It continues to be an exceptionally busy time for the Association, our member Districts, Clubs and Leagues. A spirit of continuing cooperation will guide us all going forward.
The emergence of our new talented pathway
The past few months have seen the introduction of two new player-centered leagues — the Ontario Player Development League (OPDL) and League1 Ontario. Next year the OPDL will include competition at the U13 and U14 levels, while League1 Ontario will expand to include a Women’s Division. These are significant milestones for the Association as we continue to support elite player, coach and referee development and align ourselves both technically and strategically with our national body, the Canadian Soccer Association. It was an often challenging but rewarding inaugural season for both leagues and the future is promising for the OPDL and League1.
Regional and District League play in 2015
One of our most significant recent projects relates to the consultation, planning and preparation done by our League Management Committee around Regional and District League play for 2015. With our focus on player development, it is crucial to ensure that there will be strong competition for all those who will be part of these leagues in the years ahead. As an Association, we recognize that longstanding rules and regulations, while important, should not be a barrier to growth and change. With that in mind, and as the OSA moves to update our rules in the months ahead, we will look to our Districts and Clubs to be guided by common sense — as well as a desire to do what is in the best interests of individual players as decisions are made about appropriate levels of play for various Clubs and teams across the province. We have communicated regularly with Leagues and Districts regarding the significant changes in how leagues will function. That interaction will continue through our League Management Committee as it works toward as seamless a transition as possible for 2015 and beyond. While the infrastructure is not yet fully in place, it is our Technical staff’s intention that Regional leagues will ultimately become a feeder system for those players who seek an opportunity to play in the OPDL. This will require thoughtful cooperation within the system and a different mindset than in the past when local Clubs and coaches were determined to keep their most talented players. Following LTPD values will help to ensure that the interests of developing players will continue to be a priority in the months and years ahead.
I encourage all those involved at the District and Club level to check out the various sections of our new OSA web site. There, you will see included information regarding some of the many benefits that members have access to as part of their relationship with the Association. From the expertise of staff dedicated to grassroots soccer and the success of the new talented pathway to our tremendously popular coaching certification programs and increasing opportunities for OSA Recognized Non-Club Academies (ORNCA), the Association has a great deal to offer our members.
Finally, I would like to thank all those who continue to dedicate their time and talent — whether as Board members, coaches, referees, administrators and staff or as volunteers — as they work with us as to continue to unify and strengthen our player pathway. We understand that change can be daunting but significant progress has been made in 2014. While there are always new issues in front of us, I truly believe there are opportunities that we can seize to work together to grow the game and to help our Districts, Clubs, Leagues, players, coaches and referees have the best soccer experience they can.
Ron Smale | OSA President