Cpl Lewis trains with CISM soccer squad in England


The Canadian Armed Forces’ women’s soccer team travelled to Aldershot, United Kingdom for a training camp and two exhibition games. The team is preparing for CISM competition. Cpl Lewis is at far left in a white jersey.
Photo: Submitted

Jeff Gaye

Cpl Shelby Lewis, an AVS technician with 409 Squadron, spent a week in England earlier this month training with the Canadian Armed Forces women’s soccer team.

The week-long camp was the Canadian team’s first international training for International Military Sports Council (CISM) competition. Cpl Lewis said it was an excellent opportunity for the team to learn and progress together.

“It was good because it allowed us to compete against teams that are more realistic to what we’ll experience in international tournaments,” Cpl Lewis said. “We‘ve have had a few training camps in Borden and in Victoria over the last two years. But they’re just more experienced over there [in England], so you get to see better close-up of what you’re going to be competing against.”

In addition to the practice and drills, the team played exhibition matches against Maidenhead United and Portsmouth Ladies, two clubs that approximate the CISM tournament calibre.

At the camp, coaches introduced the team to zonal positioning, a common technique among the world’s elite teams but still relatively new to Canadian soccer. Rather than playing in rigid lines of forwards, midfielders and defenders, it requires players to position themselves relative to smaller triangles on the field, all relative to the location of the ball. For players, it means a different approach and a lot more mobility.

“This was the first time since I’ve been part of the program that I felt like I learned something completely new,” Cpl Lewis said. “I’ve never played zonal before so that was like a completely new thing for me to wrap my head around. Which was exciting.”

“It was a lot of work,” she said, “but it was good. From where we started at the beginning of the week to where we ended you could see why it’s more beneficial to play that way.”

Living in Cold Lake presents some challenges for CISM-level military athletes. While larger centres have elite-level clubs for most sports, there are fewer opportunities here for elite athletes to get the competition and the playing time they would like.

Cpl Lewis keeps up by following a scheduled fitness regime from the national team, and doing ball drills in a squash court. She also plays with the local women’s and men’s soccer teams.

She says the effort is worth it. Military sports programs obviously benefit the athletes, but they also pay dividends for the Canadian Armed Forces.

“I find that sports teaches you time management, it teaches you independence, it teaches you teamwork and leadership. It teaches you all these things that the military tries to instill in you in basic training or the very basic levels of military,” she said.

“Your mental health, your physical health, everything’s improving which ties into your work. You have more energy if you’re fit or you’re eating a clean diet. Or you’re meeting new people so then maybe your mental health is better. You’ve made friends and you’re doing things. Things like that I feel directly affect your everyday life whether that be at home or at work.”

And although she has been playing soccer since she was in high school in Aylesford, Nova Scotia, Cpl Lewis says military sports offer an opportunity for entry-level players to get involved.

“It’s definitely never too late. Honestly the CAF, as an adult, is probably one of the best ways to get involved in sports because everyone is so welcoming and there’s such an extended range of skills that each team has the beginner levels, the intermediate media levels and the higher levels.

“It’s probably the best way to get involved.”