In four seasons with the University of British Columbia – Okanagan (UBCO) Heat, Harrison Shrimpton has had to make a couple of major leaps.
The first, of course, was adjusting to play at the post-secondary level when he was a starter in his first year. The 21-year-old Whistler product said, in particular, his sense of the game has improved leaps and bounds, as the coaching staff has drilled in key points like always being first on the ball, maintaining focus, communicating with teammates and making the simplest pass.
"My first year, I was just a guy from Whistler playing soccer," the human kinetics student said. "I came in, luckily, I was able to start, even in my first year and season after season, getting game experience and being asked to train at a high level, I've really been able to develop my skills.
"They're areas I've liked improving in, because it makes the game easier and more fun, in a way."
The second adjustment the defender and his Heat had to make occurred this season.
The Heat made the jump to Canada West Universities Athletic Association's Pacific Division, which boasts teams from the University of British Columbia (UBC) and University of Victoria, from the PacWest circuit, which contains decidedly smaller programs.
After a fourth-place finish in its division, the Heat wrapped its season in the opening round of the playoffs, falling 3-0 to the host UBC Thunderbirds in Vancouver on Oct. 24.
After winning PacWest bronze in Shrimpton's inaugural campaign, the Heat missed the playoffs in each of the two following seasons before the jump. However, even with a younger team, Kelowna-based UBCO came together to post a 5-5-2 mark in conference play this season to qualify for postseason play.
Shrimpton said the level of play was higher in Canada West, with smarter, stronger, and faster opponents, but he said the Heat were ready for what was coming.
"Our coaching staff had high expectations for us and knew we would do well," he said. "We reached our expectations and reached our goal of getting to playoffs."
Heat head coach Dante Zanatta, who also has been with the team for four years, has been impressed with the strides Shrimpton has made.
"This year, he was probably one of our best players," he said. "He played just about every minute this year for us. He's been able to step up to CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport, of which Canada West is a part), and he's fit in well."
Zanatta described Shrimpton as taking a quiet leadership role on the team, but the example he sets is quite an intense one.
"Harry, as they say, would run through the wall for you," he said. "He has a desire to compete and is willing to give everything for the team."
Shrimpton also is a trailblazer, coming from Whistler to earn a scholarship and showing youth they can make something of themselves in the sport if they so desire. He comes back in the spring and summer helping with the Whistler Youth Soccer Club, of which his father Peter was once president. Shrimpton works with players of all ages, but primarily those in the U6 and U8 divisions.
"I love hearing that," Shrimpton said of his trailblazer after a humble laugh. "I want to show that it can be hard, you do have to travel a lot, you do have to put a lot of time and effort in.
"Even though you might fail and you might get down, there will be success."
Shrimpton will return for his fifth and final season of eligibility next year with a roster that will lose only four players to graduation.