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The OPDL Spotlight Series - Athlete Institute Football Club

By OSA News, 08/02/16, 5:30PM EDT


This is the Athlete Institute Football Club’s (AIFC) first OPDL season. Based at the Athlete Institute, the club utilizes world-class facilities and a staff of more than 40 people, including coaches, fitness specialists and therapists. The arrival of AIFC has spurred considerable interest for communities north of Toronto. The institute is renowned for its development of basketball players to the NBA level. The plan is to mirror that international success with soccer.

Why is it important for your club to be part of OPDL?

It is important for AIFC to be in the OPDL because it offers an elite player development opportunity to dozens of communities outside and north of the big city. High performance above the crowds, if you like. Within an hour of Collingwood to the north, Barrie to the east, Kitchener to the west and Brampton to the south.

What makes you different than the other 20 OPDL License Holder clubs?

AIFC is unique in that it is a combination of clubs using a service provider that offers the kind of facilities that a professional club would be proud of. They range from a new grass field to a Dome, gymnasium, fitness areas, changing rooms, therapy clinic, players residence and a cafe. Everything is there to take players on the road to success, all they need to bring is the drive.

What have you not been asked, that you’d like to share?

Few people ask about the feelings of the players. What I can tell you is that our players are grateful and excited at the chance of being a part of such a development league. For many it was just a dream that took place in clubs too far away for them to travel. Now the dream is within reach. The response, enthusiasm and resulting smiles are reward in itself.

What impact has the OPDL program made on your club overall?

Being a member of the OPDL has made an impact in a number of areas. It has provided kids north of the city a pathway to the top. For parents it offers a sporting development breakthrough for their children and added to the attraction of living in the communities involved. It has provided big city sporting opportunities in a small town setting.

What is something people should know about your OPDL program specifically?

AIFC is not about the needs of adults. It is about the needs of young players. The input of the child is not only valued, but requested. We ask them on an ongoing basis to provide in writing what they think and require and we respond accordingly. The adult days of: “My way or the highway” are gone. It is now a shared approach: “Our way or no way.”

Contributor bio - Steve Payne 

Steve Payne heads AIFC’s soccer program. Holder of the UEFA Pro-Licence, considered the sports highest coaching and management award, he has travelled worldwide studying soccer.

Much of his street soccer based inspiration for the game comes from time in Brazil, where the sport is a religion.

Ask him for the most two important words in the game and he will say: “The ball.”