It was one of those moments that you don’t forget. There I was sitting, enjoying a nice dinner and going on about the deficiencies in Canadian soccer development. I had reason to be smug after a nice article in the Hamilton Spectator proclaiming that I was “The Soccer Whisperer” and an agent for change in Canadian soccer when my wife asked me a question that forced me to think!
“Why don’t you change it?”
Not content with that provoking comment, she then went on to ask can it be changed and do you really want to change it?
I had to think for a moment. What have I been doing for the past 14 years? I thought I had been changing it, or at least helping to. I quickly muttered my own defence that by helping to form SAAC (Soccer Academy Alliance Canada) as one of the 4 founding members, I had contributed in my own little way. After all, it had prompted our governing body (the Ontario Soccer Association) into implementing a standards based league-even if they had taken all of SAAC’s ideas but ensured that the “agents of change” could not participate within the league.
We had helped change the soccer landscape, she agreed, but what about the issues that I was always going on about:
- The lack of individual skill and lack of focus on improving these skills and developing creative players
- The lack of enjoyment that young players are getting from the game (and sports in general) and why over 70% are quitting by age 14
- The obsession with results and being on winning teams
- The need for instant gratification regarding player development versus patience and a holistic and long term view
- The lack of family and life balance and the frantic search for racking up additional training hour’s volume versus quality. Our system runs 52 weeks a year and in Europe they run 40 weeks/year!
- The constant political infighting by the so called “powers that be” over what league structure we should run. I often joke that I’m sure in Brazil that they’re not sat back focusing on how many player to play per side in games after their failure to win World Cup 2014
- The lack of technical direction within Canadian soccer. To be truthful I’ve forgot the name of our current Technical Director and I’m really not sure what he does. Maybe he’s doing a great job and I just don’t know it …but I’ve certainly never came across any new ideas he’s working on or what the “grand plan” is!
- The continuous politics of adults getting involved with a children’s game
Parents, players and coaches are searching for answers and seeking out ways to improve our game – that much I know. I have been working on developing a home training plan that individual players of all ages can follow (regardless of ability) which will be delivered in 30 minute video sessions that can be accessed via IPad’s and Smart Phones. But maybe that’s not enough.
Maybe I need to be meeting with players, coaches and parents and seeking out how I can help. Possibly providing workshops on the issues that they are trying to work out for themselves. Taking the fight more to the establishment and facilitating a movement of players, coaches and parents who will help accelerate the change.
If people are capable of ending communism, getting rid of the Berlin Wall, establishing peace in Northern Ireland and getting the entire world to agree to have cold water poured over them (and pay money for the privilege in the ice bucket challenge) – then maybe I need to do something.
There I was, hitting 50, my wife telling me how important it is to cut back my hours and slow down and she gives me the job of saving Canadian soccer!
She knew full well that her comments challenged me …..and that I will never back down from a challenge. It is true and that’s why at 5.34am in the morning with all the family in bed I’m sat here plotting the next steps….stay tuned!