other when their own team wasn’t in action.
With the 05s topping their bracket with three straight wins it was an education for the younger team to see their older club mates in action. Thye learned from the 05s intensity and how they prepare for matches.
New friendships were made and cemented on the fun-filled 10-hour trips to the Boston area and back and Marc stressed: “You can’t under-estimate the value of these sort of experiences for young OPDL players.
“Both teams were in the top bracket and played high-level opposition on the field.
“Off it they got a chance to travel, eat and laugh together and that establishment of a club culture rather than just a concentration on stand-alone teams is something we are aiming to enhance in the years to come.”
NORTH TORONTO NITROS SOCCER: THE REBRAND
OUT WITH THE OLD AND IN WITH THE NEW...these logos will disappear and be replaced by our new look
NORTH TORONTO SOCCER CLUB will tomorrow night step into a new era with a new logo and a new identity as we stand on the brink of our 40th season.
The fresh look of North Toronto Nitros Soccer will be officially unveiled at one of the club’s key winter training bases at Toronto Soccerplex.
Our rebranding is the end result of a process that was launched to streamline and modernise our image for the next chapter of our story.
It’s a keynote day for the club’s Executive Director Doug Blair who explained: “We were established in 1980 and North Toronto Soccer Club is this year operating our 40th season of recreational soccer.
“For the past 25 years, the club’s competitive teams have been the North Toronto Nitros.
“The Nitros are increasingly well-known as our teams compete successfully at all levels of soccer in Ontario and in international tournaments.
“Yet it hasn’t always been clear that we are the SAME organisation.
"This club is always growing and changing.
“The club has been operating with two identities and two logos but more than ever we are ONE club.
“In 2019, North Toronto Nitros Soccer is so much more than a house league and a collection of competitive teams.”
The club now has over 5,000 registered youth players who participate in a full range of programs from recreational to the highest level league in the province, the Ontario Player Development League (OPDL).
All North Toronto players have the opportunity to participate in Nitros development programs through U12.
They can also try out for Nitros teams at U13 and older at three levels of competitive leagues and in our Select tournament teams.
And Doug stressed: “We have Nitros players in their teens who are working with our younger players as Game Leaders, Referees, and Development Coaches.
“We feel that is important - within the North Toronto community, in Toronto and Ontario soccer and beyond - to present ourselves as one organisation with a strong identity across all of our development, competitive and recreational programs.”
As we move forward into 2019 the club is providing greatly increased opportunities for younger players to learn and love the game of soccer.
The new Nitros Grassroots Development Program for players U8 to U12 offers a high level of soccer development to all.
Players who are even younger are in Train-to-be-a-Nitro programs.
All of that work meant that our Board and management recognised the need to both unify and strengthen the club’s identity and late last year the rebranding process began.
We have now reviewed the origins of the various club and program identities as well as the club’s position in the North Toronto community and soccer environment.
A decision was then made to consolidate the North Toronto Soccer and North Toronto Nitros into one brand and one logo.
And the timing of the brand launch was based on the introduction of the new design of our Umbro uniform kits in March.
This is where successful graphic designer Robert Disher came in to the story.
It was Robert who crafted the original Nitros logo over two decades ago and, alongside another active NT soccer dad Ian Wiggins, he also came up with the distinctive name Nitros.
At the outset Robert, the father of 2 former North Toronto Soccer players, was given a design brief that had to take into account the criteria of the uses offer new logo.
You will now see it on our uniforms, tracksuits, backpacks, canopy tents and benches.
It will be on our club website and league websites, on social media with our Twitter and Instagram accounts and all of our printed material.
Executive Director Doug said: “We asked Robert for a crest design with a clean, modern look.
“We wanted a stylised soccer ball and the inclusion of the words “North Toronto Soccer” and “Nitros” but not NTSC
“We needed a prominence of our traditional green colour in the lettering, a stylised maple leaf to signify our Canadian roots when we travel and a reference to the establishment of the club in 1980.
“We are excited with the end result and look forward to everyone seeing it.”
The first glance for parents and players of the new look will be on the screens at Soccerplex on Thursday night.
Our first new kits with the rebranding will be worn by our 05s and 06s Girls OPDL squads as they take part in the GPS March Madness tournament in Waltham, Massachusetts, this weekend.
The entire Nitros family will be able to see new crest on social media on Thursday evening with the home page of the club website also being updated.
By Friday morning we will have new signs at the office, new headings and logos throughout the website, new logos on forms and other materials.
Ontario Soccer, Toronto Soccer and the leagues will have the new logos in place within a few days of our launch.
The rebranding process has been strategically completed to see our new brand step into the club’s 40th season with a fresh, modern look ready for the next challenges in our growth.
And for Doug Blair that is a key mission accomplished.
He said: “Going forward, the club will have a single identity and one logo for all the club programs.
“We are North Toronto Nitros Soccer.”
JONATHAN: I'VE LANDED MY DREAM JOB
AMBITION AND VISION...up and coming Canadian coach Jonathan watched NT's progress and wanted to be a part of it
JONATHAN CORETTI had a coaching vision planted in his mind as his career progressed, working at North Toronto Soccer Club and taking the next step forward.
Now as the new Head Coach of the 04 Girls and 06 Boys in the Ontario Player Development League (OPDL) he has earned the chance he has craved.
Jonathan beat off stiff competition for the post in the OPDL coaching hub as he takes over from new University of Toronto Head Coach Ilya Orlov.
He is thrilled to be making the move from city neighbours SC Toronto where he has grown into one of the most promising young coaches in The 6ix.
When ntsoccer.com caught up with the newest member of the technical staff as he settles into his job Jonathan smiled: “I am ecstatic. I have always looked at NTSC and envisioned myself eventually working here.
“The club has a great history and the tools necessary to provide a high-performance environment for players and coaches to excel in.”
A major part of the club’s restructure since Technical Director Billy Wilson took over 11 months ago has been the creation of the OPDL coaching hub.
This sees Canadian A Licence candidate Marc Maunder and UEFA A Licence coaches Marko Milanovic and Iain King working together to create the best environment for the OPDL players.
They also collaborate closely with the NTSC’s burgeoning Grassroots program two nights a week to ensure they are woven into the fabric of a developing club.
That attracted Jonathan when the post became available and he stressed: “Firstly, this club itself has a rich history which really matters to me.
“I want to have pride for the club that I work for and that is possible at NTSC.
“Secondly, Billy Wilson is a strong leader and it’s an honour being a part of his team.
“Lastly, the entire coaching staff and administration is top quality. At this point in my coaching career I want to be surrounded by people who will challenge me and make me a better coach.
“The idea of collaborating with people such as Iain King, Marc Maunder and Marko Milanovic is very exciting.
“I know I will grow a lot here with such great people around me and that was the main attraction to me in joining the Nitros team, personal and professional growth.”
On Monday Jonathan got down to business, helping outgoing coach Ilya and Technical Director Billy work with the 04s Girls and 06 Boys in their games in the OPDL Family Day Exhibition Series.
Both teams performed well and their new Head Coach revealed: “My main goal for both teams is to ensure a positive yet competitive playing environment where players can be challenged every session and most importantly have fun.
“I’m a strong believer that what you do in training translates to the game and I like to keep a high and exciting tempo during training.
“I have met with coach Ilya, who has done a fantastic job with all the players, to discuss the teams and their current needs.
“I look to continue from what Ilya has done in order to ensure these players continue to develop and play the Nitros way.”
One of the main factors in Ilya’s growth as a coach to land the University of Toronto job was his early decision to make teaching the game his priority.
That is a call that resonates with his successor who highlighted his own experiences as a player as a driving motivation in his own coaching journey.
Jonathan revealed: “As a youth player, I didn’t have much guidance and looking back I realise how important that was in my soccer playing career.
“Coaching is a way for me to ensure that youth players of this generation are given the proper guidance and coaching to chase their dreams and aspire to be great.
“My journey started once I realised that I wouldn’t be able to play this Beautiful Game forever.
“The only way that I can stay on the pitch and continue to be around the game I love was to get into coaching.
“I started with grassroots soccer and eventually worked my way up to OPDL which has now led me to NTSC.
“I am very happy to be here full-time as it allows me to really embrace the sport and collaborate with incredible coaches.”
Hot on the heels of Day One in the job Jonathan met his new OPDL colleagues as a group for the first time on Tuesday afternoon at our Soccerplex base.
There the hub coaches meet every two weeks to swap ideas and drive the programs forward.
One of the key components of finding the coach to take over from Ilya was identifying someone with the same drive and thirst for knowledge.
Jonathan ticked the box there and he reasoned: “Currently in youth soccer there is a lot of focus on tactics and formations.
“Obviously, these things are important, however, many coaches seem to overlook the importance of team culture and the psychological part of the game, which fascinates me very much.
“I think I can add to the mix by bringing my knowledge and experiences of the game and sharing it with the OPDL hub.
“I like to read a lot and constantly keep myself up to date with the newest ideas in the soccer world.”
That open sharing of ideas is vital to the progress of the OPDL coaching hub within NT.
There is a desire to design training curriculums and a methodology that lasts.
Jonathan wants to play a big part in creating that - and tap on the experience of those around him in the process.
He said: “I can’t honestly say that there has been one specific person who has influenced me the most in my coaching career to date.
"I have never really had a mentor or someone to shadow which is something that I have really wanted over the years.
“However, there have been many coaches and educators who have shaped me into the coach that I am today.
“I would also like to thank my former club SC Toronto for giving me the opportunity to grow as a coach while I was there.
“I coached a wide range of ages and both boys and girls which has really expanded my skillset.”
EMMA SWAPS OPDL TO SHINE ON COURT
QUEENS OF THE COURT...Emma Inciarte, third from right front row, with the St Edward Eagles North Region champions
NORTH TORONTO NITROS' 06 Girls OPDL player Emma Inciarte swapped her cleats for her court shoes to help her school side St Edward Eagles become the North Region basketball champions.
Emma, one of her soccer squad's leadership players, has started well in her first year in OPDL and was this week in terrific form in her side's Family Day exhibition game against Unionville.
That was mirrored in one of her other sports as her school side clinched the banner and Emma's Head Coach Iain King said: "Emma's mom Elein told me about the basketball victory one day to explain she might be tired at practice that night.
"I waited for her to tell me she was fatigued and she never said a word! I had to tell her I knew all about it and she just smiled and got on with her training which sums up her attitude. We are always delighted to see our multi-sport athletes do so well away from the soccer field."
NITROS SHIELD WINS BOOST KIDS HELP PHONE
CHEQUE THIS OUT...U15s Dennis Escobar, Tadija Vukas and Daniel Casa with coach Marko (second from right) at KHP
GLORY for North Toronto Soccer Club’s big-hearted Boys U15 and Girls U17 squads in the Ontario Player Development League (OPDL) Charity Shield signalled a much-needed cash boost for the Kids Help Phone service.
The top soccer athletes in the province were in action in November as the Ontario Soccer Centre played host to the Finals of the competition.
As well as the 12 teams across six divisions with their eyes on the prizes on the field money was being raised to donate to local charities off it.
Every dollar accumulated through the $5 admission rate was gifted to Ontario charities, as chosen by the winning teams in each match.
Head Coach Marko Milanovic’s U15 boys and U17 girls both chose Kids Help Phone which offers 24/7 counselling to young people when they need it most.
For coach Marko the players being able to assist a cause in need is a brilliant by-product of their success on the field.
He stressed: “We were very excited to be able to help out such a great organisation like Kids Help Phone.
“Kids helping kids is one of the best things that can happen and we are very happy to be a part of it.”
In total, through Ontario Soccer’s forward-thinking initiative, over $7,500 was raised for Ontario charities.
The Canadian Cancer Society, Kids Help Phone, the Canadian Liver Foundation and Ronald McDonald House all received a portion of the proceeds, with the cheques being presented by the winning teams in special ceremonies. Our thanks to Ontario Soccer for the photographs used in this feature.
ALL IN A GOOD CAUSE... U17s Keyosha Donkor, Mackenzie Almeida, Olivia Rizakos and Meghan McKye with Marko at KHP
BILLY: OPDL HUB LAYS FOUNDATIONS FOR YEARS TO COME
HEART OF THE OPDL...Marko Milanovic, outgoing coach Ilya Orlov, Iain King and the club's Head of OPDL Marc Maunder
NORTH TORONTO SOCCER CLUB Technical Director Billy Wilson has praised the work of the OPDL coaching hub as we say farewell to new University of Toronto Head Coach Ilya Orlov.
Billy has overseen a restructure of the club’s programs in the 10 months since he took over NT’s technical leadership.
And as NT ponder candidates to fill Ilya’s OPDL slot alongside Marc Maunder, Marko Milanovic and Iain King the TD explained the work going on behind the scenes in the new hub.
Billy reflected: “There have been many changes within the Technical program over the last 10 months and the creation of a full-time OPDL coaching staff has been a massive part of the restructure.
“Marc, Marko, Iain and Ilya have done a tremendous job of working together to develop a standardised player development program between the ages of U13 to U17.
“I am sure this will have a positive impact on not only the current, but the future generations of players coming through from our Grassroots Development programs.”
Ilya’s departure to the collegiate level means the tight-knit OPDL group will soon have a new member of staff.
The club have received a raft of quality applications and the process of finding a replacement to Head Coach our 06 Boys and 04 Girls in the Ontario Player Development League is moving on at pace.
Billy revealed: “The club is working diligently to appoint the right person who will bring the same level of professionalism and ambition towards creating a High Performance environment.
"Personally, I hope to find an individual who brings fresh ideas to the table and challenges some of our processes as we are always striving to improve how we do things.”
Each full-time OPDL coach heads up two programs in the new set-up with Marc leading the 05 and 03 Girls squads and Marko in charge of the 05 and 03 Boys.
Iain oversees 06 Girls and 04 boys with our new staff member set to coach the 06 Boys and 04 Girls.
The restructure will take root in 2019 with the Canadian Youth Licence pilot scheme a key aim in the continuing education of the OPDL coaches.
Billy explained: “Canada Soccer have made some fantastic changes to the National Coach Development program with the addition of the Children’s License in 2018 and now the Youth License in 2019.
“These Licenses fill what was a massive hole in the coach development pathway and target the development of players in the first five stages of Long Term Player Development.
