By Ottawa Sports Pages, for Ottawa TFC Soccer Club
It’s your average Wednesday evening at Millennium Park in Orleans, the soccer fields are filled with players of all ages, and Brooke Parsons, Sara Benoit and Brooklyn Siva-Maheu are right in the middle of it all.
They just finished training for two hours in Ottawa TFC’s after-school Junior Girls’ Academy. They
quickly grab some food and a rehydrating drink and then move over a couple fields to coach young girls in the club’s Grassroots Pre-Academy. Then after the session, it’s over to the turf field to watch the oldest OTFC youth girls’ team play a critical Ontario Player Development League match.
“We’re together all the time,” Parsons says of the trio that’s known one another since age 3 or 4 through soccer. “We’re kind of like second family to each other.”
When they arrive at the mini pitches, they’re greeted a bit like rock stars by the U7 and U8 age girls.
“They’re always so excited and they always swarm me because I guess they look up to us. The kids definitely give you energy,” Benoit indicates. “They’re so much fun. And I love that we get to see them grow. From the beginning of the season to the end, we get to see how much better they get. It makes me so happy.”
As coaches, their philosophy is to offer positive encouragement so that the younger girls always want to come to soccer, and maybe one day train like they do – four days a week, plus a game or two on weekends. The trademark smiles and laughs in the Grassroots program are present just as much in the Academy.
“Training every day is fun, because your teammates are your friends,” signals Siva-Maheu. “They just make training more fun. And obviously we already love soccer – we wouldn’t be doing this much soccer if we didn’t love it.”
Having friends to encourage each other at practice and to celebrate accomplishments with makes the experience especially enjoyable, adds Siva-Maheu, who often has teammates over at her house outside of soccer time.
“It’s just such a positive, uplifting community,” underlines the high-scoring player for Ottawa TFC’s U14 OPDL team who’s also found the net plenty for the U15 side. “No matter the age group – like for us, we’re always supporting the younger girls, and they’re always supporting us.
“We build a connection with them. When they see us practice before their practice, they always love to tell me, ‘Oh my gosh, I saw you practice. You guys are such a good team.’ It’s like being a role model.
“When we were younger, I remember I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, the older girls are here and we need to impress them.’ But now with the younger girls, I want to make them proud.
“We’re just such a good community. It fills you with joy to be here. And I wouldn’t even call it a community – it’s a family. It’s like we’re a big, big family. You can’t call it anything else than that.”
At the end of the evening, behind the bench over on the turf field coaching the U17 girls’ game was Jordan Lundin, who grew up playing for both of Ottawa TFC’s root clubs (Cumberland and FC Capital United). The former Radford University NCAA soccer player still spends every day living and breathing soccer, and loves it just as much.
“I think the culture we have here is unmatched,” indicates Lundin, who was pleased to see much of the bleachers filled for the match. “You can’t quite put your finger on it – like, I don’t know why those girls do it, how they do it and how they get the motivation to do all these hours of soccer and spend so much time here.
“But everyone seems to rally behind the idea that we’re going to be the best in Canada. And to be the best in Canada, you need the best teams, the best players, the best coaches, and you need to have the best work ethic, and you need a fan base and you need to have everybody rally around everyone. It’s pretty special to see.”
Fall/Winter registration is now open for Ottawa TFC’s program! Learn more and sign up at OttawaTFC.com.