Members of a team jump for joy after winning a soccer bowling-type drill during a She Can clinic hosted by Surrey FC association at Newton Athletic Park on Monday afternoon (March 22). The spring break camp aims to get more Surrey-area girls playing the game. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

Members of a team jump for joy after winning a soccer bowling-type drill during a She Can clinic hosted by Surrey FC association at Newton Athletic Park on Monday afternoon (March 22). The spring break camp aims to get more Surrey-area girls playing the game. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

Surrey FC’s soccer goals: Nationals, BCSPL start, and getting more girls to play the game

Newton-based club named host of national championships, launches She Can program

Surrey is very much on Canada Soccer’s radar as a host city of national championships over the next few years.

At Newton Athletic Park, Surrey Football Club (FC) is set to stage the U17 Cup in 2022 and the Challenge/Jubilee adult tournaments in 2024, after the game’s national governing body announced host venues for three future editions of its Toyota National Championships last Thursday (March 18).

It’s exciting news for the Newton-based association, which is already slated to host the 2021 national club championships for men and women this fall – if and when the tournaments happen, due to COVID-19 concerns.

“That will be decided soon, and a lot of things have to fall into place first,” said Sarb Lidder, the club’s executive director. “Canada Soccer wants it to happen, and so do we, but there are so many logistics involved, making sure it’s safe, travel restrictions, how the provincial and territory champs will be decided before then. We’re hoping to get some good news at the end of June.”

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On Monday (March 22), executive members of the club gathered at the athletic park to see the She Can program launch, with the goal of getting more girls playing soccer.

Delta resident Jasmine Mander started playing the game in Surrey at age four, and is now a performance analyst with Canada’s national team.

“Surrey FC reached out and asked me to be part of the program, an ambassador, and I was really excited to promote girls soccer in this community like this,” said Mander, a former Whitecaps FC BMO Academy System coach.

“It’s a great initiative to get girls playing the game, get them involved — some of them for the first time and also to keep some active during spring break. Anytime you get girls like this together, it’s fun, and I love being involved, especially in my home town.”

Mander said she attended many soccer camps as a young player.

“They were always fun, spending long days with your buddies,” she recalled. “This is where friendships form, at camps and spring teams, the jamborees. Those are some of my favourite times playing soccer. And seeing the young ones come in today, laughing and joking, I smile because I know those friendships will last, for years to come.”

During the spring break camp, the girls are separated into groups and spend time at various stations, including one involving a “soccer bowling” type of game.

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The She Can program also gives the club’s older girls a chance to teach younger ones.

“We’re here teaching our older players how to teach, mentoring them, so it’s a bit of both,” said Paul Bahia, Surrey FC’s technical director. “The program benefits everyone here.”

Bahia has a young daughter, and has coached girls teams over the past decade.

“I think girls are quitting earlier, in all sports, not just soccer,” he said. “I’ve seen a dropoff. Sport is kind of forgotten sometimes, so we’re here to show the girls what the game of soccer can bring them — friendships, the character and life values it can build, and also show the parents that. It all goes a long way.”

Surrey FC’s spring season gets going after Easter and with it, the first steps of the association’s entry into the high-level BC Soccer Premier League (BCSPL).

Last September, the club was the lone B.C. recipient of five new National Youth Club licences announced by Canada Soccer, paving the way for entry into the BCSPL. To start, Surrey FC will field two B.C. Premier League teams involving 2009-born boys and girls, at the U13 level.

“Our first BCSPL teams will start training next week,” Bahia said. “We weren’t allowed to do tryouts, with COVID, so it’s an awkward year, the start of it, but I think it’s been like that for everybody, all clubs.”

Surrey FC president Sim Sumra said the club is excited about recent initiatives, including nationals, its arrival in BCSPL and also the She Can program.

“We’re also open to new players coming in, new registrations,” Sumra said. “We’re online, of course, and that’s ongoing. Especially during COVID it’s great to get the kids out on an open field right now, get them active. We hope that once games are allowed, we’ll see more kids get involved again, because the kids just want to play the games.”

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