Whether they dream of playing for Canada's National Team or simply want to have fun with their friends, taking the right approach to the game when children are young sets the stage for a lifetime of enjoyment.
The Canada Soccer Pathway provides a roadmap for players of all ages and aspirations who want to play soccer at the recreation, competitive or high performance EXCEL levels, with the aim of encouraging lifelong participation. The Pathway is built around the principles of Long-Term Player Development (LTPD).
LTPD is a model of athlete development that parallels what doctors and psychologists have long used to better understand human development: as a series of distinct stages, which takes us from infancy through to adulthood. A person's abilities, behavious and emotions, as well as their understanding of the world around them, varies from stage to stage.
Similarly, experts in sport science have identified seven stagesof development - each with its own physical and psychological characteristics - that form the basis for LTPD. When young soccer players are able to train and compete in an environment that's appropriate to their stage of development, they not only perform at their best, they also have more fun.
In other words, LTPD is designed to give players an optimal soccer experience at every stage by putting their needs front and centre.
We don't expect kids to compete in spelling bees without first teaching them their ABCs. When activities and expectations don't match with a child's developmental stage, this can set them up for failure.
The same is true when young children are thrust into a soccer environment that over-emphasizes winning at the expense of developing skills and having fun. The negative consequences can last a lifetime: Some kids develop bad habits and poor skills and can become discouraged. Many don't achieve their performance potential. Others end up leaving the sport altogether because they don't enjoy the game.
LTPD gives all players the best chance of success in soccer by tailoring training, competition and coaching to their needs at the appropriate stage of development.
When children learn the right skills at the right time - supported by a caring soccer community of parents, coaches, officials and volunteers - they become more confident in their abilities and have a lot more fun. This means more of them will grow into healthy, active adults with a lifelong love of the game.
Curious about the recommendation to eliminate league standings in youth soccer under LTPD? Read this leaflet (pdf).
The Canada Soccer Pathway is formed by three streams of play: recreational, competitive and EXCEL, the high performance arm of Canada's soccer landscape. It identifies the environments a player should look for, train and compete in, in order to progress from the local club to Canada's National Teams.
While the recreational and competitive streams of play are largely delivered through clubs and schools across the country, the EXCEL stream us designed to ensure more of Canada's exceptional young players find their way into the top competitive environments: professional clubs and National Teams.