Play. Inspire. Unite.
With the intent of providing standards based environments for youth soccer players to develop, the OPDL started out in 2014 with athletes born in the year 2001. In the fall of 2018, young adults born in that year will begin to apply for post-secondary education opportunities. Under the mandate of providing exposure for OPDL athletes, a number of initiatives have been launched in 2018 to support these athletes in their search for, and transition to, post-secondary playing opportunities.
After five years of operations, the Ontario Player Development League now finds itself, for the first time, in the position to have a graduating class of athletes.
Many of these athletes will move on to University or College playing environments - settings which enable them to showcase their talent and demonstrate the dedication and commitment playing in the OPDL has required of them. Through years of playing in the program, the many hours put into developing as athletes will now serve these players in pursuing career opportunities.
One of the initiatives to assist in this transition is the “OPDL on Campus” program. Created in conjunction with partner institutions, this event seeks to provide OPDL athletes with meaningful experiences on Ontario-based University or College campuses. While OPDL games have been taking place at these campuses since the league’s inception, the OPDL on Campus offers a prolonged opportunity to experience some of the aspects athletes can expect as part of their post-secondary studies.
In order to maximize these opportunities, OPDL games at the U17 Age Group are scheduled on both Saturday and Sunday of an OPDL on Campus weekend. This not only mimics the OUA (Ontario University Athletics) schedule, which will occasionally see teams travelling and playing games on consecutive days, but also offers the athletes the opportunity to stay in the host institution’s residences; another integral part of the post-secondary school experience.
Through collaboration with the hosting institution, which in 2018 was the University of Guelph, OPDL athletes stayed in the residences overnight and the University of Guelph offered athletes and families a comprehensive overnight accommodation package, including meals.
OPDL families were also able to enjoy a campus tour on Saturday, led by University of Guelph Staff. As part of any important decision, the ability to glean information is paramount for players and families and the decision on which University or College to attend, as well as which program to enroll, is a very important.
Following the first day of competition, participants were also able to partake in the Varsity seminar on student-athlete life organized by the University of Guelph Men’s and Women’s Varsity teams. With the athlete and soon-to-be University/College student in mind, this seminar featured a panel discussion with Coaches, current and past-players who were able to share insight on life of student-athletes, expectations, as well as the Ontario University pathway. Attendees were able to hear first-hand from the coaches what desirable qualities varsity athletes should possess, as well as timelines and best practices for getting in touch with Varsity coaches.
Ahead of the players’ next match the following day, the OPDL’s proud partner, Gatorade, was able to provide participants with the unique opportunity to hear from the acclaimed Sports Science Institute staff, based out of the University of Guelph, on the truths, myths, and value of proper fuelling for performance.
During the first edition of the OPDL On Campus, all OPDL Athletes completed their profile for the official OPDL Scouting Booklet. The OPDL Scouting Booklet was created to provide Ontario, Canada and US based coaches and scouts with relevant information on OPDL athletes.
With many OPDL athletes putting pen to paper in the coming months, whether it be through scholarship offers or signature of University/College applications, opportunities such as the OPDL on Campus concept will continue to play a pivotal role in the promotion and education of OPDL athletes.
Thanks to the strong relationship with the University of Guelph, as well as their unwavering efforts to create the most impactful experience possible, the bar has been set high for the OPDL on Campus concept - which has received glowing reviews from participants of the inaugural event.
Having already received indication of interest from other Ontario-based post-secondary institutions to host this event, the OPDL on Campus concept stands to become a pillar for OPDL athletes and families and grow to be an important component of the OPDL moving forward.