“Last year North Toronto Soccer Club sent eight of our Grassroots Development coaches to the Children’s License.
“This means all of our Grassroots age groups have access to a coach who has completed the necessary professional training focusing on the development of children at the U4 to U12 age groups.
“The plan for the Youth License in 2019 is no different as the club will look to send all of our OPDL Head Coaches to the course which focuses on the development of players in the OPDL age groups.
“North Toronto Soccer Club is always investing in the professional development of our staff and a lot of credit must go to the Board of Directors and our Executive Director, Doug Blair, for recognising the importance of ongoing coach development.”
ILYA: NTSC HAVE ALWAYS TRUSTED IN ME
ILYA ORLOV believes the faith shown in him by North Toronto Soccer Club was a key factor as he landed one of the top coaching posts in the province of Ontario.
Earlier this month Ilya was appointed Head Coach at University of Toronto as he takes a significant step in a career that has been on fast track since he took the decision to hang up his cleats early.
His looming departure means he must leave behind the 06 Boys and 04 Girls OPDL groups he has been nurturing.
Ilya confessed that’s a regret as he faces the next chapter knowing he owes a debt to the club that trusted him and gave him the space to grow as a coach.
U of T’s new soccer chief stressed: “NT will always be a memorable place and a club I will be forever grateful to.
“This is the club where I first got my chance at senior soccer when I became the head coach of the U21 team and an assistant with the League One team under Hermann Kingue in 2016.
“It shows the progressive thinking of the club’s management to believe in a young coach to work at the senior level.
“This is an example to other clubs around the country, if we want young coaches to progress and develop, we must give them opportunities.
“The opportunities I was given at North Toronto played a significant part in in my development.
“That has now given me the chance to move on to be a head coach at both the senior and university level, something that I have always aspired to.”
As his time at the club ticks down and a successor is sought Ilya is preparing to leave behind the players he has loved developing and a coaching room he was a big part of.
He played a role in EVERY technical staff debate, sometimes the instigator, sometimes a passionate supporter of another’s views but never without an opinion.
That unflinching honesty and forthright nature will now be tested in the University locker room and arenas and Ilya admitted he’ll miss the League of Nations coaches he had so many verbal jousts with.
From one-time Cameroon World Cup Under-20 midfielder Kingue, to Marko Milanovic (Serbia), Marc Maunder (Wales) and Iain King (Scotland) in the OPDL hub he has experienced so many different views of the Beautiful Game.
And Ilya reasoned: “NT has one of the most, if not the most, qualified staff in the country for a youth club.
“This is down to the leadership group at the club; the Board of Directors, the Executive Director Doug Blair, the Technical Director Billy Wilson and the parents who support the club.
“Working with qualified and passionate fellow coaches opens your own thinking to new ideas.
“And I believe that having coaches from various countries and coaching backgrounds is a huge benefit at a club.
“The experiences these coaches bring has helped me see and hear new methods and ideas. Watching other coaches’ sessions, speaking and debating with coaches on a daily basis improves you as a coach. It’s all about having an open mind and being open to new ideas.”
FAST TRACK TO COACHING...Ilya starred as a midfielder for York University but made an early switch to the technical area
Losing key members of staff is a bittersweet experience for any soccer club.
Yet for Technical Director Billy Wilson there is comfort in the fact that Ilya is remaining in the city of Toronto where we can all follow his next steps closely.
Billy confessed: “It’s always tough when an organisation loses a key member of their team and this is certainly no different.
“Yet we are all delighted that Ilya is taking the next step in his career so close to home and will continue to impact the local soccer environment.
“The club always support our staff with their individual career plans and for Ilya the next step was the collegiate game.”
At NT the most important people with the coaches will always be the PLAYERS.
In the coaching room it’s that care for each child who plays for the club at whatever level that we feel is a key part of our DNA.
Ilya has worked with the competitive and hard-working 06 Boys group for 15 months now,
And he insisted: “It is the most enthusiastic group of young players I have ever worked with.
“This group has had good coaching from the U8 level and now you can see the benefits of that at U13.
“They have a good technical base that will help them in the future. Whoever steps in to coach this group will have a great group of boys to work with.
“I hope the players all keep loving the game, as they have so far and I will always make sure to come see them play and develop every year.”
In the case of the 04 OPDL girls, that is a project Ilya only headed up six months ago but it’s another task at the club that he relished.
And he said: “I have seen improvements over this time both technically and with their game understanding.
“It’s a great group of players to work with and they are very open to learning. Just like with the boys, I will be keeping a close eye on how they are developing and will be at games to support them.
“I would like to thank the parents from both teams and all the parents from NT.
“They have been very supportive and made it easy to work with the players.”
Ilya will leave NT with a locker full of memories but ntsoccer.com put him under pressure to give us just three he will treasure as he prepares for life leading University of Toronto’s soccer fortunes.
He admitted: “It has been a packed three years but the first would be working with the U21 and League One teams.
“In our first year with the U21 we were one game away from finishing first in the Provincial Elite U21 League but fell short at the last game.
“The League One team came into the league and did well from the first game. We had two great seasons finishing in the top half of the standings in both years.
“Then there was a tournament with the 06 Boys in the spring. They played two top teams and played so well, winning both games, and playing soccer in a way that I feel every youth team should play; brave on the ball, passing and dribbling through pressure, playing out from the back, pressing high and scoring goals.
“The final memory? That would have to be the coach debates we have had, especially at our meetings.
“As most of the staff know, I enjoy a good soccer debate. Those debates are very educational for me and I will always take what I learned from these experiences into the future.”
GRASSROOTS WORK HELPS NURTURE TOP COACHES
NATURE AND NURTURE...Ilya working with kids in the Maccabi organisation in formative coaching times
COACHING at Grassroots level in Canada is now a critical component in the education of a rising coach.
That’s the verdict of outgoing North Toronto Nitros OPDL Head Coach Ilya Orlov as he settles into his new role in charge of the University of Toronto soccer program.
Ilya has worked extensively with the younger players at NT as part of his coaching journey that now sees him operating at the men’s collegiate level.
And he stressed: “Working with young children at the Grassroots level is a huge benefit and in my eyes it must be a requirement when moving on to work at the senior level.
“If you look at any top senior coach, anywhere in the world, they all started at the youth level with coaching young children.
“It has given me an appreciation for the technical and tactical fundamentals of the game.”
This winter every Head Coach in the new North Toronto Soccer Club OPDL hub spends Tuesday night at the Soccerplex Dome working within Grassroots under the guidance of program manager Tom Waud.
Ilya believes that constant connection to the emerging players at the club is vital for the future and he stressed: “With young players it’s all about getting the basic fundamentals right and letting them fall in love with the game.
“It is also about how you interact with them, the confidence and belief you show in them and the patience needed to guide them in their long-term learning progress.
“These inter-personal skills go a long way working with senior players just as they do working with Grassroots players.
“This knowledge directly translates to working with the senior players.
“Sure, the session topics and the focus of the sessions change as at the senior level as it is results-driven but the focus on the fundamentals and building relationships based on trust and belief will always be there.
“If a player is at Grassroots, League One or University level, it's about two things for me; making the session enjoyable and teaching players something new everyday.
“Young coaches always have to ask the question; would I enjoy being in the session I planned?”
Another key facet in the restructure of the club since Technical Director Billy Wilson took over is OPDL coaches mentoring developing coaches within the club.
At the age of 30 Ilya now faces the biggest challenge yet of his own coaching career at University of Toronto.
He feels the environment that has now been created within NT can nurture the NEXT generation of coaches within the club to strive for the heights in their own development.
Working within Grassroots is a crucial part of that and Ilya insisted: “The most important thing for young coaches is that they must love the game and love working with players.
“Young coaches must always keep learning, have the drive and passion to improve everyday regardless of what age they are working with.
“I know from personal experience that the coaching profession brings difficult moments.
“It’s the love of this game and their own in-built resilience that will get young coaches through those tough times.”
NITROS GIRLS ARE A BLESSING FOR BLESSED!
THAT CHAMPION FEELING...Avery Calalang, Stella Hong, Julia Dubrick, Sarah McQuillen Young, Ava Myers and Elisa Dubrick were part of a title triumph for the Blessed Sacrament Catholic School team who went through the tournament undefeated
SIX NORTH TORONTO NITROS girls were at the core of securing another championship win for Blessed Sacrament Catholic School.
Our 07s Girls squad provided Sarah McQuillen Young, Stella Hong, Avery Calalang and Julia Dubrick, with their 08s club mates Ava Myers and Elisa Dubrick also playing significant roles in the success.
Together the girls were part of a formidable team in the Grade 5 and 6 Toronto Catholic District School Board tournament.
They were undefeated in five games and and news of their success was enjoyed by their age group coaches Jesse Assing and Euan Montgomery and their team-mates when they brought their Championship ribbons to practice at the Soccerplex Dome on Tuesday night.
The girls program at 07/08 level shows great promise for NTSC. Last summer the 07s group travelled to Rochester for the Lakefront Classic Showcase and won ALL THREE flights with their trio of squads.
That strength in depth sees the Green Team currently occupying the no.2 ranking slot in Canada with GotSoccer ahead of further development in the coming outdoor season.
With the 08 group also highly thought of as they continue to learn the game the work continues within the club to nurture all of these gifted girls.
THE YOGA SANCTUARY HELPS 04 BOYS STRETCH FUNDS
SHINING EXAMPLE...Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs used yoga to help prolong his career at the top of English soccer
NORTH TORONTO NITROS 04 Boys OPDL squad are ready to flex their way into their 2019 travel tournament schedule - thanks to The Yoga Sanctuary.
The top Toronto yoga company are backing the boys with a fundraiser with a difference at their Danforth studios on Saturday March 23.
In their Danforth Studio 2 from 6.30pm-8.30pm team Head Coach Iain King, some of the players and an invited class will enjoy the experience of 108 Sun Salutations.
All the proceeds of the evening will go to team funds as the gifted OPDL squad prepare for top showcase tournaments in New Jersey, Toronto and Washington this year.
The Yoga Sanctuary Co-Director Cynthia Funk has watched her son Liam settle well into the Nitros’ set-up after a winter move to the club.
She sees the fundraiser as a way of giving something back to the Nitros family and she smiled: “I think everyone will enjoy the experience of 108 Sun Salutations.
“It is drawn from various yoga lineages and delivered in an accessible way to people with all levels of experience.
“I’d invite everyone to join us for this brilliant meditative practice that challenges both the body and the mind.
“This lesson is often practiced welcoming the seasons, we will be offering this event to celebrate the Spring Equinox of 2019.”
For coach Iain King fundraisers like this are vital not only to help fund the team’s travel adventures but also for team bonding.
There is also a big element of education for young players in how to stretch properly before and after sessions.
IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY...Nitros' 04 Boys midfielder Liam Batista has been taught yoga's benefits
Iain reasoned: “When we signed Cynthia’s son Liam Batista in the winter I watched our team stretching out at the end of sessions.
“Both Cynthia and Liam’s dad Orlando are highly qualified yoga instructors and it’s intriguing to see the difference in flexibility between Liam and some of the other players.
“He has grown up using yoga as a daily part of his fitness and it is also something our Academy Director Marko Milanovic includes in the summer regimes of our players when they come full-time for a week during the school holidays.
“I’ve worked with players of all ages long enough to know there is always skepticism about what they see as ‘new methods’ to improve them.
“Yet there is an article at the bottom of this story that any player should read if they need any convincing of the benefits.
“We are delighted to be taking part in this fundraiser and would like to thank everyone at The Yoga Sanctuary for their support.”
REGISTERING TO STRETCH FOR THE NITROS 04 BOYS
YOU can join the class on the night to help boost the Nitros' 04 Boys travel tournament adventures by visiting The Yoga Sanctuary website at the link below.
* The suggested donation to be a part of the Nitros’ 108 Sun Salutations Fundraiser is $20 and you can register online to secure your space and/or to donate at theyogasanctuary.ca.
* Please note that 100% of the proceeds will help our Nitros 04 Boys squad travel and play in showcase tournaments in 2019.
* Please arrive 15 minutes before class time, to check-in at the third floor reception and get settled for the class at The Yoga Sanctuary studio on Broadview and Danforth.
* We highly suggest you bring your own yoga mat as The Yoga Sanctuary has a limited number of rental mats for use.
THE WORLD-CLASS PLAYERS WHO SWEAR BY YOGA
MANY of the game's top stars use yoga as part of their training regimes. Below is a link to a piece that reveals those who are flexible in their thinking to stay at the top.
FROM PLAYER TO REFEREE...ANNA'S JOURNEY
SWITCHING ROLES....Anna (right) fellow Co-Head of Referees Rachel Cumming and senior official Alisha Giel (left)
ANNA WASSERMANN knows every step of the journey from player to referee, she has walked the path.
From the sense of injustice, feeling she was on the end of a wrong call, to wanting to perfect her knowledge of The Laws of the Game.
North Toronto Soccer Club’s Co-Head Referee knows the peaks and troughs of becoming a match official, she has experienced them.
As NTSC gets set to host their first course for future referees at St Michael’s College this weekend, Anna, also a Masters of Journalism candidate at Ryerson University, took time out from her hectic schedule to talk to ntsoccer.com and reflect on a key question within the Beautiful Game she loves.
How much does learning to be a referee help a player’s understanding of soccer?
Anna insisted: “I can’t stress enough how beneficial it is for players to become referees.
“I’m sure we can all think of at least one instance in which we felt wronged by a referee.
“It’s likely that we gave that referee some grief for what we thought was a bad call. When players become referees, there’s a certain amount of respect gained for the role.
“While they might not always agree with the referee’s decisions, they start to understand how difficult the job is.
“Whether it’s dealing with insults from coaches or spectators, or making consequential decisions under tremendous time constraints.
“As a player, when you become a referee, I find you interact more positively with referees during your own matches.”
As she studied to become a referee, Anna, a former competitive level player, soon realised that there were gaps in her knowledge of the game that she thought she knew inside-out.
Each course, each game, each testing moment as a fledgling official taught her another side of the soccer world.
And she reflected: “As players, we tend to think we know the laws, but we really DON’T.
“Until you become a referee, and you start studying the laws - and I mean, REALLYstudying them - you don’t realise how many situations you have no idea how to handle.
