It has been many years since Canada has qualified for the World Cup in soccer. It was 1986. Tony Waiters, who had moved from his English homeland working for Liverpool FC in 1977 to coach the NASL's Vancouver Whitecaps coached the Canadian squad. I recall as a young soccer player being deeply offended when I heard Las Vegas odds against Canada scoring a goal in the tournament. They didn't score a goal. It seemed as if soccer had come of age in Canada and this would be a regular occurrence. I guess I was wrong.
So the Canadian Soccer Association and provincial associations are looking to build the skill level in the grass roots of soccer to try and build towards a national team that can compete at the international level. A recent article by Jeremy Nolais in Metro Calgary set off a media firestorm and lots of great Twitter discussion about keeping track of scores and standings at the U12 and U10 levels. The Alberta Soccer Association technical director and former Vancouver Shaun Lowther had told Metro it was considering not keeping score at the Under 12 level and below.
The same week this news was printed, I attended a meeting, where the same ASA technical director helped to promote an Alberta High Performance League starting Under 13 years of age. While in theory both might be great ideas, this happening at the same time perhaps sends the wrong message.
If these 2 idea's are put in place to help build skill in our young players and place less emphasis on results and more emphasis on building soccer skill, how will our national team perform better? How will those one-goal games turn from losses to wins? How will Vancouver Whitecaps, Edmonton FC, Toronto FC and Montreal Impact build a winning culture signing Canadian players?
We need to look at balance. Yes we need to build skill. Any soccer coach will tell you that. We also need to build competitiveness. Healthy competition. The same Tony Waiters who took us to the world cup in '86 says at coaching sessions that we play too many games. Experts say a ratio of training to game ratio should be at least 4 to 1. Four practices or training sessions to one game. Our weather, our culture and our indoor facilities make this ratio almost impossible, but we then ask our schedulers to give teams 1 to 2 games per week, because we paid for it. Our last national team coach, Stephen Hart said during his tenure that he received compliments from all over the world on out "team play" but he had no one player who could compete one on one with world class players. He said at a session I attended in Calgary "I blame our leagues. We play too many games and not enough training."
So two men, who Canadian Soccer has hired to lead our best players and one who got us to the world cup say we play too many games. Canadian Soccer and Alberta Soccer's answer, start an elite high performance league and stop keeping score at youth games. Not to change the way we do grassroots soccer. We need an overhaul of the system and a made in Canada solution that incorporates who we are as people and our weather and infrastructure realities we have.