Friends kicking the soccer ball, sharing a laugh and chasing the same dream.
Burnaby’s Kaela Hansen and Emma Regan have spent a lot of time together, and the future path appears to offer more opportunities for the pair down the road.
Long-time teammates and Burnaby Central classmates, Hansen and Regan are mapping out a path that could see them travel the globe, side-by-side wearing the Maple Leaf.
At Canada Soccer’s EXCEL program camp last month at Burnaby’s Fortius Centre, the two joined up with 24 fellow invitees and national team coaches – including senior women’s head coach John Herdman – to prepare for the 2018 CONCACAF under-20 championships.
While the B.C. players have regular, if not daily, workouts as part of the B.C. Soccer/Canada Soccer/Vancouver Whitecaps-based girls elite REX program, the camp was a chance to forge stronger ties with their teammates from afar.
“Any time we’re together like this, in an environment like this, it’s a really special opportunity and we definitely need to take advantage of it,” said Regan, 17. “We don’t see each other a lot during the year, so it’s about developing our skills and growing as a team.”
Alongside fellow B.C. products Ashley Cathro, Julia Grosso and Caitlin Shaw, the locals have a pretty good feel for each other, having spent years together and against one another rising up the club charts.
For Hansen, Grosso and Regan, they’ve been playing stride-by-stride for a long time.
“I’ve been such close friends with (Regan) ever since I was young. Emma, (Vancouver’s) Julia Grosso and I, all three of us have been playing since six years old at Cliff Avenue, we moved to Burnaby Girls, TSS – we’ve always been moving together,” recalled Hansen.
That extended to last month’s Canada Summer Games, where the trio represented B.C. in Winnipeg, and Regan was called upon to carry the provincial flag into the arena for the opening ceremony.
Hansen and Regan have grown up together, working the give-and-go on the soccer pitch for 10 years. While they hold down different positions, the pair are part of the program that will go into the u20 championships next year, eager to keep Canada in the crosshairs of the game’s superpowers.
Coming from the hometown of Christine Sinclair, you’d expect nothing less.
The camp offered an opportunity to add a layer of training together to their busy schedules.
It came on the heels of a three-nations u20 tournament in July in Australia where they faced the U.S. and host country.
For Hansen, it brought back memories of her debut, which occurred four months earlier in China with the u17s, alongside Regan and Grosso.
“All my life it’s just been my dream to play for my country in the sport I love. It was a dream come true…. My first real competition game was, in China I think, for the China tournament (against China). We lost 3-1. I came on for the last 15 minutes, and that was my first cap,” noted Hansen.
“When we first got onto the field, there are people watching there and people back at home supporting and watching you. Before that it was just a dream and then it was actual reality, but it didn’t really hit me until I stepped on that field.”
Regan made her u20 debut at the CONCACAFs in 2016 where Canada captured silver and qualified for the 2016 FIFA Women’s World Cup in New Guinea. Her extensive international resume begins two years earlier at the age of 14 with Canada at the u15 CONCACAF championships.
Just over nine months ago, the girls got passports stamped in Jordan at the u17 Women’s World Cup.
Throw in their regular routine in the REX program, and you understand the dedication they have for their sport and their team.
“I think it’s just about taking it one day at a time, one tournament at a time,” remarked Regan. “Definitely rest and recovery is good, but whenever I get the opportunity to go into a tournament or a camp it’s always really cool and I’m always ready to go.”
The camp’s goal was to intensify the development of the team, while allowing the players and coaches to prepare for the next adventure. For Hansen and Regan, who play centre-back and fullback, respectively, familiarity is like family.
“(Hansen’s) an amazing teammate and an amazing player,” noted Regan. “I’m so lucky that I get to play with her, even on a daily basis. She’s a centre-back now and an amazing player back there, keeping the strong out of the back. I do get the opportunity to play alongside her as a fullback.
“She’s an amazing friend, we’ve been friends for several years now and I’m so glad she’s here with me.”
Hansen says her defensive partner is a terrific teammate.
“Emma has always been a leader, she’s always been the one to take care of us, to push us harder and when we weren’t supposed to do something, or something wasn’t right, she would always keep us in the game, like ‘Hey, we’re suppose to do this,’” said Hansen.
“We both have like our little moments. I’d say I’m more the crazy, outgoing one. She’s very funny too, but she balances me out. She keeps me in check.”
These Burnaby Central teammates will have to part ways in a year’s time, due to college commitments. Hansen has verbally accepted a soccer scholarship to become a Kansas University Jayhawk, while Regan
will join Grosso as University of Texas Longhorns.
“Burnaby is always going to be my home, B.C. I just love where I’m from. The culture, the weather – I just feel at home here. I think that’s why I chose Kansas too because I just felt at home there,” said Hansen.