Post-secondary coaches would like to see a Calgary futsal league
Since winter arrives so early in most parts of Canada and lasts through to the spring, playing soccer outdoors is not a reality through the cold months. Snow covers the fields as early as October.
However, after the university soccer season ends in early November, it does not mean it is the end for the University of Calgary Dinos, the Mount Royal University Cougars and the SAIT Trojans varsity soccer teams.
The Dinos' men's players join the Alberta Major Soccer League for the winter and spring, where they play indoor soccer until the snow melts, then back to the field. The club team they play for is the Calgary Dinosaurs.
Brian McDonnell, the head coach of the Dinos men's team, says the Alberta schools are at an inconvenience to play indoors during the winter while places in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia get to play outside nearly all year.
"The biggest thing for us in the offseason is that we're at a disadvantage to B.C. teams where they're able to play soccer year round so we need to make sure we're playing as competitive soccer as possible," said McDonnell.
Indoor soccer is not as good for skills as futsal, and lacks some skills that outdoor soccer commonly has, according to McDonnell.
Futsal is played inside a gym using a soccer ball and nets the same size as used in indoor soccer, but it has boundaries set up with cones, unlike the other.
"Indoor is difficult," said McDonnell "it's a boarded game and five a side, and takes away from the traditional skills some of our athletes need to be working on. Long balls and lots of aerial challenges don't happen in games."
McDonnell would prefer for his team to play futsal in an Alberta-wide league, but said he knows indoor soccer is good for now.
"We would definitely like to see some sort of futsal created. I know it might be a possibility to look into to combining an Alberta Collegiate Athletic Conference and Canada West for an Alberta league," McDonnell said. "We could include more teams. It is something for down the road. As of right now the indoor board game is the route we're taking."
While the U of C men's squad plays together throughout the year, the women's side does not have their own club team, so they are encouraged to join clubs of their choice.
Meanwhile, both SAIT and Mount Royal's men's and women's teams are in the same situation and have to join club teams that are apart of the Alberta Major Soccer League
SAIT coach's thoughts
Erin Schwab, assistant coach at SAIT for the women's team, said there are 8-10 girls on the same club team, which is important for building good camaraderie.
Schwab would also like to see SAIT play futsal, and there is a league for colleges in Alberta, but there is not enough practice space for the teams.
"It's due to our lack of gym availability. It's different playing futsal in a gym facility like we have compared to an actual futsal gym," Schwab said. "The flooring is different. The only time we could practice is in the mornings because the gyms are booked for basketball and volleyball."
Most players only stay for a year or two for SAIT, so there is a large turnover. Making sure the girls are ready for the next season is important, Schwab said.
"As soon as the season ends, all the players are released to go play for their club teams. In the past, we have set up training sessions with the teams. We have Peak Power Sport Development Centre here at SAIT and we've had them come up with personal training programs for the players as well," said Schwab.
MRU women's coach weighs in
Tino Fusco, head coach of the MRU Cougars women's team, is trying to implement better training, but it is difficult since he is not a full-time coach.
Fusco said: "With the transition from the CIS, we will increase our training more to make it more of an annual program. The girls have some post-season fitness testing, then we will be going into our coach-player meeting in the month of November and early December before they write their final exams. Come January, we'll start up for our strength training and our conditioning program. As well the girls will have access to the Alberta Sport and Development Centre, and that gives us mental training, as well as some nutritional training."
It would be difficult to create an all Mount Royal University team into the Alberta Major Soccer League, where the U of C men's squad plays, because every new team must start in the lowest division and work there way up. It would take around five years to play the top competition, according to Fusco.
A better offseason training program should yield better results, and that is what Fusco said he is hoping for.
"I'm hoping that we have a little bit more consistency in our establishment," said Fusco. "We're trying to make it more of a professionalized environment, where the players have access to the Mount Royal facilities. I think it is getting in the habit. If you're an athlete and you take some time off, then try to get back into things, it's harder to get your fitness back up and the motivation is not there. It is important to keep it consistent and that my annual program peaks at the right time for intensity."
Cougars want to be together as a team
Second year midfielder Kelsey Kinzner of the Cougars plays with only three of her Mount Royal teammates on her current club, yet said she knows that if more of them could play together it would help team bonding.
She also said that the break from the end of the season has been needed, but it's time to start training again.
"So far we've basically had a nice break to try to recover and rest from the season. We actually had fitness training, which was lots of fun," said Kinzner sarcastically. "It was a good baseline start. Hopefully going forward we'll get a weight program started and do some more training and practices on weekends."
- By Neil Hilts