Friday, December 7, 2012

Never say "it's only house league"

Why do people feel they need to slot the house league experience below "rep" or "travel" teams?

True success as a sports stakeholder is realizing the best place and situation for a child to develop and enjoy themselves.  It may be rep, it may be select or it may be house league.

Remember, the right level, the right coach at the right time.

House league and grassroots sports are the backbone of all sports in Canada.  Because a child may not be at the level to win a spot on a rep team, it does not make them any less a participant in that sport.  The level of play and execution may differ but that does not minimize the passion.

Whether you are the right defender on a rep team,  the striker on a select team or the centre midfielder on a house league team, you are as much a footballer as Lionel Messi.  The same applies to coaches and managers.
"At the end of it all, 99.99% of youth players, regardless of level, will be playing in the same beer league.  And that's OK."

House League/Grassroots soccer has just a big a portion of Ontario and Canada's Long Term Player Development as everything else.  The "Active for Life" stream of the philosophy is very important.
Don't fool yourself.  The sports world is driven by what happens on Saturday mornings in every sport across the country.

My personal opinions:
  1. A parent or player shouldn't feel house league is a lower level of sports experience than travel.
  2. It's wrong for a sports organization to treat house league as an after thought.
  3. It's wrong for sports organizations to not offer their house league coaches support.
  4. It's wrong for sports organization to not offer meaningful pathways for house league players who are looking to make the transition to travel.
  5. It's wrong for organizations to not have proportional representation from house league on their boards.
  6. It's wrong to let facilities assigned to house league fall into disrepair. 
  7. It's wrong to give house league what's left over in terms of time at facilities. 
  8. It's "bad business" for groups to discount the importance of their grassroots program.
I like how the Welland Soccer Club has handled house league and the indoor program has been almost exclusive to house league.  There is another club in Welland, Plymouth Park Soccer League, who do a good job as well.

People who know me will tell you that, in spite of my personal involvement with travel soccer, my favourite place is the Welland Soccer Club on Saturday mornings.

As a final note: At the end of it all, 99.99% of youth players, regardless of level, will be playing in the same beer league.  And that's OK.