By Ottawa Sportspage, For Ottawa TFC Soccer Club
So far, 2019 has been a year that seems set on skipping any semblance of sunny weather, but Ottawa TFC plans to sizzle the season to life with its kickoff to summer event on Saturday, June 15 at Millennium Fields.
The festivities begin with an open 4v4 tournament for players of all levels (recreational through academy) from the under-7 through U13 age groups, and culminate with Ontario Player Development League matches on the turf fields featuring the club’s U13 high-performance boys’ and girls’ teams.
“It’s really cool to see,” signals Ottawa TFC General Manager Pavel Cancura, who ran the first club kickoff last year with Cumberland United. “They fill all the fields for the 4v4, and then right after, they walk over for the OPDL games. It’s this huge event where everyone gets to play.”
The BBQ will be roaring throughout the day, and the OPDL games are jazzed up with opening ceremonies attended by local dignitaries, the national anthem, and a big crowd in the stands cheering on the elite OPDL teams.
“It’s such a ‘culture-builder,’” adds Cancura, noting the fun-filled day helps create bonds between young players and their coaches (many of whom play for OTFC at the older youth levels). “Events like this help everyone get to know everybody and everyone feels a part of something. That’s been a big focus for us, to make sure that the club is more than just a collection of random teams, that it becomes a club that everyone feels a part of and supports.”
Ottawa TFC’s OPDL teams primed for club’s summer kickoff
The Ottawa TFC OPDL teams are shaping up nicely in advance of their home triple-bill against Whitby on June 15. The U13 boys (1:30 p.m.) and girls (3:45 p.m.) are both in action, while the U14 girls are first up at 11:15 a.m. as they tackle their second season in the provincial high-performance league that grants licences only to clubs that meet stringent standards for facilities, coaching, administration and organizational financial stability.
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“It’s amazing the difference just one year makes,” Ottawa TFC Coach Jessie Burgins says of the U14 girls’ squad. “How they’re starting to understand everything and just grow as players and people in general.”
In the lead-up to the season, Amelia Campanella got the chance to compete for Team Ontario in an interprovincial series, as did her club counterparts Frederic Girard and Vardy St. Fleur on OTFC’s U14 boys’ team (who are away for a road game on the summer kickoff day in Cumberland).
“I like what that’s bringing,” Burgins highlights. “It’s great for all our players because they say, ‘Hey, we’ve got someone on our team who’s there, we could be there too.’ It’s healthy and they support her.”
It was big offseason for just about every competitive team as they brought together groups from the merged Cumberland and Capital United clubs. For the U13s, there was also the challenge of adjusting to 11v11 play for the first time on a larger field, but OTFC Boys’ Club Head Coach Vladan Vrsecky finds the squads are meshing well both on and off the pitch.
“The winter season gave us time to work on all those things,” Vrsecky indicates. “Everyone’s worked hard. I feel they are ready.”
The OPDL coaches believe their crews can be amongst the top teams in the province.
“What’s most important is that they grow every day,” Burgins underlines.
“There is still a lot of work to do. Can we have the best training environment, the best culture, the best approach to the game, all the minor things leading up to the game, and then can we execute in the game and have the best mindset? That’s how we want to be the best.
“If they can do all those things to the best of their ability and do them well, there’s no telling how far they can go.”