I have spent a good portion of my time over the past year speaking to anyone and everyone who is connected to Canadian soccer, from CSA Technical Director Stephen Hart down to friends of mine who coach house league soccer.
All of the discussions have ended virtually the same way, with me stating what we are doing in Canadian soccer isn't working.
What needs to be done?
Over the next few weeks, I will be using this blog as a forum to discuss why the structure of soccer in our country needs to improve and how we can put in place a better system to achieve this, from the grass roots to the national team level.
I can't cover it all in one blog, because there is just too much to discuss. So this will be the first in a series of posts that will hopefully shed some light on where things are going wrong, and what we can do to fix them.
While I am happy to share my thoughts with you, I don't profess to have all the answers. I have my own experiences as a player who learned the game in this country, as well as what I learned while representing Canada and playing overseas in the United Kingdom.
In formulating my opinions, I have also relied heavily on the knowledge and experience of some trusted friends who have been involved in Canadian soccer for many years. Some of them even coached me as a youngster over 20 years ago.
Let your voice be heard
This is the part where you come in: I want your thoughts and comments on the suggestions and changes that I propose. I want to know if you think the ideas I put forth are good, bad or indifferent. Hopefully, we can collectively come up with something that will work, not just in time to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, but for the long-term health of the game in our country.
There is, however, one condition - I don't want this to become a mud-slinging match. Don't waste your time or mine by posting any "blow up the CSA" style rants. It isn't productive and it isn't clever. There are some very good people working for the CSA. They don't deserve to be abused because the structure of the organization is fatally flawed.
Much of the focus for many Canadian soccer fans right now is on the search for the next coach of the men's national team. Some would argue that an experienced international coach would have taken Canada through to the 2010 World Cup. Others would say that not even Sir Alex Ferguson or Jose Mourinho could manage to get us to South Africa next year, such is the dearth of talent at our disposal. This is a topic that I will discuss, but it isn't where I think we need to start.
Grass roots level is the key
I'm going to start at the bottom and work my way up. If we are to improve as a nation, it has to come from the grass roots level upwards, not the other way around. If the CSA had the power to influence change at that level, they would have done so by now.
I will discuss a wide range of topics in the coming weeks, from player development to the role of coaching to the structure and governance of the provincial and national associations. There are enough topics to write a book, but we'll go step-by-step and leave no stone unturned. And the best part of it is, you all get to have your say along the way.
So gather your thoughts, soccer fans. This is your chance to be heard.
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