A wealth of soccer experience, as both a player and a coach, is coming to the Niagara-on-
the-Lake Soccer Club for their first youth soccer camp next week.
Timbits division coordinator and coach Joe Pagnotta says it’s a fantastic opportunity for the club to have Hamilton Soccer Hall of Fame member John DiPasquale running the camp at the Virgil soccer fields.
The camp, aimed toward players already registered with the NOTL Soccer Club, aged six to 12, goes Monday Aug. 12 through Friday Aug. 16, 8:30 a.m. to noon.
DiPasquale grew up playing soccer in his hometown of Port Colborne. At the age of 16, he captained the Under-16 Ontario Boys team to a National Championship. The following year he was drafted by the Toronto Blizzard Reserves of the North American Soccer League (NASL), while also playing for the Saltfleet Go Ahead team.
The Saltfleet Go Ahead Soccer Club was formed in 1965 and competed in the Hamilton District Soccer League.
In 1983, DiPasquale captained the Ontario squad to a second National title, this time at the U18 level. The following year, as captain of the U19 National team, he won a silver medal in World Cup qualifying in Mexico. That led to his participation in the U20 Youth World Cup in 1985, held in Minsk, Russia.
“That experience is something I will never forget,” says DiPasquale. “During that time I was able to see the world, while playing for Canada against the likes of Italy, the U.S., Brazil, Sweden, Mexico, and many other global powers of the game.”
He also fondly recalls a pre-World Cup tour of England, where the team played matches against Aston Villa, Stoke and Liverpool, among others. Though this two-week experience was memorable, the team lost some key players to injury, and by the time they got to Minsk, they were depleted and did not end up playing to their potential.
While playing for the Youth National Team, DiPasquale attended McMaster University, where he was also a member of the Marauders Soccer team, which competed against the University of Toronto for the Ontario University Athletics National Championship. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in physical education from McMaster, and later, a Bachelor’s Degree in education from Queen’s University in Kingston.
His professional career began in 1986, playing for the Hamilton Steelers in the Canadian Soccer League. There, he became the director of the Steelers Summer Camp, which worked with elementary school children from the Hamilton area.
DiPasquale began a teaching career in 1989, and started coaching soccer in his first job at Cardinal Newman Catholic Secondary School in Stoney Creek. Later, at Lakeshore Catholic Secondary School, back in his hometown, he coached teams to eight consecutive regional titles. His teams also found success at the Ontario Federation School Athletic Associations (OFSAA), taking home five bronze and three gold medals at the provincial championships.
His coaching resume also includes stints as an assistant coach at Niagara University from 2001 to 2003, and as a coach with the Hamilton Thunder of the Canadian Professional Soccer League.
With coaching experience at all these different levels, DiPasquale believes the majority of coaches “over-coach” at the youth level and “under-coach” at the higher levels, where more tactical awareness is necessary.
“At the youth levels, I like to allow for players to develop their own identity through confidence and creativity. Make them fall in love with the game so that they want to have a ball at their feet. The rest will come. Ball control and comfort is paramount. No panicking. You want these kids to continue playing the game for a lifetime.”
To that end, his plan for the NOTL soccer camp next week is to cover skill techniques such as ball mastery, passing, receiving techniques and dribbling. Agility and footwork will be incorporated through all of this on a daily basis.
He says the camp will be structured with thematic skill sets always followed by an opportunity to “play”. These will be either free-style or with pre-set limitations or coaching games. The emphasis is to have everyone jump into attack and make a habit of flipping to defending mode whenever there is a turnover, he says.
Pagnotta says DiPasquale not only knows the game, but he knows how to make soccer fun for all ages.
He adds that there is still time to register for the camp next week. If interested, an email to email@example.com will reserve a spot. The cost is $85, payable the first day of camp by cash or cheque.
Says Pagnotta, “you just can’t beat the value, or the quality of this soccer camp. Remember to wear your soccer shoes, club uniform, shin pads, and to bring your ball.”