There was a lot of passion on display at this past weekend’s Soccer ’12 Conference hosted by The OSA in Mississauga. Attendance was higher than it has been in many years, an indication that Districts and Clubs across the province are eager to move our great sport forward, together.

A central highlight of the weekend included a series of presentations on Long-Term Player Development, and precisely what this initiative will mean for Districts, Clubs, and of course, players, coaches and our referees in every part of the province.

Friday night’s presentations focused on updating the broad membership on what LTPD really means—not necessarily what people have heard through the soccer “grapevine”. What it means is a genuine emphasis at the early ages on individual skill development, and moving away from focusing on scores and winning and losing in those early years. The best soccer nations in the world have long rejected that old mentality, instead creating an environment where young players can perform with skill, creativity and learn to love the game. We need to catch-up and do the same.

LTPD has been in place for years in many other countries, with great success. More significantly, it is for ALL players. If young boys or girls simply want to have fun, stay fit and learn skills—and still “compete”—this approach provides exactly that. For aspiring “elite” players, the talented pathway element of LTPD will hone the necessary skills and there will be plenty of serious “competition” when the time is right for intense match play. Importantly, LTPD principles will ensure that more young players have the chance to shine, and many more than ever before will be identified and can receive high-level coaching and training and development opportunities. Right now, we lose or miss too many young players because they are “too small” or born at the “wrong” time of the year.

What will be required is an attitude shift for those of us—administrators, coaches and parents—who have long embraced the idea that “winning games” at the age of 8, 9 and 10 is more important than actually developing young athletes with technical skill, vision and a true understanding of how the game can be played.

On Saturday, we covered several very important topics, including

  • How many Ontario Clubs have worked through amalgamation successfully
  • Details around the OSA Club Development Plan
  • Time lines around the introduction of the Ontario Player Development League in 2014
  • How we are moving away from promotion and relegation to a Club standards-based process
  • The importance of coaching certification and qualified coaches going forward
  • The key role of Districts and Clubs in LTPD implementation
  • How Clubs will have a choice as to where they will best fit in the new player pathway and how they can self-determine their own future
  • How LTPD will strengthen our recreational soccer programs

We received a great deal of feedback on each of these topics, which is exactly what we were looking for. Concerns were expressed about, for example, cost implications, where smaller Clubs “fit” in the new pathway, coach certification expectations, the difficulty in meeting the new standards and the impact of LTPD on our crucially important recreational programs.

We are sensitive to these issues and we were pleased by the overwhelmingly positive response from the vast majority of those on hand over the weekend. We will of course work to address as best we can any and all concerns in the weeks and months ahead. This is why LTPD is not being rushed but in fact phased-in between now and the year 2020. We are far more interested in doing this well than rushing ahead without doing our homework.

I want to draw your attention to a tremendous article on the subject of developing young soccer players, which was just published last week on the blog Soccer
There was also a very detailed piece on player development in youth soccer in the Globe and Mail this past weekend.

2012 is very much about continuing to build awareness around how we can ensure that the young boys and girls who come to our sport will embrace the game, receive great coaching and training, and want to stay in the game for life. We need to be able to respond to those who want to play for fitness and fun (the vast majority) and the smaller but important number who have the passion, skill and the determination to play at a very high level. With your help and support, we are now poised to do just that.

We have a detailed plan. We have time frames in place. Our outstanding coaching certification program is fully updated and is better than ever. The OSA Board is 100% in support of our efforts. Many Districts and Clubs are already moving forward with the early-stage implementation of LTPD, with tremendous results. Unfortunately, there is still a great deal of misinformation “out there” in the media and on various blog sites about LTPD and I’ll have more to share with you on that front next week, but for now, I invite you to take a moment to view the following brief video: LTPD Video

Thank you for your continued support!

Alex Chiet
OSA Chief Technical Officer

Below are links to the presentations and the new LTPD video.

LTPD Presentations
LTPD Video

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