Jason Blake is still in the early days in the job, but he can’t help but admire the handy work.
Blake is the Technical Director for the West Canada Soccer Academy, a new program running out of The Dome Sports facility in Gasoline Alley.
Blake, originally from England, has coached all over the world, most recently at a post in China, but has come all the way to Central Alberta to guide the new program.
His partner is from Ponoka and they were looking for a way to come back to Canada and running the new academy was the perfect fit.
“The owners of the dome have the ambition to create progressional pathways for talented athletes in Central Alberta. When I met with them, I was thinking about setting my own academy up, to create progressional pathways for soccer players,” said Blake, who began his coaching career at Southhampton FC Academy.
“Within five minutes, myself and Noah (Welch) connected on the same values and outcomes.”
He’s only been a week into the soccer portion of his job and already the academy has earned some high praise. The Alberta Soccer Association (ASA) awarded the program a three-star endorsement, the highest an academy can receive and one of just a three in Alberta and the only one south of Edmonton.
Blake holds the UEFA (Union of European Football Association), pro license, which is the highest coaching qualification in the world and is rare in Canada.
To get the endorsement from ASA, there were also some facility expectations and a guide to how their programs will be structured, which will be based on the Canadian Soccer Association model.
“That accreditation demonstrates that we hold the highest that Alberta soccer will recognize, which is awesome. Great for us,” he said.
“It’s a seal of quality for anyone that may come to our program. If you come to our program, that tells you we are hitting certain standards.”
Blake’s aim, he explained is to not only provide soccer players with a pathway to success in the sport but also provide them with a lifelong investment in the game, whichever way they choose to pursue it.
He said there are three pathways, one includes a player going professional, but more realistically it’s players getting education or employment in the game.
“If we can develop the soccer players to get an ability and a mentality that will maybe get them opportunities for part or fully funded scholarships… the pathways into that environment– could be, look families you invested money into this over the years, your child has achieved that,” he said.
“Some players might not have the academic or technical ability to achieve that, what they might have is a great attitude… they might come back to the program as coaches, physios or referees. So it’s almost like the circle of life… and hopefully, sustain an eco-system for the game in Central Alberta.”
The Academy falls under the Central Alberta Soccer Association and it will look to help those 14 member organizations.
While still in the early days of the Academy, Blake said they hope to provide complimentary teaching to players, in addition to the time they spend with their host organization. At this time, the academy won’t play as a team and will only provide technical direction to players.
As for on-field instruction, Blake hopes he can elevate all players to new heights.
“We want to give every play in Central Alberta the opportunity for this kind of coaching. Whether they love the game or love to train or whether they’ve got potential, we want to create the right environment for them,” he said.
We don’t want to forget the ones who love the game and have a certain ability and that might be it.”
The program is currently accepting players U6 to U15 but is limited in order to keep the coach to player ratio low.
He thinks down the road, there will also be an opportunity for the Academy to host tournaments, skill sessions and workshops for coaches.
“One of the things Noah and I talked about, we really want to put this location on the map, because we feel perhaps previously, that garden hasn’t been watered as well as Calgary and Edmonton,” he said.
“We’re really passionate to help this environment.”
You can check out more about the West Canada Soccer Academy at www.westcanadasocceracademy.com/the-academy/.