“Refereeing soccer isn’t black or white. There are a lot of grey areas and a lot of laws where judgment is required.
“I always find that players who become referees, and who develop a comprehensive knowledge of the laws, tend to become better players.
“They have a better sense of the game when they’re playing it and it definitely doesn’t hurt that they have a better sense of the referee’s decision-making process.”
Anna, who shares the Co-Head Referee title and role with close friend Rachel Cumming, is now entering her twelfth season as a match official.
The impartiality and absence of bias required when officiating means forging relationships with players and coaches has obstacles. Yet she has found mutual respect has formed there.
And within NTSC’S burgeoning House League program?
Anna stressed: “I'm not sure I can articulate how rewarding the switch from player to referee has been for me.
“I've essentially grown up with so many of the kids who play soccer at our club. The six-year-olds who I officiated in my first year as a referee are now 18!
“I feel so fortunate to have been able to progress through the system alongside them.
“It can be difficult to cultivate a relationship with coaches and players of competitive teams, simply because you lose any credibility if one team thinks you have an allegiance with the opposing team.
"But, this isn't the case in the recreational program, where referees come to know the coaches and players on every team, officiating matches for each division a couple of times per week. The relationships I've made with our House League coaches and players are what has made the job so wonderful.
“In my opinion, the cornerstone of a community club is the people. I feel very fortunate to get to interact with some of the best.”
PART OF THE NITROS FAMILY...Anna (back row row far left) with her Nitros' Under-11 side - back where it all started!
As we move into 2019 at NTSC, and clubs throughout Ontario wrestle with the question of keeping kids involved in soccer, Anna feels refereeing has a crucial role to play.
The club’s mantra, “As many as possible for as long as possible in the best environment possible," is uppermost in the minds of the NTSC leadership. Anna’s mind is no exception. She believes courses like the one this weekend can promote this mantra in an area that players might not have thought of before.
She reasoned: “I might be biased but I think that becoming a referee is the best way to stay involved in the game, particularly once your playing days are over.
“I graduated from the competitive program fairly early on, in order to pursue other sports, but I knew I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to soccer or to the NTSC community.
“By earning my Entry Level referee certification in 2008, and subsequently, a job at NTSC, I was able to remain an active member of our club.
“I got to spend my springs and summers outdoors, teaching young players how to play the game I love.
“I truly can’t imagine a better summer job, and I’m thrilled that in 2017, I was given the opportunity to help foster this experience for a new generation of referees.”
Last year, when Anna and Rachel moved into the Co-Head Referee roles, they became a fixture in the club’s busy HQ on Avenue Road.
In the room where you often find the coaches focused on their laptops, planning the next session or game, they are in the fabric of the place. Banter flies, debates rage.
And in the quieter moments, they get the time to plan the way ahead for the refereeing program at NTSC.
Anna revealed: “When we were given these roles, it was our no1 priority to provide the best referee education possible and to develop as many referees as possible.
“Competitive leagues throughout the province are always in need of qualified referees, and we believe the best referees are those who start at the club level, gaining experience with the youngest age groups and being mentored by senior officials.
“When referees are thrust into matches before they’re ready, the experience can be harrowing, and many referees end up quitting.
“It’s our goal to make sure this never happens and that referees feel supported and valued, confident, and prepared for their assignments.”
In 2018, NT had over 60 referees working in our recreational program and an additional 10 referees who officiated almost exclusively in competitive matches.
This year, Anna and Rachel hope to welcome back as many of those 70 referees as are interested, and add some new faces to their team.
For Anna, it’s a year with many targets and exciting prospects ahead and she said: “We will look to continue providing the best education possible, including ongoing mentorship evaluations, and education sessions with FIFA or National level referees.
“We can’t wait to get started on the upcoming season, and on the next stage of the job at NTSC.”
FOOD FOR THOUGHT FROM BIG-HEARTED 06 GIRLS
SHOWING THEIR TRUE COLOURS...the 06s Girls annual holiday food drive session brought out a host of varied jerseys
NORTH TORONTO NITROS' OPDL 06 Girls squad held their second annual True Colours Day at the final practice session of 2018 at Downsview Dome.
The tradition started last year with the girls encouraged to wear their OTHER favourite jersey for one practice only to show their true colours and support local food banks by bringing in a bag of goodies for those less fortunate than ourselves over the the holidays.
This year there were some sterling efforts on the kit front with midfielder Zoe Haldenby brave enough to sport her red England top in the presence of Scottish Head Coach Iain King!
From the Leafs and the Jays to France, Holland, Portugal and Barca it was a fun session for a great cause and True Colours Day is now a date in the team's diary each year.
Dedicated parent coach Lawrence Calenti was the delivery man for the food drive this year and he said: "The parents and the girls were great in making sure everyone brought their donations and this year we chose the Fire Station at Bathurst and Lawrence as our drop-off point.
"Our Nitros goodis filled the huge box they have there and it was terrific to see the girls do their little bit to help others as part of their soccer."
NITROS TRIO SPUR ROBBINS TO GLORY
A GOOD DAY AT SCHOOL! The Robbins Hebrew Academy team who won the Jewish Day School title with 07s Nitros Lyla Macklin (far right front row) and Mia Kanee (far right back row) joining their clubmate Samara Golger from the 06s OPDL squad (third from right back row) in playing a big part in the success
THREE Nitros girls were at the heart of it all as Robbins Hebrew Academy went undefeated to land the Jewish Day School Sports Team title.
06 Girls OPDL midfielder Samara Golger, whose sister Talia was also on the Robbins team, joined her 07s Nitros club mates Mia Kanee and Lyla Macklin in the victorious squad.
The girls marched through to the Final against Bialik without a loss or a tie on their record and they chalked up their sixth win on the spin with a 2-0 triumph to be crowned champions.
For Samara's mom Aviva, who coached the team on the day, it was a proud afternoon and she smiled: "The Final was a real nailbiter but it was great to see the girls hold on to claim the gold medal.
"It was a fun day for all the team and I was very proud of them, the Nitros girls were a credit to the club with their level of play."
THE JILL SUTHERLAND INTERVIEW: PART TWO
From Provincial setbacks to the NCAA: My message to Nitros hopefuls
JILL SUTHERLAND dreamed of playing for Team Ontario and it never happened - last week she signed a NCAA Division One contract for Central Michigan Chippewas.
Pride of the Nitros central defender Jill, 17, is a shining example of how to recover from a soccer setback.
In a timely interview, as 40 ambitious Nitros prospects enjoy this year’s Provincial Projects Screening process, Jill reflected on the positive mindset that kept her chasing her dreams on the field.
She stressed: “I never made the Provincial team, I worked so hard to get scouted and get an invite to those screenings.
“And, you know, I would be lying if I didn’t say that it was a big disappointment for me each time I didn’t make it.
“There were times when I thought I was competing well and I deserved to be on the team but looking back on that process it taught me so much.”
Last weekend the 2019 process started for the Nitros girls chasing Provincial slots this time around with the boys in action at Downsview Dome this weekend.
Jill recalls giving every shred she had in those showcase matches but never quite getting the nod in the final cut.
Yet she insisted: “I learned a lot from those setbacks and I drew on them as inspiration.
“It taught me about what can be the cruel process of making teams, how the coaches at that level would be looking at EVERYTHING from my speed to my athleticism and obviously my technical ability.
“I recognised I couldn’t improve upon one aspect, I had to improve them all.
“So yes, there were occasions when I felt I had deserved to make that Provincial team but I learned to bounce back.”
Those battling for recognition this time around will face peaks and troughs on their soccer journey.
It’s a course Jill knows only too well as she prepares for life with Central Michigan in the university town of Mount Pleasant next Fall.
And she said: “If I had a message to the younger Nitros players it would be to be ready for that, to learn to live with the setbacks.
“You are not going to make every team but you can’t let that deflect you from trying to get better as a soccer player.”
Last week when Jill put pen to paper to that NCAA contract in the Nitros office it was a special moment for proud mum Andrea, a long-time team manager at the club, and dad Bill who is a highly-valued coach.
Jill believes every mentor she had on the field played as vital role in getting her to this elite level of soccer in the States.
She smiled: “I had Sonia Booker right back at the start at Under-8, there’s been my dad, Marc Maunder and then Chris Vickers.
“They were all different types of coaches and personalities and they all helped make me as a player.”
Dad Bill is a hugely popular figure with players in the club, respected for his knowledge of the game and calm guidance of the teams he has been involved in.
After all those bumps and bruises, all those soccer-filled weekends, Jill can only remember one time when she reckons she truly got on the wrong side of the old man as a player.
She smiled: “Being coached by your dad was great, I liked having him there.
“He played at University level too and he learned from that, he is excited now to see me go down the same sort of pathway even if the process is totally different now.
“Still, I do remember one game early in our time together I put my hand up and said to my dad: “I’m tired, I need a sub.”
“That didn’t go down too well, he got mad at me for asking to come off and said I should value every minute on the field. I didn’t do that again!”
THE JILL SUTHERLAND INTERVIEW: PART ONE
The thrill of landing that Division 1 contract
KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY...mum Andrea, who is a long time Nitros manager, and dad Bill, a highly-respected Nitros coach, share in Jill's big signing day moment at the club offices as she committed her soccer future to Division 1 Central Michigan
JILL SUTHERLAND’S soccer journey started as an Under-8s Nitros girl at Eglinton Park, yesterday she stepped into the big leagues when she signed for Division 1 Central Michigan Chippewas.
The move sees central defender Jill become the first Nitros player to graduate to the elite level of America’s National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) system.
Jill put pen to paper on the University of Central Michigan contract in the club offices under the watchful eyes of proud coaches Marc Maunder and Chris Vickers who have played key roles in her development.
And as she prepared for a landmark moment in her soccer career Jill smiled: “My earliest Nitros memory is playing for the Under-8s side at Eglinton Park.
“Sonia Booker was my coach and my dad Bill, who has always been involved as a coach with the club, was there and in the thick of it all too.
“My over-riding feeling was that I had so much fun and I felt like I belonged and that has never left me with this club.
“I will always look to the impact that my Nitros coaches have had on me and I want to dedicate this to them. All of my team-mates have backed me so much too.”
The Chippewas play in the Mid-American Conference and the University is set in the picturesque town of Mount Pleasant.
Jill told ntsoccer.com she felt at home there from the first moment she arrived.
And she confessed: “I’m so excited, it’s such a beautiful place and I am being honest when I say the school felt like home right away.
“It was like with the team too, I felt at home, my team-mates have been so welcoming and I can’t wait to get started.
“I’m proud that I have made a Division I team and it feels like a dream because it is so difficult to get there, it’s so competitive.
“You go through moments where you think it might not happen for you but if you keep working hard the rewards come.”
Yesterday Jill’s proud parents Bill and Andrea were in the club offices to share that special signing moment with their daughter and the coaches who helped make it happen.
The gifted defender moves on to the next chapter now but she admits there will always be a backward glance towards a club and the people within it who have come to mean so much to her over the last decade.
Jill revealed: “My team-mates were really happy for me, we are all heading on different journeys now but we are all delighted for each other.
“That sense of togetherness is I think what makes NT such a special club, it really is like a family.”
The regime of playing in the Ontario Player Development League (OPDL), training four times a week and playing her game has prepared Jill well for what lies ahead.
She knows only too well the dedication needed to keep improving as a player, the relentless will to get better every day.
That is reflected in how a typical week will look playing for the Chippewas and she reflected: “We train in the mornings and and we are in the weight room or doing strength and conditioning twice a week also.
“Games are on Fridays and Sundays with a recovery session on a Saturday and I think we get the Monday off to chill out!
“Seriously, it is like living the life of professional soccer player and that for me is something to cherish and relish. It’s super-exciting.”
Away from the field, Jill’s hard work at school means she can assess her options before deciding what direction she wants to take in the classroom. It’s about striking the right balance now between the books and the tactics board.
Jill said: “I think I want to study Communications right now and the school is academically excellent.
“I just want to advance my learning both on and off the field.”
Jill was one of eight new recruits for the Chippewas on signing day and after a heartbreaking end to last season this is a team on a mission.
Everyone at NT will now be following Central Michigan’s fortunes when the action kicks off.
Jill reflected: “This time round the team didn’t make the play-off tournament.
“They went into the last game as a decider and lost it in overtime so they will go into next season with a big target.
“They will want to right that wrong and I want to be a part of that.”
PHILLY BOOST AS 04 GIRLS LAND MEDALS
A WEEKEND TO BUILD ON...our 04 Girls did the club proud with an excellent showing in the EDP Fall Classic in Philly
NORTH TORONTO NITROS 04 OPDL Girls came within ONE GOAL of travel tournament glory in Philadelphia in the EDP Fall Classic.
The squad clutched runners-up medals and performed superbly over the weekend in the States and came through four games undefeated in their bracket with three wins and one tie.
Agonisingly, they missed out on the top prize by the slimmest of margins to eventual winners Match Fit Academy.
Yet it was a superb experience for the team who had started out on their tournament journey with a 1-1 tie against Match Fit with Tessa Palmert on target for Nitros.
Game Two saw Head Coach Ilya Orlov’s side really hit their stride as they raced to a 4-1 success over FC Bucks with goals from Jessica Collantes, Simona Busillo, Hana Miller and Provincial prospect Rufina Abdurusul.
Now the NT Girls could sense they had a shot at the top spot and they held their nerve in their third match winning 2-1 against Hulmeville SC with Busillo and Abdurusal again hitting the net.
The fourth match saw them face up to PDA South Valencia and they shrugged off any fatigue from a hectic weekend to triumph 2-1 thanks to an Ella Halliday double.
With coach Ilya unavailable for this one, NTSC Technical Director Billy Wilson stepped in to guide the team alongside Head Goalkeeping Coach Justine Bernier.
Billy was proud of how the girls performed over the two days and he said: “This trip was a great way for the girls to end their season on a high as they prepare to come back stronger in 2019.
“Looking back on it, 2018 was very much a transitional period for this group as they experienced a mid-season coaching change, which is never the easiest to handle as a young player.
“However, the impact that Ilya has made to the environment cannot be underestimated and although the group have experienced some difficult results in the OPDL I certainly witnessed a group of players committed to playing football the right way with style and purpose.”
