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  • G. Sarakinis

24000 coaches and counting!!

Updated: Feb 24


We talk about the many shortfalls of Canadian futbol, from the lack of culture in the game, to no professional league to aspire to, to no futbol outside futbol. What this means is the lack of unstructured play for kids on their own. This is happening more and more because of the constant demands on children and probably the biggest downfall that we talk about are the lack of high quality coaches. We always say we should have the best coaches at the grassroots level to develop these kids properly and often these coaches are at High Performance age groups when it is sometimes too late. In my short time in Spain or Catalonia depending who you ask :), I have come to realize everybody is an 'expert' in futbol. It's their national game and last I checked they had almost 24000 and counting UEFA A, B or Pro coaches. That works out to about 1 Nationally licensed coach to about 27 registered players based on 2006 numbers on the FIFA site and this does not include coaches who have the Monitor designation which I will explain later. In this video it mentions a ratio of 1 to 17.

In comparison, I am not 100% sure how many Nationally licensed coaches there are in Canada but I have heard that there are perhaps around 500 but even at 1000, the ratio is about 1 coach to 865 players or 1 for every 48 teams based on 18 players. Another big difference is the number of clubs there are in the two countries. In Canada we have approximately 10000 clubs with 865000 players and in Spain there are 18190 for roughly 653000 registered players.

We often hear the argument in Canada that there are too many clubs, but is that the case? Or is the case that too many clubs do not have the necessary resources to offer all programming from grassroots to High Performance? The resources needed could be as simple as not enough qualified coaches for the club and this is quite common. I have heard this statement many times, club officials saying we had 70 kids try out for example and we were only going to have 3 teams. Perhaps now we will have 4 teams if a parent steps up to coach the 4th team. It's great giving players the opportunity to play competitively but is it always the best avenue for the player with respect to development? In Spain you have a system which is highly competitive and you don't have the typical grassroots system like we do in Canada. Scores/standings/goal scoring leader boards are kept up to date as early as U7/8. It is unheard of to have many clubs bigger than 500 players. Most clubs are in the 200-300 player range and most are smaller. Most are community or town based and the hub of the city as I mentioned in my previous blog and part of their every day life. In contrast, in Canada we have a high number of players that are registered for grassroots level or house league/recreational as it is known and perhaps the actual competitive players are at 100000, probably not but lets use that number to make things easy. I don't know this number and am just speculating but if you apply the number of Nationally licensed coaches to this group it improves the ratio to 1 coach to 100 players. So is this a route that we are slowly shifting to? I have tweeted quite a bit lately of a need for two completely different streams of play and suggesting that we start as young as 5 or 6. My suggestion is that we have competitive development which becomes competitive and then high performance. The other stream would be completely recreational but perhaps this could be completely restructured to improve the quality of the player being developed. Development competitive would be a skill development school starting at 5/6, working on skills both technically and cognitively, basically doing age and stage appropriate sessions. Informal games are played each session and the focus is one appropriate development stage concept per session.

In most cases at this age most players would be in the early phase of the egocentric stage. It is all about the player and the ball. We all know at this age that each player wants their own ball, so we need to work on for example, dribbling with the ball, running with the ball, shielding the ball and concepts similar to this. All of the concepts would be egocentric but we need to touch upon some team concepts around 5% of curriculum. We may explain but its not something that you would spend hours on. This competitive development player would train 2-3 times per week with defined 'off times', perhaps January to September although this may affect rental income at indoor facilities :). The player is then off October-December when most other sports begin. During this age group, 'competing' sport's groups could work together to coordinate schedules and perhaps allow players the opportunity to do two sport's activities. Recently, Oakville Soccer Club collaborated with the Oakville Hornets Girl's hockey to allow this from U4-8 on the girl's side. Now these two sport organizations don't have to "compete" for the player and the player can enjoy two sports without having to select one over the other. If there was an off time to soccer, the child could focus on one sport during that time and have time to be just a kid and perhaps play some soccer on their own. Maybe the rental facilities organize street soccer events. Now with the recreational player, the program could be the standard 1-2 day program just like it is today but a little more emphasis on skill development. A 'game day' session could include a technical warm-up which includes the concept topic for the day, for example dribbling/running with the ball, then perhaps 1-2 fun activities working on dribbling and finally a match. The purpose of the match is simple, the kids need to have fun and to work on the concept. Obviously winning and losing is secondary but each session has a focus. Each coach which may be a parent volunteer has a focus. The focus for that session is running with the ball. A volunteer needs to know the one concept and doesn't necessarily need to know team tactics, formation etc. It is about learning the appropriate concept which is age and stage appropriate. As mentioned this program could be 1-2 days. Perhaps the 2nd session could be another session or it could be a street soccer festival event where players show up and just play. The volunteers could organize this with the kids that have shown up. Fields can be set up with pinneys, teams picked quickly, and maybe short games where teams are moved after 10 minutes to start a new game. This could be structured many ways as there are many possibilities. What I am getting at though is the need for unstructured play and sometimes we have to structure and organize this to actually have unstructured play. Parents want a safe place and the parks these days are empty, one because it is cold in many parts of Canada in the winter and two because kids don't have time to just play with their neighbourhood friends if they have any at all. Now in terms of coaching education for the recreational stream, I believe the current education provided by the Ontario Soccer Association is very good for the recreational stream. At the younger ages, it is mainly about physical literacy which many kids lack these days. No longer do kids run around all day doing all sorts of things like we did. I remember climbing fences to get on sheds to jump down from them to run in alley ways etc. Most children are not involved in these type of actives and if they are , the question that comes up is what type of parents do they have? In Ontario you have Active Start (U4-5), Fundamentals (U6-8), Learn to Train (U9-12) and Soccer for Life (U13+). These are fantastic courses that have no testing and I believe is perfect for the recreational coach. I also believe they need to be offered for FREE by each club and collectively we all need to improve standards at every level. Now the million dollar question will be, how can you force a parent volunteer to take a course when we don't have enough coaches and this may deny some kids the opportunity to play? Well my answer would be that soccer has spiralled out of control with the numbers, with the perceived lack of facilities, the general poor level of play and the lack of respect for the game in general. Standards must be put in place and in my opinion a restructuring of grassroots soccer must happen at all clubs. The typical recreational system days must come to an end if we want improve standards in the game. Also, if you don't have high standards during the "Golden Age" of development of 8-12, what type of player do you think will you develop for a High Performance league in any one of our provinces at 13 years old? Probably the same type of player that we have developed up to now. As many say if we keep doing what we have been doing, what are we realistically going to change? Probably not a lot!!! Many people including myself have said we require a Youth License like many countries have in place. I went to the US to get my USSF National Youth License as many have before me and many continue to do so. At that time my club had mentioned to perhaps wait as there were rumblings that the CSA were working on their version and a course would be released soon. I convinced the club I was at that I really wanted to attend the US course and secondly I was not confident that a Canadian course was going to happen anytime soon. This was late 2011 when we had these discussions. Perhaps we also need an actual Youth Department similar to US Youth Soccer. We have more recreational youth players than we do professional players, we have no professional league and up until the last 5-6 years, in general we treated the youth player as a pro player and we had no resources for appropriate stages of development. Things are slowly changing and there are some good initiatives but there are still many youth coaches out there that feel they are coaching a Messi, Neymar and Suarez on their team and trying to teach them cognitive skills that the child has no idea about because they are still in an egocentric stage. US Youth soccer celebrated their 41st anniversary in January, the OSA now has a Grassroots Department and the CSA? There is no Youth Department but there is still no Youth License almost 4 years later! In Spain they have 4 levels, Level 0-Monitor, Level 1(UEFA B), Level 2(UEFA A) and Level 3(UEFA Pro). Most levels require the Monitor Level which goes from grassroots to senior soccer. The Catalan Federation requires a UEFA B only at Honor Infantil which is the top division for U13-14, Honor Cadet for U15-16, and Preferent Juvenil for U17-18, the top Catalan female league and the top Catalan Male league. Everything else requires Monitor.

