By Ottawa Sportspage, For Ottawa TFC Soccer Club
With the massive work behind them of formally merging Cumberland and Capital United soccer clubs alongside Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC, Ottawa TFC has begun tackling an even bigger project – blending three clubs together all for one purpose.
That’s been top-of-mind for club leaders of late, and became evident when they were being interviewed by Canada Soccer during the application process for the new national youth licence that would place Ottawa TFC amongst a small handful of clubs that meet the highest standards for coaching, facilities, policies, governance, management and finances to raise the bar for the global game in Canada.
“The thing that stuck out for them the most was when we’d talk about values and culture,” recounts Ottawa TFC General Manager Pavel Cancura. “After an in-depth audit of our club and programs, and listening to how things run here, they said the culture and values piece is something that they’d not exactly had with many other clubs. I was glad to hear them point that out, as I think our developing club culture really is something that’s starting to be unique about us.”
The club works hard to provide a high-quality and well-organized soccer experience, but “it’s about creating a culture that people want to be a part of – that’s kind of the magical piece,” explains Cancura. “We want to make sure every kid feels it, you know, ‘The minute I went in, there was an arm around me and I felt like this is a special place.’”
It is the goal of Ottawa TFC’s staff coaches to collectively get to know every player’s name in the club – no easy task with a membership well above 3,000. But the objective serves as a constant reminder that it’s not only about focusing on the club’s most talented players, a recreational player is just as important.
Oftentimes in large clubs’ rec programs, “you’d get a volunteer coach who goes off to a park somewhere with a ball bag and some kids and you hope they have a good season,” Cancura describes, but “there’s no reason that all levels shouldn’t have a solid practice and get a great exposure to the game, that there’s a good energy and vibe, and proper supervision.”
To aid in that quest, Ottawa TFC has centralized all training to its east and central campuses at Millennium and Pineview parks. Games still take place at various sites under the watch of certified individuals, but bringing all practices together promotes greater learning opportunities and interactions with Ottawa TFC’s technical leadership team.
“We want that culture to permeate so that the rec player and the 4-year-old getting their first touch on the ball feel just as much a part of it,” Cancura signals, noting that having all programs together from youth grassroots to rec leagues, competitive and academy also makes it easy to move between the streams as players progress in their development.
“When a rec player is arriving, the after-school academy is leaving, and a lot of the older players are sticking around to coach the younger ones, and the senior coaches are present for all of it,” adds the leader of the former Cumberland club for the past decade. “That’s a huge step to feel like you’re part of something. You’re no longer just showing up with 10 friends in a park.”
In its early days, Ottawa TFC canvassed every team to get their input on what the new club should stand for. It held sessions with players of all ages, with parents, and with managers, then the leaders gathered to pull it all together.
The product was four core values – unity, growth, work ethic and excellence – and a matching acronym:
O: One for all
T: Today we get better
F: First in, last out
C: Canadian excellence
“Everyone came in together and kind of brainstormed to come up with the values. It was really cool,” reflects Cancura. “We’re a new family and we’re building a new culture.”