The new ‘product’ is out there now and players and parents are in the process of deciding if BCPL is for them or not. Like buying a new car they are looking at it carefully, kicking tires, reading up on various models, comparing options.
It’s a different season, considerably more money and the coaching on offer ranges from top end to quite disappointing. Some are wondering why one extra training session a week and a trip or two to the Okanagan is resulting in a much bigger bill, particularly if they aren’t over-enthused about the coach their prospective team has. Some are very happy with what’s being offered and have enthusiastically signed up.
Some though are deciding it’s not for them. Most of these decisions almost certainly start and end with a family deciding what works and what doesn’t work for them. But as the number of those saying ‘no thanks’ to BCPL increases, there was been a reaction to those decisions from those wanting and needing BCPL to succeed that ratchets up the tension by suggesting that some players are being coerced not to participate in BCPL.
There seems to be two strains to this argument. Some argue that coaches are actively soliciting current players to drop down to Metro (MSL) soccer to protect paying gigs they have as coaches. Others say it has more to do with volunteer parent coaches wanting to keep strong teams together after they were overlooked fro BCPL positions so they can run the table and win everything. The reaction to this has been for BCSA to decree that only BCPL can participate in A Cup competitions.
Making A Cup exclusive to BCPL smacks of desperation and moves like that are the hallmark of a monopoly. It’s not inclusive and indicates a willingness to try to bully people into participating.
There are already letters being sent by BCSA at the behest of the franchises to teams looking at opting out of BCPL. They are being told that they will not be allowed to play Metro. I would love to know what mechanism they are trying to enable that will now compel strong players to pay up to $2500 to play soccer next season. How can players be forced, whether individually or as part of entire teams looking to play at Metro, to participate in a league that has fees that are unprecedented in the Lower Mainland? I haven’t seen the wording of these letters and would welcome comment from those who have, or BCSA directly, on the contents of what is being sent.
As I said in an earlier post, BCPL is a very good idea but the implementation is both heavy handed and shoddy.
The carrot they assumed they could dangle in front of players and parents was seen for what it is. Average. This was supposed to be so good that people would be lining up with cheques in hand to be a part of it. But the donkey did not bite (as much as was thought it would) and now, very quickly, out comes the whip.
One of the reasons I was an early advocate for this league was that it got rid of the Out of District rule. I have always voiced the opinion that players and parents should have as much choice as possible when it comes to their soccer experience and giving them that choice forcing accountability on the service providers (clubs, leagues, teams, coaches, academies). It was a great step forward but because the sheep aren’t behaving (yes, I’m going to switch animal references…guess how I’m going to work dinosaurs into this) as they were supposed to so the herding process is being stepped up a notch.
I emailed Valleysoccer and Rasta, knowing who they are, and asked if I could share their names and their particular situation vis a vis BCPL and they have agreed.
Rasta is Clive Clarke, a well known soccer coach in Richmond (and along with his wife, a small factory that has produced four (five?) excellent young soccer players). He coaches the Richmond U16 Girls Metro team. This team, the Red Hot Selects, won the league by a massive margin this season. They tied one game and won the rest. I believe they’ve also won the league at U14 and U15. Clive is not paid to coach this team. He’s not happy with the BCPL setup at Fusion FC and has asked his team if they want to stay together and play in the U17/U18 Metro league. As a comment he wrote earlier said, having been successful at the top level of play, he’s hardly motivated to win trophies at the second tier.
If we value giving players choices and there’s no ulterior financial motive or coach vanity at issue, is there any reason why these players should not be able to stay with a coach they value (I have heard from parents on Clive’s team and they clearly see Clive’s coaching and the friendliness of the team in general as why they would stay rather than play BCPL)? In a perfect world, the girls on the Red Hot Selects should be playing BCPL but for me the issue revolves around coercion. This league starts losing credibility very, very quickly when it has to start compelling players to join it. There’s a strong whiff of hypocrisy when you resort to coercion to combat perceived, yet unproven, coercion by coaches. This is the inverse of accountability. It harkens back to the ‘empire-building’ days when players were bullied by coaches who did indeed want to keep players together for their own purposes and there were no checks and balances (ie. Technical Directors overseeing coach selection, evaluations and team formation processes) to stop it from happening.
Sukhi Sandhu posts as Valleysoccer on here. He is a well known coach and community advocate in Surrey. He has a very strong U12 girls team that seems to want to stay with him at U13 Metro rather than playing BCPL.
