Coach's Corner

Canada Games: "Is That Your Final Answer?"

By Gord Dunphy

Would you please give me another name for the Newfoundland and Labrador Men's Canada Games team, which is to participate in the Summer Games in London Ontario during August of 2001?

A) Team Newfoundland and Labrador

B) Team Controversy

C) Grand Bank Gee Bees

D) All of the above

Certainly, if you have followed the turmoil, which presently exits, you would have to answer "D" and, yes, this would be " Your Final Answer." Sure final answers should be solutions to problems.

Only after careful consideration and viewing the subject from various degrees and angles you may have to compromise and these solutions would eliminate controversy.

Presently, the NLSA board of governor's decision to accept the Canada Games team for the entire season has done nothing for the developmental program of soccer in Newfoundland and Labrador. The NLSA, under the present guidance of President Clayton Welsh, has undermined the integrity, the knowledge and certainly questions the expertise of the individuals who sit on the Technical Board of Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer. The Technical Committees recommendation to NLSA to disallow the Canada Games team a full entry into Provincial Challenge Cup, certainly was a decision made with an overall view of soccer from a regional, provincial and a national perspective. Challenge Cup is a club championship, not an all-star select team. Is Newfoundland better off for losing a person of Jeff Babstock's calibre resigning from the Technical committee over this controversy? I certainly feel the province is at a loss.

When this controversial issue was brought before the Canadian Soccer Association Competition Committee, the committee couldn't understand the logic in even considering such a move, as they felt it was to the detriment of community clubs. The National Competition Committee felt it was against the spirit of the National Challenge Cup Tournament.

The fact "that the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results" does hold a certain amount of validity. As I have reviewed the statistics from the previously eight National Canada Games Tournaments, it was no big surprise to me when I found out the top four provinces showing the most success were British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Alberta. From this I felt, "Why don't I check out and explore their programs to see if we would be able to improve our direction of development to eliminate the controversy?"

My first contact was with the Province of British Columbia. B.C. Soccer Association advised me to contact Derek Posse, provincial soccer head coach. Derek is responsible for all elite programs and the Canada Games team. Derek informed me that the Canada Games team in B.C. is a two-year program where initially the players are identified. The players are permitted to perform with their perspective local clubs in various senior leagues. The Canada Games Team will play exhibition soccer throughout the two-year period. After The Canada Games Tournament, this team no longer exist.

Secondly, I spoke with Brian Avery, Executive Director of Ontario Soccer. Strangely enough, Brian informed me that the emphasis in Ontario is put into the elite programs, under 13, under 15 and under 17. He felt that trying to pry players away from their respective club teams wasn't a priority in their development. They encourage players to play with their club team and on an exhibition basis with their Canada Games team. Their program is a one-year development with strong emphasis on the winter program. Ontario's Canada Games Team no longer exists after the Canada Games Tournament.

Thirdly, I telephoned Quebec and spoke with their Technical Director, Andre Gagnon. Andre informed me that their Canada Games team works on a two-year program with all players playing with their respective clubs and having exhibition games with their Canada Games team. Quebec's developmental programs are usually done strongly, at an early age. They have a six-month winter program. Their Canada's Game program is completed after the Canada Games Tournament.

My fourth conversation was with Derek Douglas from Alberta. Derek is a Technical Director who runs a four-year program with their Canada Games team. This team will play exhibition soccer in their major league during the last two years of their program. All players play with respective clubs during the summer and participate in an intensive indoor winter program. Alberta's Canada Games Team no longer exists after the Canada Games Tournament.

After reviewing the top provinces in Canadian soccer today, it is my conclusion that the Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Program during the summer is respectable and comparable to the other provinces. It is from the months of September to June where the lack of development in our elite programs and the Canada Games Team fail to train and develop as your top provinces do. In order for us to compete for national titles it is compulsory that we must develop and maintain strong indoor soccer winter programs.

Ironically, "What's our present controversy all about, anyway?" The top four provinces in Canada encourage players to play and affiliate themselves with their club team so that the regional and provincial programs will benefit. These four provincial Canada Games Teams fail to exist at the conclusion of the Canada Games National Tournament.

During my conversations I was informed that elite programs and Canada Game Teams have operated more successfully in urban centres. For example, 75% of the present Newfoundland and Labrador Canada Games Team are living in St. John's, a great opportunity to train.

In conclusion lets forget about "I", because there is no "I" in the word soccer. While I agree with and support the Canada Games concept but not at the expense of the club system, people must compromise. There is something to be said about the unbelievable feeling when you are a member of a provincial club team presented with a medal at the National Challenge Cup!