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Isn't soccer just one big happy family in this country..some Family Day reflections in my commentary

Match day  in Toronto crowd shot
Match day in Toronto crowd shot
File photo by Steve Handy

Highly affordable soccer is Canada’s great teacher of teamwork, physical exercise and sportsmanship. Without question, participating in soccer continues to lead the popularity polls among young families.

As a spectator sport and therefore a media reported sport, Canadian soccer rates lowly in the pecking order. I often hear lots of soccer folks complaining about that, but its only logical because there hasn’t been enough getting accomplished at the high end of the sport to generate much in the way of attention. Look, just as sport is a competition, space in the sports pages and on your big screen is a competition for time and space. So, the biggest story generators will always win.

So what’s happening is, somewhere between the pointy little top and the vast, broad bottom, something in this big happy family isn’t working out. Not running smoothly enough. Like the old saying goes, where there is unsmooth there is friction.

Soccer isn’t some new, emerging sport any longer. It is entrenched. It is huge. Every club, district association, region, provincial association and national association in the country has been touting that fact for years. High time to move beyond that big pat on the back So why aren’t we graduating the doctors. The scientists. The elite. That’s the kind of stuff I want to know.

Going so far as to say the family is dysfunctional is something I would want to avoid, however there are pockets of discontent popping up all over and in some, the friction is making an audible noise. Like down in the southernmost tip of Ontario.

In Essex County, the decision of Tecumseh Soccer Club to divorce from the Ontario Soccer Association and register only their competitive team players has become a totally messy affair. An embarrassment really. The ongoing series of sanctions, fines in the range of $35,000, suspensions of club executive and some players, exclusion of teams from higher levels of regional play imposed by the District Association, and formal appeals proceedings has been prominent in the Windsor media for some time. Tecumseh broke into two separate entity clubs – one recreational and the other strictly competitive – as a means to shield some of the flack.

The nasty fight down there is not the only place in Ontario where not paying registration fees for recreational players is under consideration. Some clubs much bigger than Tecumseh are on the verge and the hit on district association and Ontario Soccer Association wallets will be huge. My bet is the situation is repeating itself in every provincial association across the land.
The fever that broke out in Windsor and Essex County is symptomatic of a wider spread ailment inflicting the entire soccer family Canada-wide. Due to a lack of information collection and exchange it is difficult knowing about individual cases and pockets of feuding.

A little self reflection time. A truthful inward look. Is someone, maybe everyone forgetting about the best interest of the players?

So I spent Family Day in Canada thinking about how over organization can result in disorganization. It could answer why that top pointy end of the sport is not getting the kind of results it should be producing.

Successful families have a common bond. In soccer, it should be about doing everything it takes to do what is best for the players.

There are two types of players and there should be two types of organizations looking out for their wellbeing and development.

The boom we have seen in recreational soccer has been the direct result of hard working, community oriented volunteers. Volunteers who don’t really give a damn about anything more than providing kids with a vehicle for fitness, health and participation. Growing the numbers is their yardstick of success.

Of course, out of all that grew the other camp climbing upon the fame of the numbers to promote strong competitive teams to carry their club’s banner. And, oh yes, they also used the funds generated by the numbers to subsidize the elevated cost of competitive programs.

Every level of league and governance above them did exactly the same thing. Right on up to the CSA.

And they were all so overburdened, so busy, they neglected to give serious attention to the responsibility of developing what every last kid who moved beyond house league needs, Excellence in coaching and good referees.

Kinda like say, no one is going to pay to coach or referee. It’s the players who pay and we’re too busy signing them up to all our different forms.

How is it in B.C. or Alberta or any of the other provincial associations? I would like to know, but in all the Ontario Soccer Association staff there is not a single development coach of the highest possible training certification. Is there a larger staff tracking receipt of registration fees, cup entry fees, fines and etcetera than they have coaching our hand picked best young players? Province wide, are they even finding the best young players? The worn out excuse of falling between the cracks is the sign of a sloppy eater.

What Tecumseh has done is the way to do it everywhere.

Let rec soccer go to have a kick in the grass on their own. The only thing needed is a completely autonomous agency promoting the sport to assure future growth.

With 500,000 kids off in their own direction, the Ontario Soccer Association can give genuine attention to the 20 maybe 30,000 competitive players who remain under their jurisdiction. Now that’s a manageable number. Get rid of all those layers of districts and stuff. No one will need them. Develop coaches. Real coaches and lots of them. There will even be time to capacitate the referees. Get the real job done. Work for our players.

Face it mom and dad. The whole family is not going to make it to graduate school. Just give them the best you’ve got.

What's the situation where you live. Post a comment and let readers know.


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