Monday, February 28, 2011

Level the Playing Field

The Ontario Soccer Association after years of delay and only after being forced to be by a FIFA regulation this weekend passed a Request for Decision (RFD) recognizing private academies and setting down operational guidelines for these academies.

The document makes for interesting (read excruciatingly painful) reading as far as who can officiate games how much they can be paid, how much money (taxes) will be due to the OSA and the obvious administrative trivia is impressive ( 11 pages of impressive) - but contains exactly 22 lines (generously speaking) that actually address the development of young players and the people responsible. Nice.

The OSA has managed of course to ensure that these academies know their place however by placing them third in the ladder of development behind the professional clubs (of which they recognize one) and themselves and their club members of course. This despite the fact that many of the academies looking for recognition have better qualified coaching staff with more experience than many of the programs they will be placed behind.

The other slightly perverse part of this exercise is the on field conditions that will be put on these academies wishing recognition - the requirements are stringent, as they should be, but are unique in that the OSA does not require their own existing members (the clubs) to meet these same requirements.

The requirements include:

Academy Staff
1. Academy Technical Staff to be overseen by Coach with a minimum of National “B” Licence
2. All coaches require a minimum of Provincial B Licence or better
3. Goal Keeper Coach with OSA GK diploma or equivalent
4. Have access to a strength and conditioning coach
5. An individual will be restricted to hold only one of the above coaching positions (in 1-4 above) within the Academy staff
6. Administrator / Manager - The Academy will employ an administrator to run the business side of the Academy
7. Staff ratio of coaches to students will be 1 coach for every 14 participants (specific to all age groups)
8. The Academy will provide screening and harassment policy and procedure
9. All Academy staff and volunteers will undergo required interview / screening process every two years
10. All Academy staff and volunteers will be required to have a police records check every two years

Academy Facilities and Equipment
1. The Academy will have ownership of, or access to, quality facilities and necessary equipment which will include:
- Indoor Facility - Field
- Outdoor Facility - Field
- Board Room and Class Room / Lecture Hall - with IT capabilities for game analysis
- Equipment - balls (2 sizes) - Goals (all-sizes) - Bibs / Cones - All Fitness Test Equipment - Training Gear / Uniform

2. Staff will ensure that all fields and equipment used must be kept in a safe, well maintained operating condition
3. The Academy will have the necessary property insurance relative to facility ownership

Academy Program
The Academy will provide:
1. programs for all age groups.
2. the minimum number of hours per week spent on training the participants will be:
- 3.0 hours minimum for Under-8 to Under-12 players
- 5.0 hours minimum for Under-13 and Under-14 players
- 6.0 hours minimum for Under-15, Under-16 and Under-17 players
- 6.5 hours minimum for Under-18 and older players
3. the ratio of training sessions to games will be a minimum of 3:1
4. $5 million liability insurance for staff and students to cover all activities
5. on-going and innovative ideas related to development of the soccer student
6. international relationships and soccer experiences for the soccer student
7. support resources of the highest quality. Information about the National and Provincial programs (NOTE: in order to play for an OSA Regional Team or Provincial Team, the player will have to be registered with a Member Club affiliated with the District Association in which the player lives.)
9. recognition to achievements in soccer excellence

If only our clubs were held to such scrutiny and standards of operation the game would make massive steps forward in very short order. Also it must be pretty frustrating for a prospective Academy operator to know they can do all this and meet all the requirements but if they would like to have their player progress up through the system and play with a provincial team they would be required to release the player back to a club - where the level of coaching and training might not be as high. I'd love to know the logic behind that one (number 7 above).

The 3:1 training to game ratio is what experts around the world would recommend but while the OSA expects academies to meet these and the other training standards they currently do not hold their own members to these guidelines. This includes notably those clubs involved in their current highest level of play - the OYSL - where teams more often than not play two and even more games in a week making it impossible to meet the training:game ratio due to scheduling at what is presented as the highest level of the game.

Minimally, the OSA should ask that teams participating in their highest levels of competition under their jurisdiction meet the same requirements that they are asking of these new programs. Make the playing field level and fair for all players who want to compete at the highest levels.

It's the least all players in the province deserve.

Bill Ault


  1. Anonymous2:03 PM

    Erin Mills sent out an email saying that they would adjust their training model to reflect these standards.

    They are an OSA club, so I wouldn't count out clubs to ignore the mandate.

  2. One has to wonder what it is these associations fear so much about independent academies.

  3. Anthony!
    I am surprised the OSA did not stipulate the minimum number of students an Academy must have.

    Good to know that there is some one else who finds this entire RFD more posturing than substance when compared to the membership requirements of the OSA family of clubs.
    ''See also
    OSA swallows SAAC's bitter pill-stroke of genius