With some players who enjoy telling their stories, FC Buffalo is bringing back “From the Team Room” for 2017. Our first installment came from Akean Shackleford. This time, we’ll turn to second-year man Bayley Winkel. Follow him on Twitter here.
I grew up in town just a short drive away from Toronto called Whitby. My father played soccer for a while in the Canadian university system and what was once the CSL, a league in Ontario that for the most part was all Canadian soccer culture had to offer, so I fell in love with the game when I was very young. From the moment I could walk I was kicking and dribbling a ball.
I believe I realized pretty young that I had the ability to play soccer at a high level. Since that time my life has revolved around the sport. I started out in my hometown but moved from team to team as I got older, always trying to find the best coach, team, and players that I could. At 14 I was old enough play at a provincial level. The next three years were some of the best years I experienced in soccer. For the majority of the calendar year I got to play for the Province of Ontario: I travelled to many different countries, played some of the top professional academies, won a national title, and was exposed to Canadian U-17 National camps and tryouts. During the summer months I balanced playing in the Ontario youth soccer league and traveling separately to Europe to train with professional clubs. I spent time in both Belgium and the Netherlands training and playing with Club Brugge of the Belgian Pro League and FC Utrecht of the Eredivisie.
At 16 years old I made the transition from the Ontario Youth Soccer League setup to the professional academy setting at Toronto FC. Everyday I would leave my high school early to make the trip from my suburban town to North Toronto, the home of Toronto FC’s brand new training facility. There I would workout, train, then eat dinner with the team before traveling back home. Even though I would get up at around 7 a.m. for school and most days would not be home until after 9 p.m, at night I enjoyed every bit of it. TFC gave me more exposure to top-level soccer. We traveled to Europe as well, playing top academies like Ajax, Bayern Munich, and Tottenham.
Experiencing the professional treatment that TFC brought made me look more closely at similar setups within Division I of the NCAA. I started to consider American university soccer a lot more and by my senior year in high school I signed my National Letter of Intent with a defending conference champion team, Drexel University in Philadelphia.
The first two years of my NCAA career were spent at Drexel University with a young team that struggled to find success in a tough conference. I made the difficult decision halfway through my sophomore year to transfer to Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh; a team that had a lot of players I had played with previously and looked promising to win a conference championship. I am heading into my second season with Robert Morris Next fall, and after falling short this season, we are ready to get at it and challenge for the Northeast Conference Title.
The past two summers, when I am away from the NCAA, I have spent here in Buffalo. I began my time with FCB two winters ago when I was recruited by the previous coaching staff. My time last summer in Buffalo was very nice. We had a strong team and it was great to experience playing with top players from all over the world. We fell short last summer, just missing out on the NPSL playoffs. Going on and having to watch a team we beat 3-0 win a National Championship was especially frustrating.
It wasn’t hard for me to decide to come back for another season here in Buffalo. I enjoy the atmosphere of the club and how well we as players are treated. The training is great and fans are some of the best in the NPSL. Wherever we go, Blitzer fans are right there behind us and supporting us and it’s a great feeling.
Off the field, FC Buffalo provides us players with some great opportunities to give back. Many of our guys run camps and training sessions with local youths players and students looking to learn about the game. So far this summer me and a couple of the guys have had the privilege of introducing soccer to some elementary school kids in the Buffalo area. A few times each week we would meet up with children in grades 1-4 from King Center Charter School to run some after-school soccer sessions. We learn a lot from these kids. After playing the game for so long soccer we as players start to treat the game as business. Everything is serious and result-driven. To get the time to just run around, laugh and play games with kids that just want to have fun is very humbling and reminds me why I started playing the game in the first place.
It’s great to be back here at FC Buffalo. Being that it is only a short trip from my home and the closest National Premier League team to me I get a feeling of a Hometown club when I am here. I get more attached to this club everyday. I feel the players we have this season share this same attachment and are ready to find some redemption from last season. I am looking forward to more, games, goals, wins and of course your Blitzer chants. ForOurCity