Play. Inspire. Unite.
Two months have passed, since the original suspension of all sanctioned soccer activities in Ontario and despite a slow and carefully measured return to a more regular life under the lead of government and health authorities for various businesses and essential services having commenced, community sports remain in a state of virtual animation for the time being.
As chronicled in previous editions of our Grassroots Spotlight Series, while posing many challenges for all of us, these trying times have also been rich in inspiration by soccer organizations and individual soccer thought leaders and influencers stepping up to engage, educate, support, share and encourage each other and the people under their tutelage.
The core message is that now is a time to unite and collaborate, not compete or keep one’s proverbial cards close to one’s chest. Being welcoming, transparent and inclusive has become the new way of taking care of soccer business. Many soccer leaders have shown a remarkable generosity of spirit and multi-organizational learning sessions and zoom calls seem to have become the norm, no longer the exception.
Compliments also go to the vast numbers of coaches, whether volunteer or paid, that have enthusiastically embraced this downtime away from the soccer field to hone their skills and better themselves by taking in the many educational and development opportunities on offer.
There has been a wind of change blowing across the community, where regular coaching education sessions are no longer viewed as a necessary evil or something people cannot get to because they are so busy delivering “real” soccer sessions on the pitch. Soccer leaders all across Ontario are now readily using the time available for self-reflection and deliberate planning, which will benefit everyone in the game and especially our many young soccer players greatly, once we are able to return to play.
Having come across so many tremendous examples of best practices for coaching education, we are turning this piece into a 2-part series, showcasing the efforts of Brampton Soccer Club in this edition, to be followed up next week with Tecumseh Soccer Club and Kingston United and what we can learn from their respective approaches.
Like many of their peers across Ontario, Joey Lombardi, Director of Player & Coach Development at Brampton Soccer Club (BSC) and his team, have identified the current lockdown, as a tremendous window of opportunity to educate coaches during this downtime – a time we will likely never get again in the current format.
Leaning on their existing coaching development pathway, the Brampton SC team focused on adding special workshop offerings during newly opened windows of opportunity, often expanding the frequency of sessions replacing training activities cancelled because of COVID-19.
With, in hindsight, serendipitous timing, BSC had launched their Club Wide Framework as the blueprint for the Club’s development programs from U4 to U18+ in February 2020. One of the key pillars within the framework is to increase in-house coach education, which has been delivered through the following systems:
BSC found that their Framework resources provided a solid platform to manage the remote systems that are now essential for engaging coaches during the Covid-19 quarantine period. Once Covid-19 forced the suspension of all sanctioned in-person soccer activities, BSC Coaches already had a wealth of tools they could reference and share with players, which allowed them to hit the ground running in mid-March to establish their remote support.
From this practical experience, Lombardi’s recommendation for Clubs is to build their own video library of best practice clips, game model examples and positional skills. This helps support the Coaching Education process, because a coach can access the content on demand and at their own pace of learning.
Hudl Online has proven an effective platform for BSC to manage their cloud storage and file sharing process. Other cloud options may include Dropbox, Mega and OneDrive or even creating your own YouTube Page to share the information with players.
As highlighted by previous Ontario Soccer bulletin’s around safe virtual training, for player engagement, creating a private Instagram Account for coaches to share clips via that social media platform has proven successful.
As a proactive response to the COVID-19 soccer suspension, BSC created four objectives to stay connected with coaches, players and parents:
For purposes of this article, we will focus specifically on Coaching Education efforts, but encourage anyone interested to reach out directly to Joey Lombardi for further knowledge sharing.
When BSC launched its Club Framework, they also released their Coaching Development Pathway as a key initiative to align their structure. The pathway is simple and described below:
The below diagram maps out the Coaching Pathway:
To maximize this window of self-isolation time, BSC offers at least one coach education opportunity in-house per week. This has allowed them to further educate coaches on the BSC framework and dive into different areas of Coaching, Player Development and Methodology. This included areas like the following, which are not always covered enough during regular soccer times:
The workshops are video captured and the presentation content is stored in their Cloud for legacy purposes.
In conjunction with other local Clubs such as Pickering SC, Tecumseh SC and Hamilton United, BSC have co-delivered virtual meetings on principles of coaching and exchanged best practice methods on player development. This exchange between Clubs has been a success story in and of itself, often seeing large participation with 50+ coaches engaged in these Co-Club delivered workshops.
Lombardi found the cooperation between local clubs to be highly beneficial for all Coaches involved, as it highlights the strength of the Ontario soccer community.
Other opportunities they have tapped into for coach development have been through the free webinars that are being offered by different organizations. Below is a list of some the organizations that BSC found to offer some excellent speakers and content:
From these free webinars, BSC coaches got access to presentations from World Class Coaches and got to learn from their experiences in Coaching at the Youth, Professional and International Levels of the game.
With this quarantine period being new territory for all of us, the BSC Technical Leadership team had to work closely with their Coaches to get them proficient with Technology and that has allowed them to connect with players on a weekly basis.
A typical week for BSC Coaches consists of the following activities:
Their aim is to provide at least 2-3 Virtual contacts per week, where Coaches and Players can engage through simple ball work, physical exercises and review footage to enhance game intelligence. Now that their coaches have learned how to provide remote training and education, BSC plans to continue to maximize technology even after they have returned to play, as they have seen value for player development.
In addition, BSC has recently offered players a free Mentorship service from Senior Staff Coaches and now have a decent cohort of players that get weekly One to One support on specific areas that is customized to their individual needs. One of BSC’s goals in the framework has always been to individualize the development process, as their Club felt it was imperative to offer this sort of servicing.
Of course, communication is key and even more important during situations like the one we are currently experiencing. In response, BSC has created WhatsApp groups with all the BSC Coaches and Managers to ensure they have an immediate option to connect with Lombardi and his team.
Moreover, every week, BSC provides Home Program Highlight videos for Coaches and Players to see how individuals are executing their personal training. They are also posting every week on all Social Media Platforms to celebrate the best practice from our Coaches and Teams.
In keeping with the theme of partnership and collaboration, Lombardi and his BSC team (If you wish to reach out to Brampton SC, here is their Club staff directory have set a great example of how to navigate this challenging time. We applaud their efforts and similar initiatives from many other of our membership group, which we will seek to continue to recognize and celebrate going forward.