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From Alberta to Chelsea: Girls soccer program hoping to make difference on, off pitch

Last Updated Mar 5, 2021 at 7:13 am MDT

Canadian goalkeeper Calais Butts / Image supplied

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — One of the world’s top soccer programs is hoping to inspire the next generation of female stars, and even though it’s across the pond, it’s got a significant Calgary connection.

Tommy Wheeldon Sr. is director of girls football at Mount Kelly — a co-educational independent day and boarding school located in the lush greenery of Tavistock, U.K.

He spent many years in our city, not only coaching the Calgary Storm in United Soccer League during the early 2000s but also later as technical director of the Calgary Blizzard Soccer Club, which gave him an extensive, first-hand look at the women’s soccer talent emerging in Canada and helping over 40 girls gain scholarships across North America.

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“When I was at the Blizzards, and we would send the girls to the U.S., they would come back, and the education wasn’t quite what they were expecting,” Wheeldon explained. “Yes, the football was brilliant — they could do football all day, every day. But nobody was putting any pressure on them to do their education. A lot of them end up coming back to the University of Calgary to do their degrees.

“The European game is going really well, and you can actually make a living at it. What we want to do is combine the education, and we want that as the main spot.”

And that’s where a lightbulb went off for Wheeldon, leading to the development of Mount Kelly’s program, targetting 16 to 18-year-olds, in association with the Chelsea FC Foundation.

“Your education needs to be spot on, and that’s what we’ve got now,” he said of this opportunity for the youngsters to learn in the classroom and to follow their soccer dreams at the same time. “What a good way to do it. You’re playing football while you’re doing your education.

“Applications are coming into the school from around the world. But there are girls in Calgary, at Foothills and at Blizzards. I’d like to see three or four Canadians coming over.”

One Canadian making the jump is goalkeeper Calais Butts of Edmonton.

For a Mount Kelly student in the soccer program, professional coaches like Wheeldon will offer 16 hours of high-level quality training per week, along with games mid-week and weekends, representing the Chelsea FC Foundation.

Students also work with a chartered physiotherapist and a registered sport and exercise psychologist.

For more information, you can visit the Mount Kelly website.