Vernon’s Maddy Laranjo loves soccer so much, she knew she wanted it to be part of her future.
But she had no ideas about setting goals.
Enter Neil McPhie.
With McPhie’s guidance, Laranjo shone for four years with the Thompson Okanagan Football Club, and inked a scholarship with the CIS’ UBC Okanagan Heat, where she is thriving as a first-year midfielder while studying human kinetics.
Laranjo, 18, a W.L. Seaton graduate, is the first female winner of the Neil McPhie Memorial Scholarship Program, awarded to graduating TOFC players who strive for excellence in their academic and athletic pursuits.
TOFC will provide one male and one female player $750 scholarships to achieve their goals.
McPhie was a TOFC coach for many years, and a familiar face with the Whitecaps Okanagan Academy and Okanagan soccer community.
He died in the spring after a battle with brain cancer.
“Neil had a huge influence on my life as a player and a person,” said Laranjo.
“He was a phenomenal coach. He inspired me to set goals and chase after them, and helped me believe in myself and become more confident in myself.”
The male recipient is Kelowna’s Alex Matsubara, who also played four years with TOFC. He is currently playing and studying at Hamilton’s McMaster University.
Laranjo and Matsubara were chosen for the scholarships from several excellent applications, all displaying oustanding academic ability and community spirit.
McPhie’s widow, Michelle, presented Laranjo with her scholarship at the VantageOne Indoor Soccer Centre.
“I’m overwhelmed and so honoured,” said McPhie as she and Laranjo needed a moment to compose themselves.
“Neil would have been so thrilled to know what everyone is doing on his behalf in his memory. Maddy is a very worthy recipient. Neil talked about her many times.”
TOFC is one of the founding members of the EA Sports BC Soccer Premier League, the only provincial-wide elite youth league in Canada which is partnered by a professional Major League Soccer club (Vancouver Whitecaps).
The TOFC mission is to full player needs by being an organization committed to excellence and advancement in soccer.
The club has approximately 170 players ranging from U13 to U18 competing in the BCSPL. Their season runs from February to November.
TOFC draws players from the Thompson Okanagan region, as well as the Kootenays and Prince George.
Neil McPhie wa noted for his good humour and easy way of working with players from all ages, touching the lives of many soccer players and inspiring them to continue on their path in the sport he loved.