Friday, January 3, 2014

Why LTPD was successfully implemented in Ontario for U4-U12.

As a soccer community, we just completed our second year with the implementation of Long Term Player Development (LTPD).  Field and team sizes have shrunk and league/tournament structures have changed.  The Canadian Soccer Association made the brave move of walking the soccer world down that path.

My experiences on several fronts give me the impression that most people are generally supportive of what's happening with the younger age groups (U4-U12).

During 2013, all of Ontario was playing 7v7 for U9/U10 and 9v9 for U11 at the travel level.  Many
were playing 9v9 for U12 as well.  In 2014, U12 will be 9v9 everywhere.  Most clubs adopted the LTPD matrix at the house league level, as best as their facilities could accommodate. 

The Canadian and Ontario Soccer Association has put a lot of effort into consultation with stakeholders, public education and the distribution of information to ensure it all gets to every member of our community.

Was that all it took?  Was it that simple? Give out a few pamphlets and everybody conforms?

Years ago, we were flooded with information about the social and environmental benefits of recycling.  If our municipality had not established a trash limit, would we recycle as much as we do?

Even after all the information and benefits were shared, would the soccer community have agreed to such a culture shift for U12 and below if it wasn't mandated?

Humanity has proven time and again that knowledge isn't enough to alter behaviour, habits or actions.  We've seen this in matters of public safety, personal health and our relationship with the environment, to name a few.

I'm not saying soccer is on the same level as the environment or public safety.  It's much bigger than that.  :)

I believe in mandates and legislation, if the mandate is based on credible information and delivered by credible people.  The OSA's value proposition pitch was simple "This is what the better countries are doing."  The mandate was supported by a lot of easily accessible information and changes to coaching education.

Was everybody 100% on-board?  Of course not.  But the system is in place and the players are playing under the new format.

Soon after it was announced, the media was quick to jump on the new format of no standings and the backers of LTPD supported it with sincere, well thought out answers.   The change was uncomfortable for a lot of adults who want scores. (Notice I said "adults").  Age-appropriate, patient development flies in the face of hard-nosed competition.

So in the case of LTPD, the soccer community showed it had the right leadership and membership to make the changes for U4-U12.  In my humble opinion, the changes are great and the stage is set to deliver better programs for those ages. 

Why did it work?  And, in my opinion, work well.

Looking back, the process was brave, determined and well organized.  Think about what happened.  All of Ontario changed the size of the field, teams and rules for our younger players within 24 months.   Adult values that were imposed on children, by adults, were set aside.  That's a major accomplishment.  Coaching education (content and delivery) has been adjusted accordingly and information is everywhere for whoever wants it.

This all took care of the "Active Start", "FUNdamentals" and "Learn to Train" development stages.

How do we support changes coming to the  "Active for Life" and the high-performance streams? (That is for U13 and above, at all levels). 

The next 24 months will address a lot of systems that have shown weaknesses for a long, long time, from promotion/relegation leagues to our high-performance programs.  A lot of people might be asked to step out of their comfort zones.  Administrative people may be asked to step away from programming/technical decisions.  Governance models, coaching attitudes and parental mindsets will be tested and exposed again.

Let's hope everybody remembers what has been successful and work off that model.