--By OSU Force Academy
Ottawa South United welcomed over 120 boys’ and girls’ players to the Coliseum Soccer Dome last month for a Showcase event that allowed them to be seen by scouts from many top colleges and universities across North America, along with the MLS Vancouver Whitecaps.
OSU invited targeted schools that have strong academic programs as well as competitive soccer programs to come to Ottawa and have a look at local talent.
“In the past, a lot of players have traveled to the U.S. for similar events, so the biggest thing for us is to bring the coaches to us so our kids get exposed in their backyard and it doesn’t cost them an arm and a leg,” explains Craig Stead, a Force Academy coach and organizer of the Showcase.
Another major advantage of hosting the event instead of traveling to one is that it creates an intimate setting where players and parents can begin to build a relationship with coaches, as opposed to being at arm’s length when watching a game.
OSU also held three seminars during the event. Run by Academy coach and former U.S. scholarship player Craig Stead, the first session outlined what is involved in obtaining a scholarship. The second was directed by the Whitecaps to share opportunities available in their residency program.
“The fact that we have scouts here from Vancouver Whitecaps shows how far we’ve come in just a few years,” highlights OSU President, Bill Michalopulos.
And the final seminar about what it takes to be a university player was led by Mel Mahler, the head coach at NCAA Div. 1 St. Bonaventure University near Buffalo.
“We’re not just looking for good players, we’re looking for good kids,” says Mahler, noting that he’s after good students who work diligently towards their degree, who possess a blue collar work ethic on the field, and who are good citizens.
And as he put the Showcase attendees through the same drills as his university athletes, Mahler was also on the lookout for players who listen, understand and execute, and demonstrate athleticism, strength, stamina and quickness.
With several players from the nation’s capital dressing for his Bonnies in recent years – including Force Academy grad Adam Scott, currently a senior – Mahler was eager to discover the next generation of Ottawa talent from the participating U14-U17 age groups.
“You keep going back to where you have success and I’ve had absolutely wonderful experiences with the kids I’ve had,” notes Mahler, who saluted OSU for their development programs. “We first noticed OSU in 2008 at the Disney College Showcase and every year I make it a point to scout their games when I’m at the Showcase. They provide a very competitive environment for kids to grow not just as players, but as people. And that’s the most important thing.”
Over 20 OSU players moved on to the next level in 2011 alone. OSU will host a similar event prior to the Aug. 3-6 Showcase of Champions Tournament in Ottawa, presented in partnership with the Dallas Texans Soccer Club and Nike.