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OSU Force Academy Zone: OSU coaching pushes the pack ahead

OSU technical director Paul Harris with player Jaeden Mercure. File photo

By Ottawa Sports Pages, For OSU Force Academy

Ottawa South United Soccer Club has gained a reputation in town and well beyond as a hotbed for soccer player development, and it’s now becoming ever more recognized as a destination to cultivate coaching talent as well.

A foundational ingredient to that recipe is the long-standing leadership group at OSU. That’s ensured continuity and growth in the club’s coach development strategies, and an ongoing commitment to create more paid coaching positions.

OSU now employs six full-time coaches, it has many more paid staff within the 48 coaches who lead Force Academy teams and skill development programs, including positional specialists, sports performance and video coaches.

“It’s important to have the right staff who are professional and do it the right way, and can move the players forward,” signals OSU’s Club Head Coach of 9 years, Paul Harris. “Along with the increasing professionalization of the coaching world, you’re seeing a lot of greater opportunities for players.”

Young Canadian stars – like Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies, Ottawa’s Jonathan David (Lille, France) and OSU product Kris Twardek (Jagiellonia, Poland) – are providing plenty of inspiration for budding youth players nowadays.

“I remember when I first got to Canada, there was there was no real belief that you could make a living out of football,” notes Harris, a former Everton FC Academy coach. “I think now we’re starting to see that change, and I also think this is only the start.”

OSU consistently produces players for the university, national team and professional ranks, and many Force coaches are spreading their wings too. Some have gone on to work in English professional academies, become technical directors for other Ontario clubs, or have joined one of the top clubs in the FA Women’s Super League (in the case of Everton assistant Claire Ditchburn).

“A lot of them have gone on and done better for themselves, which is really great to see,” highlights Harris.

Many more have increased their certifications; OSU includes numerous National/UEFA A and B-licenced coaches, and others with Children & Youth specializations. OSU offers apprenticeship programs for youth coaches and assistants, and is proud that roughly a third of its staff are “homegrown coaches” – past OSU players who are now guiding the next generation.

That includes many who helped transform Ottawa soccer into a true force on the provincial stage during their playing days with OSU. Among them are Danny Assaf, Kyle DeSousa, Nick DiBerardino, Ali Jabara, Ian Kerr, Jorge Olmos, Anthony Sartzetakis, Elli Traboulsi and Shane Williams – all members of OSU teams born between 1997 and 2002 who collected a pile of Ontario League and Cup titles.

“That generation contributed so much on the field,” Harris signals. “To see them now rising through our coaching ranks, it really speaks volumes about our community and our ‘OSU family.’”

Harris also takes pride in seeing the rise of Ottawa soccer as a whole. Prior to OSU’s first triumph in 2013, no Eastern Ontario team had won a provincial youth championship. Now, other local clubs acknowledge that OSU pushed them to greater heights.

“They’ll tell us that when OSU started to do well at the provincial level, it kind of challenged them all to be better,” Harris explains. “The growth in coaching and the success of Ottawa clubs at the provincial level is really astronomical.

“A lot of the clubs have really improved, and we should all be proud that we’ve put Ottawa on the map.”

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