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

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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.

https://www.theyogasanctuary.ca/workshops/

* 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.

http://blog.guavapass.com/2018/06/28/6-world-cup-players-swear-by-yoga/


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 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 nicolas@northtorontosoccer.com


 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.

Visit OntarioSoccer.net for more on the Provincial Program or TheOPDL.com for more on that high-performance program.  


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 are  made 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;

    1. “Accelerating the development of coaches in all club programs so that all players have the opportunity to meet their full potential.
    2. “For all programs, establishing clear objectives and communicating these effectively to players and their families.
    3. “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 chris@northtorontosoccer.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.”