An opportunity for the forgotten. A place for the late bloomer. A glimmer of hope for those that have slipped through the cracks of the academies.
If you build it they will come.
The Canadian Premier League is almost here. Our own senior expression of the beautiful game, that has been missing for so long, is visible in the distance. No longer will players be inclined to quit the game because of a lack of options, thus choosing a different career path, one that Canadian soccer doesn’t provide. Many players will continue to play if the goal of turning pro remains realistic. They will be more likely to persevere in their teenage years if there is a chance to be. More professional opportunities will allow these players to flourish within it, and continue down the developmental pathway.
Time has shown, to nobody’s surprise, that few FIFA world U-18 starlets become top class players by the time they are 23 or 25. The learning curve is steep and can be difficult to predict. Many fall off the radar, never to be heard from again. Simultaneously, many players emerge out of nowhere, as long as they have a place to play. Players continue to grow and develop in their late teens and early twenties. Numerous professionals that have etched out great careers were not always wonderkids when they were 13 years old.
As an educator myself, I have first hand experience with teaching and learning. Research has shown – research that I have participated in – that development (learning) occurs at different times and at different rates within a specific window for a young learner. It is definitely not linear. If there are learning gaps, or missed opportunities within the pathway, development will not reach its potential. In essence, a sad, wasted possibility. Soccer is no different.
Yes, there are prodigies and sure things – those who were destined to be great. Everyone knew they were going to be something big. They were always going to be on the world stage showcasing their skills. But what about the ones that nobody thought about? The not so obvious talent. The players that just need a place to play.
Currently we have a system that is built for the few, and they are given a privileged opportunity. They are horses that are identified and groomed for the Queen’s Plate. Whether they make it there, or deserve the chance altogether, is another question entirely. The rest are then sent out to pasture, if the analogy suits. Those unfortunate others are then obligated to seek out their own destiny. If they become successful, they will have done so in spite of the system – not because of it.
And we wonder why so many players get disenfranchised with Canadian soccer.
If our education system was designed to only cater to the gifted and the obvious, we would be in big trouble. We have a place for those still finding themselves, those who are still growing within and perfecting their craft. They routinely bloom later in life, and not always in the early stages of development. They are often our biggest success stories. The kid that went to college, or apprenticed, instead of the one who was touted for the Ivy League.
Canadian soccer has not had a pyramid that services the whole for 30 years. The developmental pathway has had a partially closed window. The CSA is determined to address it. They have the data from the LTPD curriculum, and the CPL is the final piece.
Great success stories are produced from a great system. Canadian soccer will only benefit from it.
By William Jamieson