Brent Branker sports a proud smile after coaching the Richmond FC under-16 girls’ soccer team to the Provincial A Cup title July 9 in Newton.
“This has been their goal since under-13,” he said following Richmond’s 2-1 victory over the Upper Island Riptide. “They got their just reward this weekend, and I’m so proud of them.”
That sense of pride is similarly apparent in Shawn Sandhu, who along with Indy Dulay and Greg Dunham, coached the Richmond under-18 boys to a Provincial A Cup championship the same day at South Surrey Athletic Park.
“It was quite a fairytale ride,” Sandhu said of the boys’ undefeated season, capped by a 4-2 win over Burnaby Metro Selects. The team also won the Metro Select League and Coastal Cup.
Down 1-0 at halftime, the players’ dogged determination allowed Richmond to force extra time with a late tally in regulation. That ability to come from behind to win was seen many times during the season.
Sandhu said the players consistently demonstrated a commitment to each other and trust in the coaches, while playing as a unit.
“They played with a lot of class and sportsmanship and all that comes back to the training habits,” he said. “They represented Richmond Soccer and themselves very well.”
On a personal note, Sandhu said being a coach at the metro level requires a lot of commitment. For the last six seasons, like the players, he’s been present at training sessions an average of three times a week. But, he continued, the support of the players, parents and Richmond Soccer has made it all worthwhile.
“When you’re surrounded by good kids and enjoy what you’re doing, the results are really just a bonus,” he said.
The team, managed by Bob Minato, consisted of: Sajad Bakhtani, Zachary Balen, Zach Cantwell, Jovan Dhillon, Reese Hafner, Logan Hooper, William Jackson, Talvinder Jagde, Marko Jovic, Daniel Judkowicz, Matthew Loveland, Sean Minato, Nicholas Perrott, Jordan Sandhu, Peiyu song, Khalil Virji, Ben Weber and Marciej Wysocki.
Perhaps in part because they prefer to play an up-tempo, possession-style game, the girls who make up Richmond FC have also adopted a love of the game to complement their strong skill set. It’s a formula Branker believes has created a culture of success.
“The heart and desire is strong on this team,” he said. “I’m hoping after they finish playing in Richmond Girls’ Soccer Association (RGSA) they all continue with the game (as adults).”
RGSA administrator Kim Seaborn, who has two daughters on the team, started coaching the nucleus of the squad when they were five year olds. She said the girls, the majority of whom play multiple sports, have always had a strong bond.
“They really look out for each other and a great friends,” she said.
Added Branker: “They are just a great bunch of girls. They’re not a bunch of superstars. They’ve learned to work well together. I always ask my teams to set their goals, and if they are realistic goals I try to help them achieve those.”
This edition of Richmond FC was the epitome of working well under pressure. Branker said that was a focal point almost every training session throughout the season.
“We did a lot of drills working in small spaces under high pressure,” he explained. “But this was also a group of girls that collectively had the desire to achieve something special. And they worked hard for it, wanting to do the extra work required. They never wanted to fail each other.”
•Richmond under-17 Force earned third place in the Provincial B Cup girls’ championships, while the under-13 Galaxy netted fourth place in its age group.