Talking with Sukhi yesterday, who has some real life experience in public policy development, he made the very good point that the initial mistake with BCPL was the lack of stakeholder consultation in determining what needed to change and what it would take to get players and parents to buy into this new venture.
Sukhi has put together a sophisticated spring program for them that involves travel to Bellingham and California. It will be a similar amount of travel to what some Provincial teams do, he says, at a fraction of the price. Strong players want to play on his team. Are their parents not capable of making decisions regarding what works for their daughters and for them as a family?
Sukhi is also not paid to coach this team and like Clive his daughter is on the team. He has won Provincial Cups on the boys side already so, again, the claim that some of the coaches looking to keep strong players together and play second tier soccer are doing so so they can win trophies there and boost their egos doesn’t seem to hold water.
I’ll even use my own team as an example of what will be the next level where there’s conflict. I have a U16 girls gold team (see header image). They won the league this year. They will be faced with the choice of continuing with me for their last two years of youth soccer or playing Metro at VFC. Do they want to move to a coach they’ve never heard of, pay about three times as much and train downtown at Andy Livingstone rather than on turf fields closer to where they live on the west side? I work closely with Jason Jordan at VFC at this time of year and have strongly urged him to consider some of my players for Metro each year. I haven’t and won’t be trying to convince my players to stay with me at Gold next season but there is very little interest from the info I’ve gathered from them in moving to Metro (ie. the only interest is if we could move en masse). Should they also be compelled to move clubs and play at what will at best be a marginally better standard of play just because it is now deemed the second tier of play? Am I one of ‘those’ coaches if they don’t?
As I’ve said, BCPL made a huge strategic mistake in keeping Metro soccer around as the second tier of play. They should have done everything in their power to make their league distinct. Even though the player pool really isn’t changing, the perception changes if you keep the existing top league around. You blur the lines. Is there really much difference between Metro and BCPL? If you can have the same coach you already had a Metro and a sizeable number of players decide to stay at that level? Factor in that for most it will be far more affordable and you have created a choice for people what wouldn’t have existed if they were looking at ‘dropping’ to gold if they opted out of BCPL rather than ‘staying’ at Metro. Someone familiar with the four P’s of marketing (price, product, placement, promotion) should have been in that room helping make decisions.
If you can’t distinguish yourself in the marketplace as being unique and having value commensurate with what you want to charge, people will look at competing options. That’s what’s happening now and despite charges that it’s more due to nefarious coaches, it’s not. People are not nearly as impressed with the BCPL offerings as the franchises thought they would be. So they are looking at Metro as being a competing option.
Entrepreneurs like Colin Elmes thrive on this sort of confusion in the marketplace. BCPL has made a mess of the U18 divisions. They have changed their minds a few times on how it will look and because there is no point person to communicate all this newness to the soccer public, another point made by Sukhi, they have opened the door for a common sense plan like the one Colin has presented to 1994 born girls. TSS will be putting a team in the Women’s Metro League (they hope to go in the Premier division but need to play a challenge game against Burnaby to ensure they can compete) and then in the Pacific Coast League. They are doing it in a manner similar to the Caps Residency Program. No cost except kit and any travel expenses if they go somewhere for a tournament. No training fees and it fits the calendar for girls in Grade 12 who plan on being in post-secondary schooling in September. He has a good number of the best players in the age group signed up and many more who want to be involved overall than he has space for.
Is this wrong? Should players not have this option? Should they be compelled to play BCPL? The argument that college scouts will only watch BCPL players just does not hold water. These players know that TSS will get them exposure to college scouts. Clive Clark will also get his players that exposure.
It is BCSA and the BCPL franchises jobs to demonstrate the value of being a part of this new league. They need to persist with the carrots and put the stick away (now back to the donkey). Make the carrot more tempting by lowering fees, getting better coaches, making policies surrounding playing a second sport more clear, specify exactly whether and when families will have vacation time at spring break and summer. They are alienating players with the increasing use of the stick rather than looking for ways to increase the buy-in.
Note to those posting for the first time: Your comment comes to me and I have to approve it. Sometimes I can do that right away either at my laptop or on my iPhone but sometimes it takes a bit of time. Once your first comment is approved you can post (assuming it’s from the same IP address) and it will go straight up on the blog. I still check posts to make sure they’re not personal attacks or malicious but that’s really not been an issue.