Wednesday, 20 February 2013

About that Canada Soccer's Wellness to World Cup Long-Term Player Development Thing

"Ontario youth soccer to stop keeping score, standings. It’s part of a well-established, research-supported and holistic approach to player development, common in soccer-rich countries and endorsed by the sport’s brightest minds."

So says this article in the Toronto Star.

Ideally, I do agree with the concept that soccer in Canada needs to do more to focus on skills and player development. Cambridge Youth Soccer (the league my sons play in) has supposedly adopted this approach already.

My eldest son is 8. He's been playing soccer since he was two, outdoor and indoor. Never once has he played competitive soccer where scores were kept or standings were maintained. He has a crap-load of participation medals and trophies. Apparently that will continue until he enters high school. No competition until the age of 13. Adults claiming to know better have said so.

After six years of player development focus, how much has he developed? Not a whole heck of a lot.

Soccer in Canada is not like hockey. We don't have a cultural affinity to it with committed parents and volunteers dedicated to teaching the game. Soccer coaches are whatever parent can be shanghaied into coaching, whether they know anything about soccer or not. Some harried overworked parent shows up, hands out uniforms and gives the kids a ball to kick around. That's pretty much it. I'm not blaming these parents, I wouldn't do much better.

Every once in a while, you do get a coach whose cultural background is soccer. (Or football actually. Sign of how serious you take the sport is what you call it. If you call it soccer, you don't care about the sport.) That coach usually is much better and more dedicated than the average Canadian parent upset that their cottage time is impacted by soccer season. But that's the exception, not the norm.

The Canadian Soccer Association has developed a system that doesn't value winning, and doesn't value skill development either. They say they value skill development, but I haven't seen any evidence of that. So what do we have? A bunch of kids running around a field with a ball doing their own natural skills development. And the parents pay for it. What a return on that investment huh? The kids could get the same value and skills just playing pick-up soccer during recess at school. Except that kids are not allowed to run around and kick a ball at school anymore. That's too dangerous, someone could get hurt.

Soccer in Canada. Organized recess for kids paid for by the parents. Skills and player development? Be nice if it ever happened. The soccer of my youth had the same lack of skills development, but at least it was competitive. And you know what? Even though I was an average bench-warming player, I still had a lot of fun. Kids today aren't even allowed that.

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