A new international soccer program at The Dome Red Deer is making a difference for athletes.
The four-month program, which begins in May and ends in August, is aimed to help local and international players work towards their goals of playing collegiate soccer in Canada or in the U.S. and eventually at the professional level.
This is the first summer of the program’s existence. Out of 26 advanced soccer players on the team, 14 are international from all over the world including Brazil, Switzerland, the U.S., and Portugal.
While in the program they’re part of a team called SC Central Alberta who competes in the Central Alberta Men’s League in exhibition matches.
The director of soccer at The Dome Kobi Okoye explained the goal is to help them further themselves and their skillset.
“We give them the professional training they desire within the five pillars of how we train athletes here at The Dome. This means looking at the tactical, technical, physical, psychological, and character aspects,” he said.
“Then we use some of the connections that we have to get them some visibility.”
Okoye as well as Marcelo Lima, who both have years of experience coaching soccer both nationally and internationally, help the players with their soccer development.
Meanwhile, strength and conditioning is spearheaded by Jim Frederickson and mental preparation is delivered by the president of The Dome, Noah Welch. Part of the mental preparation is how to have the proper mindset in sports and how to handle failure among other tools.
So far, four out of 14 international players have signed with schools in Canada. Four more have received offers and they hope to help the remaining six get signed by the end of August. Of the other 12 local players in the program Okoye explained the majority already have landed roster spots on various teams.
One of the many international players who has seen success so far is Guilherme Sales, who hails from Brazil. He came to Red Deer for the program after spending some time playing at a community college in Kansas.
The 23-year-old is spending his first summer in Canada and through the program earned a scholarship to play for the Red Deer Polytechnic Kings soccer team next season.
“I got really happy when they offered me the scholarship. I am really excited to come here and build on the history,” he said.
“[The program] was a very good opportunity and we have good staff here. It’s a good place and they’re good people. These guys are awesome. We’ve been working hard through the past weeks until now. It’s challenging but good opportunities are coming in the near future.”
Through the first month of the Sales explained he’s become a better player but also a better person.
“It’s a good starting point for the future,” he added.
“What moves us are new challenges. I was in the U.S. since 2018 so I felt like I needed a new challenge, meet new people, and learn a new way of playing the game.”