Opportunity Spurned

Local media passes up chance to question LTPD

Funny thing happened yesterday at the Ontario Soccer Centre – a media conference was held and the Toronto area media decided that one of the most talked about things in Ontario’s most popular sport wasn’t worth talking or learning about.

Long Term Player Development and the plan to remove published standings from developmental play for players U12 in the province has been making headlines on radio, tv and in print for months now with the plan often being pilloried as everything from a communist plot to the worst idea since “new” coke.

Yesterday came the chance for all these media headline makers to ask their direct, probing questions of four people from three countries and two continents who are the biggest proponents for implementation of LTPD in their areas.  The opportunity to really get the “dirt” on what this program is really all about and gain the insight to really put these “development first” people in their place once and for all…

I won’t embarrass them by telling you how many of them bothered  to show up and try and gain the information they need to make balanced, fact based commentary and arguments in their next LTPD attack piece.  Sadly, suffice it to say none of them are any better informed this week than they were last.

But opportunity lost for some is opportunity and fortune gained for others… and what I will say is that Alex Chiet, Technical Officer of the Ontario Soccer Association, Nick Levatt, National Development Manager (Youth and Mini Soccer) for England’s FA and Sam Snow, Coaching Director at US Youth Soccer and Bobby Lennox also of the OSA were knowledgeable, forthright, patient and sometimes passionate when answering questions and concerns about LTPD.

Chiet, for one acknowledges that these are still early days and there are and will be plenty of challenges to implementation and there may even need to be flexibility along the way.

Lennox, now tasked with getting the word out to the grassroots level for the OSA sees where even though the information has been readily available it has not flowed as well as leadership would have hoped and relishes his role in changing that.

Levatt told us how implementation within a well established soccer culture has taken a slightly different path in England but also how the English media, in general, has been very supportive.

For Snow’s part his American perspective on the the use and acceptance of a “national” curriculum was interesting as it provided insight on where and at what levels a LTPD curriculum might gain acceptance in Canada.

In general, there men in their various capacities within the game all expressed a strong belief in the core principles of long term player development and what it will mean long term for the game in not just Canada but their own countries.

For my part it reinforced the belief that LTPD is a way forward for the game here in Canada and although there sure to be bumps and challenges along the way the momentum is slowly growing to get it done.

Too bad others with bigger platforms for discussion couldn’t find the time to learn more.


3 comments to “Opportunity Spurned”
  1. It’s a shame such an opportunity was missed. Nick Levatt has faced some tough critics in England and through his rationale, passion and enthusiasm for player development has brought many people around to his thinking. It has been his “crusade” to convince England this is the best way to develop the game in a country that can be steeped (and struggle to let go of) history and tradition with regards football.

    He is an exceptionally busy guy and opportunities like that don’t come round too often. I just hope after all the arguments/discussions that what’s really important, development of young players to improve the overall game nationally and internationally doesn’t suffer because of it or because of an unwillingness to let go of history & tradition.

  2. First time I’ve become aware of this website. On the “About” page, Mr. Ault says “We see players of all ages that are missing a strong grounding in the basics skills of the game. An early introduction and emphasis on the these skills would not only improve these players chances later on but make the game more enjoyable no matter what level they reach later in life.”

    I totally agree with him. But the current version of LTPD is not the solution. Changing the game structure for kids under 13, removing score keeping, standings, champions, trophies and tournaments won’t solve the problem. The problem is a major shortage of qualified coaches and the current LTPD is really not addressing it. Call me “old school” but I took the old OSA Levels 1, 2 and 3 (subsequently called child, youth and senior) where I received instruction from qualified coaching instructors. To refresh, a year ago I took the Soccer for Life course conducted by a “facilitator”. S4L is for coaches of u-13 and older players. It was disappointing, to say the least, pretty much a case of the blind leading the blind as we “discovered” solutions for ourselves working in groups, rather than having the instructor impart his years of knowledge and experience in the more traditional way. It is ludicrous that an interested parent can take S4L and the politically correct M.E.D. and Respect courses and be qualified to coach a teenage Rep team. There’s a good chance that he or she never learned the real basics themselves at the two day course, things like making and taking a pass properly. Coaching is a progression, learning the basics from the ground up. LTPD allows coaches to parachute in at levels they are not competant. In my opinion, the LTPD coaching levels (Active Start, FuNdamentals, Learn to Train, Train to Train, Training to Compete, Training to Win, Active for Life – who came up with these names!) are a step backwards in that a parent coach can jump in at any level they like without progressing from the bottom up.

    The thing that makes me particularly angry is that the grass roots are being ignored. We are told we are being consulted but it seems to go in one ear and out the other. We are told that LTPD, soccer’s almost exact replica of the Canadian government’s Sport4Life LTAD program, is mandated by the government. Yet the government provides little resources for soccer, at least at the grassroots level. The reality is that the grassroots are funding this LTPD bureaucratic nonsense with the registration fees that parents pay for their kids to play the game. The powers that be in Ontario soccer, and Canadian soccer, need to take this simple fact into account. They need to know that it’s “our” association and that they are not a government agency. Failure to do so will result in increasing amounts of clubs and leagues dropping their affiliation with the OSA.

  3. Graham – I think that LTPD being cast as the saviour of all things wrong with Canadian soccer is wrong but I do think it can provide the base on which to build a much better development system for players of all abilities and ages.

    Is it perfect? Far from it. Is it getting people to at least think about what we are doing and how we are doing it? Definitely and I think as long as everyone, the CSA and on down on the association side, the clubs, players and parents keep an open mind and work together on this we will see positive change both in the short and long term.

    As you’ve pointed out the coaching education part of the equation is a huge challenge. Like you I took the “old school” courses and frankly when compared to what I’ve been exposed to in different systems and other parts of the world those too were severely lacking in depth and content.

    What I do like about the new coaching courses is the attempt (and that is all it is) is to refine and define them by age, in my opinion it could and should go even further in that coaching courses and the supporting curriculum should be designed in two year strata and at U12(?) be further defined along “participation plus” and “technical enhancement lines.

    Perhaps and hopefully the new Canadian Youth License will address those concerns on the education side.

    LTPD may not be perfect, and even those in charge would probably admit it isn’t but it does provide a launch pad for the improvement of the game in Canada.

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