Player poaching - the underlying message | Soccer | CBC Sports

Player poaching - the underlying message

Posted: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 | 11:01 AM

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What's the motivation behind moving a child from one soccer club to another? It shouldn't be based on hollow promises.  (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) What's the motivation behind moving a child from one soccer club to another? It shouldn't be based on hollow promises. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

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I had a conversation recently with a parent who had decided to take their child to play for another club. I asked the parent if they would be willing to give me an explanation, and if there was a reason behind their decision to switch clubs.

I had a conversation recently with a parent who had decided to take their child to play for another club. I asked the parent if they would be willing to give me an explanation, and if there was a reason behind their decision to switch clubs.

The parent told me that it was a very difficult decision because their child was happy at their current club, had many friends on the team and felt they were learning from the coach.

However, the parent went on to tell me that they felt that by changing clubs, they were being given an opportunity - one that was "too good to pass up."

This piqued my interest, so I asked about this opportunity.

What was it that made it so irresistible? Had the new club given the parents any information about how the club intended to develop their child from a technical, tactical, physical or mental perspective?

It must have been exciting and innovative, to induce a player to leave a club where they were apparently happy.

Assured of a spot 

Much to my disappointment, the parent wasn't able to answer those questions. All they were able to offer was that their child had been "virtually assured" of a place on the new club's rep 'A' team for next season.

Since their child had been a rep 'B' team player at their current club, the parents felt that, while changing clubs was always risky, this was an opportunity they had to take.

I found this to be a little disconcerting, since the parents couldn't really explain what that opportunity was, or what it meant for the development of their child.

Since learning to be a soccer player is similar in many ways to being a student - good coaches are simply good soccer teachers - let's consider this:

Imagine that your child is a 'B' student in math. Their teacher says your child has the potential to be an 'A' student, but they must work hard in class, do their homework and study consistently if they are to achieve an 'A' in math this year.

As a parent, this is probably a position that you would support, correct?

Now, imagine that another school approached you and told you that they didn't think your child deserved a 'B' last year, and they would "virtually assure" you that your child would get an 'A' this year if they left and joined the other school.

Would you take your child to the other school?

Not likely.

What's the message to the child?

For starters, you would question the motives of the other school. Why are you guaranteeing my child something that they need to earn? How is that going to help them in the long run? What message does that convey to my child?

You would then expect a detailed explanation of why your child is considered an 'A' student at the new school, when they achieved a 'B' at their current school.

Are the teachers at the new school more qualified than the teachers at the current school? Does getting an 'A' at the new school all of a sudden mean my child is smarter? Or does it mean that the standards at the new school are lower?

You would also demand to know what the new school was going to do to develop your child into an 'A' student, rather than just accept their word for it.

The answers to some of these questions might be very revealing. The teachers at the new school may very well be better than the teachers at the current school.

But they may also be worse.

They may be promising grades that students haven't earned, in order to inflate their own sense of achievement as teachers. Are they actually good teachers who are educating the students, or are they simply recruiting smart students from other schools in order to look good?

Results shouldn't be only goal

We place a significant emphasis on our children getting a good education in school - and rightly so. A good education is the foundation upon which a successful career is built.

Yet when it comes to soccer, we don't care about the education of our players - all we care about is results. All that matters to us is whether or not our child's team wins, and what letter sits beside their team's name.

Imagine if, at the end of every school year, there were teachers loitering around school parking lots, looking to recruit students to their schools.

This is effectively what is happening in youth soccer in Canada.

Coaches are poaching players from anywhere and everywhere, looking to build winning teams.

How is that good for the development of players? How is that teaching players the core skills required for long-term success in the game? And what message does that send to the players currently on a coach's roster?

By recruiting players to join a club, a coach is essentially telling his current group of players that they are not good enough.

And this was my message to the parent I spoke with.

While their child was being recruited this year, what happens in 12 months' time? What happens if the new team doesn't win every game, tournament and trophy it competes for?

Do you honestly think that in 12 months' time, the coach will be doing anything other than what he is doing right now? Will he be doing anything other than recruiting replacement players who are better than what he has?

Right now, your child is the replacer. In 12 months time, your child could be the replacee.

And how is that an opportunity that is "too good to pass up?"

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