What it takes to go Pro

Playing soccer for Team Canada requires a fierce work ethic, superbskills and single-minded dedication to improving your game, saysStephen Hart, head coach of the national men’s side.

Playing soccer for Team Canada requires a fierce work ethic, superb skills and single-minded dedication to improving your game, says Stephen Hart, head coach of the national men’s side.

It’s also important that the player can contribute to the team as a whole and not just be a flashy one-person show.

Hart says competition is tough at the top and he wants to see players who will fight with other Canadians for the few spots available. “It’s really a big thing. A lot of players are not really willing to compete for a position.”

Personality counts too, as the coach wants to see an on- and off-the-field commitment to professionalism.

The Halifax resident admits that Nova Scotians and Canadians in general suffer from soccer isolation. In his native Trinidad and Tobago, kids grow up immersed in soccer culture and in the shadow of giants like Brazil, the most successful World Cup nation.

Growing up in Sackville isn’t quite the same experience. It’s even trickier if you’re looking for a spot on the women’s national side.

“One of the big things that’s lacking for our players at a young age [is] they’re not in a position to go and see first-hand how top professionals got there in the first place,” Hart says.

With few high-profile Canadian clubs around, kids don’t see the players working hard every day.

“All they see is the end product on TV, which is not the same.”

Budding players need to compete at a world-class level, which can be tricky to find.

“That sort of learning environment is absent at present in Canada, except for a few clubs,” Hart says.

While the traditional route has been to play in Europe, Hart thinks Canadian players are missing a gold mine at their feet.

“I think we’re very closed-minded in Canada, because there is also a huge playground in Latin America that players could try,” he says.

And while Canada didn’t make the cut for this year’s World Cup in South Africa, Hart has his sights firmly set south on Brazil, which hosts the next World Cup in 2014.

 
 
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