Olympic bronze medallist and Crofton native Emily Zurrer is coming back to the Cowichan Valley this month to conduct a pair of clinics with young soccer players in conjunction with the Tide Soccer Academy.
Zurrer — who got her start with the Cowichan Valley Soccer Association before rising to the national team, playing at the 2008 Olympics and winning bronze in 2012, as well as the 2011 and 2015 World Cups — is thrilled to lead the camps on Saturday, June 11 at the Sherman Road turf.
“I always wanted to put on a camp in Cowichan, but it was tough because of my schedule and travelling with the national team,” she said. “I’m really excited to do it on the fields I grew up on. I’ve always said it’s important to come back.”
Zurrer is looking forward to sharing her knowledge and experience with a new generation of soccer players.
“Seeing the kids you used to be, and being on the other side of it, I can teach them the things I’ve learned over the years, playing professionally and for Canada,” she said.
Joining Zurrer for the camp will be her longtime national squad teammate Carm Moscato. The players will be conducting two sessions for separate age groups, each consisting of a 90-minute skills and drills portion followed by a 30-minute question-and-answer and autograph session.
“It’s all stuff we’ve done with the national team,” Zurrer explained. “It doesn’t matter what level you’re at, the earlier you start with the technical stuff, the better. Getting as many touches as you can at a young age is important.”
Zurrer made the decision to retire from competitive soccer last fall, although it hasn’t been formally announced because, at her coaches’ insistence, she remains on the long list to represent Canada at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“It took me a long time to decide,” she said. “Obviously, it was tough, especially with Rio coming up. I always planned on re-evaluating after the  World Cup. I’ve been doing this since I was pretty young, and I just felt like I was ready to move on. I feel like everybody has their time.”
Zurrer, who will turn 29 in July, still could have continued playing, and considered taking a shot at another Olympics.
“Part of me wanted to push myself for one more year and go to Rio,” she said. “But one morning, I just kind of woke up and felt like I wasn’t in it 100 per cent anymore. That was the moment that I knew it was time to walk away.
“It’s such a huge commitment as an athlete or an Olympian. I could never do it if I was 60 per cent in and 40 per cent out. And you have to do it for the right reasons as well. I know every girl on that team is 100 per cent dedicated to making the podium in Rio.”
Zurrer earned her degree in advertising while playing soccer at the University of Illinois, and is now working in sales for Unbounce, a rapidly growing digital marketing tech company in Vancouver, and doesn’t regret anything, although she misses seeing her teammates every day.
“It’s an entirely new challenge,” she said. “I’m learning so much. I’m loving it.”
Zurrer coached a U14 girls gold team in West Vancouver this past season, and is looking forward to more coaching opportunities, such as the camp with the Tide Soccer Academy.
“This is a great event for Tide Soccer,” academy founder Tyler Hughes said. “To be able to bring two players of such quality and experience to the Cowichan Valley is a great opportunity for all young players. Many young players from the Valley went over to Vancouver to watch these girls last summer play in the World Cup. To have them train and talk to the kids is going to be such an inspirational opportunity.”
The sessions on June 11 run from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. for players ages eight to 11, and from 2-4 p.m. for ages 12 to 16. Camp fees, which include an Umbro shirt, are $50, with profits going to Kidsport Cowichan.
“Kidsport is an organization I work with pretty closely over here [in Vancouver],” Zurrer said. “It’s cool to be able to give back to the community I grew up in, and it’s important to give every kid an opportunity to play, no matter where they come from.”
For more information, visit unbouncepages.com/canwnt-camp