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Coaches play up CIS soccer benefits

Joe MacCarthy2010-05-12 20:39:02 +0000 #1
Coaches play up CIS soccer benefits

By MARK KEAST -- Toronto Sun

Stay home, young sportsman. And sportswoman. That's the message Canada's national soccer coaches at the university level are passing on to student athletes.

Don't just throw yourself at the NCAA/Holy Grail scholarship route. Research those U.S. schools you're looking at, the quality of the soccer program, and make sure you're getting a full scholarship, and not left paying.

The Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) is showcasing the best in university soccer in this country this weekend at two locales. The women's national championship has been going on since Thursday in Edmonton, with the fifth-place game scheduled for today, and the bronze and gold medal matches set for tomorrow.

The men, meanwhile, after having their Thursday quarter-final matches postponed because of 70 k.p.h. winds, had their consolation and semi-final games moved to today, with the bronze medal and championship games tomorrow. The men's championship is being played in Charlottetown, PEI.

The championships have allowed those who follow the sport some time for reflection. York, for example, with its women's team in the championship, and its men's team making the OUA final four, is trumpeting a relatively new program under coach Paul James that's aiming to be one of the elite programs in the country.

James was a coach of the year in the NCAA, and coached in the Canadian Soccer League, and completed a Football Industries MBA at the University of Liverpool in England.

James said he has been impressed by the level of play in the CIS since he took the York job, coaching both the women's and men's teams, last year.

"I think a lot of people misinterpret the quality of play in the CIS and OUA," he said. "I've coached in the U.S., so I know the system, and it's not what is presented in a lot of cases. Sometimes it's not a total free ride. Hopefully, we can break down those barriers, and more players will stay in Canada."

What drives the motivation for young soccer players in North America is the U.S. university system, not the professional system, James said, and there are dangers for young players inherent in that.

Tracy David, head of University of Victoria's women's team, said young players -- outside of the elite players who will lock up Div. 1 scholarships -- need to ask themselves what their priorities should be, and ask themselves if they're buying into too much hype.

"I think the top 20 schools (in the U.S.) are good soccer programs, maybe 40," she said. "After that you better be careful. Our top athletes will always go, but if we could keep the second and third tier kids, our programs would be better."

Offering them money to stay would help. In B.C., the student athlete can have their tuition covered. Ontario has more stringent policies when it comes to student financial awards -- the OUA approved an increase to $3,500 last January.

Or, coaches can lead through example. Al Alderson, coach of the men's Trinity Western Spartans in Langley, B.C., regularly schedules matches against Div. 1 teams to, "dispel some of the rules about the great NCAA." The school this year had a record of one win, two losses and four ties against Div. 1 schools.

Still, other coaches at the national championships said there's work to be done when it comes to the quality of CIS play.

"Technically and tactically there's no comparison between our top schools and the American system," said Carmine Isacco, head coach of the University of Toronto's men's team.

"We're getting there, but if the programs in the Canadian system keep insisting on playing soccer that's results-oriented and not development-oriented, we'll never get there."



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