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Profile:  Keith Waters, ABE


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Big Saves: A Soccer Skills Legacy

By Alisa Smith (MA ‘97)

He is the Pied Piper of the soccer set. Any town he passes through, across Canada and the United States, young people heed his call—especially those who take on the unique and isolated position of the goalkeeper.

They come to Shel Brodsgaard (BA ‘98) for his travelling Island Keeper Clinic, which he founded in 1993. Having played goalkeeper professionally in Canada, the U.S. and Denmark, he possesses the top-notch skills and first-hand experience that inspires kids.

“In Denmark, I saw how far behind we were. I could try to compare it with hockey in Canada—but it’s beyond that,” Brodsgaard says. “Here, they’re basically left to themselves. I immediately saw what needed to be done.”

Along with training these young goalkeepers like pros-in-waiting, he wants to educate community coaches in his techniques. He has just produced a training video, “Guarding the Goal,” and plans to develop a coaching manual.

Then there’s the nurturing, community aspect he treasured growing up in the soccer ranks. “In the ‘70s, when my dad was playing soccer, it was like he had another family in the team. That’s what I’m trying to get across,” he says. “It gives kids an identity, something to be proud of.”

At the first Island Keeper Clinic of the year—a blustery Sunday evening at the end of January—20 enthusiastic kids, keepers all, await his every instruction at the first of eight weekly drop-in sessions at Lochside Park in Victoria. A handful of devoted soccer parents, bundled in toques and gloves, look on from the sidelines of the brightly lit field.

Without hesitation, the kids drop to the muddy ground and do sit up drills in pairs, throwing balls to each other on each rise. On the other end of the field, Brodsgaard’s assistant calls out their assigned number: stop the ball. Stop the ball. This is the heart of the keepers’ business. The boys and girls here tonight range from novice 10-year-olds to focussed high school students. “I’ve got one kid lined up for a [soccer] scholarship in Texas,” he says.

This summer, Brodsgaard plans to expand his clinics and day camps with the help of Nicci Wright (BEd ‘97), goalkeeper for the Canadian women’s national team. “It’s a dream come true. She’ll help open up that window.” And it’s a pretty big window: from the Maritimes to the Yukon, Victoria to Philadelphia.

“He’s somebody I really respect in the soccer world,” says Wright. “There’s lots of things you can learn from him, as a player and as a coach.”

Brodsgaard has also developed the Ha’et tla las soccer camp for First Nations kids in Alert Bay, named in memory of his former teammate on the Victoria Vistas of the now defunct Canadian Soccer League, an Alert Bay native who passed away a few years ago.

He sees his soccer training working hand-in-hand with his psychology degree. “It gave me new ways of understanding and relating to people,” he says. “The ball is the vehicle that allows me to reach these kids.”

Info: (250) 744-6041; islandkeeper@hotmail.com; www.islandkeeperclinic.com


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Profile: Shel Brodsgaard

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Success as Easy as ABE

By Marianne Scott

We’re used to hearing about instant dot.com and the technology stock billionaires whose companies live on overdraft. But in Victoria we have a home-grown, profitable e-commerce firm giving bibliophiles around the world a unique chance to indulge their passion for rare, antique and out-of-print books.

“We are a data processing company, not a book emporium.” That’s how Advanced Book Exchange president Keith Waters (BSc ‘81) describes his company, the world’s largest web-based network of independent booksellers. ABE is to the rare, antique and out-of-print book market what Amazon.com is to the new book trade.

Established in 1995, the idea for ABE (http://abe.com) was hatched over dinner when Waters’ wife, Cathy, grumbled to him and friends Rick and Vivian Pura about her struggle to hunt down out-of-print and rare books for clients of her store, Timeless Books. She’d advertise for books in newsletters, then wait months to receive descriptions and prices on postcards. Often, there was no response.

Keith Waters and Rick Pura (who’d worked for B.C. Systems Corporation and a computer consulting firm) formed a partnership and, eight months after the fateful dinner meeting, ABE opened its electronic portals with five local bookstores online. Today, more than 5,800 international booksellers offering 16 million books have joined their service. Booksellers pay a monthly subscription fee to list their inventory online.

To service this mushrooming clientele, ABE employs 50 people, among whom are 10 UVic graduates and four “near-grads.” Additionally, 17 UVic co-op students have spent a term at ABE.

How has the company grown so rapidly? “We filled a market niche at the right time,” explains Waters, “although we didn’t realize it would become this big. Cathy marketed ABE at book fairs. The face-to-face contact with booksellers is really important. Book people are more personal. They want to chat and show their books. Telephones and the Internet aren’t a replacement for meeting people.”

To provide customer support, ABE also offers toll-free numbers. “At first with mounting bills, the cost of 1-800 numbers nearly did us in. But it paid off,” laughs Waters. “Booksellers like staying in touch.” ABE also developed Homebase, software making it easy for dealers to upload their inventory. “We’ve negotiated strategic alliances with online auctioneer eBay for expensive rare books and with Barnes & Noble. If a B&N buyer wants an out-of-print book, we’re the connection.”

Besides booksellers, ABE serves a huge customer base of book buyers. Water says bibliophiles usually know what they want and search the website often. Some people remember a childhood book and want to locate a copy. One customer learned her British great-great-aunt had authored popular books on antiques and, no longer at the mercy of a few local shops, she used ABE to unearth these now rare editions. Buyers searching for particular books can register a “want,” and when a bookseller lists a copy, ABE e-mails the customer about the desired book’s availability.

Waters admits ABE receives “constant acquisition offers.” But they don’t want to sell or go public. “We still have lots of challenges, more mountains to climb,” he maintains. “We won’t sell while it’s still fun.”


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