The coach of a rising college soccer program was recently in Swift Current to evaluate talent and promote his men’s and women’s programs.
Kevin Wagner, head coach of both the men’s and women’s soccer and futsal programs at Lakeland College in Lloydminster, was in Swift Current last month hoping to fill some roster spots.
“I am here to provide opportunity for male and female athletes looking for post-secondary potential for some scholarship opportunities on both fronts as I am head coach of both programs,” he said after running sessions for potential male and female athletes.
“I think that there is another step that they need to see. If we were to take a number of the players out of their comfort zone here and put them into a different environment it would be very interesting to see how they could excel with a different group of players surrounding them,” he said after observing both groups of players.
Wagner has been in charge of the mens and womens soccer and futsal teams since their inception four years ago. They have had one player from Swift Current during that time, Tanner Graf, and this was his second trip to Swift Current to look for male and female players.
“I think there is opportunity and potential on both fronts,” said Wagner. “In the female program there is tonnes of opportunity because we are rebuilding. At our college we are looking at two and three-year cycles and I have only got three players returning. So we are providing opportunity for players to come in and get the opportunity to play, not just be a red shirt or sit on the bench.”
The men’s team wasn’t facing the same roster turnover as the women’s team.
“On the male side, we are looking for specific positions, centre back, centre midfield and maybe a striker.”
The Rustlers compete in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference and have made an impressive debut just four years into their existence.
“We are pretty proud of our program… We were the quickest program in college history to go from zero to, in three seasons, one game away from Nationals, we won ACAC bronze in the mens program. In futsal we have been in the finals four years in a row.
The female program has really developed in the futsal league over the winter months.
“On the female side we have really developed quite a program of improving. So every season we have improved in soccer and in the last two seasons of futsal we have won gold and silver,” said Wagner.
“We are happy with where we are at and we want to just keep building off it,” he added.
Wagner noted that people from Swift Current and Saskatchewan are not generally familiar with the ACAC where they play against the likes of Medicine Hat College, Grant MacEwan College, and Lethbridge College among others. Men’s and women’s soccer both featured 12 teams last season that were divided into north and south divisions.
“CIS would be looked upon as NCAA Division 1. CCAA (Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association) is what we are in, is like your Division II but there is no Division II standard across Saskatchewan or Manitoba. So it is kind of foreign as far as the opportunity that people don’t know exists.”
Wagner said that the quality of play in the ACAC is very good.
“The standard is high, I would suggest half of the teams in ACAC would beat half the teams in CIS, of course your top teams in the ACAC would compete with the bottom teams in the CIS.”