This time of year I usually create a New Year's wish list for Canadian soccer – what I'd like to see happen within the game over the next twelve months. However, this year you'll have to wait a little while longer.
The Canadian Soccer Association is planning to unveil its brand new 2014-2018 strategic plan sometime in January 2014. If that document contains what I've heard it contains, many of my wishes for Canadian soccer are about to become reality.
Renewed investment in technical leadership? Check.
Increased investment in coaching development? Check.
National training curriculum? Check.
Standards-based leagues across the country? Check.
Alignment of governance structures? Check.
Either I missed Christmas this year, or Santa has decided to pay Canadian soccer an early visit in 2014.
Granted, a strategic plan is only a document; words on paper that need to be turned into action. But for the first time in its over one hundred year history, the CSA will have a simple and concise road map that will serve as its compass for the next five years.
The process of formulating the strategic plan was a comprehensive one for the CSA. The strategic planning committee, chaired by Dr. Nick Bontis (Twitter: @NickBontis), went to unprecedented lengths to ensure that every angle was covered and that an exhaustive review of all stakeholders was achieved.
Another CSA first, the methodology for developing the plan was entirely inclusive. Starting over 14 months ago, they met with John Herdman, coach of our Olympic bronze medal-winning women's team, Tony Fonseca, the national technical director, as well as with the technical directors of all of the provincial associations. They drew on best practices from soccer nations who share characteristics with Canada, as well as from other sports that are achieving success in Canada. They conducted numerous town hall interviews across the country with subject matter experts to ensure that the top strategic priorities were included in the plan.
For the first time in CSA history, they also conducted a large-scale quantitative survey – offering the whole Canadian soccer community a chance to have their say on what was important to them. The survey drew an impressive 3000 respondents from coast to coast.
The more information the committee gathered, the clearer the picture became. Certain priorities started percolating to the top of the list.
Critically important issues like player development, coaching development and the performance of our national teams ranked highly amongst the technical priorities. Increased media coverage, increased corporate sponsorship and more high-quality international matches on domestic soil were some of the top organizational priorities. While increased communication and policy development and implementation were some of the top administrative priorities.
The final document promises to be simple and concise – no more than 2,300 words in length - and will contain four strategic pillars: investment in technical leadership, improved national team performance, responsible growth of the game, and professional governance of our sport. Within these categories are 26 strategic elements in total.
Some of these elements will be familiar to you: like the continued adoption of LTPD as a developmental framework. Meanwhile, others are truly groundbreaking. If successful, they could drastically alter our ability to improve the game across the country for years to come.
I'll have more on this in the weeks ahead, as some of these unique strategic elements require deeper discussion. For now, I want to wish you all a Happy New Year – there are better times ahead for soccer in Canada in 2014!