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Keeping talent home

Is it not time that Canadian universities and colleges took another look at what they are asking of their student athletes?

Sometimes wisdom comes from the strangest of places. In this instance, the wisdom came from a hockey mom watching the CIS women’s soccer national championships.

Wearing her hockey-mom badge proudly, she screeched every time her daughter was touched and hurled insults at the referees when she saw missed calls.

But when she wasn’t cursing at the teenaged refs, her thoughts on why CIS soccer didn’t measure up to NCAA standards were pretty succinct.

“How can the CIS compete when even the smallest NCAA teams are offering up full-ride scholarships?”

“They ask these kids to play and go to school and work and won’t offer them more than small, basic scholarships. It’s not just soccer, it’s every sport”

While I’m not inclined to listen to the shrieking class very often, this mom did have a point.

Is it not time that Canadian universities and colleges took another look at what they are asking of their student athletes?

These kids go to school and then work and then to their second job, varsity athletics.

Of the players I met and spoke to this weekend, many of them told me of 70-hour work weeks when they factored in all three.

And while football players may be able to find jobs at their schools paying $50,000 a year to re-stock vending machines or swipe library cards, the same cannot be said for soccer.

There is good, young talent in the CIS soccer ranks; good enough to one day be part of the men’s and women’s national team programs.

But some of the best talent in Canada is still found in high schools — players who haven’t been plucked by European clubs or American schools.

In the last half year, some players raised and trained in Canada have turned tail and declared intentions to play internationally for other countries. The present debate in soccer circles has returned to how we can retain the talent that we grow.

Universities have a role to play in that. When the next crop of Canadian talent graduates from high school, if they have a legitimate financial incentive to stay and continue on here, that’s all the more reason, years down the road, for them to stay and play here.

 
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