The daunting strength of the female program at NT means that the bar is set high for each group that enters it.
Our 04 Girls have had tough challenges in their time together but there are real signs of encouragement now the club’s new coaching structure at OPDL level is taking root.
TD Billy believes patience is a virtue as the group develops and he reasoned: “The emphasis all season from the coaching staff has been on the processes rather than the outcomes and that was the message Justine and I looked to build on in Philadelphia.
“We asked the players to focus on committing to the smaller individual and unit objectives which the girls translated into four confident performances.
“The challenge now for this group of players is to build on this success as we prepare for the 2019 OPDL season.
“They have shown that they can achieve the level of consistency required to compete week in, week out in OPDL and I am sure they will continue to develop over the coming months working with all of the staff at NT."
05s SPARKLE AS THEY ARE EDGED IN BETHESDA FINAL
RED-DY TO ROCK...the trip experience and reaching the Final in Bethesda can only be of benefit to our OPDL 05 Girls
NORTH TORONTO NITROS’ 05 OPDL Girls side shone in the States as they came within a heartbeat of trophy glory in the Bethesda Premier Cup.
Head Coach Marc Maunder’s team were edged out 2-0 in the Final by top Pennsylvania side Crusa FC Bucks but returned home enriched by the experience.
The trophy shootout was their fourth game of a hectic weekend in trying conditions in Maryland.
And coach Marc stressed: “I was really proud of the girls and their performance over the two days.
“To play in conditions like we did on heavy grass fields after being spoiled this year in the OPDL with turf, nice temperatures and conditions and a retreat line was great.
“It was a little worry of mine before the first game but the girls stepped up and once again showed me that this could be a very competitive group within the 05 bracket in Ontario next season.”
The girls got off to a flyer on Day One with a 2-0 win over PA Classics Elite of Pennsylvania thanks to goals from Teija Murray-Powell and Naomi Kato.
And they followed that up with a crucial 1-0 success over Virginia’s Southwestern, with Kayla Briggs on target, to put themselves in the driving seat in their section.
They rested up at their base hotel on the Saturday night and came out fighting on the Sunday with a tense 0-0 tie with Premier SC of Maryland that clinched their Final slot.
Coach Marc revealed just how much the girls relished their adventure and stressed:
“The girls love these trips, they were so excited as we were getting closer to departure day, the team bonding that happens is something that cannot happen just by training and playing week in, week out.
“We had spoken about the importance of coming to play in the US again and once again being competitive and we spoke about winning the competition even before we left Canada, the first time all year we have had these kind of conversations.”
A host of this gifted 05s squad were involved in the screenings for the Ontario Provincial squad last weekend.
They will now train up until December 1 before enjoying the five-week OPDL close-season break and returning to training raring to go on January 7, 2019.
Marc believes the memories of Bethesda will both linger with the players and benefit them when the new season - their first in competitive scores and standings in the OPDL - begins next May.
He reasoned: “I don’t think the trip will significantly help with the performance of the team in the OPDL in 2019 as we won't play a competitive game now until May.
“It will, however, give the girls great memories of the team and maybe when we get the chance to play another Final they will know how they DON’T want to feel when the final whistle goes.”
06 GIRLS ON A LEARNING CURVE IN THE STATES
READY FOR THE OPDL...the 06 Girls squad racked up some vital 11-a-side minutes in the Bethesda tournament
NORTH TORONTO NITROS’ 06 OPDL girls soaked up a vital learning experience in their first major 11-a-side tournament at the Bethesda Premier Cup.
The OPDL newbies, with just five full field games under their belts prior to this trip, were delighted to be placed in this prestigious tournament’s top bracket after excellent displays in both the Hershey League and the TSA over the last year.
They would lose all three games Stateside narrowly but Head Coach Iain King insisted his U13 tream will benefit greatly from a trip taken just six weeks into their life as an OPDL squad.
Saturday saw the girls tackle Loudoun SC - ranked no62 in the USA - and they were edged out 1-0 in a tight match that had seen them outshine their highly-ranked rivals in the first-half.
Coach Iain reflected: “I was very proud of our effort and technique in that game, it was decided on the finest of margins.
“Overall, over the weekend we learned so much from the ramping up in physicality and the speed of play.
“We competed extremely well against some of the best teams in the States but we know now the areas we have to improve upon.”
In Game Two of their three-team section Nitros were a goal down to a penalty-kick and pressing hard for the equaliser against PA Nova Classic of Pennsylvania when they were sucker-punched with a class strike from 25 yards into the top corner.
The girls rested up at their base in Tyson’s Corner on the Saturday night and had a blast bonding as a team.
And coach Iain stressed: “That gives you a sense of perspective as a coach.
“Sure, we were disappointed we lost on the field as it is not a feeling we are used to but we went there to play the best teams.
“I sat and looked at how much the team were enjoying just eating and being together in the hotel and shrugged off that feeling.”
The sodden conditions in Maryland meant that Game Three was cut to 30 minutes on the Sunday and Nitros were again dominating the early stages when they got caught on a counter-attack to fall behind against Global Premier Soccer Maine.
Another penalty-kick sealed a 2-0 reverse and meant the team came away a little disappointed in themselves but vowing to learn from the experience.
Coach Iain said: “When the news came we were in the top bracket I know there was some trepidation about how we would cope.
“Yet we were right in every game we played, we just suffered from some naive moments and we had slices of ill luck at key times.
“This group has improved so much over the last 14 months together and I am confident that will be a competitive squad when the OPDL rolls around in May 2019.
“It certainly hasn’t put us off travelling again, we have benefitted so much from the experiences in Ottawa and Bethesda this season.”
SONIA'S WORLD CUP DREAM COMES TRUE!
NORTH TORONTO NITROS' bred star Sonia Walk has realised her dream of making the Canada squad for the U17 Women's World Cup in Uruguay next month.
Gifted Sonia is part of coach Rhian Wilkinson's 21-player squad for the tournament which begins on November 13 with the Final scheduled for December 1.
Canada have been drawn in Group D of the prestigious tournament and will face Colombia, South Korea and Spain at Estadio Charrúa in Montevideo.
The Maple Leaf girls' first game is against Colombia on November 14 at 19:00 local (18:00 ET/15:00 PT), followed by Korea Republic on November 17 at 16:00 local (15:00 ET/12:00 PT), and Spain on November 21 at 14:00 local (13:00 ET/10:00 PT.
Here at ntsoccer.com we are very proud of Sonia's achievements and she is featured in a special two-part interview in this section of the club website where she pays tribute to the role her NT mentor Marko Milanovic played in her development as a player.
And Sonia reflected: “I came to Nitros at Under-9 and Marko has been my coach since then, he has been a huge influence on me. He taught me the basics of how to pass a soccer ball and he has such an attention to detail and an intensity when you work with him.
“I have come to progress to first the Provincial and now National squads through working under Marko. I feel that I owe both him and NT a huge debt. I recognise that and always will.”
Now Sonia is a key part of long-time women's national team player Wilkinson's squad for the big adventure in Uruguay.
And the Canada coach said: “I am really excited to have this opportunity for Canada Soccer, and I value the experience just like I did every time I pulled on that jersey with the Maple Leaf.
"I really believe in this U-17 team and I am looking forward to working with them to help them both perform on the pitch and learn from the experience to better prepare them for a career with Canada Soccer’s Women’s National Team.”
Sonia's rise is part of the growing excellence of the female program at Nitros that sees the club at the top of the province at U15, U17 and U21 level.
On Saturday her former team-mates take part in the Charity Shield Final against Richmond Hill as coach Marko continues to drive his squad towards more silverware.
Sonia is part of the Regional Excellence program (REX) alongside fellow Nitros produced prospects Olivia Smith and Jasmine Vilgrain and Canada womens' national team boss Kenneth Heiner-Moller believes they are in the best place to progress.
“We are excited for the team and Rhian,” said Heiner-Moller who is also Women’s EXCEL Program Director.
“Canada Soccer’s focus for our young players continues to be on development through experience. Our nationally aligned talent development system ensures a progression for players towards the Women’s National Team and the top level of women’s soccer.”
Canada Soccer Roster for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Uruguay 2018 (By number, position, name, year born, hometown, club)
#1 Goalkeeper Anna Karpenko, 2002, Richmond Hill, ON/Ontario REX
#2 Forward Jayde Riviere, 2001, Markham, ON/Ontario REX
#3 Defender Julianne Vallerand, 2001, Terrebonne, QC /Quebec REX & AS Varennes
#4 Defender Sonia Walk, 2002, Toronto, ON/Ontario REX
#5 Defender Maya Antoine, 2001, Vaughan, ON/Ontario REX
#6 Defender Ariel Young, 2001, Ottawa, ON/Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite REX
#7 Forward Serita Thurton, 2002, Ajax, ON/Ontario REX
#8 Midfielder Caitlin Shaw, 2001, Vancouver, BC/Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite REX
#9 Forward Jordyn Huitema, 2001, Chilliwack, BC/Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite REX
#10 Forward Oluwateniola (Teni) Akindoju, 2001, Halifax, NS/Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite REX
#11 Forward Kaila Novak, 2002, St. Thomas, ON/Ontario REX
#12 Midfielder Lara Kazandjian, 2002, Kirkland, QC/Quebec REX & Lakeshore SC
#13 Defender Léonie Portelance, 2001, Brossard, QC/ Quebec REX & AS Varennes
#14 Midfielder Wayny-Natasha Balata Nguenign, 2001, Montreal, QC/ Quebec REX & Lakeshore SC
#15 Midfielder Jazmine Wilkinson, 2002, Nanaimo, BC /Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite REX
#16 Defender Jade Rose, 2003, Markham, ON/Ontario REX
#17 Forward Andersen Williams, 2002, Calgary, AB/Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite REX
#18 Goalkeeper Sophie Guilmette 2001, Montréal, QC /Quebec REX & Lakeshore SC
#19 Defender Isabella Hanisch, 2002, Ottawa, ON/ Ontario REX
#20 Forward Jessica De Filippo, 2001, Montréal, QC /Quebec REX & Lakeshore SC
#21 Goalkeeper Kayza Massey, 2001, Ottawa, ON/Ontario REX
* Squad details courtesy of canadasoccer.com
SONIA: MY DEBT TO MARKO AND NTSC
BACK WHERE IT ALL BEGAN...Sonia with coach Marko at Nitros Academy base at Sunnybrook last month
SONIA WALK dreams of striding into an arena in Uruguay in three months’ time and playing with pride for Canada in the Under-17 Womens World Cup.
If she does the holding midfielder raised as a player at North Toronto Nitros will send a message of thanks to the coaching mentor who has helped her start to scale the heights in The Beautiful Game.
Sonia recognises the debt she will always owe to Marko Milanovic.
We caught up with the Regional Excellence (REX) program player as she took time out of her hectic schedule and volunteered as one of the player coaches at Nitros Academy week at Sunnybrook Park last month.
The constant smile on her face told you how much Sonia enjoyed being back in the NT fold, sharing jokes with her former team-mates and laughing with her old coach Marko during breaks from the technical sessions.
Since moving to the club from East York as a rookie kid, she has been steeped in the Nitros culture.
And Sonia reflected: “I came to Nitros at Under-9 and Marko has been my coach since then, he has been a huge influence on me.
“He taught me the basics of how to pass a soccer ball and he has such an attention to detail and an intensity when you work with him.
“I have come to progress to first the Provincial and now National squads through working under Marko.
“I feel that I owe both him and NT a huge debt. I recognise that and always will.”
As Sonia developed as a player under Marko’s guidance the trophies and accolades - both personal and team - began to arrive.
OPDL titles, the growing recognition that she could now be on a pathway towards the national team.
Then last year Sonia and team-mates Olivia Smith and Jasmine Vilgrain were amongst the first intake of players selected for the Ontario REX program.
There they train five days a week with the province’s best players with the door open to the Canadian international team call-ups they all crave.
Sonia was a key part of the Under-17 squad who came through the CONCACAF qualifiers to propel the nation into that 16-team November adventure in South America.
Player of the Match in the opening 3-0 win over Bermuda, Sonia and her team-mates then went through the trauma of seeing the tournament scrapped because of rioting in the streets in Managua, Nicaragua where the event was being hosted.
The competition was moved to Bradenton, Florida and, although Team Canada lost narrowly to the USA, 2-1 wins over Costa Rica then Haiti secured third spot and that coveted place in Uruguay.
Now Sonia’s sights are on making the World Cup cut and she revealed: “We start our training in August and then come September they will announce the roster for Uruguay.
“It’s an exciting time for all three of the Nitros players who were originally selected for the REX program.
“Olivia is doing really well for the Under-15s and has her own World Cup to look forward to in August and Jasmine is progressing great now too.”
Throughout her Nitros days coach Marko would always marvel at the single-minded intensity Walk brought to her work with the team.
That dedication to being the best player she can be has been a vital competent in her continued career climb.
The REX program is demanding on the players and Sonia confessed: “It is intense as we train five days a week at 3.30pm in the afternoon.
“Some players go to Bill Crothers School, which has the link with the program, and then train but I still go to my own school so I Skype into team meetings in the morning then do my schoolwork.
“In the afternoon my dad Brian has rescheduled his work life as a physician to ensure he can drive me to every practice in the afternoons.
“I guess that’s the part that people don’t see, how dedicated your parents have to be.
“He has made so many sacrifices for me and he now starts his appointments at 7am to ensure he is free to to drive me to REX practice.”
All those family sacrifices will be worthwhile if Sonia’s journey continues towards the Canada WNT.
For now, though, the goals are winning a slot in that squad for Uruguay and continuing to adapt to her new role as a central defensive midfield player.
She explained: “I started off at centre-back when I was playing with Marko and from when I was 12 that’s really where I settled as a player.
“The Provincial program saw me in that position too and I guess in some ways I was in my comfort zone there.
“Then the national team coach Bev Priestman told me she saw me at CDM and I am adapting to that now.
“When I moved into the role at first I felt that everything was happening too fast around me.
“Even then I turned to Marko for some extra help and advice on the switch and some tips on what would be expected of me.
“I always know I can turn to him in situations like that. Like I say, I owe him. I will always know that.”
