The headline for my message is important. Too often the focus is on the things that aren’t perfect about how the game is administered. It’s forgotten that, together, we do a lot of things very well. Soccer is still the sport played by more people of all ages than any other in the province of Ontario. That so many families and players make that choice demonstrates that while we can always do more—and be better—we are indeed doing a lot of things right! A year ago I wrote the following words:
“While the advent of the Ontario Player Development League (OPDL) and League1 were highlights, I am actually most excited about the work being done across the province when it comes to our technical initiatives around grassroots soccer. So many Districts and Clubs are moving forward with and truly embracing LTPD principles. In my regular travels across the province I have seen first-hand the positive impact these changes are having for referees, coaches and players.”
A year later I can report that not only did the OPDL and League1 Ontario launch their inaugural campaigns successfully in 2014 but the overall support for LTPD at the Club level has also grown tremendously. Grassroots soccer is the foundation of the game in Ontario. It is where our player pathway actually begins, whether athletes remain recreational players or ultimately choose to follow the talented pathway. It’s important to recognize that a number of OSA Clubs and Academies have been leaders in implementing player-focused programs—even before the OSA made it a point of emphasis. Wherever possible, given local capacity and resources, more Clubs are embracing LTPD’s player-oriented values.
Looking ahead to 2015
Our Districts will continue to provide exceptional opportunities for coach and referee development. Meanwhile, our Clubs can focus on what they do so well: developing all their players within the Club structure while helping those players find their proper place in the provincial/national development plan.
Our player pathway is taking shape. I’ve highlighted the impact of OPDL and League1 here and in previous messages, but as significantly, we are making progress in restructuring our Regional and District Leagues for 2015 to ensure high-level competition for players in those leagues—leagues which will become a feeder system for the talented pathway.
Areas of focus
In 2015, three areas will be of particular importance: 1) growth, recruitment and retention, 2) technical development and 3) renewal of the current OSA Board structure. On the recruitment side, it will be necessary to continue to identify coaches and referees as well as capable volunteers, who are all indispensible to the good work that is done across the province. Continuing to build and promote the game at the Club/grassroots level will be essential. Beyond grassroots soccer and the talented pathway, as an Association we also need to focus on growing Futsal and adult soccer, beyond just League1 Ontario. Meanwhile, steady progress is being made around modernizing our Board structure. That said, there is much more to do as we work toward a more streamlined approach that focuses on policy and the skills that Board members bring to the table.
Alignment between Clubs, Districts and the Association
One of the many valid questions I receive often during my visits with stakeholders across Ontario is: shouldn’t the work of the Clubs, Districts and the OSA be better aligned? I believe significant headway has been made in addressing that question. In turn, strides are being made to ensure the OSA is also aligned with the Canadian Soccer Association in terms of technical direction and our overall strategic planning. OSA Mission and Values One of our key commitments in 2014 will continue next year: that is, to ensure that the Association is always guided by our mission and our values. Our mission statement refers to “collaboration and cooperation with members, partners and stakeholders”. One of our core values is that we be player-centered. Every decision made, either as a Board, staff or as a united Association, should be measured against and guided by those principles.
A genuine thank you to all those who continue to support the Association—coaches, referees, administrators, Academies and leagues as well as parents and volunteers. Even when we are challenged, it helps us grow and make better, more informed decisions. Our Districts, Leagues and Clubs work diligently to enhance opportunities for all those who love and support soccer. In turn, we try to provide guidance and leadership to ensure that, by building trust and working together, the soccer experience for everyone in Ontario is a bit better every day. I wish everyone a safe, peaceful and joyous holiday season.
Ron Smale | President