HALIFAX WANDERERS’ Canadian Premier League stars Akeem Garcia, Alex Marshall and Cory Bent are spreading their knowledge of the Beautiful Game to Dartmouth soccer players with local club United DFC.
The Wanderers trio have been enlisted as guest assistant-coaches with the club and were involved in their first sessions at the BMO Soccer Centre on Monday night.
Last season’s CPL Golden Boot winner Garcia worked with UDFC’s U17 AAA Boys squad alongside the team’s coaches Craig Sears and Kory Pike.
Trinidad and Tobago international Akeem, whose goals helped fire Wanderers to the CPL Final last season, was impressed with the skills shown by the boys.
And after awarding the session MVP to gifted midfielder Tommy McCormick, he said: “I’ve learned in my time in Nova Scotia that there are some big young talents in this province.
"It was great to work with them in my first session and I really enjoyed the experience.
"They tuned in and listened and it was fun to be the coach on the field instead of the player for a change!”
Elsewhere at BMO Jamaican international winger Alex Marshall, training hard now to be ready for the new CPL season’s kick-off in May, worked with United DFC’s U15 AAA Girls.
Head Coach Jeff Aucoin and his assistants Katie Aucoin and Katie Heckman relished having Alex alongside them for the night as their talented crew got to work.
Alex awarded his session MVP to livewire Regional Excellence program midfielder Rachel Kibble and he said: “I was really impressed with the skill level and the identity Jeff and his coaches have stamped on the squad.
"They all want to play the right brand of soccer and pass the ball and it was an intense session.”
The UDFC U17 AAA Girls had Wanderers’ star forward Cory Bent in their session working with Head Coach Peter Lee and his trusted assistant Jane Caudle.
Englishman Cory, a USports title winner in his days at Cape Breton University, now knows the soccer scene in Nova Scotia inside-out.
He judged midfielder Abby Aucoin as the most valuable player on the night and he said: “When you are in sessions with youth players what you want to see is that they are being coached in the right way to play positive soccer.
"I certainly saw that with Peter’s team and as an attacking player it’s the kind of way I like to see players developed, so they are organised but also enjoy the freedom and joy of the game.”
Getting the Wanderers players involved as assistant coaches with squads throughout United DFC is part of an initiative designed with Vice President of Football Operations Matt Fegan to forge lasting links between Halifax’s pro franchise and Dartmouth’s leading youth club.
Matt was delighted to see the success of Night One and he said: "We are happy to see our players connecting with clubs in our community and giving their time and experience back to the next generation of local players.
"This is also a great opportunity for our players' own career development. As coaches, they will see the interaction of coach and player from a different perspective that can help their own development as professionals to bring back into their own training."
United DFC Technical Director (Youth and Senior) Iain King believes the local youth clubs having a positive relationship with the CPL franchise can only help the fledgling league in the long-term.
And he said: ”Akeem, Alex and Cory were terrific with the players, they all did Q and A sessions at the end of practice and handed out signed UDFC water bottles to our MVPs which the players loved.
"It’s part of our mission at the club to create a culture of learning for the players, we are constantly looking at ways to aid their development at all levels and this initiative is a part of that.
"There was real intelligence in the questions being fired at the Wanderers boys and when you are a teenager growing up in the game it’s invaluable to have international players on the field with you passing on their wisdom.
"That’s the sort of experience you can’t buy and it’s great that our local pro club has the vision to see that.”