COMING SOON: Part Two of our Sonia Walk Interview sees the Canada U-17 look back at a dramatic CONCACAF qualifying campaign and forward to her dream of emulating her favourite players in the red of her country.
SONIA'S MOVIN' UP IN THE WORLD
CANADA EH! Sonia's team jump for joy after defeating Haiti to qualify for the World Cup Finals next month
SONIA WALK glanced out of the Team Canada bus window and saw tyres burning on the side of the road.
The chants of angry protesters were a distant soundtrack in the Nicaraguan capital of Managua but Bev Priestman’s players would soon realise they were chasing their soccer dreams in a city teetering on the brink.
Sonia and her team-mates had jetted in to Nicaragua intent upon glory in the U17s CONCACAF Women’s Championship.
They knew if they shone a place in the World Cup in Uruguay next month beckoned.
For the holding midfielder bred at North Toronto Nitros this was the pinnacle of her career to date and she reflected: “Initially when we were in Managua we were assured that everything was fine and we would be OK during the tournament.
“We defeated Bermuda 3-0 in the opener. I got Player of the Match, which I was very proud of, and we were all deep into the competition.
“Then one morning I got a knock on my door from one of my team-mates and she told me there was an emergency meeting.”
Outside the hotel the civil unrest, sparked by students demanding that President Daniel Ortega stand down over pension cuts plans, was now making world headlines.
Rioters were moving perilously close to the hotels the visiting nations’ teams were staying in and FIFA acted swiftly.
Sonia revealed: “Coach Priestman stood up in front of us and told us the tournament was CANCELLED and we all went into a state of shock I think.
“She said the riots had become too dangerous and we were all heading home.
“It was dark when we were heading back to the hotel from the first game but we heard all the noises and we saw tyres burning at the side of the roads.
“You knew you were in the middle of something but we never expected that would be the end of the story.”
In the days that followed violence ruled the streets of Managua as those sympathetic to President Ortega vented their fury against the protesters.
Before calm was restored over 280 people died, Team Canada had flown out of what became a nightmarish city in the nick of time.
The tournament was rescheduled for Bradenton, Florida, and Sonia would be at heart of a magnificent effort that clinched a slot in Uruguay.
She said: “When all the trouble for the tournament came to a head in Nicaragua we had been gearing up to face Costa Rica.
“We eventually played that Costa Rica game in Florida and won and then lost narrowly to the USA.
“Any defeat to the States is sore but we made it through to the World Cup Finals which are in Uruguay next month. That was our goal and we achieved it.”
There were joyous scenes when Andersen Williams’ goal sealed the 2-1 win over Haiti to secure that place in the Finals.
Now Sonia is desperate to make the squad as the U17s World Cup 2018 runs from November 13-December 1 in Colonia del Sacramento, Montevideo, and Maldonado. Canada, Mexico, and USA will join 13 other nations in Uruguay.
This summer Walk came back to her roots at the Nitros Academy and was a volunteer coach looked up to by every player there - even her old OPDL-winning team-mates!
Modest Sonia would shrug off any talk that she is a role model to the aspiring Nitros, yet that is the status she now holds at the club where she was developed under the shrewd guidance of her coach and mentor Marko Milanovic.
Our last question as another day wound down at Academy in the early evening Sunnybrook Park sunshine was who SHE looked up to on the soccer field.
The answer began with a player who was just 15 when made her debut for the Canadian national team.
Sonia revealed: “I really like both Jessie Fleming, who is such an exciting player, and she has achieved so much for someone who is still only 20.
“Another player I admire is Desiree Scott who plays the position I have now transitioned to in central midfield from my Nitros days when I was a centre-half.
“I have found some of the technical aspects of moving to play in that position a challenge, Desiree makes it look easy.”
For the kid who first tugged a Nitros jersey on when she was nine years old a dream is beckoning.
Graduating from Nitros to the Regional Excellence Program was a significant step, making it into the national set-up even bigger.
To stride in the World Cup Finals in the red of Canada, though? Now that would be Walkin’ the Walk….
05 GIRLS WHITE TEAM FIT THE BILL
LEAVING THE OTHERS IN THE SHADE...coach Bill Sutherland with his league champions after the TSA triumph
NORTH TORONTO NITROS 05 Girls program has displayed its enviable strength in depth as the White Team posted a season to remember under the shrewd guidance of Head Coach Bill Sutherland.
The girls this summer roared through the entire Toronto Soccer Association league season UNDEFEATED as they charged to the title to gain promotion to the Central Soccer League next year.
And there were a host of other highlights in what became a memorable campaign that left coach Bill to reflect: 'It was I feel a great season of personal and team growth. It''s not an easy feat to go undefeated throughout a league season at any level.
"The girls set this goal for themselves with six games remaining in the season, full credit to them for seeing it through.”
This squad operates in an age group where the club has high hopes for coach Marc Maunders' OPDL team and the success of Bill's group shows the level of quality now being produced throughout the NT female program.
Coach Sutherland said: "The team now moves up to the CSL for the U14 season and are looking forward to the new challenge. Winning the league, finishing second at the Lake Simcoe tournament and getting out of the group stage of the Ontario Cup, these are are great experiences that the girls will take forward to the next level.
“The girls were an absolute pleasure to coach this season. Always positive and fun to work with. Very resilient when needed, they always tried to play with creativity and confidence.
"The majority of our players started many years ago with the club at the grassroots/ball mastery level with Marc. I am really very proud to see them develop and achieve their goals.”
04 GIRLS GIVE COACH SAM PERFECT FAREWELL
UP FOR THE CUP...parent coach John Shulman and coach Sam Fujimagari with their 2018 TDYSL Cup winners
NORTH TORONTO NITROS coach Samantha Fujimagari has paid tribute to her U14 Girls side after they won the Toronto District Youth Soccer League Cup and handed her the perfect farewell to four years in charge.
Sam’s star turns edged North York Cosmos 1-0 in the Final and it was an emotional day for both the players and their coach as she moves on to an exciting new post in our restructured Grassroots section.
That challenge sees Sam take over as Head Coach of the U8 Girls and assistant with the U9 and U10 Girls squads.
Sam moves on with the best of memories in her locker and she smiled: “I can’t begin to express how proud I am of these players.
“I’ve watched them grow up through the end of their elementary school days, past their middle school awkwardness and now as young women entering high school.
“It fills me with pride to watch them develop both on and off the field. I’ve grown to know and respect each one of them as individuals over the past four years and it was a bittersweet moment when the final whistle blew.
“When the TSA officials asked the coaches to say a few words, I had to ask our parent coach John Shulman to do it as I was holding back tears.
“Watching the team raise the cup filled me with great joy but also heartache as the realisation of my departure sunk in.”
Sam, a graduate of York University with a BSc in Kinesiology, started out life at NT as a Development Coach and is a popular figure within the club.
This year she has also done stellar strength and conditioning and injury prevention work with coach Iain King’s 06 Girls squad as they prepare for life in the OPDL and CSL in 2019.
The 04 Girls, though, have been a constant in her NT coaching life over the last four years.
And she reflected: “We had both lost and won against North York in the regular season so we knew it was going to be a tough Final.
“The goal came thanks to a foul on our striker, Sophie Tran-Chapman, Claire Alden scored directly from a free-kick outside the box. It was a picture perfect shot on target past the outstretched reach of the diving keeper.
“Our keeper, Daniella Hervieux made some incredible saves to ensure a clean sheet. The win was fully a team effort.”
As we look forward to the Fall, winter and the 2019 season Sam passes the team on to former Nitros League One attacker Russell Rodriguez who is setting out on his learning pathway as a coach now.
He will be mentored as he grows into the role as part of the club’s new structured pathway and Sam stressed: “Russell is an enthusiastic up-and-coming coach.
“It will be awesome for the players to hear a fresh voice and I’m confident the players will continue to develop under his leadership.
“John Shulman, our incredible parent assistant coach, was the magic ingredient to this year’s success.
“He brings laughter and passion to practices and matches. His positivity is contagious and the players grew so much thanks to him.
“I will miss working with John, but mostly being around his charisma and joy.”
Inside the coaching room the technical staff feel that one of the strengths of the Nitros culture is the emotional investment the coaches have in the projects they take on with the teams.
They care about the PERSON not just the player and that is a key element for Sam as she looks back on her journey with the 04 Girls and forward to her new adventure with our developing talents.
She said: “Besides the overnight trips to various tournaments and the adventures that go along with that, I’ll treasure the off-field moments with these players that likely aren’t on anyone else’s highlight reel.
“Just watching them talk together, learning about each other’s lives and they way they set a culture of including everyone in the conversation. That’s rare among teenaged girls.
“Watching friendships form and seeing players have one another’s backs both on and off the field are qualities of these players that I will remember.
“I laugh when I think back to the team-bonding practices that I’d throw in just to give them opportunities to hang out and be goofy together.
“We have had balloon games, blind-folded games, survivor games. I just wish I had more video footage!”
Now coach Sam moves on to build another Nitros family in that key role with the U8, U9 and U10 Girls under the guidance of our new Manager of Grassroots Development Tom Waud.
When ntsoccer.com asked her what she will miss most about the 04 Girls group her answer was simple.
She said: “The players. I am so thankful for how they’ve challenged me to grow as a coach, a role model and a person.
“I will miss being around them, hearing about their day, what’s going on in their lives. I’ll miss the parent group and the Nitros family we’ve built over the past four years.
“The team dinners, overnight trips, car rides. They made me feel like a part of their families.
“I will take those memories into my exciting new challenge with our younger players.”
PRIDE AS U21s MAKE IT A PROVINCIAL TREBLE
NORTH TORONTO NITROS’ U21 Womens Head Coach Chris Vickers has spoken of his pride after his side won the OWSL Provincial Division and clinched a dream Treble for the club.
After Provincial glory for both the U15s and U17s OPDL girls the success of their older club mates has capped an incredible summer of silverware for NT’s female program.
Chris’ side suffered just one loss in the league campaign and he stressed: “We now have the 15s, 17s and 21s as Provincial trophy holders which I think is great for the club to look back on in one season.
“We were also able to give OPDL players like Keyosha Donkor experience at the older level too which is another massive plus for the program.”
That cohesive thinking within the technical staff and linking of the pathway for the girls throughout their journey with the Nitros has proven to be hugely successful over the last few years.
Chris’ colleagues Marko Milanovic and Marc Maunder have also done sterling work with their leading OPDL sides.
Chris told ntsoccer.com: “We see this as a University prep team and they went through their league season with just that one loss at the Provincial level and showed great togetherness.
“The regional side finished second in their league too and that should be enough for promotion so the picture is good there too.
“The team who won Provincial have been brilliant for us because we are a younger squad than a lot of those we compete against.”
For some of the squad this may be their farewell to Nitros for now as they head off the University and the next stage of their soccer journeys.
Yet the grounding they have had at the club has given them the foundations to make some exciting steps in their careers.
Chris reflected: “As a squad they have been fantastic to work with and many of them now will be making their way to colleges and universities in Canada and the USA.
“Kiva Badoir our centre-back also clinched a training stint with pro side FC Twente Enschede in Holland.
“We also had our Golden Glove winner Stephania Turik make the journey to England and train with both Charlton Athletic and Millwall Lionesses and that shows you the quality of keeper she is.
“When you add the Provincial Golden Boot winner Jennifer Borean you can see the level of talent that we have within this group.”
Female program coaching expert Chris now moves onto Fall and Winter planning for his programs as he bids to help write some more chapters in the success story of the Nitros female program.
And he will also be going back to the start at U13 after he was appointed Head Coach of the new CSL squad which is being formed at that age group.
There he will work alongside U13 OPDL Head Coach Iain King as they bid to piece together the next generation of Nitros to challenge for honours in the seasons to come.
SOCCER SISTERS READY TO BACK ELIZABETH
FIGHTING BACK...Quinton Tostevin, Olivia Mancini and Ella Baldwin will inspire injured team-mate Elizabeth White
NORTH TORONTO NITROS 03 Girls defender Elizabeth White will have the support of her soccer sisters as she starts on the long road back from an anterior cruciate ligament injury suffered last month.
Elizabeth is the FOURTH player in the OPDL title-winning squad to have gone through the pain of an ACL setback.
The curse of these sort of injuries is a hot topic within the female game and Nitros 03 Girls head coach Marc Maunder feels it is vital that Elizabeth now has a strong support network around her.
He sighed: “Right away when the injury happened I feared it looked like another ACL.
“At the very minimum I knew it could be her medial ligament which would not have been so bad but we have had the worst confirmed now.
“It is the fourth ACL tear in four years with this team and that is hard to take.
“We have had this happen to Olivia Mancini, Ella Baldwin and Quinton Tostevin.
“Quinton is now back in training, Ella is a month away from her return and 16 months on from her comeback Olivia is a Provinicial player which shows how you can recover.
“Olivia still wears the knee brace because she is still growing but she is over it.”
As Elizabeth starts on the route to recovery the three other players who have suffered the same blow were together this week as their team enjoyed five days of sessions and classroom analysis work at the Nitros Academy.
Coach Marc knows the bond they have with their team-mate will be vital in the months to come.
And he said: “Quinton’s injury happened in the Play-Off semi-final last season and then with Ella it was very tough to hear the players scream when she went down.
“It was very emotional for all of us and I remember speaking to a physio at that match and saying I couldn’t handle any more of these sort of setbacks.
“He took me aside and told me I had to adjust to this as a coach as it is now a part of the female game.
“So now it has happened again and it was just a tackle that went wrong. Elizabeth, though, is a strong character and she will have the support of myself, her team-mates and our strength and conditioning staff as she begins the journey back.”
NITRO OLIVIA NETS FOR CANADA ON BIG STAGE
LOVIN' LIFE IN THE OPDL...Olivia, fourth from right in the front row, with Nitros' OPDL title-winning girls
NORTH TORONTO NITROS' Olivia Smith was a goalscoring star for Canada's Under-15 Girls side as they finished fifth in the 2018 Concacaf Championship in Bradenton, Florida, this week.
Top prospect Olivia notched a goal Stateside in Game Four - a 2-0 win over Haiti - in what was a successful campaign for coach Rhian Wilkinson's side.
Canada won three of its four matches, 1-0 over Dominican Republic, 7-0 against Panama and that 2-0 success against Haiti. The only defeat was a 2-1 loss against Costa Rica in the opener.
