BURNABY — Engage Caitlin Shaw in a discussion of her soccer future, and within seconds, what’s most clear is that she has greeted each day of her journey with humility and an unfailing sense of self-belief.
When you elect to tread your path with the kind of diligence that the 17-year-old North Vancouver native has shown over the course of her career with the Whitecaps FC REX program, you inevitably hit the kinds of milestone weeks like the one the Burnaby Central Secondary senior was deservedly savouring when Varsity Letters caught up with her on Wednesday.
Just weeks away from the end of high school life and preparing to begin her collegiate career this summer in Eugene with the Pac 12’s Oregon Ducks, the 5-foot-6 midfielder has already twice represented her country in age-class World Cup competition.
Earlier this week, she suited up with her fellow ‘Caps mates for a friendly against a returning Class of 2018 group, all of whom were eager to regale with stories from their first seasons of collegiate soccer.
And she can’t help but cast an eye to the future with both pride and personal drive as she follows the progress of the Canadian senior national team which next faces the Netherlands on Thursday, looking to win its group at the 2019 World Cup in France.
With personal chapters set to both end and begin for a student-athlete still a month shy of her 18th birthday, it’s hard not to call these final few days of her youth career anything but extremely meaningful.
Yet as she and a host of other Whitecaps FC REX players officially graduate from the program and embark on the next chapter of their soccer lives, Shaw is quick to offer her thoughts to the next generation of B.C. youth players wanting to set their dreams big right from the start.
“I think it’s honestly just about putting in those extra efforts, doing stuff when no one is watching,” begins Shaw. “When you are truly passionate about something, there shouldn’t be anything in your way to stop you. I’ve had struggles and challenges throughout my career, but I’ve just been persistent.”
THE BIG BUSINESS OF THE NCAA
She is still only 17, yet Caitlin Shaw isn’t immune to the facts of just what a big business the world of NCAA Div. 1 scholarships actually are.
The beauty of it for her, however, is that she has played for the love of her sport, and in striving to be her best as a true student-athlete, the benefits of the process as it pertains to big-time college sports schools like Oregon, have just naturally followed.
According to Vancouver Whitecaps’ Director of College Transition Ryan Clark, the 11-player ‘Caps women’s Class of 2019, all of whom are set to begin NCAA Div. 1 careers this coming season, will be awarded a combined total of $2,753,688 in scholarship remuneration over the course of the next four seasons, with all figures quoted in Canadian dollars.
To break that down, it works out to $62,584 per season per player, or $688,422 per year for the entire 11-player class.
“It’s crazy,” Shaw admits when the numbers are bandied about. “I am so grateful for everything the Whitecaps have done to help us get these scholarships. It’s amazing the opportunities we are now receiving as female soccer players and I hope it keeps growing. I hope so many other young girls can accomplish the same things.”
Joining Shaw in this year’s graduating class are (university, hometown): Teni Akindoju (Texas, Halifax), Alyson Hay (Washington State, Surrey), Allison Remington (Washington, Calgary), Abigail Schwartz (Oregon State, Port Moody), Mya Jones (Memphis, Calgary), Emily McCue (Florida Gulf Coast, Victoria) and Ariel Young (Central Florida, Ottawa), as well as former ‘Caps Rex players Emma Hooton (Memphis, Burnaby), Julia Kostecki (Rice, Coquitlam) and Danielle Mosher (New Mexico, Vancouver), who this past season played for other teams after completing their recruitment process through the Whitecaps.
And of course it doesn’t include the uber-talented 18-year-old Jordyn Huitema of Chilliwack who in addition to making the Canadian senior national team’s current World Cup roster, has signed a pro deal with Paris Saint-Germaine.
“It means so much to so many,” begins Clark of the financial burdens which can be eased by scholarships. “Think about the cost of a post-secondary education and questions like ‘How long am I going to carry debt?’ In this case, it’s totally covered, to the point where they will graduate debt-free from a big-name university.
“I sit with the moms and the dads and to see the joy and the relief in their faces is something very special.”
There is also the Caps’ MLS boys academy graduates.
Of its 10 graduating players, eight will play at NCAA Div. 1 schools next season, one at Div. 2 Simon Fraser and one at U Sports’ UBC.
Those Whitecaps’ graduates include (university, hometown): Jefferson Alade (UCLA, Sherwood Park (Alta.), Jalen Watson (Penn State, Mississauga, Ont.), Keenan Foley (Columbia, Ottawa), Keisean Brooks (Oregon State, Calgary), Evan Ince (Massachusetts, North Vancouver), Logan Chung (UBC, Port Coquitlam), Albert Kang (Loyola, Md., Maple Ridge), Owen McBride (Simon Fraser, North Vancouver), Justyn Sandu (St. Bonaventure, Richmond), Ali Zohar (Northern Kentucky, Surrey).
The combined four-year package for those 10 players is $2,107,957 million.
That means that this season, the 21 post-secondary-bound Whitecaps’ boys and girls players have yielded scholarship monies worth a combined $4,861,643 over the next four school years.
Even more astounding is that over the past five seasons, beginning in 2015, the Whitecaps’ scholarship dollar total sits at around $18.8 million.
THE NEXT CHAPTER BECKONS
All of those dollar signs can boggle the mind, yet the heavily-recruited Shaw took advantage of the freedom to check off as many of the right boxes as she could over the course of her search.
For her, it meant basing her choice of school not so much the previous season’s win-loss record, but on team atmosphere, their style of play, the quality of campus life and her own gut feeling.
“I started looking at where to go to university the summer going into my Grade 10 year,” Shaw says. “I visited all over the west coast, but as soon as I went to Oregon, I instantly fell in love with it. The campus is so beautiful, and with the academics, it was an automatic fit.”
There was also the soccer part.
“Things like the standings are constantly changing, and I loved the way they played,” said Shaw of the Ducks who were 9-9-1 overall this past season, including 3-8-0 in the conference. “I saw potential with the team and the coaches saw me playing a key role on the team. That was important to me. You can easily go to a good school and sit on the bench. I wanted to make an impact in the years that I was going to play there.”
Of course bringing experiences to Oregon like representing Canada at each of the last two FIFA Under 17 World Cups, last summer in Uruguay and back in 2016 as a 15-year-old in Jordan, sets her uniquely apart from so many others.
“Those experiences are ones I hold close to my heart,” Shaw says. “I’m so grateful for every opportunity I’ve been given, and to get to play on the world stage just pushes you to keep working harder and harder.”
Graduation is near, and life with the Ducks beckons.
Yet later this week, you can bet Shaw and her friends will be tuned-in to watch Canada’s third group-stage match as they look to go 3-0 against the Netherlands.
“Honestly, I am super-excited with what the senior women are doing right now,” she begins. “It makes me so excited for the future, to work really hard and get to that level. To see girls from the Whitecaps’ program like Jordyn (Huitema) and Julia (Grosso) on that team, girls we’ve all played with, do so well and representing Canada… it just makes you so proud.”
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