It’s back to the future for local soccer clubs.
Only months after laying down a non-movement rule for players between the ages of 9 to 13, the Lac St. Louis region has done an about-face for this season.
In soccer these days, you never know what’ll happen next.
Only months after soccer clubs sent out directives to their intercity to coaches develop their « own talent » players 9-13 years, which falls during much of the so-called Golden Ages of Learning (8-12 years), the poaching season is back again.
Now that another free-for-all player derby has begun, there will be winners and loser, which is exactly what club reform was all about.
The best clubs with the best coaches would naturally attract the best players to their teams.
Darwinism had finally come to the soccer pitch, and the survival of the fittest was supposed to change the face of soccer in Quebec, for better or worse, depending on your point of view.
Club reform also spelled the end of regional teams like the great Lac St.Louis Lakers, for decades the most succesful amateur soccer outfit in the Canada.
Another side-effect of club reform is that weaker clubs – not necessarily the smaller clubs – could seldom offer its membership AAA or even AA soccer.
It stood to reason then that those small clubs might eventually lose their top players to big clubs, like Lakeshore and Pierrefonds that did hold the promise of AAA.
Since Lakeshore already held the distinction as the biggest and arguably the best club in the region, recruiting or « poaching » the top players from weaker teams made for an uneasy relationship between clubs.
Those who support the « 4-2 » player transfer rule - which allows a team to bring in a maximum of four out-of-club players per season, but not more than two from any given team – favoured its liberating feature of freedom of choice for your son or daughter to seek out the best coaching and soccer development.
They would argue if a child is dissatisfied with their coach and wants to play for another team, why can’t he or she be allowed to transfer to another club?
Sounds like a reasonable request. After all, we all want the best for our kids, whether its the best education available (or affordable), the best of life, etc.
Detractors of the rule saw it as the unofficial transfer of the Lakers franchise to powerful Lakeshore, with Pierrefonds running a distant but decent second. Small clubs like Dorval and MRO managed to build their own clubs the old-fashioned way : from within.
But the reality in many cases is that a prime consideration for transfering is to leave a losing team for a winning team that may eventually qualify for AAA which begins at age 14.
I’ve seen entire team rosters overhauled in Lakeshore and Pierrefonds as they search for the Holy Grail of AAA. What does that tell us?
In fact, some Lakeshore AA and AAA teams no longer possess a majority of local players. Lakeshore used to have 50 percent residency requirement, but it nixed that a few years to bring in even more outsiders, and in some cases – out-of-region players.
Some Lakeshore coaches would openly brag about the number out « out-of-club » players on their roster. If you didn’t get the maximum four, you were seen as missing the chance to become A or AA club.
Years ago, John Limniatis, Lakeshore’s current technical director, told me he couldn’t understand why so many families wanted to switch clubs. « If you have a good coach, stay where you are and develop, » he said.
In other words, don’t get caught up in the seduction of playing AAA soccer , which, frankly, has turned out to be a bit of a bust.
The elite AAA circuit is a glorified AA league and folks, that sobering opinion comes from almost every AAA coach I’ve spoken to in the past few years.
I’ll share my the views on AAA soccer and the Lakehore Soccer Club for another day, but there’s a reason why Canada is lagging in soccer development on the men’s side.
Now that poaching has begun anew, what’s your take?