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'Happy Feet Soccer Clinic' Opens Up Exchange Programme Talks

By RENALDO DORSETT Sports Reporter rdorsett@tribunemedia.net ONE of the Bahamas' leading players on the pitch is using his tools as a coach and mentor, along with his professional influence, to guide the careers of future generations of local soccer stars. Happy Hall hosted the first ever "Happy Feet Soccer Clinic" at Goodman's Bay Park, drawing dozens of youth soccer players to five days of tutelage from elite international and local talents. The clinic was operated by Hall and a group of local coaches, highlighted by Cor van Hoeven, the technical director for the Dutch Lions FC of the USL Pro League. Hall signed with the Lions in March last year and in his single year with the club, impressed league and team executives. He was named to the USL Pro Team of the Week and also received honourable mention for the Pro Team of the Week in two other weeks. "This camp was a very unique chance for the kids to get exposure to individuals and organisations high in the professional football hierarchy. My goal for the camp is to create an ongoing relationship between the kids, these pro teams and myself. In time, this will create the opportunity for some of the kids to go on exchange programmes to play with these pro youth teams," he said. "The potential exposure at this level will hopefully create scholarships to high schools and colleges that will give them the foundational knowledge and skills that will enable them to have a chance at being a professional football player. The purpose of the camp was to teach basic skills of course and for them to have fun, but most of all for [van Hoven] him to realize and understand that there is so much talent in the Bahamas and I find a lot of the talent goes to waste because we don't have opportunities for these kids, so I'm trying to open up as many opportunities as possible." Hall said his connections with the Lions gave him an avenue to use his influence to create a greater exposure for young players in the Bahamas. He credits Gary White, former technical director of the Bahamas Football Association (BFA), for establishing a base that helped guide the path of his career and the careers of his peers that have been at the forefront of many collegiate, national and professional teams. "Cor van Hoeven, the technical director, he has a soccer school over in Holland called Winning Skills. He has actually spread it all around the world and I like the system, the Dutch style, it's total football. It requires skill and technique and passing and movement and really understanding the game. We discussed him coming down here and doing a camp and here it is, it became a reality. I used to coach all of these kids in the offseason when I came home and to have the opportunity to do a proper functioning camp for them...It came up and he had time to come down," he said. The Lions FC are spreading all throughout the US. They started in Dayton, Ohio, then they moved down to Houston, Texas. They have plans to spread over to different cities and a very capable person in Cor van Hoeven to lead the programme. "We had a good week, and he established a handful of kids that could play at the next level at the pro teams, youth teams in Houston or in Dayton even potentially going over to Holland if they develop and become good enough. Their other affiliation is FC Twente who captured the Dutch league championship two years ago. To have a connection with these big teams for these kids is huge. It just takes one chance for them to find a diamond in the rough to find out the potential in the Bahamas and I think he has found out that we have players and now I think it's my job to help these kids get those connections. Hopefully, I can start doing camps with other teams in the future." Van Hoeven said the vision both he and Hall shared for the development of youth soccer led to the creation of the event, an initial step toward an even greater connection between international teams and local youth soccer. "I liked how Happy was very involved in youth soccer in the Bahamas and I am also a big fan also of youth soccer. I try to focus on the younger players between 5-12 years, because then you can focus on the techniques very easy, they can learn everything in that age group so that was the start of our discussions then we got into the future of Bahamas players. "In the future we want to have an exchange programme with these kids so the best players can experience play in a different environment which will also bring their level of play to a higher level," he said. "I told Happy I am really surprised at the level of the kids here, they have very good talents, the only thing is ensuring that their talents are developed properly to advance and stay on the same level. That is a part of the Dutch philosophy and we try to bring that philosophy here. We have some players that we can take to the US and have them play in tournaments so that they can compare their level, and then you can build up a relationship between countries, clubs and players. If you want to bring the level of the play higher it is very important that you bring the level of the coaches higher then it is easier to spread the news to everybody," he said. Each of the clinic's members were outfitted with authentic DDL FC team uniforms and they also received a soccer training DVD from Winning Skills Academy. In addition, partial proceeds will go to Hall's non-profit organisation (YESI) which sponsored several members for the camp. Rory McCarroll, national team hopeful and Queen's College Comet, said the skills he learned at the Happy Feet Clinic should be beneficial for his national team aspirations and his upcoming BAISS season. "He [van Hoeven] has been helping us out quite a bit and taught us some new things and Happy of course showing us the moves he does, controlling the ball, movement, passing, it has been really good. I think I improved a lot with my game under pressure, moving to the right or left and being aggressive," he said. "The national team training, it's a lot more running and fitness, this is more ball control and having different coaches bring different things. National team training, we work more as a team, moving as a team, getting to the ball and back on your spots, and here it's more individual which for me is better handling one-on-one pressure." The Dayton Dutch Lions, based in Dayton, Ohio, is a young franchise which was founded in 2009. The team is in the National Division of the new USL Pro League, which is the third tier of the American Soccer Pyramid. The Lions were promoted from the USL Premier Development League to the Pro League after just a single season. Hall played college soccer at Appalachian State University followed by two seasons with Bradenton Academics in the aforementioned USL Premier Development League. His pro career took him to Canada where he played briefly with the North York Astros in the Canadian Soccer League and to England where he played briefly for Gosport Borough. Hall returned to the Bradenton Academics in 2009 and eventually ended the year with Ma Pau SC in the Trinidad and Tobago Pro League. In his international career, Hall was team captain for the Bahamas' under 20 and under 23 teams. He made his debut for the Bahamas in the 2006 Caribbean Cup and appeared in World Qualification Qualifiers in 2008 and 2010.

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