–By Ottawa Sportspage for Ottawa TFC
Scheduling ingenuity is helping to fuel soccer excellence while making high-level training more feasible for coaches, players and families at Ottawa TFC.
“It makes a more balanced lifestyle,” highlights club general manager Pavel Cancura. “We’re training more than anyone, yet our schedule is nicer.”
On the heels of its innovative after-school academy, Ottawa TFC began morning training sessions this past fall.
It started outdoors before shifting to François Dupuis Recreation Centre once the weather turned cold. Groups of 12-15 players now gather a weekday each from 6:45-8 a.m. under the watch of senior Ottawa TFC staff.
Players age 9-12 work to build their physical literacy in the gymnasium with fun drills to promote agility, balance, coordinator, strength and flexibility.
“It’s about making them overall coordinated and athletic, so that whatever you ask them to do, they can do it,” explains Cancura, noting that younger players can more easily participate in other sports thanks to the club’s decreased reliance on traditional evening training.
Working alongside strength coaches from Performance Training, athletes age 13+ spend part of their time in the weightroom and part in a studio to enhance strength and mobility.
“It’s not like another soccer practice, they do complimentary things to help them recover and stay injury-free, and make them stronger for when they train later in the day,” signals the long-time leader of Ottawa TFC’s root Cumberland club.
Finding more time to train is crucial for Canada to catch up to what soccer players are doing globally, adds Cancura, who subscribes to the theory that 10,000 hours of training is required to become an expert in a given field.
“I don’t think there’s any getting away from that one, but what’s most important is that they really enjoy it,” he underlines. “There are some really talented kids here who I bet just might get to where they dream of being, but man, are they ever smiling the whole time!
“And that’s the key – those 10,000 hours have to be fun hours.”
For 8-year-old Sarah Benoit, morning sessions mean more treasured time with teammates and friends.
“After her first practice, she said, ‘If they did this every day, I would want to come every day,’” recounts Sarah’s mother, Isabelle Roy. “The coaching staff is really awesome. It makes it fun for the kids to come. They’re very encouraging. It’s competitive in the sense that it’s hard work, but they’re very positive in how they coach them and help them along.”
Some parents will workout themselves in the morning at François Dupuis while their kids are training.
“It’s such a culture-shift,” notes Cancura, whose club was asked to present their formula to fellow Ontario Player Development League clubs at a recent presidents’ meeting. “It’s cool to turn heads with it and have people be excited, and to be producing great players and great people, excellent leaders, and an excellent community.
“It’s great that we can look people in the eye and say we have everything we need here to get as far as you want to go.”