Canada’s squad featured 18 players who were in born 2003 or later, Nitro Liv is 2004 born. All of these players are therefore eligible for the next Concacaf Women’s Under-17 Championship in 2020.
Canada coach Wilkinson is herself a Concacaf champion and two-time Olympic bronze medal winner and she said “I’m very impressed by the level of these young women the REX program produced.
“It was great watching them play and being tested but also coming together as a group. They gain some experience, they learned something and we are very proud of them.”
The next major event for Canada’s Soccer’s Women’s EXCEL Program will be the 2018 FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup taking place in Uruguay from November 13 to December 1.
Canada qualified for the tournament after placing third at the Concacaf U17 Women’s Championship earlier this year with Nitros' own Sonia Walk at the heart of the efforts. Sonia is battling right now to be part of that final squad for Uruguay.
07s BOYS SAY GOODBYE AND GOOD LUCK TO LUCAS
LOVE-LEE GESTURE...delighted Lucas with his Nitros Academy shirt after his final game with his 07s Boys pals
NORTH TORONTO NITROS' 07s Boys this week waved goodbye to a hugely popular player as Lucas Lee and his family relocated to Vancouver.
Over the last 18 months Lucas, also a talented basketball player, has seen his soccer development soar as he moved through the ranks in an 07s program that has a depth of talent.
There was a tinge of sadness then for everyone in the 07s family as Lucas' dad Jason's job took him to a new adventure in the home of the Whitecaps.
Lucas was presented with a Nitros Academy shirt and a special World Cup ball signed by all his team-mates and coaches as he enjoyed his final scrimmage with his squad at Toronto French School on Friday night.
And 07s Head Coach Iain King said: "We are very sorry to see Lucas leave, he typifies everything an NTSC player should stand for in my eyes.
"Dedicated to improving himself, a great work ethic, respectful of his team-mates and coaches and a player who always carries himself with humility.
"It was a privilege to coach Lucas and a pleasure to watch him grow as a soccer player. By luck the Vancouver Whitecaps assistant coach Gordon Forrest is a fellow Scot and friend of mine.
"He has been terrific in helping us to try find the next club for Lucas in his new city, whichever one he chooses the coach is fortunate. They will be getting a special kid."
05s GIRLS MAKE ONTARIO CUP LAST EIGHT
NORTH TORONTO NITROS 2005 TSA team marched through to the last eight of the Ontario Cup with a superb performance in the heat of Sarnia last weekend.
After an opening 1-1 tie with Brams when Lydia Tung was on target the pressure was on coach Bill Sutherland's side to produce the required results in the next two sectional games.
And the girls reacted to the demands with a 1-0 win over hosts Sarnia, thanks to Ellie Sloan's goal, and a 2-0 success against Puslinch with Emma Parker and Isabella Franco on target.
The team now face Caledon in the last eight on Saturday August 11 and delighted coach Bill said: "Our coaching team was extremely proud of the effort put in by the girls.
"They showed tremendous commitment with a very short bench and with temperatures in the mid to high 30’s with the humidity. They left it all out on the field to get the results."
With resources already stretched the last thing the Nitros squad needed was a serious injury to a key player but that's exactly what they had to combat.
Bill told ntsoccer.com: "One of our players, Olivia Graham, broke her arm 15 minutes into the first game. We lost a key player for us but the girls found a way to work through the adversity
"It might seem like a cliché but sticking together and never giving up was so key here. We tried to play the game with confidence and in a way that allows the girls to express themselves. Some timely saves by Piper Nixon and some very timely goals never hurt the cause either."
MAKING A SPLASH...the 2005 squad who made the Ontario Cup quarter-finals (left to right): Coach Bill Sutherland, Olivia Julien, Isabella Franco, Sophie Dimuzio, Ellie Sloan, Emma Parker, Elly Hayakawa, Lydia Tung, Jaime Goodman, coach Taylor Fleming, Abby Roizman, Piper Nixon, Taylor Neldner, Amy Maisel, Brianna Livingston, coach Lisa Parker
With that big Cup clash against Caledon looming next month the team return to domestic league business reinvigorated from their success on the road. Coach Bill is determined to see them use the momentum they found in Sarnia to take the next step forward.
He stressed: "We are undefeated in league play with four wins and one tie. The focus for the team from the start was to gain promotion to the CSL for 2019.
"We might be resetting our goals for a league championship if we keep our form and get some more results in the next two weeks."
07s GIRLS: ROCKIN' IT IN ROCHESTER!
THE GREEN MACHINE...Pictured after their Final win over Hilton Heat in blistering temperatures are BACK ROW (Left to right ) Celina Sieber-Espidio, Ellen Salewicz, Lyla Macklin, Katie McMullen, Dorothy Copetti. FRONT ROW (Left to right) Parent Coach Matt McQuillen, Georgia Baldwin, Beatrice Siniscalco, Sarah McQuillen-Young, Stella Hong, Maddie Gray, Mia Tamburri, Parent Coach Sherri Adams.
NORTH TORONTO NITROS 07 Girls travelled to their first ever competitive tournament with high hopes and returned from the USA with a CLEAN SWEEP as they won all three brackets in the Lakefront Classic in Rochester at the weekend.
It was a thrilling performance from the NT girls throughout the program with the Green Team leading the way with a dramatic 3-2 Final win over American side Hilton Heat.
The Nitros looked down and out at 2-1 behind after Beatrice Siniscalco scored for NT but with only three minutes left on the clock a nerve-jangling comeback story began to unfold.
First Dorothy Copetti hauled NT level and then with just 50 seconds left on the clock Celina Sieber-Espidio scored a brilliant winner to clinch it as elsewhere across the Schroeder High School complex more tremendous news for the club was beckoning.
SUNSHINE AND SMILES...for the 07s White girls as they celebrate their Final win. BACK ROW: (Left to right) coach Nic Hurtado, Head Coach Jesse Assing, Parent Coach Meredith Weir. MIDDLE ROW: Lauren Bolger, Zoe Shawn, Kathryn Weir, Regan Adams, Kaya Melbourne. FRONT ROW (Left to right): Avery Calalang, Sydney Clarke, Aliya Adair, Amelia Kassam, Rachael Kennedy
After marching through their section games undefeated, the strong Nitros White Team faced a Final against local side Clarence Inferno and they proved too hot to handle for the Americans.
In an excellent and tight match Nitros always looked to have that extra edge in technical ability against tough and physical opponents and that proved key as first Sydney Clarke and then Kathyrn Weir hit the target to seal the victory.
Pat Two of this unlikely Treble was now in the bag and the onus now fell on the the Red Team in the last game of a long, hot weekend in the States for the 07 Nitros programs. Could they find the right answers in their Final against Irondequoit SC?
RED-DY TO RUMBLE...the 07 Girls Red Team wrapped up a Treble of Rochester successes BACK ROW: (Left to right) Coach Nic Hurtado, Head Coach Jesse Assing, coach Iain King. MIDDLE ROW: (Left to right) Alana Tylman, Julia Dubrick, Jenna Avramis, Ella Sharpe-Berlet, Alex Nodder FRONT ROW: (Left to right) Alyssa Freer, Mia Kanee, Lauren Mandala, Sophia Skinner, GK Emma Nathans
The answer was a resounding yes in another exciting Final that saw the NT girls grit it out in punishing temperatures against a side that had a far deeper bench with Nitros only able to have one substitute in this string.
A shrewd tactical switch from coach Jesse Assing saw the outstanding Lauren Mandala moved to midfield from defence in the second-half with the clock ticking and she roared forward to set up Alex Nodder for the opener.
Then when the chips were down Lauren produced another lung-bursting run to set herself up for a shot that ripped into the roof of the net and sparked another wild bout of Nitros' celebrations on the sidelines as a trio of successes was completed.
For coach Jesse it was the culmination of a winter of hard work with the girls alongside his colleague Iain King and Nic Hurtado and he reflected: "The girls can all be so proud of themselves. This is a group we have always felt is deep in talent when we speak about them in the coaches' room.
"To come to their first competitive tournament and produce results like this only underlines that. They showed not only technical ability but resilience in the heat and dug in for some memorable wins.
"It was a great weekend for the 07s Girls program as a whole, as a club this is the second time we have made the trip to Rochester and it is a terrific learning environment for the players."
WHITE TEAM SHINES BRIGHT FOR 07 BOYS
UNBEATEN AND CHAMPIONS...the 07s Boys White team celebrate their four-game Rochester success on Sunday
NORTH TORONTO NITROS' 07s boys coaching staff worked hard over the winter strengthening the depth of the program with some excellent new talents coming to the club.
And that process bore fruit at the weekend as the White Team lifted the Lakefront Classic title in Rochester in their first competitive tournament.
The 07s boys have always had a richly gifted group in their Green Squad but now that has been bolstered further and the White Team displayed that as they roared through their four games in the States unbeaten to clinch the bracket.
On the Saturday the team won 8-3 against Pittsford Mustangs and 6-3 against hosts Lakefront SC before a dramatic 5-5 tie with Buffalo's Global Premier Soccer Bayern Munich Academy side and a closing 7-0 win over Irondequoit SC secured the championship.
Head Coach Iain King said: "I was very proud of every one of the 07s boys who travelled in the Green, White and Red groups and it was rewarding to see some of our newer players do so well in their first big tournament.
"Players like Jai Sandhu, tournament top scorer Benjamin Koolmees, Ryan Sarkhosh and Joseph Dabdoub only came to the club in the winter and it was great to see them mix with Nitros stalwarts like Ashkan Sheykhi, Ben Fine, Grant Kullojka, JP Mahony, JT Borba and Noah Ag Ibrahim to gain this success.
"I'd also like to pay tribute to my coaching colleague Nic Hurtado and the work done in the Select program as both Thomas Murzaku and Christian Micucci emerged from there and are real developing talents.
"The team got the best preparation possible scrimmaging against Javier Insuaste's 06 Whites Boys before the trip and I think that was a vital exercise for them to arrive in the USA ready to go."
In the flagship Premier bracket the excellent 07s Boys Greens were in brilliant form crashing home 26 goals in three section games to make the semi-finals.
Sadly, they went down to a 3-2 defeat at the hands of eventual winners International FC in the last four to be left with only tears for souvenirs on this occasion.
Coach Iain said: "Those boys were terrific over the weekend, they just got caught up in the semi-final and didn't play their usual passing game which was a shame but they will learn so much from the experience.
"I was also delighted with our Red Team who won two and lost two in a bracket that had another Canadian side's A team in it to put their performance in context."
THE HOUSE THAT NT BUILT: VALUE SOARS 38 YEARS ON
A PLACE for everyone to enjoy the Beautiful Game, it's a key element of the North Toronto Soccer Club DNA.
And nowhere is this core value more evident than in our vibrant House League program.
Head of Recreational Soccer Tom Waud has overseen the evolution of this level of the game at NT over the last two years and he has helped to transform the experience for both players and coaches.
Yet Tom reckons he is only carrying on almost FOUR DECADES of work that has kept House League at the heart of the club.
Tom stressed: “The NTSC House League Program has been an imperative part of the NT Community since 1980.
“It has provided players with a solid soccer foundation, leading to success within the district and all the way to the international stage.
“I can only hope the changes I have made in the past two years can replicate the outstanding achievements made by the staff of the past in the NTSC House League program.”
NTSC in 2018 is about never resting on our laurels in ANY area of the club.
We are constantly seeking ways to improve and enhance all the programs we offer and for Tom that meant looking at the changing needs of the players and coaches who are now involved in House League.
Looking back at the start of the process he revealed: “We wanted to ensure every player has an equal and fair chance in development so we introduced a curriculum with set session plans to follow each week.
“This plays a crucial part in long-term player development, ensuring sessions are age and stage appropriate for all participants.
“We also have a youth recreational league for players aged 14 to 20, and a co-ed adult league for those aged 21-35 which is providing soccer for life opportunities.
“This really encompasses what NTSC is all about. There is a place for everyone.”
EYES ON THE BALL...Under-9 Girls enjoying House League action at the big kick-off of the Spring Program 2018
NTSC House League is a mammoth operation each week and it takes carefully thought-out planning to keep the ball rolling for all those who take part.
The fact that the fun of the soccer action is spread over 10 different venues makes the smooth running of this division of the club even more impressive.
Tom revealed: “We have nearly 2,500 kids and adults participating in our spring House League programs and 4,000 recreational players altogether.
“Games are played at 10 venues across midtown and north Toronto, from St Clair to Finch, Leslie to Keele.
“Given the sheer number of venues at which we operate, we rely heavily on our equipment managers and senior staff to line and cut the fields and ensure each venue is equipped with the right equipment, including nets, corner flags, and first aid kits. It’s a team effort and we have a great team.”
When Tom first arrived at NT from England he worked as a competitive Nitros coach and played a key role in the early development of the promising current 06 Boys and 07 Girls squads.
Now his coaching and organisational skills are used in a different environment but he strongly feels the SAME ethos should run throughout the drive behind developing players whether it’s in House League or the Ontario Player Development League (OPDL).
He reasoned: “When it comes to making sure kids have fun playing soccer, age and skill level are irrelevant.
“Whether I’m coaching competitive teams or within the recreational program, it’s always rewarding to see kids enjoy themselves.
“It's unfortunate that we sometimes assume the simple joy of playing soccer is lost when kids play competitive soccer.
“The simple joy of escaping reality exists at all levels. Many of our players transition from recreational programs to the competitive program.
“It’s so important to me that they take the freedom and creativity that comes with playing recreational soccer into their competitive experience.”
THE FIRST STEPS OF THE JOURNEY...learning to love Soccer for Life in the NTSC Boys Under-9 House League
NT’S army of volunteer coaches and team managers are the unsung heroes of an ever-evolving club facing up to a new and different soccer landscape.
As the face of House League has changed Tom has asked more of those who coach the teams but they keep finding the right answers.
And he said: “I have so much admiration for every single one of our volunteers.
“They are such an integral part of the House League program and we couldn’t do what we do without their help.
“While games are only played twice per week, I don’t think many people realise the dedication of volunteer coaches and the time they spend ensuring kids have a fair and enjoyable playing experience.
“Some of our volunteer coaches have multiple teams and many have been coming back to coach year after year. I think this is a testament to our program and our people.”
