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VIU Mariners men’s soccer coach Larry Stefanek is striving to take steps forward this year at a time when progress feels impossible.

The third-year head coach of the men’s team has just completed his Canada Soccer A Licence certification—one of 30 coaches to take the 12 to 18 month program, according to Vancouver Island Free Daily News.

The A Licence is Soccer Canada’s highest-level certificate in the Performance Stream, and is a vital step toward the Canada Soccer Pro Licence.

Stefanek has earned this recognition in his third year as head coach, after leading the Mariners to the gold medal game at the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) national tournament in Oshawa, Ontario last year. They came up just shy, falling to the Durham Lords 2-3.

What’s more, Stefanek has had a long career in Canadian soccer as a coach and player. He has coached the Ballenas Secondary boys’ and girls’ soccer teams since 1994, is the Associate Head Coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC Upper Island Academy Centre, and is the Technical Director of the Upper Island Storm in the Vancouver Island Premier League. Stefanek is also a former UVIC Vike and VIU Mariner (then, Malaspina Mariner).

The A Licence course is designed to address multiple aspects of coaching—and not just on the field. Some key ideas the program teaches are “Understanding the Person,” “Mental Health and well-being in coaching,” and “Vision, Mission, Values.” These concepts, now more than ever, may be vital for Stefanek’s team during this COVID season.

Now, he and other coaches who have completed their A Licence are eager to apply what they’ve learned in their teams. However, it’s a little harder to do that without much of a 2020 season, as the CCAA national tournaments for men’s and women’s soccer have been cancelled.

“It is disappointing, but there are more important things than playing. That’s the reality now,” Stefanek said.

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