PAYSA, Huskies look to grow local talent

Submitted photo

U of S women’s head coach gave presentation, led practice for girls U16 teams

As Jerson Barandica-Hamilton sees it, there’s plenty of local soccer talent in Saskatchewan that’s already helping grow the sport in the province.

The University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s team head coach was in Prince Albert last Thursday on an evening trip that was part recruitment, part community building.

The Prince Albert Youth Soccer Association (PAYSA) hosted the Huskies head coach as a way to give its U15 female players a glimpse into further opportunities as they progress through the sport.

“I had a little bit of a Q&A with players and parents to give them a little bit of an idea of what our University of Saskatchewan program is all about – our playing philosophy, our culture and how we like to recruit players,” Barandica-Hamilton said on Tuesday.

Along with the Q&A session, he led an evening practice with PAYSA technical director Ivkovic Dragan at the city’s Alfred Jenkins Field House.

“We’ve been very successful the last four years in terms of just competing in the Canada West conference, from British Columbia to Manitoba. And part of what’s given us the success is being able to provide opportunities for local players across Saskatchewan and beyond.”

The Huskies finished in second place in the U-Sports conference last season, with seven wins, three losses and four ties through 14 games. The Huskies lost 3-0 in the quarter-final round to division rival the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds.

In 2016, the Huskies finished in third place, behind MacEwan and Calgary, with eight wins, three losses and three ties.

Specifically, recent and current Huskies players from Prince Albert include sisters Meagan and Emma Manson, Erica Parenteau, Peyton Isaac, Kalli Cowles and Heidi Zwack.

“Part of what we want to do is just continue to grow our brand and maybe, like I said, scout players and see if any of the players in the system in Prince Albert are similar to players that we’re looking for.”

As for those types of players, according to Barandica-Hamilton, the Huskies are looking to field women that have a knack for playing on a possession-oriented, technical-type team.

“We like to attack and keep the ball under control. We look for players that have the right character, that want to influence the game, that want to make things happen. Speed is a big factor in how we play – we’re very energetic and very attack-minded.”

As an example, he said if the team had a choice of winning games by a score of 1-0 or a score of 5-4, they’d opt for the latter, high-scoring type of play.

He related that type of play to that of the Japanese and Spanish women’s national teams.

“Almost like a hybrid of Manchester City nowadays … or Barcelona, and just having the attacking mindset of wanting to go and score goals.”

Now in his fourth year as head coach of the women’s team at the UofS, Barandica-Hamilton spent his playing days on the men’s Huskies team while completing an engineering degree at the Saskatoon college.

Prior to coaching the women’s team, he worked as an assistant coach with the Huskies men’s squad.

He said that his Mexican roots – growing up in the country until nine years ago when he first came to Canada – have influenced how he coaches the sport and hopes to influence the Huskies women’s style of play.

For his part, Ivkovic Dragan, the PAYSA technical director, welcomed the opportunity to have the Huskies coach enlighten the local soccer players about what may lay ahead for them.

“We are trying to provide and expose our girls with every possible chance to play university level soccer,” he said.

“So part of that plan is trying to organize high-performance games every year and always try to get these university coaches. Last year we had Robert Maltman from the University of Regina and also Jerson, and this year we had Jerson.”

Each yeah, the university coaches worked with two teams in PAYSA’s U15 age group.

“We also want to give our girls as many chances as we can to get noticed by these university coaches.”

Along with providing an opportunity for potentially playing at the college level in the future, Dragan said events like the session hosted on Thursday help grow the local soccer scene in Prince Albert.

“Just the growing of the club, the growing of the association. The more players you have, it’s better for us, it’s better for the kids, it’s better for the community, of course. To promote P.A. and everything we represent.”