Make It Mean Something…

To understand why coaching matters, watch this:

The biggest challenge to the implementation of the Canadian Soccer Association’s Long Term Player Development plans and the Ontario Soccer Association’s hopes of launching the new Ontario Premier Development League comes down to one word. Coaching.

As the video, a couple of years old now but still incredibly relevant to our situation points out, one of the reasons Spain is enjoying the success it is now is because of coaches and what they are coaching. It’s a long process which takes time, consistent effort and a will to change.

Simply put for the CSA and OSA there are just not enough quality, qualified coaches in the system, entering the system or in fact even desiring to be part of the system that much like the player development side of things in Canada has focused far too long on quantity instead of quality.

Coaching education – a very broad term in the Canadian context – has suffered for years from a number of ailments including but not limited to: a lack of accountability, crony-ism, expense, poor funding, lack of direction / leadership and perhaps most of all a lack of credibility.

As clubs pressed people into service to meet quickly rising numbers of players a “pay and pray” system developed.  You paid your money, you got certified and the club, district and province prayed that you didn’t really mess up.

A system build on a “show up and get certified” methodology has been practised for multiple coaching generations doing nothing to encourage coaches to continue their education or self improvement beyond what was needed immediately to serve their own or their clubs immediate needs.

The lack of accountability, assessment or feedback was (is) endemic to a “process” that allowed(s) people to complete 50% (or more) of their coaching certification without ever being actually audited on their knowledge and skill, never mind being assisted or guided much along the way. Combine this with the CSA inexplicably withdrawing from the NCCP Theory component of coaching education which strengthened and broadened a coaches teaching knowledge and we are left with a system that produces little of value when it come to long term planning and implementation of programming for coaches.

This approach to education has resulted in coaches, frustrated, often without a proper knowledge base and left to their own devices, leaving at a rate that almost matches the rate at which players leave the game in this country and leaving us in the place we find ourselves now.

Drastically short of accomplished candidates with a sudden, huge demand for qualified, knowledgeable and experienced coaches that just don’t exist in the numbers needed to fill the immediate needs let alone accomplish the long term goals of either of these two massive projects.

As much as the overhaul of the player development process is long overdue and needed the reality is that without a complete restructuring of the way coaches are trained both projects are doomed to wither on the vine from lack of proper care and feeding from people with not just a vested interest in success but a deep lying commitment and passion about that success.

The needed first step to helping rebuild a widespread commitment and passion for coaching soccer in this country? Make certification mean something.

Assess coaches – right from the get go.  If your going to take the course let’s at least make sure you’re grasping the concepts – start with simple on line tests with initial courses then build up to on field assessments as soon as it is practically possible.  Make certification something you earned, something you can take a little pride in not something you got because when attendance was taken you were in the room.

Then make it last – demand refresher courses at some point – no more coaching on a provincial “C” license ten or fifteen years after it was disbanded. Good coaches expect ongoing, continuous learning – great coaches demand it.

Two small changes that in reality would not require much more than will to implement but would drastically change the coaching culture in this country. It’s not going to solve our immediate pressing need but if we’re going to build a better system for players through our coaches we need to start doing even the small things right and grow from there.

Next: Divide and Conquer: Implementing LTPD at the younger ages.

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