The scenes inside the NT office and the Centre of Excellence at Eglinton Park as the kick-off of a House League season looms would be perfect fodder for a reality TV show.
The hubs of it all can be frenzied places, it looks like chaos as Pugg nets, uniforms and last-minute roster changes are all debated as the clock ticks down.
Yet come Day One it swings into action and Tom reckons he’s now get himself over feeling nervous about the opening days. Well, almost.
He smiled: “I have some nerves that I will forget something important but not really.
“Getting the House League program up and running is a team effort and I’m lucky, I work with great people.
”Many of us have overseen the House League program for a number of years and we know what needs to be done and when.
“There are always kinks – especially on the first weekend – but we’re a pretty well-oiled machine at this point. Special mention though to Elaine Beaupre, Beje Melamed-Turkish, Anna Wassermann, and Rachel Cumming.
“Without them I would have aged at least 20 years in the last two years in the job, without their hard work behind the scenes the success of this program would not be possible.”
SELECT GOES FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH
TAKE IT AS RED...Nic has seen a host of players from sides like these 07 Girls graduate to the competitive program
NORTH TORONTO SOCCER CLUB’S Select Program has more than DOUBLED in size over the last year - proving the appeal of this soccer option for both players and parents alike.
For Select Head Coach Nic Hurtado that statistic is both heartwarming and a solid foundation to build upon as we move into the outdoor season.
The Select program runs alongside the club’s Nitros competitive program to offer not only a pathway but another place to grow as a soccer player.
Nic, who also works in the Nitros ranks as U10 Boys Head Coach, reasoned: “The program has seen such growth because more and more players are looking for a structured training program which can help with development.
“Having a suitable option to attain goals of reaching the Nitros or further is important for the growth of the sport here in Canada.
“The aim is to have as many players playing and enjoying soccer as possible so it's important that as a leading club in Toronto we offer the programs to do so.
“The program has seen rapid growth over the past year or so, expanding from roughly 70 players last outdoor season, to 95 over the first indoor season this past winter to now 160 players in our upcoming outdoor season.”
Select creates an environment for players who may not be quite ready for the competitive level yet or for multi-sport athletes who may not feel able to commit to three practices a week with the Nitros.
Instead they find a place to play meaningful matches in tournaments and festivals and also have two development training sessions each week.
Club stalwart Nic’s job now is to structure and deliver the right building blocks of learning but he insisted: “The biggest driving force of the Select program are the players. Their willingness to learn, to play and have fun are what make the program possible.
“Select is simply another option for players and families to choose from, opening the door to many more kids being able to learn and enjoy the sport.
“While the coaches, staff and parents are vital to the program, having kids that are eager and willing to work hard to try to improve is what makes it possible.”
Players who are impressing in the Select program always have the chance to graduate onwards to the Nitros.
Nic watches every player’s development closely and then makes recommendations to the age group head coaches if he feels there is a talent there ready to step up.
One shining example of this is 07s boys striker Diego Menendez who moved from Select into the gifted competitive group coached by Iain King and is flourishing there.
Nic smiled: “Seeing players move into the Nitros program from the Nitros Select program is something I love to see.
“Adding another program gives more kids a chance to learn and develop which gives more kids a chance to attain the goal of playing with the Nitros. It's great to see that we're offering a program that can develop individuals to get to where they want to go.”
So if a player is interested in Select what does it mean for them?
Nic and the coaching team here work very hard to construct an appealing playing calendar that is a mix of soccer education, fun and matches to enjoy.
And he said: “The commitment to the Outdoor Select program is two weekday practices with two festivals throughout the season.
“There are two festivals in May, two in June and one in September.
“This leaves July and August free for travel and camps for kids that are away while still holding practices during those months for those who are around.
“For the indoor season come winter we're looking at two practices, one during the week and one during the weekend with the possibility of some indoor festivals once a month if possible.”
Soccer coaching guru Mark O’Sullivan has a quote that resonates inside the Nitros organisation in regard to the growth of the Beautiful Game in Canada.
“As many as possible, for as long as possible, in the best environment possible.”
That means tailoring our programs to fit the needs of players and their families and Select is a great example of that.
As he prepared to take Select squads to Oshawa to play in games alongside their Nitros club mates in the Frank Sobil tournament this weekend, Nic underlined the importance of that aim.
He stressed: “The beauty of the program is it's another option for players and families in the club.
“It's not just about skill but also commitment as the Nitros program can be quite demanding, the Nitros Select gives more flexibility to players and families.
“The program is a great stepping stone for those that couldn't quite make the Nitros and need further development and training.”
*If you want to find out more about the Select Program e-mail coach Nic on firstname.lastname@example.org
06s AND 07s LOVING AWAYDAY ADVENTURES
CHEER LEADERS...the Nitros 06 Girls enjoy that end of season feeling after their clash with Orangeville capped a terrific winter season in the Hershey League on Sunday. The girls are now gearing up to head to Ottawa from May 18-20
NORTH TORONTO NITROS' 06 and 07 girls started a packed May schedule at the weekend when they travelled to Oshawa for the Frank Sobil tournament on Saturday.
With the Select program also represented over 100 Nitros were there in the sunshine enjoying their soccer development in an excellent tournament organised by our friends at Oshawa Kicks.
This weekend it is the turn of the 07 Boys in Oshawa and once more a host of NT players across the competitive and Select programs are relishing some action ahead of the big TSA league kick off later this month for the Nitros and summer festivals for our Select players.
Last year's biting cold and rain was happily replaced by perfect soccer weather and there were some excellent displays - and some big learning games - across both age groups.
The focus falls on the boys 07 groups this weekend and they play in Oshawa just a week away from an eagerly-awaited trip to Ottawa alongside the 06 and 07 Girls as they hit the road to further their soccer education.
The girls will face top opposition from the nation's capital and Quebec whilst the 07 Green Boys squad have an intriguing clash with the Academy side of MLS franchise Montreal Impact to look forward to.
Iain King, head coach of the 06 Girls and 07 Boys, told ntsoccer.com: "The players are all looking forward to the Ottawa trip so much.
"The 06 Girls have already travelled to Rochester together in the USA last summer but for both of the 07 groups this is their first trip together.
"I feel strongly that these experiences - both on and off the field - are a vital part of their development as soccer players and it's a privilege to be involved in seeing them grow through tournaments like this."
OUR 04 GIRLS AIM TO BE A FOUR-CE
GOING OUT ON A HIGH...the 04 Girls left Ohio buoyant after a thumping win in their last game in the States
NORTH TORONTO NITROS 04 Girls begin their first competitive season in the Ontario Player Development League (OPDL) this weekend after an exciting American adventure that boosted their soccer education last month.
The U14 side, coached by Henry McIntosh, travelled to Ohio to take part in the prestigious Puma Blue Chip Showcase Event.
It was a terrific learning experience for the girls as they adapted to the level of stern competition Stateside.
Nitros lost their opener 3-0 to Cleveland Futbol before their Ontario provincial player Rufina Abdursul was on target in the second game that saw them go down 3-1 to hosts Kings Hammer Academy.
They rallied superbly in their last match, though, as Rufina grabbed a double and Eden Cohen, Hana Miller and Maddie Wong also hit the target in a 5-1 triumph over Boca Myers.
Henry believes the experience can only stand the squad in good stead as they prepare for the OPDL season and he reasoned: “The girls were nervous to play in the showcase format against American opponents who have a reputation of being very physical and direct.
“Winning the last game the way they did was a tremendous boost to their confidence. I’m looking forward to the girls building on the success of the last game in a way that will make them a competitive force in this OPDL season.”
Nitros open up the OPDL season against SC Toronto on Sunday as they face a campaign where there will be scores and standings for the first season in their soccer careers.
Coach Henry will continue to focus on the development of the players despite the new environment they find themselves in.
He stressed: “The impact of scores and standings this season on the players will only become apparent when the season starts and we either lead the standings or end up chasing points.”
For Rufina the start of the OPDL season comes a week after she represented Ontario in the Provincial clashes against Quebec with the U14s girls squad edging their rivals over the three-game series.
Her club coach could not be prouder of his player, one of 16 Nitros who made the Provincial sides, and Henry smiled: “I couldn’t be happier for Rufina, the team and North Toronto SC as a whole regarding the Provincial successes.
“I feel that our ability to continuously place players at this high level of our sport is a testament to the quality of the players and coaches we now have at North Toronto.”
NTSC HAILS OUR 16 PROVINCIAL PLAYERS
NORTH TORONTO SOCCER CLUB has hailed the 16 dedicated Nitros players who have been selected for the Ontario provincial rosters.
The club’s Technical Director Billy Wilson is delighted to see so many boys and girls recognised throughout our competitive program.
Ontario’s squads at U14, U15 and U16 level will take part in a series of games this weekend at the Ontario Soccer Centre and Vaughan Grove Sports Park.
And Billy is thrilled that eight boys and eight girls who have the NTSC DNA will take part in the matches to proudly represent our club.
He said: “Everyone at the club is thrilled to see so many players from North Toronto SC have been selected to represent the province against Quebec.
“The provincial program is used by Ontario Soccer to showcase the top male and female players at the U14, U15 and U16 age groups to Canada Soccer, Toronto FC and numerous NCAA and CIS universities.
“As a club we hope that by participating in this event many of our athletes will take that next step in their development by moving from NTSC into environments such as REX, the regional excellence program, and TFC Academy on a full-time basis.”
THE THEATRE OF DREAMS...Ontario Soccer Centre where 16 Nitros players will play for the province against Quebec
On the boys side at U16 level Miles Omondi from Martinho Kibato’s squad will look to shine.
Our U15 OPDL-winning squad, mentored by Marko Milanovic, provides four players for the province in Dennis Escobar, Dylan Lopes, Kael Dimitrov and Pablo Hempelmann Perez.
At U14 boys level Octavian Ghidinac’s squad will be backing Adrian Zeluta, Bilal Abouresian and Damien Vermande as they tackle Quebec.
From the girls program from coach Marko’s 2002 squad five players make it with Chantelle Parker, Keyosha Donkor, Lauren Hart, Olivia Bizzoni and Olivia Rizakos honoured.
The U15 squad, coached by Marc Maunder, has Alya Ruken representing the Nitros with Henry McIntosh’s U14s cheering on Olivia Mancini and Rufina Abdursul over the weekend.
NTSC TD Billy saluted the efforts of the coaching staff in mentoring the players but most of all the commitment of the Nitros youngsters themselves in reaching this level.
He stressed: “The club have done a fantastic job in promoting many young players into environments such as REX and TFC Academy in recent times.
“That comes down to the quality of the work done by our Technical Staff coaches and more importantly the commitment of the individual players who are working towards their goals of reaching the next level.
“Our OPDL Program aims to provide committed individuals with the necessary guidance and support to step up to the next level.”
Ontario Soccer’s Technical Director Gary Miller is looking forward to the Quebec series which will run over Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the two venues.
This is a big test for the players in a high-performance environment and Gary explained: “The Inter-Provincial Competition is where the Canada Soccer Excel Technical Staff will be on hand to scout the players for potential invites to the Canada Soccer National Excel environments.
“In addition, scouts from Toronto FC and all over Canada and North American universities will be in attendance to see the best of what Ontario has to offer.”
Ontario Soccer’s Senior Manager of High Performance Bryan Rosenfeld sees these games as an excellent gauge for the progress of the Ontario players.
He reasoned: “This is always a good test for the Ontario athletes to see where they are against the next biggest province for development in Canada.
“Having the best compete against the best even in this friendly format is a good gauge of how Ontario clubs are developing these players and sets them up well for the next stage of their development and careers.”
The Provincial program is available to all Ontario Soccer registered players who are competing at either an U14, U15 or U16 age group.
The Ontario Provincial Development League (OPDL) is the primary venue in which potential Provincial Team Players are detected.
OUR NTSC VISION: SOCCER WITHOUT BARRIERS
SOCCER FOR ALL...some of the NTSC Special Olympics program players enjoy their practice in the gym
THE simple joy of bringing a soccer ball under your spell, even just for a fleeting moment.
Something we all too often take for granted.
Something every soccer player cherishes.
Something coaches Tom Waud and Nic Hurtado want to make sure every child in North Toronto Soccer Club’s Special Olympics and Para Soccer programs has the chance to experience.
NT’s Head of Recreation Soccer Tom has learned a new side of the Beautiful Game working with children of disabilities.
And when ntsoccer.com caught up with him to talk over the innovative programs he has helped design he smiled: “It is very rewarding when something you have worked on comes to fruition.
“It might take a child a little longer to grasp and complete an objective but we have children who have been here for three years now playing soccer and having such fun doing that.
“This is not about short-term rewards, it’s about the long-term goals and we have had kids graduate now into regular House League soccer.
“That’s a huge achievement in terms of Long Term Player Development and it is great to see how welcome they aremade and how they are accepted into the teams there.”
In January Tom and Nic were in Ottawa for the internationally-acclaimed Sport 4 Life conference to boost their knowledge of the challenges the children they work with face.
Tom revealed it was an eye-opening experience as they moved from learning about physical literacy to going in-depth on tailored special needs programs.
He stressed: “It allowed us to see what other clubs are offering, it gave us an insight into their problems and highlighted our own.
“Clubs suffer from a lack of facilities or money to run these programs whereas we have the opposite situation at North Toronto SC.
“We are very fortunate to have the facilities, the equipment and the coaches to run our programs. We struggle to find the players.
“We are one of the only clubs in Toronto who offer an all-year round program so we have a niche and we just have to find the kids.
“Once they have experienced the programs we can offer we have found that they stay.”
A generous grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation has given a club at the heart of its community the security to plan ahead in this key area of ensuring soccer for all.
Tom is now able to put the infrastructure required behind the programs for those with disabilities.
And he reflected: “The Trillium grant was a huge boost and it means we can plan ahead and support our administrative and coaching staff.
“They can be paid to come in and work with the children and that helps so much. It means we can hire the facilities and give these kids somewhere to play.
“We have players in our current program who have both physical and intellectual needs and you want to find them the best fit.
“North Toronto do well at making the programs accessible and we to make sure they get success, confidence and fun from playing soccer.”
Tom grew up in the game as a keenly ambitious player who then coached in NT’s competitive arm with the Nitros.