What is Monitor? It is level 0 but it is an in-depth course with testing and is 65 hours in the classroom and 19 hours of practical and attendance is mandatory. Students who do not attend at least 80% of class time (per subject), theoretical and practical for each subject, can not achieve certification. The type of evaluation is ongoing and there is a final exam for each subject. Here is a sample course schedule.

Those students who pass the course get certified as "Monitor Soccer" and can coach at the appropriate levels listed above. So what comprises this course? Technical, Tactical, Team play, Goalkeeper training, methodology, Strength and Fitness, Sports training, Human Anatomy and Physiology/Sports Safety and Injury Prevention, Psychology, Team Management, Professional Development/Regulation of Sport, and Rules. The hours are listed below

This course is 210€ with a certification of Monitor and it allows you to coach as mentioned above most of the divisions. In comparison, the OSA courses of Active Start, Fundamentals, Learn to Train and Soccer for Life will run you an average of $685 and 44 hours. You only require the appropriate level for the age group you are coaching to keep some costs down and you do not have to take all the courses at once. Secondly none of these courses have testing to my knowledge unless things have changed. My question is, if a country like Spain which is a footballing nation has an in depth course for coaches with testing from grassroots to senior, why does Canada in general have no youth course at minimum with testing, or an in depth course like the one listed above for grassroots to senior with testing? If it's not good enough to leave grassroots players with coaches who are not certified in Spain, why is it ok to have most of our players in Canada led by essentially uncertified coaches that have attended a workshop? Our High Performance leagues which are supposed to be the top 1% require a National B which is a good start but what about the rest, the 99%? Many people don't look at the FIFA rankings as sometimes they don't make sense but when you are at 122 and continuously dropping someone has to put the red flag up. We all know for most of us it's been up for a while. The National teams are a reflection of our system. It's glaring on the men's side. The woman have a high ranking but unless things change on the women's side, they will fall as well as more countries invest in women's futbol. Their development programs are already in place in most countries, but is ours in place?

This is why I believe the structure needs to be changed. It is not acceptable to have a coach that has only taken the Learn to Train at 16 hours to lead a team. There are definitely good coaches out there but what will separate a good and a bad coach when no testing is available? I know this is a hot topic with not having a National Curriculum from the CSA, but how can a coach after a 16 hour workshop deliver a curriculum for his/her players? Clubs sometimes have their own curriculum and other times leave it up to the coach to do what he or she sees fit. We have too many teams labelled as competitive and I know a league restructuring is happening in some parts but I feel clubs need to do what is right for the player. I know this will have to come down to imposing standards and an application process but clubs need to ask themselves 1 question: What type of club can we realistically be, grassroots only, competitive only or both? From a human capital point of view, to $$$ and to any other resources needed. When I say competitive only, I mean the example I gave above where they offer development competitive to High Performance from U5 and up. It is impossible for every club to offer every type of program as there are not enough coaches out there and the financial resources are not always there for clubs either as well as other factors. So there is a lot of work to do to and a lot of factors to change but when will the day we are proud of our game? My answer, when we are all on the same page going in the same direction, when standards are in place for coaching, when we have a National curriculum, when we have board reform at all levels needed. So whenever that day is add 15 years!! Until we have a fixed date it will be a floating date +15 years. If anyone knows that date please let me know!!


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