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New Pacific FC goalkeeping coach comes with unique story and several soccer lives

New Pacific FC goalkeeping coach Trevor Stiles (left) is shown with Pacific goalkeeper Emil Gazdov in Langford, B.C. in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Pacific FC-Sheldon Mack New Pacific FC goalkeeping coach Trevor Stiles (left) is shown with Pacific goalkeeper Emil Gazdov in Langford, B.C. in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Pacific FC-Sheldon Mack

At 42, Trevor Stiles has more than a few soccer tales to tell. And Pacific FC's new goalkeeping coach has scars to match.

After his playing career was interrupted by a 2010 concussion, Stiles got a second chance at soccer with the Canadian Para team. Sanctioned to play as a Para athlete because of the brain injury, rated Cerebral Palsy 8, he was named Canadian Para Soccer Player of the Year in 2015.

He finally retired after tearing his anterior and medial cruciate ligaments at the 2015 Parapan American Games in Toronto.

Asked how his health is today, Stiles draws a laugh when he answers: "Yeah. I try not to get hit in the head."

Jamar Dixon, Pacific's manager of football and player development, played with Stiles back in the day with the Victoria Highlanders. He recalls the 'keeper as talented and intense on the pitch but welcoming and willing to help off it.

Stiles is no stranger to making lemonade out of lemons.

After a back injury playing for the Ventura County Fusion in the USL Premier Development League in 2009, he started thinking of life after soccer. A self-proclaimed "complete glove nerd," Stiles co-founded Aviata Sports, which makes goalie gloves and other soccer equipment.

The business, which started in a friend's garage in Venice, Calif., in 2009, is still going strong with Stiles as CEO.

The back injury prompted him to return north of the border for treatment and Stiles signed with Victoria in the hope it would be a soccer stepping-stone. Stiles later had a stint as part-owner of the Highlanders, now in League1 B.C.

He continues to hold a share in Victoria United of the Pacific Coast Soccer League and runs a Victoria goalkeeping academy called Keeper Culture.

"(Goalie) gloves, anyone can make," he said. "But the coaching side is something that I take a lot of pride in. Helping kids follow their dreams and their goals to get the next level."

"Goalkeeping really has been my life and what I've done with it," he added. "Being back in Victoria, I want to expose players and kids to things that I didn't have so much when I was here."

Married with a seven- and four-year-old, it makes for a busy schedule.

Stiles reckons he had already had five or six concussions — "none of them severe, severe" — when he suffered another playing against the Portland Timbers under-23 side in 2010.

He remembers the Highlanders being down 3-1 in the dying minutes when he dove for a 50-50 ball in the penalty box. Instead of the ball, he got a kick in a head in the ensuing collision and — adding insult to injury — was red-carded when he got to his feet.

The sending off proved to be a boon. He was told later by the team doctor that if he had stayed in and taken another blow to the head, he could have died.

But his life was still turned upside-down. His memory was affected and basic tasks like brewing a pot of coffee were beyond him. He had anxiety issues.

It took a year before he was cleared for training. Stiles tried to play but for every two or three good days training, there was a bad one. One day he called his coach and told him he couldn't play. "I'm in a fog," Stiles told him.

The back injury and concussion came at a time when Stiles was all-in on his soccer career.

"I take two massive injuries … and it's over," he said.

He used to replay the concussion incident wondering what might have happened if he did this or that. But today, he chooses to see the positives — a loving family, his goalkeeping business and now a CPL coaching role.

"I have something amazing going now and I've stopped thinking about it. But it took several years to let that go."

Stiles, who spent part of his childhood in Los Angeles, represented British Columbia provincially as a teenager. He had a stellar career at the University of Victoria, honoured as CIS tournament all-star and all-Canadian in 2004.

He spent time with Los Angeles Galaxy’s reserve team in 2006, Miami FC of the USL Championship in 2007, Sydney FC in Australia in 2008 and Ventura County in 2009.

After the last concussion, soccer was put aside until he got a call from Drew Ferguson, a former Canadian international who coaches the Canadian Para team. Stiles was in California at the time and Ferguson invited him to a camp in San Diego.

Para soccer is a scaled-down seven-a-side version of the game. And his new teammates had brain injuries like himself, cerebral palsy or other disabilities.

"Some amazing players," Stiles said.

Stiles, playing both goalkeeper and striker, went on to become Canada’s all-time Para scoring leader with 28 goals in 25 matches — a record that now belongs to Samuel Charron (51 goals in 60 appearances).

He got to represent Canada and another shot at soccer — "a different stage, a different mentality" — while helping others on the team improve their game.

"A wonderful experience," he said.

At Pacific on James Merriman's staff, Stiles will be working with 20-year-old Emil Gazdov, the incumbent 'keeper, and Sean Melvin, a 29-year-old who spent the last two seasons with Atletico Ottawa.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 14, 2024. Top Stories

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