Sports

Kelowna United brings in international soccer coach as part of new program

Chelsea Football Club coach Jeff Bookman worked out some Kelowna soccer players last month at a soccer camp hosted by Kelowna United.  - Contributed
Chelsea Football Club coach Jeff Bookman worked out some Kelowna soccer players last month at a soccer camp hosted by Kelowna United.
— image credit: Contributed

In an effort to help develop Kelowna soccer players and coaches, Kelowna United will look to international soccer coaches to help grow the game in the Okanagan.

Last month Kelowna United brought in Jeff Bookman, a coach from the Chelsea Football Club in the English Premier League. Bookman was in Kelowna for four days and conducted training sessions for three Kelowna United teams and two Thompson Okanagan Super Y League teams.

"For ourselves in the club it's a great exposure for the players to be coached by a person of that quality," said Kelowna United technical director Dante Zanatta. "It only accents the work that we have done and plan to do over the next four or five years."

The arrival of the Chelsea coach in Kelowna may just be the tip of the iceberg as Kelowna United plans to bring more coaches into the area to work with players and coaches. An upcoming international conference is being planned and should be announced soon. It all goes towards elevating the sport of soccer.

"It's two-fold," said Zanatta. "One thing is we have to develop coaches if we want to develop footballers. The better coaching education we can do the better players we will have in the long run."

While it may lead to more visits from top soccer programs around the world it wasn't easy attracting Chelsea's Bookman to Kelowna. The visit by a coach from such a world renowned club as Chelsea FC is the culmination of several years of efforts by the Kelowna United Board and its technical staff.

Bringing in coaches from other areas comes at a time when the soccer scene in the Okanagan is evolving. This will be the last year that Thompson-Okanagan plays in the elite Super Y League as next year they will join an eight team B.C. provincial league.

"Our goal with Kelowna United and the new B.C. soccer program is to produce better footballers and better athletes that stay in the game longer," said Zanatta. "I think it's been a long time since the Interior has produced a provincial and national team player. Our goal over the next five years is to start producing those players again as well as help make every player enjoy the game more."

The Kelowna United season is just underway while the Super Y League season starts in the summer.

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