There are not many young soccer players as accomplished as Kyle Bekker.
The Oakville, Ont., native has represented his country, played abroad for storied clubs like Ajax of Amsterdam, trained in England with Everton and earned a university scholarship to one of the premier programs in the United States – Boston College.
And he has done all of this before he's turned 21. Now, if all goes well, he might be adding Olympian to his crowded resume.
It's a long way off, but first step in that journey is a training camp in Phoenix where the 20-year-old Bekker will participate with a collection of the country's top under-23 players starting Thursday.
He is one of five newcomers to the U23 training camp named by head coach Tony Fonseca. In all, 20 players will participate in the 10-day camp. Of the 20 players, three have experience with the national senior team. Those players are Nana Attakora, Randy Edwini-Bonsu and Eddy Sidra.
Bekker has played at SIGMA FC since 2006 and academy technical director Bobby Smyrniotis for one, has no doubt he will make the best of his opportunities.
"Kyle is an exemplary young man and soccer player who constantly strives to become better both on and off the field. His addition to the upcoming U23 camp is another accomplishment as he continues to be one of the top college soccer players while starring in the ACC and Boston College," said Smyrniotis. "Our players at SIGMA look up to him and his accomplishments. It is a great thing to have in our academy. He has a bright future ahead of him."
Despite his obvious pedigree, Bekker's place among these elite players at the U23 camp was no given. He had to earn his place and like all good success stories, there was some adversity that he had to overcome.
Bekker was a member of the national under-17 team four years ago, but was dropped from the program. He was left down and out at 16, his passion for the game lost amid the pressure to succeed.
"I really haven't been part of the national program for a while, I was when I was younger, but I got away from it," said Bekker. "This is definitely a big honour (being invited back) and hopefully I can do well and make the team."
Bekker was called to attend the first training camp in November, but it conflicted with his NCAA season at Boston Collge, where he was wrapping up a standout second season for the nationally-ranked program.
Thankfully, the coaching staff was persistent in having him back for the second camp in Phoenix.
Bekker said the fun had been taken out of the game when he was 16, and playing was a struggle. The big change, he said, came when he joined the SIGMA FC Academy and teamed up with coach Smyrniotis.
"I just think the last time (with the national team) I was 16, it wasn't doing much for me," he explained. "Then I came to SIGMA, and it changed everything. At the time I remember I wasn't having fun with soccer any more.
"I went to SIGMA and it changed my whole perspective. It got me got back into the right mentality, and then things started going well. The training sessions were good. They definitely know what they are doing over there at SIGMA. It helped a lot."
After touring Holland with Sigma in 2007, Bekker impressed the coaches at famed Ajax. He was invited to train and ended up staying most of the following year.
Following his stay in Holland, Bekker came back and earned his scholarship to Boston College where he has started every game for the Eagles over two seasons.
He credits these accomplishments to one thing: fun.
"It's one of those things. You can say, well you can't have fun. But without it, it makes things a whole lot more difficult," said Bekker.
Bekker's play-making and scoring abilities have him entrenched in a famliar role at Boston College, as an attacking-minded midfielder. It's the same role he has played most of his career, lately with SIGMA, and before that with the Oakville Soccer Club.
Bekker's sophomore season at BC finished on a sour note. After reaching the quarter-finals of the NCAA tournament in his first season, the Eagles were eliminated in the first round of the 2010 tournament.
"Everyone was upset about being eliminated," he said. "We are looking to turn it around next season."
Having achieved so much already in his soccer career, Bekker is clear in his advice to younger players, especially the ones he helps at Sigma FC's annual international ID camps, where he serves as an alumni coach, or when he comes across them during summer training.
"Keep having fun when you are playing, keep working hard and listen to your coaches, they are the ones that are going to help you make that next step," he offers. "It's up to you, but you have to do what they say and keep working hard."
And if all goes well that advice could land Bekker another stint with the national team.
The Canadian U23 team features players born in 1989 or later. The team is making early preparations for next year's CONCACAF men's Olympic qualifying tournament.