You don’t create a superstar soccer talent overnight. You do it by thinking long term and putting the needs of players first.
This is the key message behind a new video from the Ontario Soccer Association (OSA) on their talent development pathway for young players.
The OSA’s Talented Pathway fits within the larger Long-Term Player Development (LTPD) program. LTPD aims to address the needs of all soccer players in Canada, ranging from 5-year-old beginners to 25-year-old professionals to 55-year-old recreational players.
On the Talented Pathway, as with all of LTPD, the OSA says coaches and clubs need to adopt a player-first attitude.
“We have to stop focusing at such a young age on cups and championship-winning teams,” says Dwayne De Rosario, one of the top Canadian professional soccer players of the past decade and a champion of LTPD. He says we need to focus more on development.
“What better pride could a coach have? I have ten trophies? Or, I have 4 or 5 players playing at the top flight in Europe, in MLS, or playing for the National team?”
By putting the developmental needs of the players front and center—physical, mental, and emotional—the OSA is creating a paradigm shift in how kids learn and develop in the game of soccer. The aim is to create more talented superstars while enriching the experience of all players, both competitive and recreational.
“If we can be patient with them as a coach, then it gives them the opportunity to grow in their own time, and those players may eventually become that elite player,” says Kaelyn Greenland, a staff coach at Richmond Hill Soccer Club. “Rather than letting them fall through the cracks, we’re nurturing that learning in a different way.”
Bobbie Lennox, manager of LTPD grassroots development at OSA, stresses the need for a patient approach throughout the process.
“Parents and coaches and organizations need to understand that it’s long-term player development. To see results over a year, 2 years, even 5 years, they have to be patient.”