The scenery on the trip from Vancouver to Vernon wasn’t the only thing that impressed Emma Humphries, Whitecaps FC girls director and head coach of the Girls Elite Regional Excel Centre (REX).
The New Zealander drove up for the day to observe soccer talent and see how the local girls are developing. She’s impressed.
“The skill level is increasing, the number of talented girls are increasing as well,” said Humphries, 30. “Where before it was one or two main individuals, now you can see five or six at that similar level and it’s just getting better and better.”
She said she had a good benchmark to compare the Vernon skill level to Vancouver.
Humphries played midfield on the New Zealand women’s national team in the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the 2006 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, coached by current Canadian women’s national team head coach, John Herdman. She also played at California State-Fullerton University and Coastal Carolina University in NCAA Division 1.
Prior to joining the Whitecaps, Humphries, a UEFA B License coach, worked as women’s national development manager in New Zealand, under Herdman. She also coached with Mountain United FC in the EA SPORTS BC Soccer Premier League, as well as the BC Soccer High Performance Program.
“This country is amazing, there are few countries in the world that have pretty close to the same number of girls playing to boys, it’s just quite a unique place to be, to see how strong the game is here and how passionate the girls are. It makes me even more encouraged to help them be the best that they can be.”
As a coach, she focuses on improving technique with the biggest emphasis being on their skills under pressure. Humphries says teaching players to make smart decisions when they have pressure on them and then executing it, is key.
She says tight, small-sided games and technical exercises get the players used to making quick decisions so when they play on a full-sized field they can maintain control.
“There is some huge talent in this country, it’s just again honing that, to give them all the skills and all the experiences that the boys get.”
For the first time there is a full-time, fully-funded girls school soccer program in Vancouver through the Whitecaps FC for ages 13 to 18.
“They all go to the same school, train together, they have strength and conditioning coaches, and get to be together everyday. It’s a big step and what we are hoping is that some of these girls (in Vernon) will come into that program.”
As for the state of women’s soccer in Canada, Humphries is nothing but positive.
“I think what John Herdman has done with the youth, bringing through Jessie Fleming, Ashley Lawrence, Kadeisha Buchanan, and then the likes of Jordyn Huitema who is just 15 years old and on the senior women’s team, I think there aren’t too many countries in the world that have the talented youth that we have.”