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Won’t someone please think of the children!

It’s the call of the most aggressive of opponents of the Canadian Soccer Associations’s Long-Term Player Development (LTPD) plan.

“We must protect the children from the creeping socialism of big government,” the anti-LTPD voice screams. “They are trying to bubble wrap kids from the harsh realities of life!”

One gets the vision of an angry, old man shaking his fist while sitting on a porch sipping lemonade.

“They’re making them soft,” he screams. “Soft, I tell you. That’s what’s wrong with this generation. They don’t understand what it’s like to earn their way.

“Life’s not a picnic,” the old man trails off. “Gotta toughen then up…”

It’s a loud voice focused on one, small part of the LTPD plan—namely the lack of emphasis on competition at younger levels of the sport in favour of greater skill building. Only, that’s not how they see their opposition. To the anti-LTPD crowd their opposition is based on just three words.

Don’t. Keep. Score.

Despite years of research and strong sports science backing the plan, all opponents can see is a single recommendation in the plan to not keep scores and standings at the lower levels of the sport. This runs contrary to their perceptions on what sports is and what the purpose of youth sports are.

To those who are working slavishly to see the LTPD plan implemented, it’s the type of argument that makes them want to slam their head repeatedly against the wall.

It misses the whole point of the plan and paints those in favour as being a bunch of crazy lefties looking to turn soccer into some sort of cooperative activity where everyone wins.

The great irony here is that those who support LTPD are generally the most passionate and competitive subsection of the Canadian soccer community. They don’t want to take competition out of soccer in Canada. Quite the opposite, they want to make Canada and Canadians far more competitive in the game.

The principles espoused in LTPD make so much sense to those that favour it that they struggle to wrap their head around how anyone can be opposed. “You want a score,” proponents might say, “We’ll give you a score: Honduras 8, Canada 1. That’s why we need to change how we do things.”

The argument mostly falls on deaf ears. And, as right as proponents are in wanting LTPD implemented fully (and they are right—this is arguably the most important initiative in Canadian soccer history), it’s here that proponents must look in the mirror.

There is a serious messaging problem that is resulting in the end users—parents and players – not understanding the plan and, as such, not supporting it. The Canadian soccer community needs to do a much better job at explaining what LTPD is and what it’s not.

It’s not an easy task as it requires both nuanced thinking (winning today does not equal winning tomorrow) and long-term vision. The success of the plan cannot be measured until a generation of players has passed through it.

The plan needs to be explained in ways that average Canadians can understand. It does no good to preach to the soccer-loving choir. This conversation needs to happen pitch side to those that are least informed. It will be frustrating, but necessary. Right now the debate is being framed by journalists looking for an easy column and those that can’t be bothered to look beyond headlines to forge their opinion.

The soccer community needs to take the debate back and start the hard work of winning over non-believers one person at a time.

Comments (8)

  1. Taking on uninformed parents has to be the toughest job ever. and with so very many people being undereducated to the point where they can’t understand an even slightly complicated argument it can be mind numbing.

    did anyone see the article in the Toronto Star where the mother of a young girl was telling her to essentially keep score in her head to make sure they don’t loose sight of the competitive aspects of the game? just totally missing the point and leads to lower level soccer looking like a scrum of dust following the ball around instead of passing and moving in space. They just want the ball so they have the possibility to score a goal.

    how funny is it that this page loaded a “related Post” to Hargreaves training so hard,,,, I love this one http://blogs.thescore.com/counterattack/2011/07/06/owen-hargreaves-trains-real-hard/?utm_source=blogs.thescore.com&utm_medium=related-post-plugin&utm_campaign=Owen+Hargreaves+trains+really+hard+

  2. I remember the days when I was a kid and we played 11v11 and you always heard, kick it out, play it safe.

    Now coaches and players can try to work the ball out and develop skills.

    Sure the kids keep score, isn’t the same as having a coach that is supposed to win games.

  3. When you played street/pond hockey as a kid, how important was keeping score?

    Sure, you probably kept score up to point. But after 2-hours what did it matter if it was 25-23? And you certainly didn’t keep standings. You just kept playing and playing and playing – developing skills and learning other things about the game that were greater than the score. And a fraction of us went on to win back-to-back Junior World Championships and Olympic gold medals and Stanley Cups.

    This culture that Canadians are familiar with is the same way soccer is approached in most countries in the world. I went to Ecuador on a family vacation when I was 13. I’d been playing organized soccer since I was 5, and competitive “rep” soccer for the previous two years. I played in a few kids soccer games with family-friends while we were there. It felt exactly like pick-up hockey did in Canada, except those kids were way better at soccer than me. The whole culture of soccer in Canada has to change; the LTPD is part of that.

  4. I just LOOOOOOOOVE feed back from Canadian footy parents, don’t y’all???

    “KICK IT OUT” – When players should be trying to find a team mate.

    “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?!” – When passing the ball back to the goal keeper because hoofing it cluelessly down the field seems stupid.

    “PASS THE BAAALLLLL” – When you should clearly take initiative and dribble.

    “SHOOOOOOT!!!!!!!” – When there’s 8 bodies in the way.

    “GET OPEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” – Easier said than done.

    “DON’T FCK AROUND WITH IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” – Because of one failed attempt at a step over.

    “PUSH UUUUUUUUP….HURRY GET BAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK!!!!” (rinse, repeat)- Yes, because this is a perfect time to do shuttle runs.

    I’m sorry, but the future of this country’s footy will heavily depend on the crop of 1st, 2nd, or 3rd gen immigrant families whose parents think before spewing out useless garbage.

    • Wow, well done Didier. I think this is the first post I’ve ever seen you write that I agree with. Also probably the first one where you didn’t mention Messi or “Ronalda”.

    • The only problem with this theory of course is that there have been first and second generation immigrants here playing soccer on a large scale for at least 30 years – hasn’t made much of a difference.

      When I was playing youth competitive soccer in the ’90s I was playing with tons of Italians and Croatians and various Latin American kids who were still in ESL classes. The Canadian culture of non-soccer absorbs them and their parents the same way that Canadian culture as a whole absorbs them.

      Canada knows what it’s doing in immigration policy. We let in just enough people to keep things productive economically, interesting culturally, and relatively tolerant, but not enough to cause radical change. And Canadian soccer culture needs radical change.

      Droog a really must be 15 years old, otherwise he’d realize people have been making this same argument about immigrant influence on Canadian soccer for at least five generations. But don’t worry, I’m sure the next generation of immigration will be different.

  5. Well put Matthew. And I saw you fighting the good fight on the article you linked Duane, well done.

    As someone who grew up playing soccer in Canada, and am now still playing at an age where my body isn’t able to do what it used to be able to, I see exactly how I was taught. Reliant on my speed and not having much in the way of skills. I played defence as a kid and was taught from the time I was 5 until about 15 that when the ball comes to me, give it a boot. My teams had a lot of plaers that were just faster than others, so we’d boot it in front of them and let them run after it. It was very effective to win games while we were young, but none of us were really all that good.

    I really hope this LTPD isn’t held back by people that don’t understand the problem that it’s trying to fix.

  6. great job Duane in putting up a good counter fight with the Sun article

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