Eddy Gonzalez is trying to help the newly created IHC Soccer Academy — Immaculate Heart Central’s new boys soccer team — plant its feet firmly into the north country community.
He and Craig Wilkinson — both co-directors of the program — are hosting a soccer clinic the week after President’s Day for anyone between the ages of 11 and 17.
“We want to incorporate Craig and I into the community and let them know that we’re not just here for IHC Soccer Academy,” Gonzalez said. “We’re here to develop soccer as a whole in the county and the region. And to make it more of one platform, where families can say, ‘these are the IHC coaches but at the same time they’re open to working with other local clubs and tracking some of the top players and getting those top players some exposure to bigger and better opportunities outside of just locally.’”
The clinic is scheduled for the South Jefferson Sportsplex from Feb. 16-19, 9 a.m. to noon, each of those four days. That week, many area schools have off for a mid-winter break.
COVID-19 precautions will be taken.
“From our end, we’re going to keep them in groups,” Gonzalez said. “Initially we’re planning to have a maximum of 36 kids, but we can go obviously more depending on the interest. But those 36 kids will be separated in groups of 12. So, every group will have their own little bubble per say, that they will be training with in the week. How that develops will obviously depend on the interest that we get, the signups that we get. The groups could be smaller or bigger, there can be four groups of 12, we obviously have to be smart about how we utilize the space and make sure that everyone is safe.”
Both Gonzalez and Wilkinson believe it’s important that the clinic doesn’t only serve the IHC community.
“We’re opening it up to everyone, we don’t want it to be known as the IHC soccer camp,” Gonzalez said. “We don’t want families to feel excluded and think it’s only for the IHC kids. So, what we have developed is actually an LLC called Total Development Training, that I’ve owned for the past two years and we run clinics and camps through it.”
Gonzalez will manage the day-to-day operations of the clinic while Wilkinson will do all of the coaching.
The clinic costs $100 for the week, participants can be registered at td-training.com.
Gonzalez hopes that the clinic will be a productive outlet for kids who may not have plans during that week off from school.
Gonzalez is the co-founder of Total Development Training, which is putting on this clinic. He and Wilkinson offer professional coaching for aspiring soccer players.
“We’ve only been here a couple of months and it’s been an odd year with covid, but we’ve noticed sometimes parents double-duty as coaches, it’s not their full-time profession to be a coach,” Gonzalez said. “So, I think having Craig Wilkinson and myself, this is our job, you can consider us professional coaches, it’s our full-time job.”
Prior to joining the newly formed IHC Academy, Gonzalez was an assistant men’s soccer coach at St. Lawrence University. Wilkinson has led collegiate soccer programs at the Division II and Division III level.
The IHC Boys Soccer Academy was formed to help combat the private school’s fading participation numbers in the sport.
“So, we had to really look outside the box to try and get kids in and give our kids that are still there a quality experience,” IHC athletic director Tom O’Brien said in a Times story in August.
A few members of the IHC Academy team will help Gonzalez and Wilkinson at the clinic.
“We will have some of the guys in our academy, they’ll serve as some of our staff for the younger ages,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez hopes to host more training sessions in the future, possibly some that are more age-specific.