Derek Taylor tweeted a story that appeared on the CBC website on Wednesday.
The opinion piece is authored by former Canadian captain Jason de Vos who seeks to set the record straight on plans to, amongst other things, retool the development model for young soccer players in this country.
It is in response to a typically uninformed rant in the Winnipeg Rag …sorry Sun by their resident intolerant columnist Tom Brodbeck.
Brodbeck is the type of columnist who appeals to readers who have forgotten that they read the same rubbish the day before (and the day before that) under the guise of a different topic.
Everyone is stupid in the world except Tom who really should pen his stuff using the alter ego Richard Cranium.
But enough of that and back to the issue. Here is some background to the story.
The Canadian Sport system has adopted a model called “Long-Term Athlete Development” or more widely recognized by the acronym “LTAD”.
As the Canadian Soccer Association receives government funding they are expected to adopt and implement a soccer version, hence the slight change from “athlete” to “player”. If the program is not adopted by a sport then funding will more than likely be cut or even terminated.
The decision by the Canadian Soccer Association to name their program “Wellness to World Cup” is guaranteed to bring on an inadvertent gag reflex or two while the more cynical amongst us might point out that the words “Failure to Qualify for the” appear to have been conveniently erased.
But the Canadian Soccer Association cannot simply mandate the program but requires each of the provinces to plan implementation in their own specific areas of the country.
One of the most attention grabbing pieces of the overall model is to encourage more general athletic development in all children and in the case of sport specific plans to emphasize greater skill development in young soccer players. To do so the model suggests more practise and fewer competitive situations in the younger age-groups.
As plans (or in some cases the intention to plan) are rolled out across the country a number of provincial associations are receiving a lot of flak. Doing away with league standings and in some cases scores in games involving younger players are fodder for the headline writers, self-righteous columnists and open line radio hosts trawling for phone calls from the terminally stunned during the ratings period.
To a certain degree the provincial associations have brought problems on themselves. Their public comments on the issue have often been poorly planned, communicated and simply naive to the point that it difficult to believe any communications plan was even considered.
But nonetheless on one level I don’t have a problem with the new initiative but on the other I am a bit conflicted. I keep feeling that we have adults, who took away the ability of children to organize their own play, trying to make up for their mistakes and in doing so may be making new mistakes. Not so much in embracing the theory but more through implementation.
I am also stung by the evangelical tone taken by the promoters of the new model. A prevailing attitude is of a great revelation being offered up – if only we had known this all along, things would be so very different, sort of idea.
The thing is we have known most of the key elements for many years. Nearly three decades ago I distinctly remember discussing the issue of adult run youth leagues with a then teammate who was working in the system as a soccer administrator.
I stand to be corrected on the original source of the information but I believe it came from the late Bob Bearpark who was with the Canadian Soccer Association at the time.
My friend was able to reference academic studies undertaken in Europe that identified what kids want from sport and in particular soccer. Anyone who has ever played the game as a youngster will recognise the key aspects.
Lots of touches of the ball, lots of goals, even sides. It is really is simple stuff. Cast your mind back to a pick-up game when you were a kid.
What happened when one team went up by 4 or 5 goals? One of two things. When new players arrived to join the game the best player or players got placed on the weaker side or you moved players on to the losing team in order to restore the competitive balances.
Youth soccer in Canada has rarely if ever been about players – it has been about the adults. Perhaps the best thing adults can offer kids is to stand back and let them rediscover the joy of organizing their own play. That would be real player development.
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