Families camped outside of Whistler Secondary School on May 13 for one of the hottest ticket in town.
But it wasn't for a rock concert or movie premiere, but rather for the school's new soccer academy, which is set to open up this fall. Principal Nolan Cox estimated about 35 students signed up — more than the initial cap of 30 initially floated.
In an email, Cox explained plans are in a "holding pattern at the moment as we wait to see if there is any additional interest in the academy" and if numbers stay steady, organizers will try to accommodate everyone who has registered to this point.
He added there's a "healthy mix of students from Grades 8 to 12."
Academy students will not be able to play for the Storm school teams, though, as a proposal to overturn the existing ban on academy students playing for school teams was voted down at BC School Sports annual general meeting on May 9, executive director Christine Bradstock confirmed.
The academy will be run by Squamish-based Pelada Soccer, which is running a program for Grade 8 and 9 students at Don Ross Secondary School this year.
The WSS academy was spearheaded by parents and current Grade 11 student Nicole Deally, who will receive one year of tutelage before aiming to progress to the post-secondary level.
She explained with the hockey academy making its debut this year, she decided to approach Cox about adding soccer to the slate.
"In January is when things really started taking off," Deally said. "There was already a hockey academy, so I knew an academy was possible."
Deally said there are some strong players who will be part of the academy and she feels they'll help her grow as a player and as a goalie in particular.
"I'm excited to train with them because it'll just help me so much. They have all the moves," she said. "I call one of them Ronaldo because he's so good. He finds that really funny."
Deally will continue to train with the Quest University team this year and she hopes to play for the Kermodes when she graduates high school.
The Deally family was the first to show up, getting to the school at 10:30 p.m. the night before registration day, which was set to open at 8 a.m.
"The next person to show up was there at 4 a.m.," recalled Deally's mother, Melissa, who was along for some mother-daughter bonding time. "It was pretty much full by 7 a.m."
Melissa, who supported Nicole in the process, hopes the academy proves to be a boost to the sport in the community overall and ultimately increases soccer infrastructure with an indoor turf field to allow for year-round play.
"Having another user group in the community ultimately reinforces the demand for soccer in the community," she said. "There are a lot of families who drive up and down the highway constantly to get their kids down to metro-level soccer in the city and have those kids playing at a higher level and improving their skills.
"My hope is this academy will give many of those kids the opportunity to be improving their skills without having to drive up and down the highway."
She also hopes the academy will help stem the number of strong players leaving the resort for similar opportunities elsewhere.
Between Nicole and younger daughter Samantha, Deally has connections with two of the three rep teams in town. When the academy started to gain traction, she started to gauge interest among the parents on those teams. With a strong positive reaction, she wasn't surprised so many signed up on registration day.
"When we found out it was going ahead and when we knew when sign-up was, we were actually at a game at Quest University," she said. "It was all any parent could talk about."
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