11/12/2013 04:42 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Plans proceed to end standings for Ontario competitive youth soccer under-12s

TORONTO - A representative for the Ontario Soccer Association said plans are on track to phase out standings among competitive players under the age of 12 — a move that will be mandatory provincewide by next year.

Technical director Alex Chiet said they're aligning with their national body, the Canadian Soccer Association, with respect to the changes being implemented in their long-term player development program. The move is part of a national strategy with Canadian Sport for Life, a movement to improve quality of sport and physical activity across the country.

"There is still scoring, because that's a misconception that's out there. There are still goals, kids keep score, parents keep score," Chiet said in an interview.

"But it's what happens with that score after the game that changes where it's not feeding a league table, it's not feeding promotion or relegation at the end of the season."

The move is among a host of changes aimed at making the game more child-friendly and developmentally focused for players to enjoy themselves and get the best start possible, he added.

"Just like we don't chuck a child in the swimming pool and expect them to swim immediately without teaching them the basic fundamentals of the sport... in soccer, we're making sure the emphasis is on skill development and kids learning the game.

"That's making sure we do the right work through each development stage, making sure that kids know how to pass and trap and dribble a ball before they're expected to get an outcome."

Still, Chiet admitted implementation of the change has been "an education curve."

"It's really hard to get that message down to the parents, and it's really hard for us to educate the parents in this regard because they've been brought up in a different model," he said. "We've got differing levels of understanding and responses. But to be completely honest, probably 50 per cent of our membership has already made this change."

Chiet said once parents experience a "different competitive environment" where kids are allowed to be creative and encouraged to make mistakes in the game, they've been "really supportive."

"Yes, there's always negativity around, and you receive negative feedback at times when people don't understand. But overwhelmingly, it's been far more positive where the membership are saying: 'At last, we're putting the needs of the player first.'"

Chiet said they're also interviewing kids at the moment and learning what they value from their sporting experience, which doesn't necessarily entail receiving hardware.

"We're already seeing very clearly that trophies, standings, are way down on the priority list for kids," he said. "It's up there for parents, and that's the whole shift that we're trying to make so that parents stop trying to live vicariously through their kids and let the kids play the sport — because it's their game."