Wednesday, February 4, 2015

What is very RIGHT with Canadian Soccer?

Numerous articles have been written over the past ten years about what's wrong or missing in Canadian soccer.  And I would agree with many of their points.

But what about what's right with Canadian Soccer? Is it that bad?  If it was, why are so many people playing and coaching?

I know we are not rippin' it up  (I wish we were) when it comes to International competition, but does that mean there is nothing worthwhile on a daily basis?

Some people need you to believe there is nothing right with Canadian soccer and they have the fix.  Some recruit-crazy youth coaches want you to believe that whatever is wrong with Canadian soccer is not wrong at their club and what they have that's right doesn't exist anywhere else.

For me, I have trouble seeing a lot of wrong in the big picture.  I've played a lot, worked with 1000s of players, met their wonderful parents,  mentored coaches and been mentored, succeeded, failed, laughed, smiled, cried, yelled, been
injured numerous times, stood in walls with my best friends to block free kicks, gone to weddings with bruises on my face and gotten the occasional ball in the crotch.  Too many good times to be overly negative.  I love spreading the good word and I get defensive when people criticize instead of contribute.

People have criticisms of how we've handled the top end of the spectrum, but what about the 99% of the players and coaches who don't exist there?  The former is a valid topic that should be addressed and analyzed, but the latter must be just as big (or bigger) a part of the conversation. The grassroots and community/recreational sector has to be big, inclusive, diverse and stable for something consistent to be happening at the top end.

Here it is...

What's right with Canadian soccer:
  • Canada Soccer is sponsored by Nutella.  That is such a positive thing that I could probably stop the list right here and leave you feeling happy.  But I won't.
  • Interest in learning more about the game rises every year.
  • Our logo.  Admit it ... it's cool.
  • Perfect welcome mat for new Canadians. 
  • Great icebreakers and community building opportunities for people of different cultures.
  • Cultures able to keep their own community together with soccer as focal point.
  • Plenty of places to play - grass and two goals of various sizes at every school.  Foreign visitors are amazed by that.
  • Attitude of a player centred philosphy gaining momentum.
  • Grassroots efforts pushing soccer away from an organized only activity to play anytime any where with anything mentality. 
  • Municipalities investing in facilities.
  • More opportunities for athletes with a disability to play. (courtesy @prbrilliant )
  • We now have 3rd generations of families in Canadian soccer.
  • Plenty of women's leagues exist now. 
  • More female coaches and game officials.
  • Expanding number of indoor programs.
  • World Cup time at local pubs is CRAZY.  Might be crazier if we were playing, but that's another story.  Let's stay positive here.
  • Younger siblings running on the field at half time to take shots at a willing, well dressed, yet inexperienced adult.
  • Equipment available almost anywhere, even Walmart.
  • LTPD.
  • We are slowly dropping "goalie" and using "goalkeeper"
  • We are slowly dropping "defenseman" and saying "defender"
  • When you say "football" more people are asking if you're talking abut soccer or American football.
  • All three Canadian MLS teams have awesome jerseys.
  • Lots of soccer games at family picnics ... until Nonna gets a ball in the nose, then everybody runs.
  • With cultural diversity comes plenty of chances to try your fake accents.
  • You get to say "C'mon Lad" with your vanilla plain Canadian accent. (please don't)
  • Colourful Saturday mornings at any club in Canada.
  • 845,000 registered players in Canada makes for a big community. Plus a pile more who are not registered in private leagues.
  • No pinnies? Shirts and skins.
  • People slowly losing the terms "hoof" and "headbutt" .
  • Kids wearing Sambas to school in winter.
  • Adult soccer growing at crazy rates.
  • Related to point above, more defibrillators installed at facilities.
  • People wanting to look like big time coaches
  • A lot of people have turf and grass shoes.
  • The mucho cool atmosphere of elementary school tournaments, with Grade 8's reffing and kids using borrowed equipment.
  • Ever increasing media coverage, and using soccer terms in the stories.
  • Growing and more knowledgeable/opinionated community focus more attention and pressure on the top end.  Losing to Cuba is becoming less acceptable.
  • TSN, Sportsnet, CBC, GolTV = lots of soccer on TV to be a fan. 
  • Canadian commentators on those networks.
  • Federations focusing more resources to community and grassroots efforts.
  • More resources for volunteer grassroots coaches .  Before, all you got was a bag of balls and a pat on the back.
  • Increased number of new pitches without American football lines.
  • More artificial turf, extending outdoor soccer by 4 months 
  • Elevated standards and expectations for programs.  Not just technical standards, but delivery standards.  Even recreational.
  • 20 colleges and 18 universities offer soccer in Ontario, and fund them appropriately.
  • I have a lot of cool jackets, golf shirts and winter coats.  LOTS.
  • More teachers keep soccer balls in their rooms for recess and custodians finding more balls on school rooftops.
  • Christine Sinclair is a household name.
  • More bars are showing soccer on TV and see it as a revenue generating event.
  • Below courtesy Rob Smith
  • The number of kids wearing football jerseys - country or club 
  • If Rick Mercer makes fun of our WNT you know we're making in-roads
  • For the adults - Ontario allowed bars to serve alcohol in the morning due to football match coverage
  • One soccer channel costs over $18, so adults have learned to Livestream
If you have an addition, send it to me