For those in the Vancouver soccer community, I am sure that you have heard the story this week of UBC’s search for a women’s head coach–arguably one of the premier coaching positions for women’s soccer in western Canada.

For those that haven’t, this article pretty much sums the situation up.

On so many levels the situation is a culmination and a representation of everything that is so troubling right now in the inner workings of the women’s soccer scene in Canada.

At first, there was surprise from the general soccer community (at least from people that I know, not in close circles with the members of the team) when the team’s coach of three years abruptly parted ways with the university. That being said, the opening was one that many people that I know were excited to potentially apply for, and deadlines were carefully checked.

According to the UBC website December 6, the call for applications opened on December 1 and ended on December 7.

It was therefore with much surprise that the head coach was announced with a great deal of fanfare on December 6, making the hiring process seem nothing short of a joke, that is if you find a lack of integrity funny.

From all reports, there was a great deal of outrage from the community at the lack of due process, including a women’s national team legend and alum of the school, who also has a UEFA A Licence not even receiving the dignity of an interview. Subsequently, with egg smeared firmly on their faces, UBC made an announcement in the evening of December 7 that the position had been announced prematurely.

I wrote a letter to the school this morning, joining the many others that I have heard they have already received on the topic that no doubt influenced their abrupt about-face. A positive lesson in this, is that it does seem like there is hope if enough people feel strongly enough to speak up. This situation obviously struck a chord of many different people in the community who took the time to make their opinions heard.

My letter below pretty much sums up my take on the situation, and what this whole situation means to female coaches and the women’s game in general in this country. In a time that we should be moving forward after a great achievement by our women’s team in London, it is frustrating to feel that things seem to be moving backwards.

Thoughts, comments, questions? Find me on twitter @ciaramccormack

My letter to UBC

To Whom it May Concern:

I am writing to express my disappointment at the manner in which UBC went about the initial hiring process for the position of Head Coach-Women’s Soccer. 

Apologies as I am not sure the correct person to contact, but I think this is an issue that is relevant to the reputations of other athletics programs at UBC as well as the university’s reputation at large hence everyone’s inclusion.

I realize the school has attempted to correct the situation in citing an “inadvertent error”. That being said, I think the community in general is quite cognizant that the correction was made not on UBC’s independent introspection but because of the outrage that was expressed from people who were aware of the non-transparent and biased process that was engaged upon for selection. 

I hope the university and the athletics department realizes that the entire situation does not reflect well on the professionalism and integrity that as a community we expect from the leading post-secondary institution in the province. Nor does it reflect well on the professionalism of your entire athletic department, that I am sure that the coaches and other programs at UBC and the CIS try to embody in general as you attempt to keep the best high school athletes within Canada instead of pursuing their university career in the NCAA.

As someone who runs a girls soccer college showcase tournament (Western Canada Soccer Showcase) that offers female soccer players the opportunity to be recruited by both CIS and NCAA schools, I have always believed and advocated that it is important for top Canadian athletes to give the CIS programs careful consideration.

Because of this, there are further characteristics of this situation that are somewhat alarming. 

Perhaps because of the bias towards the original candidate that was selected, I noticed in your first posting that the hiring for the position of UBC women’s soccer coach would be made within the university. If I understand this correctly that would mean that a janitor employed by the school would have a better chance at the job than a top notch candidate that does not work at the university. 

Again in comparison to NCAA schools that do national and international searches in order to find the best candidate for their athletics programs, I am both curious and disappointed that being a current employee of UBC would have any kind of bearing on who is selected for the position of head women’s soccer coach. If it is a salary issue, surely candidates themselves can make the decision if the financial renumeration of the position is an issue for them.

Furthermore in terms of women’s soccer in Canada in general with such a major event such as the Women’s U20 World Cup (2014) and Women’s World Cup (2015) on the horizon in the next few years, I want to address my final point.

I know for a fact that Andrea Neil, the top female alum in the history of the UBC women’s soccer program, and one of the top female players to ever wear a Canadian jersey, applied for the position the last time the job was available, and put in her application this time again. As females in general, trying to have a voice in the sport that we have spent our whole lives passionately pursuing to the national and international levels, we already are facing numerous obstacles in terms of getting positions of influence within the Canadian soccer system as coaches and administrators. 

I can’t tell you how demoralizing it is to the women’s soccer community at large and the message that it sends to all female coaches when someone like Andrea Neil, with her unbelievable credentials on and off the field, is overlooked for the position in favour of men who, on an even, genderless playing field, are not anywhere close to her credentials from a playing and coaching standpoint.

Instead of a school such as UBC being ecstatic to welcome back an alum that has done so much for the women’s game in Canada and internationally, who has been an incredible role model for players of my generation and younger with an integrity and passion that is unmatched, she instead is passed over on her first application for the position in 2009.

She has the humility to reapply in 2012, after between 2009-2012 going away and getting her UEFA A Licence (the highest coaching licence available in the world), and being the assistant coach at the most important event for women’s soccer in the world (the 2011 World Cup). Then the soccer community comes to find out that the newly named coach has already had a team meeting the day of his announcement on the Thursday, before the call for applications was to supposedly end on Friday.

What worries me in this situation, is that while schools within in the CIS should be begging for coaches of her quality and caliber, instead it is logical that if doors are being shut here, that she would go somewhere else. And instead of UBC female players having an incredible university athletic experience with a coach and person of her caliber, she will be snapped up in a heartbeat somewhere such as the NCAA that has integrity in their hiring process and appreciation for the excellence of an applicant of her quality. Not only would UBC female soccer players lose, but the entire Canadian system that is so desperate for quality female representation.

At the very least, I truly hope that the university follows a protocol this time around in the hiring of the women’s soccer coach, that represents integrity and excellence that the reputation of your student athletes, your other athletics teams and the CIS in general deserves.

Ciara McCormack

3 thoughts

  1. As usual a great write and read. Sadly you hit the nail on the head as there is way too much of a old boys and bro’s club in the soccer coaching, technical director and similar industry in Canada. Explains why as a nation we struggle in development and rely on female players who fundraiser and achieve the highest levels in the sport mostly on their own with support from their families.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s