If a typical Saturday night in Canadian households involved hockey for many families, safe to say the Huffels clan was different. “My family are pretty much pure soccer fans,” said Cambrian Shield sensation, Derek Huffels.
“Every Saturday and Sunday, that’s all that is on TV in our house. The English Premier games, we watch them all together.” The youngest of two boys in the family (older brother Brent also shares a talent on the pitch), Derek is in his second year of the Civil Engineering program at Cambrian College.
He is also one of the key players behind a resurgence of the program in the past two years as the Shield have advanced to the OCAA playoffs in back to back seasons. Although his father did not play much soccer, a second generation background in the sport through both Dutch and German family roots create a love of the sport for the Huffels clan.
“I started playing with Panhellenic in competitive soccer,” said Derek. “We learned all of our basic skills, concentrating on ball control skills from an early age.” Although he split his time almost evenly between hockey and soccer in his elementary school years, Huffels knew that soccer would emerge once a choice had to be made.
Still, he did acknowledge at least one similarity that exists the moment he steps on to a soccer field or ice surface. “The competitiveness has always stuck with me, in both soccer and hockey,” said Huffels.
“No matter what sport I’ve been in, losing is not really an option.” Known at a local level for his speed and scoring touch (he readily admits to not being as quick as Corey Boyce - yet), Huffels has adjusted to a positional change this year, moving from his familiar central midfielder role, to a spot on the outside.
“It’s a big change this year. My entire life, I’ve played central mid – now this year, I’m playing outside left, and I’m a right footer,” said Huffels. And then there is the difference in the role that he undertakes making the shift to the wing.
“Playing on the inside, you’re more of a playmaker - the ball comes to you and you distribute,” noted Huffels. “Now I’m the guy who has to be thinking two steps ahead, knowing where to make my run.”
While the recent success of the Cambrian men’s soccer program coincides with the arrival of Huffels and others, the Lockerby Composite graduate is quick to acknowledge the invaluable contribution of second year coach Giuseppe Politi.
“The whole soccer culture changed when Giuseppe arrived, from what I had heard in the past,” he said. While anyone who has attended a Politi-run practice will attest to the high standards he demands, Huffels believes that most players have no problem buying in.
“First off, he shows a lot of dedication, which rubs off on the guys. And his practices are very well organized – before we event start one drill, all of the drills are laid out in front of us. We know exactly what we will be doing,” he said.
Huffels is anxiously awaiting his third year with the team next fall, and perhaps a little more soccer at the university level once his college degree is completed.