The CBC asked me to write a short piece on “scoreless soccer” because they had received a lot of reaction to my update a week ago posted on the OSA web site. Let me start by simply saying the premise of that statement is not correct. The OSA is not introducing across-the-board “scoreless soccer”. While we will be de-emphasizing scores at the young ages (U8-U12), kids are inherently competitive and will always strive to score goals and keep score. It’s part of the fun of playing games.
All we are doing is shifting the undue focus away from creating a situation where everyone—Clubs, coaches, parents, League administrators, etc.—focus so much on wins and losses and medals and standings that we don’t help to develop skill in ALL our players.
Why do I say this? Well, the reasons are too many to list here in the space provided, but I will say this: for too long, our soccer system—even at the young ages—has been based on the concept of promotion and relegation, something that is prevalent in the adult, professional soccer world. At the critically important youth level, this means that coaches and Clubs too often focus on signing (often “poaching” from another Club) the biggest, oldest, fastest players. They play a “style” of kick and run soccer that ensures their team can win—and advance to the next “level” via promotion.
Meanwhile hundreds of kids essentially get tossed aside every year. They sit or stand and watch others play. Too few coaches take the time to develop the skills of all the players, or provide appropriate playing time for all, because they are driven by the need to “win” right now. We lose thousands of kids to the sport every year because it’s no longer fun for them. We have the data. It’s a fact. The research is clear: kids leave by the age of 13 (often even before) because they are tired of being yelled at by adults. It’s not all the “fault” of parents and coaches. We are all responsible, but we’ve lost our way.
Our Best Players Know This Is the Way To Go
Just this past weekend, one of the best players Canada has produced in recent years, David Edgar, came out strongly in support of Long-Term Player Development. Others have before him, like Diana Matheson and Dwayne De Rosario. Many internationally respected players and coaches in Canada and around the world have said the same thing: we absolutely need to focus on developing skills, so players won’t be afraid to try things in games that they learned in practice. We need to build a generation of youngsters who are comfortable with the ball at their feet, before we throw them into the “high-pressure” environment they will need to be able to conquer down the road—when they are mature enough to handle it.
We Are Losing Good Players Every Day
However, a soccer culture in Ontario that yells at children from the sidelines to “get rid of the ball” and “get it out, send it” is not about building skills. I’ve been on hundreds of soccer sidelines over the past twenty-five years as a parent and as a volunteer—including as a referee and in my years as an executive with the OSA. I’ve seen this “phenomenon” in person. Sadly, it’s often about racing to the “top” at the age of 10, whatever that means. And it’s meaningless, if we’re all honest.
We want all our players to have fun, compete, learn, improve and get great coaching—and stay in the game for life. We know that won’t happen with every single boy or girl who registers for soccer, but that’s our dream. We are working diligently to enhance our coaching standards and certification programs so coaches know how to train, teach, develop, motivate and build confidence in their players—all their players, not just a select few.
LTPD Is For All
LTPD is for both recreational and elite pathway players. If your child wants fun, activity and fitness, LTPD absolutely provides that. If your son or daughter is passionate about a future in the game, this approach will help give them the tools and support they need to get there.
In the past, we’ve missed so many talented youngsters. We’ve killed the love they have for the game. They were too small, not big enough, not fast enough, or perceived as not “tough” enough at an early age. They were overlooked and cast aside. We missed a lot of hidden gems with that old-style approach.
We’ve also lost countless young referees because of the verbal abuse they suffer every year from overly aggressive parents and coaches—again, all in the name of “winning”.
Competition Is Alive And Well
We’re not “killing competition”, as so many are saying. In fact, we believe that we will build a better system, by providing those who really “want it” the opportunity to compete within a pathway that prepares them not just to be good “in Ontario”—but well beyond.
There will still be tons of competition for young players. But at the early ages, up to U11 and U12 or so, scores won’t matter like they used to. Clubs will have to meet exacting standards to ensure the kids in their programs are getting what they need to develop—and stay in love with the game.
And as our young players mature and develop, they will be much better prepared for truly elite competition (when “winning and losing” actually matters), while being coached by superbly qualified trainers. They will be playing at a truly “elite” level.
We’ve Missed Too Many Good Players In The Past
Where in the past maybe a handful of players made it to the pros, or somewhat larger numbers earned scholarships, we will strive to see those numbers increase significantly. For every five players identified for such honours in the past, we have probably missed fifty who deserved a much longer look.
We know some won’t be happy. We are communicating with parents daily. Some are supportive and see the “big picture”. Even though we have been clear about our plan for close to two years and have distributed many updates, we still have a lot of communicating to do. The message is not always getting through to those who need to see it the most.
We don’t pretend to have all the answers, but on this issue, we have done our homework—and continue to do our homework. Spain, Denmark, South Africa, the United States, Japan, Australia and England are just a few of the countries who have long been down this road—with fantastic results at all levels of interest, participation and play.
We need to do better than we have in the past. And that’s what we are endeavouring to do.
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Office # 905-264-9173
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Keeping together is progress.
Working together is success.”