Lightning strike for first time
Caroline Spencer believes the best way to harvest high school soccer gold at the provincial level is to focus first on planting the seeds for success and grow the grassroots.
As such, the former Muskie girls’ soccer coach has created the Borderland Lightning U14 club team made up of selected individuals from Division IV of Fort Frances Youth Soccer.
But Spencer has a much broader vision for the program than just achieving success at a single out-of-town tournament.
“We want to develop our players at a younger age so that we already have them at the skill level they need when they hit high school, so they are more solid in the fundamentals of the sport,” she reasoned.
“We want to teach them all the rules [and techniques] front to back,” Spencer added.
“No toe-kicking, the whole dynamic of how kids strike the ball, the follow-through, set plays, how to build a wall, defence, and playing as a team.”
After the early training sessions are over, players will be assigned positions they’ll stick with and learn inside out.
“The long-term goal is to get them to continue playing in the indoor leagues this winter and keep improving themselves,” Spencer noted.
“By next year, we can probably look at playing in two or three tournament, maybe even ones down in the U.S., and hopefully have enough kids to have two or three teams.
“We want to show them it’s possible to do more in soccer than just play high school and then stop,” stressed Spencer, who is being helped by coaches Amy Wilson-Hands, Kevin Begin, and Sierra Cousineau.
“If they stay with the program long enough, the hope is that one day they will get identified and get scholarship opportunities,” she explained.
Spencer was adamant that she is trying to bolster the Muskie soccer program through this venture—something she believes her own former high school co-coach and mentor would have wanted.
“I’m not saying I’m the be-all, end-all of the high school program,” she said firmly.
“But in coaching the Muskies for 10 years with [the late] Struchan Gilson, he had a wealth of knowledge that he passed along to me,” she remarked.
“I think he would be disappointed if I didn’t step up and do something like this.”
Fresh from the first week of practice, Wilson-Hands is encouraged by what she sees unfolding on the field already.
“We’re ahead of where I thought we were going to be,” she lauded.
“It’s a pretty impressive little team out there.
“Once August and the tournament comes, I’m going to be pumped for it,” Wilson-Hands enthused.