SOCCER: Players aim for BEST at Surrey academy

NEWTON — For the last decade, Paul Bahia has dedicated most of his time to developing some of the best young soccer players to come out of the Lower Mainland.

The Surrey FC technical director will be starting his second year of Bahia Expert Soccer Training (BEST), an academy that caters to young, elite soccer players.

"There aren’t many programs in this area that cater to elite players," said Bahia. "Mine is moreso catered to tier-one or tier-two players.

"It’s moreso getting players to get ready to go to the next level," he added.

Bahia, who played for UBC Thunderbirds and is a product of the national youth program, is head coach at Douglas College and knows what it takes to get players to the next level.

"I see the little things that separate players," he said. "Everybody gets their general coaching from their coaching staff at their clubs. Rarely do people get tailored coaching points, and that’s what I like to do."

The coach, who holds a Canadian Soccer Association B Licence, scouts players to see where they need to improve. He will then train with them on those aspects to make one of their weaknesses a strength.

The training he gives at his camps is more physical and technical because the kids are trying to become better individually. This allows them to forget about the tactical side of the game.

"We try to combine one kind of physical aspect with one technical aspect," he said. "For instance, the first day will be ball manipulation and agility. Things that work together, like power and finishing," he said.

Simmrin Dhaliwal, a coach with BEST, said there are a lot of similarities between Bahia’s program and the Richmond-based TSS soccer academy she entered years ago.

"(Bahia) has really good knowledge of the game," said Dhaliwal, who has signed on to play NCAA Division 1 soccer with Northwestern University in Chicago.

"He knows what it takes and what a team or individual needs to succeed at the highest level."

Dhaliwal’s brother is currently enrolled in BEST.

Brydon Wade, an Under-12 midfielder with Coastal FC in South Surrey, was part of Bahia’s camp last summer. He saw a big difference in his fitness levels once the camp was over. In fact, he enjoyed using a parachute (for resistance when running) with the academy so much, he got one for his birthday.

"Usually we just play games at other academies," Wade said. "This one we did a lot more dribbling and fitness, and that’s what I like."

He will be attending the spring camp, which runs from March 9 to 13 at Newton Athletic Park. A summer camp will also run during July and August. For more information, visit

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