Graham Kasper and Joel Waterman have bright futures ahead of them playing "the beautiful game."
And in the immediate future, the two are flying to Sherbrooke, Quebec, where they will be targeting soccer gold as members of the B.C. U18 men's team competing at the Canada Summer Games.
The Games run Aug 2-17, with the soccer component taking place from the 11th to the 17th.
Kasper, whose dad Dave is president of the Langley United Soccer Association, was part of the BC Provincial teams program from the U13 to U18 age groups, and part of the National Training Centre program in B.C. during those same years.
This past season he played for the Coquitlam Metro Ford U18 Sparta in the BCSPL (British Columbia Soccer Premier League), and his team recently captured the provincial championship title. This result put him and his Sparta teammates in the national club championships in Newfoundland this coming October.
The 18-year-old has landed a major academic scholarship and athletic scholarship to McGill University, where he will be studying biomedical sciences, and will suit up on the soccer pitch for the McGill Redmen following the Canada Games. Dave Kasper said his son has been a "very focused and driven person" from an early age.
"He has a great willingness to learn both on and off the pitch, and this combined with his coach-ability and athletic ability, has led to his success as a soccer player," the elder Kasper said.
Waterman, 17, who is entering his Grade 12 year, plays for Surrey United Soccer Club.
His team is on break until September.
"Joel is a natural athlete who loves to compete," his mom Vicki said. "He strives for excellence every time he steps on the pitch."
Both Waterman and Kasper have been influenced by local coaches who each have had a hand in molding them into the players they are today.
In Waterman's case, Mark Parker was his first mentor coach at an elite level, on the BC U-13 Provincial team. More recently, he has played under the tutelage of his club and academy coaches from Surrey United, Frank McCann and Sipho Sibiya, and his Aldergrove Community Secondary School coach and teacher, Brian Hunter.
Kasper's most influential coaches include Kelly Younker at Langley United Soccer Association, Les Krivak at Coquitlam Metro Ford, and the coaching staff with BC Soccer Provincial teams program over the years.
The Langley Advance caught up with both Waterman and Kasper, who talked about their upcoming Canada Games experience.
LA: How much of an honour is it for you to make this BC Soccer men's team and what do you believe the competition is going to be like? JW: I am very honoured to have made this team and to be given the opportunity to play and represent my province. I feel like the competition will be tough, but I also feel that we have a very strong team and will compete with the best.
GK: It is a great honour to make this team as I am representing BC Soccer, my community, and province. I expect the competition to be tough and talented and look forward to playing great, competitive games at the Summer Games.
LA: How did you make the B.C. U18 team? JW: Selection for this team was done by recommendation from my club coach (BCSPL league) and then short-listed by Martin Nash, the Team BC coach. Final selection was made after training sessions and playing in two tournaments in the US.
GK: I was selected to the Canada Games team through the usual selection process: B.C. staff coaches came out to watch our league games before creating a short list of players. From there, a team travelled to Portland to play in the Portland Timbers Friendship Cup. After this tournament, the field of players was narrowed down to the team it is now.
LA: What are your goals, personal and team-wise, going into these Summer Games? GK: My ultimate goal is to win the Summer Games while playing great soccer. Personally, I wish to further develop tactically and technically. I have a great coaching staff and team so
I have high hopes we will succeed.
JW: Beyond winning the gold medal, my other goals are to have a great experience with my teammates, coaches and athletes from across Canada.
LA: What position do you play and what helped your development as a player? GK: I play centre back primarily but occasionally I play full back. My coaches obviously helped me with my technical and tactical development as a player all through my years in youth soccer; my parents have guided me and given me support whenever I needed it; but my drive to succeed and to always take advantage of any opportunity presented to me has certainly played a critical role in my development as a player.
JW: My original position is centre midfield but over the last few years I have been given the chance to play outside midfield, as well, which has allowed me to develop both my right and left foot to increase my overall technical ability.
What are your soccer aspirations past the youth level? JW: My soccer goals are to earn a scholarship and play postsecondary in Canada or the US. My ultimate goal would be to play professional soccer.
GK: I am determined to always play at the highest level possible for as long as possible. Next year I will be playing for the McGill University Redmen.
What do you love about soccer? GK: I love the camaraderie and team atmosphere of soccer. Of course I love the competitiveness and skill shown on the field, the flow and tactics of soccer can be mesmerizing to watch.
JW: For me, soccer isn't just a game, it's a lifestyle. I love to win and I love to challenge myself to always be better. The pitch is like a second home to me.
LA: How long have you been playing soccer and what got you into the sport? JW: I have been playing soccer for 13 years. As a toddler I loved to run and kick the ball and my parents both played soccer, so it was a natural progression for me to play, as well.
GK: I have been playing since I joined LUSA at U6, so for about 13 years. Watching my sister play soccer certainly influenced me at a young age. Ever since then, I never looked back. Soccer has always been the sport for me.
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