I left the National Team Program in 2006 amidst preparations for the 2007 Olympics in China. I had spent 6-years of my life traveling all over the world with the Canadian Soccer Association as the National Teams Goalkeeper Coach and have always wondered when and if I would ever be able to recall how far we traveled and how many places we have been. When I started with the program in 2000, I was brought into the youth team system and introduced to Gerry Knuttsen who was a Norwegian Goalkeeper Coach working with the Canadian Women's Senior National Team. He and Even Pellerud had won the 1995 FIFA Women's World Cup together while coaching Norway, and now, with Even in charge of the Canadian Women's National Team Program he brought Gerry over. It was an honor, a privilidge and a challenge all at once.
I had been a goalkeeper since the age of 4-years, at least those were my earliest memories. My father had been a legendary local amateur goalkeeper. My passion for the game grew as I pulled away from all other conflicting sports until the age of 14 when I was solely committed to the journey of becoming a professional soccer player. Out went competitive school sports in basketball, volleyball, plus baseball and lacrosse. The only sport I continued to play and enjoy to this very day is tennis, and believe me when I play tennis I play for fun.
So, in doing some research recently I came across a list with many of the events I had participated in while working for the Canadian Soccer Association as the National Teams Goalkeeper Coach. Before I get to this, let me continue forward from my earliest experiences and memories with the Women's Program starting in 2000. After meeting and working with Jerry, I was left in charge of the goalkeepers for the various youth national teams we had running at the time. To this day, I still recall the first training camp in which Erin McLeod attended. It was in Victoria, we were staying at the Tally-Ho Hotel and did some training at Blanshard Field, the very field I would have watching my father train and play at in my youth. I still remember the first time Erin was training, her passion for learning, for asking questions, for improving, for working hard- it was painfully evident in her eyes that there was something special.
Gerry was an excellent mentor for me at the time, he was fun loving and full of life. I learned how to challenge the individual and motivate from within. This was the key- open and close communication plus hard work with the goalkeepers. We spent hours digesting the glorious position of goalkeeper, traveling together and learning about the Women's International Game. It was a glorious time. When Gerry stepped away after a couple of years I was brought in as his replacement to the Women's National Team Program and never looked back.
I am now able to look back on this portion of my career and think more specifically of all the events and places we have been: Australia, Russia, Thailand, China, Japan, Mexico, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominican Republic, Finland, Brazil, Sweden, Norway and all across both Canada (BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland, PEI, Nova Scotia) and the USA (Florida, Texas, Nebraska, Indiana, Oregon, California, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina). All of the events from CONCACAF Qualifying for Olympics, to the FIFA Women's World Cup, the Pan-American Games and the FIFA Women's Youth World Cups. It often feels like an entirely different lifetime now that I am settled into remote living, raising a beautiful family in a lovely part of the country.
Then there are the friends.
I recently made a quick trip out east to visit a close friend I have known for 15 years who lives in Toronto. While visiting we ventured to the CIS Conference Finals in which I ran into coaches whom I had not seen or played with since 1993. I came across players, one in particular who was playing and is the third generation of his family to have passed through our goalkeeper development programs that have been running since 1993 where he grew up in Victoria. I had dinner with the legendary Alex the Goalie who is a lovely young man from the Comox Valley whom I have had the pleasure of mentoring for the past ten years who is attending Queen's University and netminding for the soccer team. Oddly enough while having dinner at the Keg in downtown Toronto we were approached by a familiar face in the restaurant by the name of Scott Glanville, who used to have a soccer show called Direct Kicks that was around during my days with the Women's National Team Program. I also found time to have a quick lunch with Cathy Campbell, who is the sweetest and most sincere team doctor anyone could have (ok a close second to Dr. Rudy Gittens), however, the Doc and I spent many years working together and traveling all over the world with the Canadian Women's National Team Program.
It was an interesting experience running into all of these people and the returning home to Denman island, where we live and continue coaching in the Comox Valley. There are times when I forget about the history I have enjoyed in the game and all of the familiar faces there are scattered across the globe. In fact, the last time I attended a live game was the World Cup Qualifier in Vancouver between Canada and Honduras. It was remarkable, as I left the Concourse in BC Place for my seat I could see a familiar face in the distance waving back at me- it was Lewis Page from PEI and we had not seen one another in years! We were able to watch the game and reminisce while watching the Canadian Team Play. The first time I met Lewis was playing for the Nova Scotia Clippers in 1990 and we have been friends ever since. We worked together for many years in the Women's Program, the highlight being our second place finish at the 2002 FIFA U20 Women's World Championships held in Canada. To this day, once of my favorite photos and memories is the three of us- Head Coach Ian Bridge, Assistant Coach Lewis Page and Goalkeeper Coach Shel Brodsgaard standing arm in arm in front of a sold-out Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton singing the Canadian National Anthem before the final.
There are so many memories...