As the soccer season churns from year to year so does the local soccer scene. At every level, and seemingly every year, we have something new or different to consider.
The good news is there’s more interest in soccer everywhere and the sport continues to grow in our community and across Canada. In a free marketplace, competition forces all of us to work harder, strive for more, and provide better.
The challenge is that parents and players seem to be more confused now than ever about what’s best for their kids’ development and ongoing interests. With all the “noise” coming from a large number of clubs, its no wonder there’s frustration, disappointment, and perhaps even underachievement.
Of course there are pockets of success, but when you consider that we have close to 10,000 registered players spread over 20 clubs in Essex County, with a total soccer spend of approximately $5,000,000 (roughly $500 per person), we are woefully lacking in coaching, player and referee development.
Couple in the under-investment in facilities and we need to rethink how we proceed with improving the situation for the next ten to twenty years.
We can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect to improve the playing experience of our kids; or the wider community’s interest in the sport. We need to change how and what we do.
For its part, and without attributing blame or looking back, here’s how Windsor TFC fits into the bigger picture and what goals we have set.
Filling a void at the highest level of play
We believe that to inspire interest and development we have to be present at the highest level of play, in the region and beyond, as the opportunities are presented.
League 1 is the highest level for both men and women and we will continue to support this program and others, such as the Soccer Academy Alliance of Canada and the Ontario Player Development Program. Both organizations compliment the competitive schedules we seek as long as they are viable and offer the most value to our members.
As part of our mandate, we will strive to build the girls program in parallel as well as to work toward acquiring a Canadian Premier League franchise within 3 to 5 years after the League’s inaugural season if that is the responsible and feasible thing to do.
There should be no shortage of opportunity for our kids to play at higher levels and against the best competition available within our geographic area. Our priority is to support the development of a local community program and a Canadian program, as well as developing Canadian players.
Initiating a true Academy through our Toronto FC affiliation
If the order of the day was to expose our kids to a professional franchise then we have met our goal with our TFC affiliation.
TFC is serious about keeping on eye on our program, providing guidance and coaching education, identifying prospects, and engaging with summer and winter sessions each year.
The affiliation with TFC is especially good for us and we are quite pleased with how Windsor TFC and the players have been treated. Let’s remember, however, that our core purpose is not to feed TFC, but rather to provide inspiration, learning, development, teamwork, leadership, and an active sporting experience, all of which extend beyond professional aspirations.
We are building an Academy which truly serves the player experience and parental hopes and wishes. It just so happens that this experience comes in the form of soccer.
The expected by-products such as scholarships, trophies, accolades, and other rewards are just that; benefits and not guarantees.
We will continue to build the best Academy program focused on skill and teamwork, but we will not sell our members on the rewards of our efforts. We will provide every opportunity for exposure within our vast network of coaching contacts across North America. More importantly, we intend to build the sought after skills, habits, and character those coaches want.
Michael Calvin, author of No Hunger in Paradise: The Players. The Journey. The Dream, wrote about how children enrolled in professional academies in the United Kingdom have a very small chance of succeeding as professional footballers. He concluded, “Academies of their very essence are a good idea. Get the best players, give them the best coaches in the best potential environment.”
The problem is that the ills of senior football – greed, opportunism, the stockpiling of talent unnecessarily for commercial gain – are seeping down into junior football. That’s what’s happening in the academies of the major clubs where boys are going in, they’re sucked into the system. They’re taken over by the dream.
But, realistically, all they would do is sit there and wait for a chance that will never come. The statistics are really sobering. Out of all the boys who enter an academy at the age of 9, less than half of 1% make it. Or a make a living from the game either.
The most damning statistic of all is only 180 of the 1.5 million players who are playing organised youth football in England at any one time will make it as a Premier League pro. That’s a success rate of 0.012%.
Pretty much the sort of chances of you being hit by a meteorite on your way home.
We will not sell a pipe dream. We will, however, provide an amazing experience, support, and celebration when the kids graduate to the next level; in athletics or a profession of their choosing.
Clearly, we have work to do as we add age groups to support our long-term goals. This will not be easy. To ensure success along the way we need to pace ourselves and continue to build the foundation.
We have been focused on the boys program first and we will build the girls program once we have stabilized. We do not want to grow just for growths sake, though. We need to plan our growth and direct it in the most careful and effective way possible.
We will build with structure and coaches first, then with members.
More than soccer training
While we are only in our first true year of Academy development, we’ve been at the building stage a long time … in business and in sports. The purpose of any organization is to create an environment where it’s members, in this case players, coaches, and administrators, can learn, grow, and connect to achieve success on a stated mission.
For us, a key measure of success is to ensure that our players and coaches achieve along two dimensions:
- Did they overcome an appropriate challenge given the skill level?
- Did they get enjoyment from the experience?
This is where peak experience is found and is the ongoing vision for our players and program. It is hard to attain and yet worthwhile to pursue.
Apart from the player and coach development aspect, we have been advocating for facility improvements. This is clearly a capital issue and requires the whole soccer community and the municipality to be fully engaged.
We know we have a greats sports culture in this community. We lack, however, the higher standard of training and match facilities which are more suitable for development. These types of facilities draw interest from event organizers who would love to compete in Windsor and Essex County
To rectify this, we have initiated discussions with officials who also recognize the need to make improvements in this area.
Hard working soccer people in the community
As an organization, Windsor TFC is just one club which is working to advance our community and our kids’ interest. Our success is on the shoulders of many others who preceded us.
To honor those that put in the effort and did it with dignity as well as accomplishment, Windsor TFC has initiated the Essex County Soccer Hall of Fame.
This is a registered organization whose purpose is to recognize past achievement and to celebrate effort. It will also function as a fundraiser for the program, especially directed toward coaching development.
Mark your calendar for August 24, 2017, and join us as we celebrate the inaugural inductees into the Essex County Soccer Hall of Fame; and, annually on August 24 each year after.
So, this is the direction and what you might expect from being associated with Windsor TFC. We will not be perfect, nor will we suit everyone. But, you will know what we stand for and how we will go about to achieve it.
One for All
Vancho and Anthony