Youth Spotlight: Dunbrack’s Yorgos Gavas offered two trials of a lifetime!
Yorgos Gavas has just returned from a dream soccer experience. Recently, he attended trials with the Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps MLS Academy residency programs. We sat and chatted with Yorgos about his football journey.
1. How did you get started in soccer?
When I was about 3 or 4 years old, I would go to my father’s Over 40 rec games and attend some of the Halifax West High School Boys games that my father coaches. Before and after the games/practices I would play around with the ball and kick it around like a senseless 4-year-old would do. My parents saw me playing and enjoying myself with the ball, so they decided to try and put me into soccer. I remember my first soccer practice at Sheffield Park and the feeling afterwards of how much fun I had during that hour. From then on, I fell in love with the game.
2. Do you play other sports and if so, do you feel playing other sports has helped in improving your skills as a soccer player?
Yes, I have also been playing hockey for a long time and I find that my winter seasons for both soccer and hockey are hectic. I say hectic in the sense that I would always have soccer right after hockey or vise-versa. I find that hockey helped me learn how to balance myself properly on one foot or both which has a big impact on soccer. Also, hockey really makes me fitter and helps me perform better in a soccer game. My level of physical stamina is always very good as a result of the two sports. The only big difference there is between the sports is the use of the stick in hockey and in soccer you use your feet. Otherwise, everything else is mostly the same.
3. Who is your soccer role model? Who inspires you and why?
I always looked up to Messi. I know a lot of people would say Messi or Ronaldo as their number 1 choice but for me I always thought I would play like Messi. Messi is incredibly skilled, his vision and awareness is out of this world, his speed is just amazing to watch, and lastly the really big reason why I think he inspires me so much is because he is short just like me and it tells me that no matter your size, it's about how much work you put in to get where you want to be and I think that is the main reason why I support him so much.
4. Could you share with us how these awesome opportunities came your way?
In 2018 my Dunbrack U13 team travelled to Montreal and we played exhibition games versus the Montreal Academy team and pre-academy team. At that point in time the technical director for the Impact inquired, kept in contact and eventually invited me for a trial. The Whitecap trial was an invitation through my participation in the High-Performance Program at Soccer Nova Scotia. My selection was based on my development and performance since I started with the program.
5. How did you prepare yourself for these tryout opportunities?
To be honest, it's very hard to prepare for these kinds of tryouts because you start to think about the stress and pressure you have, and you start to doubt if you can compete at that next level. And one thing that stressed me the most was everyone telling me I’d do great, but what if I didn't? Those things passed through my mind weeks before the tryout. But the way you kind of deal with those nerves is to just not think about them. The more you think about it the more stressed you will get so getting my mind off of the trial was very helpful for me. Once you get there, you start to see all the other guys that are eager to make the team just like you, which is the hardest part. All those players there have been identified as the best players that the scouts have looked at and you have to be amongst the best out of all of them. The way I dealt with this was to just focus on myself and what I was going to do during my tryout and how I would differentiate myself from others and make myself better than the rest, and those main factors are play simple, play smart, relax and most of all have fun!
6. You must have been very excited about this opportunity. What was your main focus going into these sessions?
Like I had said in the last question, I just focused on what I can do to be better than the rest and to know that I outworked them. If I would make a mistake during the training, I would tell myself to do something to get the ball back or make up for my mistake by doing something else. But one thing is to enjoy playing soccer, like remembering why I'm here today, I'm doing what I love, and it was an unbelievable experience and a dream come true that I'm living through right now.
7. How would you describe the level of play you experienced at these sessions?
The level of play is so different between the provinces. The speed of play in those pro-like environments is so fast and it makes you think faster which is hard if you're not used to it. You have to know what you're going to do with the ball before it comes to you because if you don't you immediately have pressure on you. When I would train at home here in Halifax, I would force myself to think faster and smarter than everyone else which helped me and prepared me for moments like these where the pressure is there in under a second. Also, I found that the players here are a lot more physical and ruthless in the way that they will do anything to get the ball off you; tug your shirt, pull your arm, slide tackle and any other way they could. You can't teach those kinds of things, it just comes with personality in my opinion.
8. What has impressed you the most in having experienced these Academy, pro-like environments? How do you feel you performed at these sessions?
Honestly, the thing that impressed me the most in this sort of environment was how physical and how much these boys desired to win. I already knew it would be this way but to actually be there in real life and live those opportunities is just unreal. There's a huge difference between the level of physicality between all provinces and I'm not really sure how it makes sense because we're all the same age, we all eat the same food but it's just so different, it seems like these guys want to live their dream as a pro soccer player.
I found that when I went to the Montreal Impact trial it was more difficult because it was a transition from the Nova Scotia speed of play to the Quebec speed of play. I found that on the first day at the Montreal Impact trial I was a bit rusty with my first couple of passes. But around 10 minutes in, I got right into the play and figured out how I needed to play and think. The Montreal trial I thought gave me a preview of what it’s like to be in a professional environment and it sort of got me ready to play in the Vancouver tryout. Once I got to Vancouver, I thought I was way better prepared, and I feel I did a lot better in Vancouver than I did in Montreal. The speed of play was way faster in Vancouver. I was ready for it and I thought I fit in with all of the other guys. I’m not saying I didn’t do well in Montreal, I just don’t think I was expecting that kind of speed and physicality. Thinking back on how I played, I think I have a better shot at making Vancouver.
9. What has it been like for you being an “outsider” identified from Nova Scotia?
When I got dropped off for my first tryout, I felt so nervous to walk up and stand in line to wait for my sign-in. My heart was beating 100mph. And I saw all these kids talking to each other because they all knew each other, and they were all talking really fast French and I just had no one to talk to while I was standing in the line. I look ahead of me and the kid standing right in front of me has a bag that has the West Ottawa logo on it. So I was hoping he spoke English so I had someone to talk to. Luckily, he spoke English as well and we started talking about the tryout and as we kept talking all my nerves just kind of went away slowly. It felt like I was getting more and more confident as I spoke to him. So I think it's very important that you find someone that you can let out all your stress on and to make you not feel left out from the others because you're from another city.
10. What do you feel to be your take away from this opportunity having a double trial with these two organizations, the Whitecaps and the Impact?
I think one key thing to take away from these types of trips/experiences is to bring that mentality back to Nova-Scotia. I am hoping to push my teammates and other players in Nova Scotia both boys and girls and encourage them that if you work hard and believe, anything can happen. I am also hoping that this opportunity will prepare me to play at the university level in the States or Canada. Someday, maybe, it would be great to have the opportunity to play for the Wanderers in front of family and friends in Halifax.
Halifax Dunbrack Soccer Club would like to thank Yorgos for sharing his recent experiences with us. We wish Yorgos all the best with the feedback and results from these trial experiences!