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Cumberland Cobras Column: Cobras’ after-school Academy ‘revolutionary’


By Ottawa Sportspage, For Cumberland Cobras Elite Academy

The Cumberland Cobras Elite Academy has long carried a simple formula to producing top players: train with the best players, with the best coaches, more often than others, and compete at the highest levels.

And then last year, the club added one more secret ingredient that’s made an enormous difference: do it all by 5:30 p.m.

“It’s kind of revolutionized things for us,” Cumberland United Soccer Club General Manager Pavel Cancura says of his club’s daily after-school Academy format. “It’s an opportunity for them to train more than they ever have in an environment that’s really unmatched any- where around here.”

In order to facilitate afternoon travel, the Cobras setup bus routes to bring players from their schools to the Superdome Sports Centre or Millennium Fields training sites.

“A traditional soccer player will get home at 4 from school, scrambles to inhale something for dinner, back to train at 7 or 8, tries to do his homework after that – if you’re doing it 3 or 4 times a week, that’s a busy week for the family and the kids,” highlights Cancura. “Here, they’re done by 5:30. They can go home and have dinner, do their homework, some are taking up other activities.

“The feedback we’ve been getting is amazing.”


Surveyed after the program’s first year, participants reported major strides in player growth and family life.

“It’s all outstanding,” Cancura adds. “When we do quantitative tests with the players, they’ve been off the charts compared to anything we’ve ever seen.”

That’s the product of a well-researched and well-practiced program that’s structured to achieve different targets each day and at different times of year. Training loads and schedules are carefully crafted so that players’ physical, technical, tactical and social development is balanced and optimized across the entire season.

This includes the after-school training on each weeknight, and then 11v11 inter-squad sessions, friendlies, games or tournaments on Saturdays. It also involves cross-training (strength, conditioning, yoga and general athletic skills) and mental/psychological development (sports psyche, goal setting, nutrition).

“Everyone has become a bit of marketing machine, but this is legit,” Cancura underlines. “You look at professional or elite academies around the world, and this seems to add up.”


Players are welcomed for trials with the Cobras Elite Academy at any time, though fall is the best given it is the end of one season and the start of the next. Cobras Academy teams generally play up an age group in the top East Region Soccer League divisions, while the under-13 boys’ and girls’ squads will debut in the Ontario Player Development League come spring 2018.

“When you have this structure in place, we’re not changing much,” Cancura says of Cumberland joining the top level of youth high- performance soccer in the province. “For those players who want to go as far as they can with soccer, we’re really excited to give them the opportunity to do it.”

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