The month of March '07 will be a very busy time for the players, technical staff and management of Sigma Sports Solutions, as two of the ETC squads will be traveling to the country which is considered a leader in player development - the Netherlands. Technical Director Bobby Smyrniotis and the staff of coaches are looking to expose the young Canadian talent to the daily workings of some of the games finest academies with valuable lessons to be learned for the boy's future development back home in Canada.
The '95 and '91/90 boy's teams will base their mini-camp out of Amsterdam for two weeks each, with a quality schedule of 10 matches facing various professional youth Academies in Holland and Belgium. They will travel to play competition of the highest pedigree which will include AFC AJAX, PSV Eindhoven, AZ Alkmaar, SC Heerenveen, FC Utrecht, FC Groningen, Sparta Rotterdam and Germinal Beerschot Antwerpen. Beyond this they will continue to train and learn valuable insights from the youth academy directors, staff and players both pro and amateur they will meet. Visits to the professional stadiums and attendance at matches will round out their stay.
Boys with Sigma's '95 squad will be making their second trip to Europe, having experience in hand from a year ago when traveling to Mallorca Spain to take part in an invitational tournament featuring clubs such as AFC AJAX, Everton, Hertha Berlin, Valencia, FC Den Bosch. It was a great learning experience for the boys, who returned to training back home in Canada with great rigour and purpose. According to Sigma coach Dave Zonneveld, "Our boys were in awe once meeting the 11 year olds from AJAX. It was as if they were the professional squad themselves. Over the 8 day period of matches and especially so back at the hotel complex things began to change, as the boys bonded quite quickly with the boys of AJAX and the other squads making for a great atmosphere. Our boys realized quickly what they must work on in order to be prepared for their future encounters and became better as the tournament went on. In the end the focus was on providing the players these lifetime experiences to enhance their future development as athletes, students and citizens."
As for the Sigma 1990-91 group their task will be focused on playing the best soccer they can in order to garner the interest of the scouts who will be watching the matches. With many players who have represented Canada, and their province in the past the coaching staff at Sigma believe the boys have the mental maturity to perform at their peak during their two week stay in Holland. According to Mr. Smyrniotis, who has a great knowledge of the European youth game during his tenure as youth coach and management associate at Olympiacos C.F.P of Greece and extensive work with AFC AJAX over the past 4 years "This group of players have been together now for 6 months training for a common goal. They understand what we ask from them and have adjusted to a professional model of development and maturity that our coaching staff has implemented. Our initiative is to have a few of these players impress our contacts in order to receive the opportunity to gain a trial where their strengths and weaknesses may be measured over a longer period of time. Our network of coaches and management associates in Holland will provide our players an honest look, along with providing Sigma an opportunity to measure our talent base with our counterparts in Holland. For many soccer players they will never have the opportunity to play such matches as a youth player. With many tournaments in Europe there is never interaction with professional clubs as they are on vacation for the summer months. These boys will play the best of the best and understand that this will be first and foremost an experience of a lifetime and may be their only opportunity to impress a European club."
"The reality is that it is very difficult for Canadian players to make the jump over the Atlantic to play at a high level. At the same time we as coaches can't allow that fact to restrict the players from having these types of opportunities. The bottom line is that scouts are not flocking to Canada to watch players. Therefore we must go to them. For many players this may be their last opportunity to impress as our focus will shift to assisting the players in gaining an athletic and/or academic scholarship which will provide them the education to further their career in any path it may be".
Development travel to many of Europe's leading soccer schools is part of the Sigma ETC Program's curriculum, stressing quality interactions for young Canadian talent with international player development leaders.
For further information on Sigma's ETC program click here.