Kwalikum Secondary School boys soccer coach Butch Gayton knows he’s got some skilled players this season. He just has no idea what kind of team they will make.
“We’ve only got four players back from last year, and two others that are injured,” said Gayton, who heads Kwalikum’s Soccer Academy. “A bunch of the guys here now are international students. You think you have an idea of their skills when you see them in practice, but put ‘em in a game and it’s a whole different thing.”
Gayton will not have much time to figure out where all the moving parts belong.
The Kondors kick off their brief AA B.C. Secondary School season Tuesday with a game at Ladysmith, then host their home opener the following week with an Oct. 11 matchup against Wellington Secondary.
The brief, five-game league season will be followed by the playoffs beginning Oct. 26, with the North Island AA, Vancouver Island AA and B.C. provincial championships to follow.
“I’m still trying to find how people play together,” Gayton said last Thursday as he lined up squads for a senior-junior scrimmage on the school’s pitch.
“You’re trying to take these international players, with their different styles of play, and get them into the North American game without losing those international skills and flair.”
Kwalikum Secondary senior boys soccer coach Butch Gayton, centre, makes a point before a team scrimmage last week in Qualicum Beach. — Image credit: J.R. Rardon/NEWS Staff
The international students include a mix of European and Asian players. But none of them play goal, which left Gayton with a huge hole at the net and sent him to the KSS basketball program for his latest recruit.
Sheldon Monroe, who has never played soccer before, pulled on the gloves to face his first warm-up before Thursday’s scrimmage.
“He’s a basketball player, and he’s got good size and good hands,” said Gayton, who hopes Monroe can make a quick transition to goalkeeping.
Monroe’s inexperience showed early in his first scrimmage, when he reached down to gather up a ball that had been passed back to him by a teammate. As he prepared to punt the ball away after the illegal grab, most of the players hesitated and awaited a whistle from Gayton, who instead barked, “Play on; he doesn’t know!”
After being informed, Monroe did not repeat the mistake.
The squad does have a few skilled, veteran players including third-year standout Godai Seki and second-year returnee Rafael Li, along with Luke Walker and Logan Hale. But Gayton’s collection of international players is augmented in large part by a cadre of former recreational players new to competitive-level soccer.
“We’ve got 42 guys out here and they’re all in the soccer academy, so they’re getting an hour and 20 minutes a day of play,” Gayton said. “But every year we’ve had a good-sized returning cast, until now. I really don’t know their level of ability yet.”