I recently was back home to Vancouver, BC to run the Western Canada Soccer Showcase, an event I started 5 years ago, when no professional event existed in Western Canada to help elite high school female players reach their goal of playing soccer in college.
While the 2012 event itself was a massive success on Easter Weekend, the ugliness that is soccer politics in Canada, specifically in BC, again reared its ugly head. I couldn’t help but think, that there seems to be different rules in the soccer world as there are in our society.
Transparency breeds accountability. This is my attempt to bring the issues as I see them to light, in order to give the players the environment that they deserve.
Questions/comments? Find me on twitter @ciaramccormack
The concept of bullying is one that has received a great deal of attention by both the media and school system in the last few years. In fact one cannot open a magazine, turn on a TV, or turn the page of a newspaper, without a heart-wrenching story jumping off of the page, or the details of a new policy in a school or workplace being unveiled. Quite simply, in this day and age, society has made a clear statement that bullying is not tolerated.
Just for the sake of it, I recently typed into google “definition of bullying” and this is what came up:
Bullying: verb: To use superior strength or influence to intimidate someone, typically to force him or her to do what one wants.
Upon reading the definition, I couldn’t help but think it embodies the current state of our soccer system, based on my own experience and the stories that I continue to hear from players, parents of players, in addition to individuals and groups that are trying to run programs outside of the system.
Quite simply, bullies prey on those who are vulnerable.
I would argue that the average soccer parent trying to navigate the system is made feel that they are in a weaker position, their child the pawn that could face negative consequences if they do not play for “this team”, or in “this league”, or for this “club academy”.
Administrators and technical directors alike, who are “in the system” often, make close to, or over six figures for “non-profit” organizations, with their jobs depending on players being a part of the programs that they run. Therefore the motivation to embody bullying and “force someone to do what one wants” by forcing the player to stay on their pathway is high, the concept of joining something “unsanctioned” connoting the veiled threat of punishment to those who dare to go outside of this forced system.
Over the last few months, I have heard countless stories that fall under the above definition of bullying. These include parents having it insinuated or flat out told that unless their child attends the academy attached to their club (where it just so happens the club coach makes some of their living from), that their child’s opportunities to make select teams will be hampered.
Other stories of players threatened with a loss of opportunities should they choose to train with an academy outside of their club, or for older players, one that provides an alternative to HPL teams. BC Soccer, an organization funded by players from all corners of BC, does not allow players on the Provincial Team, a team supposedly representing the best our province has to offer, unless they pay thousands of dollars to be a part of the HPL League. The examples, using the above definition of bullying go on.
We live in a society that legally forbids monopolies. Monopolies or anti competitive practices are avoided because while they often enrich those who practice them, they are generally believed to have a negative effect on the economy and society as a whole. In other words, with one group in total power, the consumer, or soccer player is at a disadvantage with this forced lack of choice. The government regulates against anti-competitive practices, because we as a society agree that competition makes us better. Yet somehow our soccer system is able to avoid our country’s basic economic principles.
When parents are repeatedly told that there is one pathway, that in essence there is a monopoly in place whereby they don’t have a choice, it is a fertile ground to be bullied.
The motivation to bully is high. The power, money and control of those who do choose to bully within our soccer system is at stake, having little to do with the “player first” motto that is continually quoted as supposedly being definitive of soccer in this province. In case anyone is wondering when people are focused on money, power and control, it has little to do what is truly best for the player.
As parents, the first and most important question, everyone should ask themselves is, what exactly do I want my child/player to get out of their participation in this sport? I suggest the answer should be, good personal values, exercise, the opportunity for positive mentoring, and an appreciation and passion for the world’s most popular game. Opportunities to play in university, professionally or for the national team are bred from this foundation for the minuscule number of players that go on to these levels.
In looking for an environment to place your child in, the second anyone tells you that their pathway is the “only way, ” or that your child will somehow suffer from not joining their club, league, etc, this is your red flag to seek services elsewhere, and immediately recognize it as a form of bullying. Someone who truly cares about your child and his/her development will truthfully tell you that there are many different ways to the “top.” They will present what makes their environment fantastic, without making you feel that your child will suffer, should they not make the choice to be a part of it.
Ultimately bullies derive their power from making people feel like they don’t have control. Parents, you have far more power and control than you often realize.
Most importantly, don’t get caught up in the rat race, because it is here where the soccer bullies thrive. Know that there is more than one way to the “top” and have the courage, if necessary to search outside the box to find it. Find groups that thrive and welcome competition. Most importantly don’t lose sight of what is truly important. Finding environments that are based on the right values that will provide good life lessons and role models that will propel your child long past their soccer playing years.
If you make choices for your soccer-playing children, without fear and with these values firmly in place, you will always rise above the bullies.