Local coach builds ‘pathway to the pros’

Hamilton Spectator – March 02, 2011


You’ve probably never heard of the Cape Verde Islands. No surprise. It’s a largely unknown tiny cluster of islands just off the west coast of Africa which is home to barely half a million people.

Canada’s soccer-playing population is five times that. Yet with all those players and all our resources, we remain buried on FIFA’s world rankings, 80th overall, just ahead of places like Mali, Benin and Jordan. And yes, behind Cape Verde.

Ian McClurg would love see this change. All of it.

The new assistant coach with the junior team for Toronto FC’s elite soccer academy says there’s no reason Canada has to continue languishing in mediocrity or worse. Which is why he thinks some recent changes in the way the game is overseen will pay big dividends down the road. Maybe rather quickly.

If you are a young soccer star in this country, getting spotted at a young age has long been a crapshoot at best. You’ll need luck and probably some connections to be discovered. By the time a talented kid is identified as such, he may have lost a number of years of prime instructional and development time which puts him way behind players from other countries that are finding their top prospects early – age seven or eight in some European countries – and giving them the resources to become elite.

Further, few Canadian kids dream of a career in the pro game because they have no idea how to achieve such a thing. Hockey has a clearly defined hierarchy and path unlike soccer whose ladder remains a mystery to most.

“I believe firmly Canada hasn’t maximized (its talent),” the Ancaster resident says.

Hence our terrible international record in men’s competition over the past few decades. Throwing young men into games against opponents who have had top training since they were boys usually isn’t a fair fight.

McClurg knows a little about being on the other side. Growing up in Belfast until his family came to Canada in 1981, he was raised in a soccer culture. He later earned a tryout with a British team but he says he always felt he had a coach’s mindset more than that of a player.

“I definitely challenged coaches when I played,” he chuckles. “I would ask questions about why we would play in a certain way.”

He simply couldn’t figure out why some things were done the way they were. Still doesn’t. When he drives around town and sees practices going on, he occasionally finds his blood pressure rising as he watches drills he believes are rather unhelpful.

Coaching allowed him to fix that. With the kids he instructs, anyway. He ran a provincial team for a few years and for the past decade has run a soccer school that stresses building technique and skills ahead of winning games. Last fall, he was asked to help with TFC’s academy.

The idea behind the program is to scour the country for top kids, bring them to Toronto and train them effectively. Get kids as young as 14 and start getting them ready not only for a career in the pros but also to take on the rest of the world. McClurg, who recently got his top-level coaching licence in Europe, explains the kids don’t pay to come, so economics don’t weed out some of the best talent.

“This is the first time in my lifetime a young player in Canada can see a pathway to the pros,” he says.

Already it’s bringing some results. Canada’s Under-17 men’s team just qualified for that age group’s World Cup with 14 of the players on the roster coming from Toronto FC or the Vancouver Whitecaps’ academies. Last year, the Montreal Impact started its own academy, suggesting the number of elite players could continue to grow.

Further, McClurg says with Vancouver joining the MLS – the top level of professional soccer in the country – this year and Montreal in 2012, there will be more pro jobs for Canadians which will also help develop talent.

So, with all this effort being made to shore up the foundation of the sport here, is there really a possibility Canada could get back to the World Cup one of these years for the first time since 1986? McClurg doesn’t hesitate.

“Oh definitely,” he says. “Maybe not this time, but the one after.”

Maybe climb the FIFA rankings past the Verde Islands, too

Adam Bouchard Progresses in Toronto FC Academy Try-Out’s

1v1 Soccer FC Player Adam Bouchard1v1 Soccer FC player, Adam Bouchard, has successfully progressed to the next phase of the Toronto FC Academy try-out’s. Over 120 young players entered the try-out process at the beginning of November and Adam is one of 40 players that has been invited back for January training.

This is a tremendous accomplishment as the players that Adam has been competing against include some of the the best young players in Ontario. Adam is also one of the younger players and has performed very well during a challenging month of training and evaluation.
Players at the Toronto FC Academy are evaluated on the C.A.S.T. system of development. The four key elements are:
  • Competitive Edge
  • Athleticism
  • Speed of Play
  • Technique
We have been working with Adam for the last 4 years and are delighted that his commitment to excellence, perseverance and training focus are bringing rewards.

1v1 Soccer Relaunched

We are delighted to announce the relaunch of 1v1 Soccer. When we launched the company in 2000 we aimed to provide young Canadian soccer players with training opportnuities comparable to leading soccer nations.

The logo has changed, we are relaunching as 1v1 Soccer FC but our passion and commitment to delivering on this mandate has never waivered.  For the last two years we have focused on delivering Brazilian soccer training techniques but are now able to build upon this work and deliver “best practice” training development models from leading  professional club academies from Brazil, Spain, England, France, Germany, Italy, Holland and Argentina.

We look forward to improving the soccer ability of more and more young players and more importanatly helping to develop “good young people” who have been taught values that will stand them in good standing for all life’s challenges

About Us

1v1 Soccer was established in 2000 and quickly established itself as one of Canada’s leading soccer developement companies. We provide specialist soccer coaching to boys and girls of all abilities aged from 5-16+.

Best Practices from Leading Soccer Nations

During the last two years, 1v1 Soccer has successfully delivered a Brazilian training program to our young players in Burlington and Ancaster developement centres.  New partnership agreements now provides us with the opportunity to include training methodologies from other leading soccer nations such Spain, Germany, Argentina, Holland and England.

Our training now reflects the training methodologies used by some of the world’s most successful clubs such as Real Madrid (Spain) , Santos (Brazil), Bayern Munich (Germany), Boca Juniors (Argentina),  Ajax (Holland) and Chelsea (England).

This new partnership arrangement enables us to provide coaching development training and support for ambitious local coaches who are constantly looking to upgrade their knowledge and skills.

Our Mission/Values

Our aim is to provide young Canadian players with soccer training experiences comparable with leading soccer nations. We achieve this by providing a positive educational and training environment where young players follow a proven and progressive coaching curriculum delivered by qualified coaching instructors.

‘We believe that the game soccer can positively impact the  lives of young people and we seek to develop life skills that can be transferred to education and other areas of our player’s lives…in addition to improving soccer performance”   

Player Developement is  a Long-Term Commitment

We take a long-term view of player development. Research confirms that it requires 10,000 training hours for athletes to reach elite levels. 1v1 Soccer provides coaching instruction and pathways for development that enables our players to have realistic opportunities to ultimately join professional academies in North America and Europe , pursue US scholarship opportunities and derive greater enjoyment from the game, due to their enhanced level of skills development.

Our Team

The successful selection and training of  our coaching staff is critical to our success. 1v1 Soccer employs highly skilled and qualified staff who must successfully complete initial training and then an extensive mentorship program under the direct supervision of our Director of Coaching, Ian McClurg.

All coaches are handpicked, certified and have a complete understanding of our coaching philosophy. To ensure the delivery of high quality coaching programing, all of our coaching staff are required to participate in continuing educational programs to keep up to date with the latest trends in youth soccer development.

Director of Coaching – Ian McClurg

Ian recently completed his UEFA “A” license which is Europe’s top coaching qualification. He also holds US and Canadian B license qualifications and is a former provincial team coach for Ontario.  He has extensive coaching contacts throughout North America and Europe and has worked 3 years, in partnership,  with English professional club Crewe Alexandra FC. Crewe Alexandra have traditionally been recognized as one of the premier youth development clubs in England