Below is a link to an excellent article written by David Conn and posted on http://www.theguardian.com a few years ago. I came across this article recently through a link on Facebook and, after having recently been a participant in the 2016 National Soccer Coaching Conference at the University of Toronto this past weekend, I found that the same subject discussed in this article came up in many different conversations I had with the other coaches and soccer people in attendance.
The basic premise of the article is that, in England, the institution of professional youth academies 15 years ago (12 years ago at the time the article was written) has provided a platform for mass-scale recruiting of young talented players (sometimes as young as 7 or 8 years old). There are several problems with this early recruitment process, among them the fact that there are no coaches or scouting experts – including those employed by the professional academies themselves – who can say with any degree f certainty whether or not a talented young soccer player will end up developing into a top level professional player.
Here is a very telling part of the article:
“while parents give family life over to ferrying boys to training three nights a week and matches on Sundays against other professional clubs’ academies many hours’ travel away, the reality is that just 1% of the trainees will ultimately play football for a living. Even the few who survive the annual cuts and make it to a “scholarship” at 16 are likely to fall away. Research tracking academy boys is itself difficult to find but it is accepted that only a minority of boys awarded “scholarships” remain in the professional game at 21. Of those who win the golden ticket of a proper, professional contract at 18, the vast majority, Green found, are also not playing professionally at 21.”
I think that many of the same points discussed in this article could easily be applied to the amateur and professional club and academy system here in Canada. While we may not present young players with the same amount of options (or the potential financial reward) in our professional domestic leagues, there does still seem to be an emphasis on early selection and talent identification in most youth soccer clubs and academies, where players who are not selected earlier (for a variety of different reasons) end up being left behind. Conversely, as the quote above indicates, even those who are selected and identified at a younger age are almost certainly not going to be playing professional soccer by the time they reach adulthood. As the author implores at the end, it is “a system crying out for reform, from top to bottom.” I think that the need for reform exists here in Canada as well.
The link to the full article is posted below. I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic. Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.