Pro Stars F.C., as the top tier of play within its organization, will represent the larger entity of Pro Stars Soccer Academy in League1 Ontario.
Pro Stars F.C will be used as a final tool of player development for Pro Stars youth products, who previously would have finished their development at the U18 level and moved on for further player development elsewhere.
The academy operates its own facility, featuring indoor and outdoor pitches, and offers a complete program of development with an experienced and highly accredited staff.
The club aspires to complete their player pathway with the League1 Ontario entry, offering a level of final development for their top graduates – one which prioritizes competition and the management of the game environment to achieve results. In turn, the club hopes to use the League1 platform to develop player and match video for further marketing of their athletes to NCAA, NAIA and CIS levels, as well as professional tiers in Europe and North America.
"I think League1 is great for Ontario, and great for soccer in Canada in general," said head coach Luke Holder. "It's the first steps to hopefully getting our own pro league, and great for the players that want to get into scholarships, and higher levels. Even in the first few days at PFC, the quality of players was evident. Clearly Sigma and TFCA had big years last year, and produced some top players, and having that quality in the league makes it very appealing for myself and the players. Vaughan is also a very good team, and the addition of the new teams, such as ourselves, is only going to raise the quality even more."
Pro-Stars F.C. spent the winter season going through a micro- and macro-cycle training regimen typical to youth academy development, with an increased focus on preparing their young players for a transition from the youth academy levels of Soccer Academy Alliance Canada (SAAC) to the rigours of semi-professional senior play in League1 Ontario.
A big part of this developmental transition involved the employment of a new head coach,Luke Holder, who was previously an assistant coach at the USL PDL level with Kitchener Waterloo (2014), and has significant experience developing players from elite youth to university and entry-level professional levels.
"Last year, I was the assistant coach at Kitchener Waterloo men's PDL team, which was excellent. The amount that I learned there about the professional side of the game was outstanding, and the PDL is such a strong league – it was great to coach there, and was a real breeding ground for players."
"I've been in Canada for six years now, and before that I was playing in England. I played my youth football in England, and then for Basingstoke Town F.C. (2001-03) and Bracknell Town F.C. (2003-05). When I came to Canada, I was going to keep playing, but then I got into coaching at Bolton Wanderers and was there for a few years. I coached the u14 boys and got them to the OYSL, and really caught the coaching bug. I went and got as many licenses as I could, and now have got my CSA B License, and last year I got my USSF B License. Since 2012, I have also been coaching at Winstars Soccer Academy, where I learned a lot and have been involved with a lot of players going on scholarship to the States and in Canada."
"In the few sessions that I've done since arriving at Pro Stars, we have established the type of players and direction that we want to go, but with a couple weeks yet before the season we are going to need to be efficient, while also not rushing the development of the side. We've got some very good players coming out, and have a good sense of the system we're going to play, which we've been progressively building with a lot of small sided games in training."
"In terms of style, we will play a possession-based game, but possession with a purpose of course. We will look to attack teams, and will not be shy about that. We'll be well-organized defensively, and in certain areas of the field we'll certainly go at the other team. We'll play a very attacking game, but know when to keep possession when we need to see things out. Tempo in possession will be a big element for us as well, so ultimately – possession with a purpose."
"Having coached in the PDL, I'm definitely looking to maintain that standard at PFC. That is the standard of the player that we will be working with here, and we will make it as professional in structure as possible within the semi-pro environment."
In their first season in League1 Ontario, Pro Stars F.C. will be reliant on a core of their academy products coming from younger levels in the SAAC competition.
The nature of their academy system is such that Pro Stars will look to graduate a large number of their youth players to League1 throughout the season, and mix these prospects with a set of senior, experienced players.
In conclusion, one can expect a very young group to be fielded at Pro Stars, in many cases featuring names unknown at the men's level. However, head coach Luke Holder is clear about the team's ambitions to mix a winning record with a development imperative.
"The Pro Stars youth system will certainly benefit from League1, and we have some really quality 17-year-old players there. There are a few that we have already integrated into the first team training program, and I think they can definitely do a job in League1. We are certainly looking to produce players from our youth ranks throughout the season.
"The mentality of development at this age is of course to be competitive, to match technical, tactical execution with attaining results – this is the biggest challenge for the players at this stage of development. We will indeed look to perform well in every match, but if we are playing well but still losing 1-nil each time then that will not be acceptable either from a development perspective."
"In order to deal with the obvious challenge that the length of the season presents, we will have a very big squad, and look to rotate players. We're not going to have a squad where at the end of the summer a lot of the players leave. There will be one or two leaving, but we're not going to go crazy with signing many players that are going to leave half-way through the season for post-secondary. Just looking at it last year, I guess there were a few teams that signed players from university, and when they left the standard of the team dropped, and so did their standing in the league. We are trying to deal mainly with players that will be around all season, and we'll build from there."
"It will be a younger team, with a set of experienced players in the squad as well, and that mixture reflects what we want to do. We want to build the team efficiently, and not rush into it. We want to give the young players in Pro Stars that we think can compete at this level the chance to prove themselves. It will be around a 17-19 average age in the squad, and so we'd like them to have the chance, look to develop them, and hopefully send them on to bigger and better things in the future."
"I should note that some of the younger players can already claim good experience. A group of them have already played in League1 during the 2014 season, so they will have that experience to draw upon."
"I think we are playing at a level that in terms of development and the ages we are working with – competition is the development. The players know what to do technically, and a lot more tactical elements are now involved, but they need the stage of development where competition and the necessity of results is prioritized."
"My personal goal for the team is to do well in the league, and obviously I want to see the players do well also, but I want this team to do well in the league and that is the goal of the players we are signing as well. I expect that is a shared goal in the league, regardless if a team is coming from the academy development route or something else. Teams at this level want to be successful, but being our first year we want to be successful in the league and combine that with the development of good young players for future competition."
"In addition, Pro Stars want as many of their players to go on and sign pro contracts, so there is a big focus on preparing for those opportunities. League1 is obviously only going to help that goal, and the broad access to match video that League1 offers is a big part of that. Nothing is better than video these days, all clubs want to scout out players via their video, and Pro Stars ability to access video of their young players being showcased at a good level will be excellent. It gives us a great tool to market players."