The Coming Divide

First let me premise this by stating two things I believe.

1. The new Ontario Premier Development League is a needed step forward for the development of top level players in Ontario and Canada – it is long past due and will ultimately ensure the ongoing development of high level players for years to come.

2. Long Term Player Development if implemented properly and with thought could and will benefit ALL players of ALL ages and ALL abilities – recreational, developmental and competitive players and coaches ALL have something to gain from LTPD.

Unfortunately revolutions, and that’s exactly what OPDL and LTPD are for the sport in Ontario and Canada, are rarely bloodless and this revolution will be no different.

Soccer in Ontario is about to be divided not perhaps as much by the “haves” and “have nots” as many have long feared but but the “wills” and the “will nots”.

Already I’ve heard rumblings of clubs preparing to pull out of the Ontario Soccer Association and know of at least one Special General Meeting being held this weekend to discuss and vote on exactly that.  Not really a surprise as the Ontario Soccer Association’s “one size fits all” governance model and lack of real service to it’s members in the past may finally have pushed organizations over the edge when it comes to the pros/cons of membership.

The reality has become if as a club you are not interested or capable of pulling together the resources to play in the ODPL and you lack the resources to fully implement the philosophy and ideals of LTPD what reasons are you left with to really be a part of the provincial association?

Well there’s competitive… er no not at U12 and younger anymore… well there’s the subsidized coaching educ…. um coaching courses are more expensive than ever… the insurance, yes that’s it.. the insurance.

Ah yes… The all mighty threat/benefit of group insurance that has been held over the head of clubs like a bureaucratic sword of Damocles since the first soccer lawsuit was launched back in the mists of time. Well the reality is there are plenty of affordable options for anyone willing to look and have been for some time.

The reality is that if your small to mid-sized club which runs a recreational program with little or no need for official blessing from the province and now more than ever you’re paying fees out that never, ever find their way back to your club and 98% of your players will never go near a provincial or even regional development program and your parents/coaches simply want a summer activity for their child with a tournament day at the end – probably, yes with trophies… there probably are few reasons for you to stay.

So what do you do?

You look at things… you measure it both ways… you size up your savings if you kept everything “in-house” and realize you will lose some but not all (or even close to all) of your customers under 12 and you decide to give your front line customers what they want.

What they want is a twelve week program with one or two nights a week commitment with little and probably no travel involved oh and they’d like a one day tournament at the end of the season where everyone gets a trophy but there is a final for everyone to get excited about. You realize can deliver all that and full uniforms this season because your using municipal fields and you’ve got your own, probably cheaper, insurance.  You hire an outside agency, or perhaps even someone from within your own club to deliver short, fun but informative coaching clinics for your coaches and you’re done. Everything else fields, scheduling and canteen volunteers stays the same.

Is this possible? Of course it is because it’s happening already all over the province  usually through community based (as opposed to club based) recreational programs. The way I see it the growth of these “fully for fun” recreation only programs will only continue to increase as small clubs and mid-sized clubs do the math and eventually decide to return to where they once came from – their own communities.

Is this a disastrous thing – I don’t think so – perhaps some tax loss and belt tightening for district and provinces but on the field the better players or the ones who want new challenges will seek them out with developmental and recreational clubs. Eventually they may even be part of the 2% make to the ODPL or even further and there is nothing wrong with that.

The rest, players, coaches and parents will do what they always done show up, chase a ball, make a friend or three, eat an orange slice at half time and then go chase the ball some more and go home smiling and there is nothing wrong with that either.