In between games at the SISCO tournament at the SaskTel Sports Centre, young soccer players had a chance to meet one of their idols, Brett Levis, and even have him sign some of their swag.
Three dozen boys’ soccer teams, between the ages of 10 and 16, competed over the weekend in Saskatoon and Levis understands firsthand what it’s like to be in their shoes.
“I remember when I was younger looking up to even the university players and stuff so it feels good to be a good role model so hopefully some of these kids can push on as well ,” the Vancouver Whitecaps FC player reminisced.
Levis had his first experience playing in the Major League Soccer (MLS) this past October, but prior to going pro, he played for the Saskatchewan Huskies. The defender still holds the all-time record for assists and is second in goals, but his path to becoming a professional athlete wasn’t straightforward.
“At the time I was coming through you went through university but you hit a wall,” Levis said. “I had the chance to move away to progress, now a lot of these kids have a great opportunity.”
Levis credits Huskies head coach Bryce Chapman, who is helping young players develop as the head coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC Saskatchewan Academy. But for local coaches, the presence that Levis is giving at these events goes so far to encourage athletes.
“It’s so good Saskatoon is developing in the soccer community, but it’s getting to the point where we need guys like him to show the kids that there is that opportunity for them to advance further in their soccer playing and development,” SUSC U12 Scorpions coach Jason Edighoffer said.
Canada has three teams that compete in the MLS and with Toronto FC reaching the final, one can only expect the sport to continue growing in the country.
“Having a Canadian team in it, and having it hosted in Toronto, I think there will be more viewership than there ever has been, and more Canadians will tune in to watch,” Levis said. “I think it’s only going to grow bigger and bigger.”
“The kids seeing that he’s gone as far as he’s gone would definitely impact the level of excitement that’s come along with the sport. It’s been really awesome to see him develop so I hope we get more kids like him doing it,” Edighoffer said.
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Levis, who now recognizes the intricate role that politics plays with sport, offered up some advice to the next generation of players.
“Never stop enjoying it, it’s so simple and everybody says it, but it’s so true. Don’t worry about the business side of it, the politics, enjoy the soccer,” Levis said.