By: Patrick Connolly
When Alesha Weicker-Pasternak was a kid she was one of the superstars on the pitch.
“I was a goal scorer,” Alesha said. “Late in the game, give me the ball. I’m confident, I can score.”
Her shoot-first mentality made her a standout at an early age. In grade ten, she stopped playing other sports and focussed on the beautiful game full time at St. Francis Xavier Soccer Academy in the west end of Edmonton. It also developed her leadership skills. She could lead by example on the pitch – securing a game winning goal – but she also saw herself as a leader in the locker room. That must have been evident for her coaches.
As her youth playing career was winding down, a former coach asked if she’d like to assist her in coaching herself. “It was just a way to go hang out and play soccer and just be a part of the game,” she said. “I never thought it would grow to be where I am today.”
Although already a leader, Alesha had to adapt her playing style to make her successful as a coach. She had to focus on the whole game now, equally. It changed the way she thought about the game. “It’s funny. When I got more into coaching, it’s almost like I started seeing the game differently,” Alesha said. She became a possession minded coach. She learned how to structure defense. But maybe most importantly, she learned what it takes to win a championship.
“You can’t win championships off of superstars alone,” Alesha said. “You win them off player nineteen. Player seventeen.” And she should know. She joined the MacEwan Griffin’s women’s team and promptly won a national title using that model. Alesha believes it’s a total team effort that wins championships, and that sort of thinking starts right when players are first introduced to the game.
When Alesha became involved in Footie Camp, she used a similar coaching style to the kind that made her so successful, but tweaked it. “I look at it as an opportunity to give children the opportunity to fall in love with the game.” It’s the first step to become successful in this sport. You have to be passionate. And Alesha believes that fostering passion is what Footie Camp is all about.
“A big portion of the success that’s measured is based off of their enjoyment,” Alesha said of the camps. “I’m not here to drill into them. I’m saying, ‘Here’s an activity: go have fun with it.’ By having fun with it they’ll be able to take away a skill from that session that they can bring back to their other experiences.”
Alesha coaches at Footie Camp because she’s a soccer coach, but she knows that’s not the most important part of the process. “As much as it’s a soccer camp, the biggest thing we can give them is the opportunity to have fun.”