For those that love the game, life is soccer. For those that teach the game, they want soccer for life. Such will be the balance developed through the Canadian Soccer Association's new long-term player development program called Wellness to World Cup. The program will not only help develop skilled players, but also establish lifelong wellness through participating in soccer. On Monday the 23rd June 2008, CSA officially launched the Wellness To World Cup campaign.
"We want all players to reach their full potential in soccer," says Dominic Maestracci, President, Canadian Soccer Association. "For some, their potential might carry them to a professional career with a marquee team. For many others it might mean a lifetime of recreational enjoyment in a sport that provides them with good health and connects them with their community."
Soccer is the highest participatory sport in Canada. In 2007, there were 867,869 registered soccer players, the tenth-highest total in the world. According to the 2008 Statistics Canada Kids' Sport Report, 20% of young Canadians play soccer.
"Long-term player development (LTPD) is an ongoing process that attempts to address concerns in all aspect of our sport," says Stephen Hart, Technical Director, Canadian Soccer Association. "Through the LTPD and the Wellness to World Cup, the intention is to present a national vision for soccer and within that vision, a common pathway for the Canadian soccer fraternity."
Based on the generic model called "Canadian Sport for Life", the soccer LTPD group remodeled the content with a specific vision for soccer. The group met regularly over several years, moving its meetings from province to province to ensure experts from different areas of the country could be engaged in discussion.
"Seven different stages of development have been identified by the work group," says LTPD Work Group leader Sylvie Béliveau, coach of Canada's first FIFA Women's World Cup team in 1995. "Those stages lead players to a desired outcome, be it to reach World Cup or professional standards or to remain healthy and active for life."
Those seven stages are Active Start, FUNdamentals, Learn to Train, Train to Train, Training to Compete, Training to Win and Active For Life. Under the Association's leadership, Wellness to World Cup will provide the framework for high-quality programs that ensure enjoyable lifelong playing opportunities for player of all levels and abilities. It will also provide development pathways for elite players who pursue excellence.
"This is something for everyone," says LTPD Work Group member Tony Waiters, coach of Canada's first FIFA World Cup team in 1986. "Already we know the clubs, the grassroots organisations and the provincial associations are all buying into what we are producing here."
From 2000 to 2007, Canada participated in 10 FIFA tournaments, including two FIFA Women's World Cups and one FIFA Confederations Cup. Canada finished fourth at the FIFA Women's World Cup USA 2003 and second at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup Canada 2002. In 2008, Canada's national men's team is participating in FIFA World Cup Qualifiers while Canada's national women's team is participating in the Women's Olympic Football Tournament.