Now a key part of his job has opened his eyes to what soccer means to children who are playing with an entirely different view of the game and the field.
He explained: “The main difference from planning as a coach for children without disabilities is that there I would tailor it to a group of players - here it is about each individual.
“Every single child’s needs are very different. For example you may have a child who is partially sighted where safety is vital and we have to set up the right activities for them.
“You plan a session with one objective but you may have up to 14 different sub-sessions within that.
“We pair them up with children of similar needs and planning is a huge part of the session. It could be one coach to one player.”
Behind the scenes at NT it is hectic right now with House League, Select and Competitive sections readying themselves for the switch outdoors.
For Special Olympics and Para Soccer it is no different as Tom and Nic plot the way forward.
Tom said: “We will look again at Allenby School which is a great environment for us.
“Long term we want to get as many children with disabilities involved as possible. We’d love to expand into blind and deaf soccer in the future.
“Right now, though, we have Para Soccer and the Special Olympics program and we need to keep those sustainable and develop from there.”
Tom’s fellow coach Nic has been living and breathing NTSC since he was eight years old.
Back then Nic, now 25, joined the club as a player and it has been a huge part of his life ever since.
From recreational to competitive coach and now heading up the Select programs and the U10 Nitros boys this summer.
Nic began playing a part in the Special Olympics program last year.
And he said: “It is nice to give a bit back to these families, the kids are happy and it is the simple things that keep them smiling.
“Para Soccer is something different again and we are desperate to see that grow even more.
“It has shown me that I am at a club with a heart because it is hard for these families to find programs like this that suit their schedules.”
Nic is the first point of contact for the families as they look for the right program to bring the power of soccer into their childrens’ lives.
Much of his time on this project is spent networking with other organisations to identify the players who would benefit from our help and bring them into the NT family.
He said: “We are giving the kids an opportunity to play sport that might not have been there for them before.
“I reached out to the Cerebral Palsy sports association and we have spoken to the likes of Holland Bloorview and the Sick Kids Hospital too.
“Where these kids are receiving treatment is a key place to make contact and let them what NT is doing.
“We reached out to the Cerebral Palsy association and Drew Ferguson, the national coach, even offered to come coach for us and bring players with him.
“That is the spirit of co-operation that is evident and everyone is out to help the kids, it’s not about self-interest.
“This becomes about scheduling and us finding the best time to offer the programs to fit in with the kids’ lives.”
NT SETTING THEIR SIGHTS ON A GOLDEN FUTURE
GOLD STANDARD...NTSC Chairman Michael Eubanks, left of centre, and General Manager Doug Blair receive the Club Excellence Gold Award from Ontario Soccer as the club begins to put the plans in place to make further progress
NORTH TORONTO SOCCER CLUB is a Club Excellence Gold award holder again but for those inside NT the work on the next steps forward is just beginning.
NTSC has held Ontario Soccer’s highest Gold status for five years now as the drive to raise soccer standards throughout the province continues at pace.
When ntsoccer.com caught up with General Manager Doug Blair to reflect on receiving the award there was a brief time to pause and survey the development of the club then the sights were set firmly on the future.
Doug revealed: “Going forward, Canada Soccer will be introducing a Club Licensing program which will replace Ontario Club Excellence. NTSC will be among the first clubs to be invited to apply.
“Ontario Soccer’s Club Excellence program has established standards in the areas of technical performance, club governance, personnel and community relations.
“Achieving these standards - and progressing through the bronze and silver levels on the way to gold – is a multi-year commitment.
“The process involves reference to best practices within the club and at similar organisations, extensive consultations with our stakeholders, and some degree of trial and error to develop and implement the policies and procedures required.
“Our Board of Directors has made the commitment to drive this process and to monitor the progress.”
For almost 40 years now the heart of NT has been the club’s House League and Recreational programs that ensure soccer for all.
As the soccer culture in Canada evolves so have the expectations of House League players and parents and that is something the club has recognised and adapted to.
Doug stressed: “North Toronto has had a strong house league for nearly four decades. As the population of children and youth in the community has grown, the program has expanded to accommodate over 4,000 players.
“For many years NTSC has provided skills training in this program, in addition to organised, refereed games. Parents expect more than a simple House League.
“There are 600 volunteer coaches in the program. The club is working hard to provide training and support to these coaches – training, session plans and on-field help - so that the quality of soccer at all ages is continually improving.”
Operating at the heart of the community we serve is a key component of the DNA of NTSC.
In January club coaches Tom Waud and Nic Hurtado were in Ottawa for a conference examining advances in the provision of soccer programs to those with learning or physical disabilities.
Now NT is using the knowledge gained to telling effect and Doug stressed: “One of our stated visions is to provide the opportunity to play soccer to every child in the community who wishes to participate.
“The NTSC Special Olympics program for intellectually challenged young athletes began five years ago and has recently expanded to include children under seven.
“This program has generated immense support from volunteers and donors. The next stage is the new Para Soccer program, introduced recently to support young athletes with physical challenges.
“The Ontario Trillium Foundation, Rotary Club of Toronto-Eglinton and private donors have made these programs sustainable.”
A community club the size of NT relies heavily on the army of volunteers who are at its core.
The quest must always be to ensure that those who give up their time feel both appreciated and enriched by the experience.
That responsibility is always at the forefront of the club’s thinking and Doug reasoned: “There are 700 volunteers, not only in house league but helping with the all-abilities programs and the competitive teams.
“The club has an elected volunteer Board of Directors as well as active committees. The commitment and enthusiasm of our volunteers is appreciated, but we must continually strive to support the volunteers, help them become effective, and to make the experience rewarding for them.”
In the competitive division of the club, NT Nitros won two OPDL banners last season in the girls and boys sections.
Those successes and the presence of Nitros players in both Provincial and National team squads gives the emerging talents at the club positive role models to look up to as they develop as players.
Doug said: “The message is that a key part of the club’s vision is to support children and youth in the community at all levels of play with a high standard of coaching and facilities.
“While there is a place for everyone to play, the opportunity does exist within our club for girls and boys to play in the highest-level league – OPDL – and to be invited to provincial and national team camps.
“Over 100 local community players have been on NTSC’s OPDL rosters.
“The players and their families have made a serious commitment in terms of time and money.”
Stockholm-based coach development guru Mark O’Sullivan, who spoke at the recent Ontario Soccer Summit, has a touchstone statement when it comes to the challenge of how we keep our young soccer players in love with the Beautiful Game.
“As many as possible, for as long as possible, in the best environment possible.”
Those goals are now reflected within NT as we look to help our young players grow into other rewarding roles at the club.
Doug revealed: “This is another key part of our vision for the club, to have interested club players trained and mentored as coaches and match officials.
“Each year more than 100 of our players work for the club in one or both of these capacities.
“The quality of these young referees and coaches is continually improving. There is competition for these jobs.”
As the outdoor season beckons there is a sense of renewal around NT, a readiness to tackle whatever the next year throws at us.
So what does Doug see as the key areas for improvement for the club over the next 12 months?
He said: “The three key areas are;
- “Accelerating the development of coaches in all club programs so that all players have the opportunity to meet their full potential.
- “For all programs, establishing clear objectives and communicating these effectively to players and their families.
- “Responding to the demand for more intensive training opportunities for players not in the competitive leagues, including indoor skills training programs and Select teams.”
In his time at the club Doug has seen huge changes in how NT operates and the demands that the club faces.
Landing the Gold Award once more confirms that the club has learned to adapt to the ever-altering soccer landscape and the NT General Manager reflected: “The biggest change has been the expansion of programs, both in terms of capacity and level of play.
“The club has obtained access to significantly more field time including artificial turf year-round.
“The coaching staff is larger and increasingly higher qualified. This combination of coaching and facilities has resulted in a vibrant recreational program that is accessible to all young players in the community.
“The development and competitive programs now support players from entry level to the highest level league, OPDL.”
NT’s new Technical Director Billy Wilson made the switch from Ontario Soccer last month to work alongside the Board of Directors and Doug in helping to frame a structured future for the club.
There will always be new obstacles to overcome in an evolving soccer club but Doug believes it is hugely important that NT retains the core values it has always treasured.
He pointed out: “Our collective vision for the club has been consistent for several years, and is articulated on the club website: https://www.ntsoccer.com/about-us/MissionVisionValues
“Our recreational and all-abilities programs will continue to provide soccer for every player who wishes to play within our community.
“And for each age group the competitive program will have teams of both genders in the three tiers of competitive soccer (OPDL, regional leagues, district league) and will also field select teams for players at different stages of development or desiring a lower level of commitment.
“Some components of our vision will receive more attention as our programs mature including: coach development; opportunities for scholarships; and securing longer-term access to indoor and outdoor facilities.
“All of this will be accomplished within a fiscally responsible framework.”
Working within NT behind the scenes can often be hectic with meetings, headaches over field space and all the day to day dramas that exist within a soccer club.
At the weekends and at night, though, Doug still does his rounds of the North Toronto fields to watch the players and coaches of all levels in action.
That’s what keeps his love for the game of soccer burning and he smiled: “It is gratifying to experience the quality of play in OPDL, with so many of our players identified for the provincial program and winning Ontario championships.
“ It is always great to spend time at the field on weeknights and weekends when there are no meetings.
“For me it is very rewarding to watch enthusiastic young athletes enjoying soccer while improving their command of soccer skills.
“I have been excited to watch children who are turning six and seven this year in the indoor Train-to-be-a Nitro program. All of them have exceptionally high skill levels and they are having a lot of fun.
"In the house leagues and development programs, there is a great community feel with so many parents attending and volunteering. That is so rewarding to see.”
NITROS' OWSL SQUADS ARE READY FOR NEW FACES
JOIN THE GREEN MACHINE...our successful Nitros' OWSL squads are now on the lookout for new recruits
NORTH TORONTO NITROS are ready to bolster the program that has seen the club win back to back promotions and have our leading side competing in the Provincial Elite Division of the Ontario Women’s Soccer League (OWSL).
Try-outs are being staged for the top team and our two Under-21 squads in April and May under the watchful eyes of Head Coach Chris Vickers.
Dedicated players have the chance to win a slot and Chris is ready to welcome selected new recruits into the fold.
He stressed: “We currently have players from both the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and Ontario University Athletics (OUA) in the program and it has been a great journey for the women’s side over the last two years.
“Winning back to back promotions has placed them in the top league but we are always looking to strengthen throughout the program and that’s why we have arranged the try-out process.”
Underneath the Women’s team there are two squads in our vibrant Under-21 set-up with one competing in the Provincial Division and the other in the Regional Division.
Chris said: “The new season brings with it new challenges and we want to build on what we have achieved in the program to date.
“We feel we are doing that from a position of strength and we look forward to welcoming some new faces into an already excellent environment.”
* DO you have what it takes to join our exciting Nitros Women’s Program? Find out more about this season’s Try-Outs by contacting Head Coach Chris Vickers on email@example.com
REX - THE POWER TO INSPIRE
WHAT A HAT-TRICK...the three Nitros prospects who made it to REX
NORTH TORONTO NITROS’ three Ontario REX program recruits have the power to inspire the current generation of up and coming players to develop their love of soccer.
Sonia Walk, Jasmine Vilgrain and Olivia Smith were part of the first intake of prospects to be invited into an environment that sees them train and go to school together as they aspire towards the national team set-up.
The NT Newsdesk will be monitoring their progress throughout 2018 and there is no question that the forward-thinking REX program gives NT players a dream to shoot for.
Coach Marc Maunder, who guides the club’s U13 and U15 girls squads, stressed: “We have those three players in the REX program now and they are role models to our younger girls throughout the NT programs from recreational to competitive.
“Before in OPDL, for instance, your target may have been to aim for being a Provincial player but now there is another dream there to make it into REX.
“Why shouldn’t the girls have the same aspirations as the boys? They can one day leave NT and make it to another level just as the boys can when they go to the Toronto FC Academy.
“There’s another step there for them and something more to achieve.”
This weekend the 2005 girls continue their development journey as they take part in the Jefferson Cup in Richmond, Virginia.
Marc is eager to see how the players deal with this next challenge and he said: “This team starts OPDL in May and I believe they can uphold what we are seeing develop as the North Toronto style of playing.
“Potentially, we have a lot of players who can move towards the provincial screening process but they have to keep working hard.
“I think the 2005 squad has what it takes to do well this season and next season. When scores and standings become part of it we will be very competitive.”
To find out more about the REX program and its aims click here.
BILLY SETTLES INTO THE NT FAMILY
NEW North Toronto Nitros Technical Director Billy Wilson is relishing the task ahead after a hectic first week in the job.
The former Manager of Player Development at Ontario Soccer took over the reins on Thursday March 1 and has been blown away by the potential he sees at the club.
Billy kicked off his time at Nitros by meeting the coaching staff at the Eglinton Park clubhouse.
RELISHING THE CHALLENGE...Billy is settling in at the Nitros after moving from Ontario Soccer
And he said: "It was was great to sit down with the staff to introduce myself, answer some questions, and together set some objectives for the coming months.
“Going forward the whole staff will meet on Thursday afternoons which will not only promote better communication and collaboration on technical programming, but will also serve as an additional opportunity for coach development.”
Billy was then joined by other members of the technical staff at the Ontario Soccer Summit held over the weekend.
This week it was tracksuit time in the evenings, getting to know the practice set-up and meeting players and parents alike during a string of sessions at Downsview.
And Billy stressed: “It has been great getting on the field and observing the staff and players doing their thing.
“I must say the highlight has to be my undefeated performance when I was asked to join in the Boys U8 2v2 games last week!”
Coach mentorship is a vital area of development for the club in 2018 and Billy kicked off the efforts there by overseeing some key staff practice sessions as we seek to bolster the already impressive qualifications of our technical staff.
With such a vastly experienced coaching roster to call on, Nitros are keen to use that bank of knowledge to develop the emerging talent.
Billy pointed out: “Coach development has to be a priority for all youth clubs.
“All coaches require ongoing mentorship and accessible development opportunities to ensure the successful completion of professional Licensing but more importantly to promote a learning culture.
“There is already mentorship going on at the Club with some of our younger staff shadowing their more experienced colleagues, however we will now be working towards formalising a Coach Development pathway.”