It’s funny how connections forged long ago and almost a world away can impact several children in 100 Mile House when two old school friends reconnect on Facebook.
Alfie MacKay and Jim Oliver used to play for their school team in a small Scottish village but lost touch, before touching base on social media.
MacKay is a coach within the 100 Mile House Minor Soccer Association (OMHSA), coaching an under-8’s team. Oliver became a professional player, turning out for Dundee United’s reserve side before playing for Scottish sides, Montrose and Inverness Caledonian Thistle (ICT) as well as England’s Wigan Athletic. After his playing days, Oliver stepped away from the pitch and into the front office. He is now ICT’s communications manager.
“I was reading some of Alfie’s posts [on Facebook] about him coaching his son and the other youngsters, and he was asking for some advice and I thought that maybe I could help him and sent him a few words of encouragement,” said Oliver.
MacKay said he was finding it hard to motivate his son and the other children on the team, adding most of them have never played soccer before. He said Oliver asked him how he would like if ICT linked up with them and when the OMHSA coach said ‘really?’ he was answered with a “sure, why not.”
“It’s still early days. It’s informal at the moment,” said MacKay. “I’m not sure where ICT is going with it. It’s a professional soccer club and they have directors, they have a board that has to agree with everything, but Jim, he’s sent me a box of stuff for the kids. I have no idea what’s in it.”
Oliver has also been posting updates on the 100 Mile team to the official ICT Facebook page, offering encouraging words.
“Already, we’re noticing an improvement as far as performance. They’re wanting to be there,” said Gary Stone, a father of one of the players. “My biggest thing I noticed with my son is that he feels like he’s being recognised for his efforts. It’s given him more drive and it’s made him a better child outside of soccer. It’s given him a leadership role and his attitude has totally changed because of it.”
MacKay also added some changes he has seen in his young players since the OMHSA under-8’s have become the ‘Wee Caley Jags’ (the Caley Jags is one of ICT’s nicknames).
He mentioned one kid who never wanted to come to practice or get involved, but MacKay took him aside and gave him the number 10 shirt, telling the boy it was what all the big strikers for all the majors club wear.
“He slowly started getting more involved and now he loves it. He looks forward to coming and that’s because of the encouragement from the other parents, his teammates, and from Jim and ICT that made this kid say ‘I want to be a part of this,” said MacKay.
His own son, he said, hadn’t scored a goal all season before Saturday, June 15. After seeing one of Oliver’s posts on the ICT Facebook page and went out to his game and scored what MacKay described as an individual goal.
“It was a cracker. One I would have been proud of,” said MacKay. “But [the post] gave him the confidence to do it and that is what being linked to ICT is all about at the moment.”
MacKay reiterated that the link is informal at this stage, but said the ball is in Oliver and Inverness’ court. He added that he would like to see it spread to the entirety of the OMHSA.
Mandy DeJonge, another parent, said she thought the link was amazing, echoing Stone, in saying it gives something for the kids to look forward to.
“It’s really cool they have someone. They are encouraging them and it really helps the kids a lot,” she said. “My daughter was looking them up yesterday and she was so excited.”
MacKay had the players look up ICT’s players and gave them a little homework, asking them to tell him the name of the club’s Canadian player, Charlie Trafford. A midfielder born in Calgary, Trafford has played 50 games for the Scottish club so far but is not the only Canadian link to the club.
Richard Hastings, born in Prince George, played for the club for two stints (1994-2001, 2004-2009) and is most known for scoring the winning goal against Mexico in the 2000 Gold Cup quarter-final, which Canada would go on to win. Vancouver’s Davide Xausa also played for ICT from 1999-2001 and also appeared in the 2000 Gold Cup winning Canadian team.
“It’s kind of neat there is someone from Canada that plays there and we are not exactly the most successful soccer nation, so it’s good for them to see that,” said Bill Warden, whose daughter is on the 100 Mile team.