I’ll be honest. If I didn’t have the job that I have now, which I truly enjoy, I’d be interested in the UBC Women’s Head Coach job. Who wouldn’t? Any coach with a desire to step in and define a program would love this job given where it’s at and the potential that is building for a new era of success.
The other caveat, for any qualified candidate, would of course be that it would have to pay market value for the Vancouver area and UBC will struggle to do that on their budgets. So since the reality is that I’m happy where I am and the pay for the UBC job is simply not going to hit market value, I’m comfortable writing this as I won’t be a candidate.
This is a program that is seething with potential to take a huge step forward. There’s a perfect storm coalescing around the UBC Athletics department and the team itself. UBC have got to realize this and spend some time deliberating on how to attract top candidates to apply and then make sure they get the selection right. My suggestion to them is to make sure Mike Mosher, UBC Men’s Varsity Coach, is in on the interview and final decision and at least one other informed soccer person, preferably from the Whitecaps or CSA, for reasons that will soon be obvious, be involved as well.
Here’s why I think this is one of the most interesting soccer jobs that is going to come available in the next few years.
We go on about Vancouver being a world class city when it’s really on the periphery of that status. It’s a great place to live and is pretty to look at. Little else suggests world class but UBC is indeed a world class university. Highly regarded in North America, Europe and Asia, it draws students from everywhere and regularly lists in the top 50 when noted publications publish lists of the world’s best universities. So for starters, the new coach will be working at a highly credible institution that any prospective student who realizes that where they do their degree still matters will put in their plus column when picking a school they want to play soccer at.
Next, the construction for the new Whitecaps FC training facility has already begun at UBC. A new turf field to the north of Warren field is being constructed. This will be the new home of Varsity turf, currently located 100m to the east. Once Varsity has been relocated, the Whitecaps training facility will be built on the old site and will comprise about 120m x 120m of top notch grass to train on. It will be somewhat enclosed and while it is almost exclusively for the Whitecaps, the UBC Varsity teams will get some time on it.
The second part of the Whitecaps facility at UBC will be a building that will house their coaching staff’s offices, dressing rooms, physio and trainer rooms, etc. It’s quite likely UBC Athletics will also get some space in this building. Factor in that one of the lead architects on the job is Alex Percy, former UBC Varsity player (and pal of mine; we played centre back together for years at UBC), and you can ensure that player focused touches will feature in the final design.
All in all, this really will be one of, if not the, pre-eminent soccer training facilities in the country.
The missing piece of the puzzle, going back to when this venture was first announced by the Provincial government (the ones putting up the vast majority of the funding) and the Whitecaps is the presence of the Canadian Soccer Association and their teams. It’s gone quite quiet on that front but I was told at a recent meeting for stakeholders regarding the facility that that is entirely between the Whitecaps and the CSA now.
Should a deal be struck you would have a great critical mass of people invested in soccer in general and should the women’s national team start using UBC as a base and the Whitecaps look to get involved again in women’s soccer in the form of an NWSL franchise you would have all the ingredients for the UBC women’s team coach to play a substantial role in amidst all this.
The days of the players on the women’s national team being precocious teenagers with cannons for legs is over. You just need to look at the average age of the current squad to see that most are on the back half of their 20’s.
The above roster of the 22 players selected for the recent game against Germany is a bit fuzzy but all you need to know is 17 of those 22 are aged 22 or older. In other words, the vast majority are older than the average university graduate. In even more other words, a career in post-secondary soccer can still be used as a launch pad to the national team from a demographics point of view if the training and development aspect can be improved to the point that the coaches can get their teams back on CSA radar.
Quick segue to the UBC Swim team and their incredible success within CIS. Why does UBC Swimming do so well? The answer is coaches. Coaches that over the year through their own personal excellence as coaches and connections to the national swim team were able to establish UBC as the virtual home of the national swimming program for years at a time. That ensured that every top swimmer in the country either came to UBC or gave serious consideration to doing so. Establishing the UBC women’s soccer program as a similar hub for higher level opportunities within the sport would similarly be a massive recruiting tool for the team.
That’s what’s on the table in the coming years for whoever gets the job. A fabulous set of tools that can be used to mould opportunities to make the UBC Women’s Soccer Program the jewel of women’s post-secondary soccer and a launch pad to professional and national teams.
Being an outstanding coach is the prerequisite to the job. Definitely, But to leverage these tools the right candidate will have to have the people skills to be able to develop relationships, patiently, with the CSA and Whitecaps to increase the likelihood of the Whitecaps rebuilding their women’s program and the CSA setting up shop for not just the women’s national team but the U17 and U20 teams. They will need to be able to identify, develop and then be willing to share resources with these allies, provide opposition for them in controlled 11v11 scrimmages, exchange data on players, etc.
There is no other women’s soccer environment in the country outside of the national team program that can facilitate quality, almost daily, training than university soccer teams in this country. The knock has always been that the season is too short to be a serious development opportunity. That’s true and it would need to change. There is nothing in CIS rules that dictates what teams can and can’t do in the soccer off-season. While you do need to respect that student-athletes are students first and have course loads that can interfere with training at certain times of the year, it can be accommodated. The right program, that would work in harmony with Whitecaps women’s programming and CSA national teams would be a huge draw for the top graduating high school players. Huge enough to offset scholarship offers from the States in some cases and in combination with Sport Canada funding and UBC scholarships be just as financially beneficial.
Players would benefit from the collective efforts of UBC Athletics and their renewed promise to provide the best available sport science resources to the teams they consider top tier. A strong relationship with the CSA and Whitecaps would help move the women’s soccer team towards that category. In the mean time the players still benefit from the resources and expertise that the Caps and CSA would bring to the table and the exposure from training at the same facilities.
So, prospective applicants, here’s a review that can serve as a cheat sheet for your interview:
- Define a program; make it a destination as UBC Swimming has done. Stress the opportunities that are currently fomenting.
- Use Whitecaps potential interest in NWSL and resurrected women’s programming in general to create opportunity to work together. This will help recruiting.
- Get CSA to work with Whitecaps to ensure the facility is used by women’s national teams. Further that relationship with CSA if it happens. Again, this will help recruiting.
- Extend CIS season to make UBC women’s soccer a true development environment for those with aspirations to play at a higher levels
With the mess that was the last hiring procedure for this position you can be sure that this one will be under many microscopes. My hope is that the hiring committee has several people who understand women’s soccer in this country and where it’s currently at (ie. a crossroads, as other countries catch up to us) and that they understand what a top soccer coach actually does. This program needs to get the right person and give them remuneration that will keep them there for the three to five years it will take to build the program into a true force that will be very hard to compete with thereafter.
To do that in this city means they will have to offer real money. Unfortunately that is unlikely and as most of us live in financial realities that preclude taking pay large pay cuts in our prime earning years, it will be a difficult task finding the person who can take on what is both a great opportunity at a great institution and an onerous task for a good five years on modest remuneration.
Good luck to all who apply and a sincere wish that this program gets the coach it deserves to take it to the levels I’ve described.