Stemming from my last blog, I had another really interesting exchange with a few people about one of the points that I made; why I don’t understand the large push the CSA and Provincial Bodies have put on not including Academies in the Canadian player development system.
One comment I received on twitter was:
Giving academies club status is all about money though and cuts out kids on cost.
Let me preface my views by saying that my involvement in the system in BC/Canada is firstly as a player. Secondly I run a couple of small summer camps in North Vancouver (approx 100 kids) and a College Showcase at Easter time. I have worked with both clubs and academies, so I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of the workings of both.
These are my thoughts on the Academy v Club Discussion in Canada
1. Academies/Clubs: What’s the Difference?
Going back to the point Paul C made, and a point that I often here brought up in the discussions about why academies are often shunned in the general make-up of the Canadian system; the view that they are a cash grab and will serve to make quality training out of reach for the average kid.
My initial reaction to that point is, haven’t most clubs turned into academies anyways? Where I live there are two clubs in the immediate area. Both clubs have academies with fees that are comparable to local academies.
I have spoken with a couple of mom’s that I know who have daughters that are good players; both have said to be that nowadays, most kids that want to play at the top level, get extra training from an early age. So in addition to their club fee, most players are paying anyways to get extra training, outside of the once a week club training.
So the question then becomes, if parents are paying money to an academy within their club, or taking their money to an academy outside the club, what’s the difference? Both are additional costs, and both seem to be the norm/necessary for kids who have set their sights on playing at the top level of soccer.
2. “I Don’t Go Into a Bakery and Tell the Baker How to Bake a Cake”
I had a friend from another country that was involved with a club here in Vancouver. He has the ability to come up with killer one-liners out of nowhere, and the above baker quote was one of his more classic ones. He was describing his frustration in his involvement with a local club, dealing with parents and board members, with no experience in soccer at the highest level, telling him how to do his job.
People have asked me why I don’t get more involved with local clubs. Furthermore, those that are people I would describe as having a high level soccer IQ have told me to avoid it at all costs. This is because as my friend Mr. One-liner, who we will call John, said in clubs there are too many bakers, bankers, lawyers and accountants making decisions in youth soccer clubs that have ramifications on our soccer playing population. Its frustrating for people with that knowledge in how to make things better, to be living in a system that is not set up for their voice to be heard.
I have experience on a personal level with this. In January I was asked to be on the board that was submitting a proposal to get a HPL Franchise. For those of you not from BC, it is a new league for the top players in BC. Of 15 people in the room, made up of club presidents etc making decisions that will influence the future of BC’s elite players for the next generation, I counted perhaps 4 that had played soccer at the university level. Another time I was asked to be a director for Tryouts for a local club (which I completely disagree with the principle of, but that’s for another blog). I lasted in the job for about 2 days, as my inbox took about a month’s worth of messages from board members with little soccer experience, arguing with each other over the best way to do the job. I sat receiving these cc-ed messages, and pretty quickly decided my time and expertise could probably be better used elsewhere.
My point? Right now in Canada there are too many people that don’t know the game making very influential decisions on its direction. This starts at the club level where the Boards are often made up of parents who have never played or coached the game at a high level
From what I have seen with academies, they are, for the most part, made up of people with higher soccer IQ’s than the average club. Furthermore academies are run as businesses; they are able to get things done and make decisions that benefit the players, using soccer-minds to make those decisions minus the bureaucracy of the boards that drive clubs.
Because of those reasons, I don’t understand the desire for the CSA and Provincial Bodies to shut them out of mainstream player development, or at least allow them to form proper clubs to be able to have the advantages and voice of lying within the system.
I think its safe to say that if we had soccer coaches doing an engineer’s job and building bridges that there’d be a car or five in the ocean. Those ocean-bound cars are a good metaphor for our youth soccer system is, as I don’t think anyone would want to drive over a bridge built by a soccer coach.
3. Where is All the Money Going?
One of the calls after the Canada/France loss was for a women’s professional league to start up. Inevitably in the next breath came the voice of many asking where the money would come from and lamenting the lack of money in Canada for the women’s game.
I just finished my Masters Thesis comparing women’s soccer in Norway and Canada and opportunity to combine education and soccer. I have spent hours pouring over statistics, ones that outline that there are approximately 400,000 girls playing soccer in Canada.
As someone that was playing soccer an ocean away from my friends and family, I couldn’t help looking at those statistics wondering where all the money goes, and why couldn’t Canada be doing more with that money?
What do clubs do with all the money from player registrations? There is a club in my area that at one point was sitting on half a million dollars, while female players came home from full scholarships on university and had nowhere to play competitively. This completely contradicts countries that I have played in such as Denmark and Norway, whereby clubs use grassroot player fees to support professional or semi-professional leagues for females year round.
Why do we have a system that doesn’t allow for someone to come in easily and change that, and/or force us into a system that puts no money into giving females a legitimate opportunity to continue playing at a competitive level once they are done university? Again this goes back to point number 2; we have proverbial bakers running soccer clubs and deciding how to distribute the money that is accumulated. At least that’s my best guess as to why things are the way they are.
Generally I see academies with an elite level focus, therefore it seems plausible that they would have an interest in developing a semi-professional or professional game in Canada, over many clubs that from what I can see generally are more amateur/recreationally focused.
4. Lack of Competition = Lack of Accountability
This again is my biggest problem with having this strict disdain for outside groups, whether you call them academies or otherwise, being able to join the mainstream structure. And this again is where I feel Canada will always lag behind until this moratorium on competition is lifted.
If I have the facilities, coaches etc to start a new club, why do Provincial Bodies make it so difficult? Why are existing clubs so keen to protect their turf and not let these academy groups or others into the system? I get that sense so often in the Canadian system; bureaucracy that serves no other purpose than to stem competition.
Competition makes us better.
Quite simply for anyone that has a desire to reach his/her potential, one must crave competition, because competition breeds accountability. Competition is what forces us to dig deep, to be more creative, and to ultimately not take anything for granted. Competition tied in with accountability, makes us not cut corners, it pushes us out of our comfort zone and makes us continually raise the bar.
Having currently a mandate in the Canadian system that negates this kind of competition will only hurt our growth in the end and definitely hurt us on an international stage.