I’m about a month late posting about this, mostly because it was passed right as our season was winding down and the end of season tournaments and such were ramping up. I’m still playing catchup.

I forgot my folio, so my notes were sparse and the official minutes aren’t out yet. There were somewhere around 40 clubs represented in person and via proxy, including most of the larger clubs in the state. After some discussion about the inaccuracy of the January AGM minutes, which made it seem like the program had already passed, we discussed the latest version of the proposal.

A few minor things caught my eye, including the insertion of a clause prohibiting Academy players from serving as ‘guest’ players in tournaments (i.e. Challenge or Classic). I don’t recall that being discussed in the committee meeting, but I may have missed it. I personally don’t see why you would keep them from playing in a tournament as a guest here or there. A little competition won’t warp them for life!

As expected, the supporters of the academy had gotten the numbers they needed. Very few clubs opposed it, but it was clear many smaller clubs had not been able to attend the meeting or send in a proxy. Most of the attendees were vocal advocates of the program. The debate was spirited, but few if any minds were changed.

So the NCYSA now has a provisional Academy program in place. Clubs wishing to run an Academy program this fall should have their Intent to Play forms in to the NCYSA State Office no later than June 11th, 2007. It will be interesting to see how many clubs beyond the large metro clubs actually put one together.

One common refrain about the program was many specifics were left ‘TBD’ as the proposal was fairly high level. Sure enough, there is already some disagreement over the rules governing Academy player movements. Will Academy players be allowed to transfer to Challenge or Classic teams mid year? Or will they be forced to choose Academy and stick with it for a year? Here is some information sent out for discussion by the NCYSA, to be discussed at the June NCYSA Board meeting:

several suggestions regarding player movement have been discussed and here are the different suggestions

  1. No player movement
  2. Player movement can take place only between seasons….the period beginning at the end of the fall season and the beginning of spring season.
  3. A player choosing Academy at the beginning of the fall season can move to a higher level of play (challenge). If said player determines it was a mistake to move to Challenge, and wishes to return to Academy, they would have the option to return to Academy. Said player would have no other movement options available to them for the remainder of the year.
  4. If a player chooses Challenge at the beginning of the fall season, and they decide this was a mistake, and wishes to move to Academy, said player would have the option to do so. Said player would have no other movement options available to them for the remainder of the year.
  5. All player movement under item 3 must be done prior to March 1 of the given year. No player movement can take place after March 1.

My thoughts on this are given how the Academy is a new ‘level’ of soccer (like Challenge or Classic or Recreational), then any state wide player movement rules should apply. I don’t see why an Academy player should be treated differently than any other player in another level of soccer. #3 is problematic since there is no hard rule about where an Academy falls in the soccer hierarchy. Most clubs will treat is as something between Challenge and Classic, while others may treat it as something between Rec and Challenge. So stay tuned – this is likely to be one of many debates about the technical/operational aspects of this program.

Our league decided that we didn’t want to run our program the way the state program stipulates. Instead, we’re likely to start up a development program for our U9 players that they can participate in while still playing with their friends on their Rec teams. This will give them some preparation for moving to Challenge at U10 if they wish. If there is one good thing about the debate this proposal stimulated, it’s that it got many clubs thinking about what types of development improvements they could make within their clubs. Even though we won’t form an Academy, our DOC is attending the National Youth License course this spring so we’ll have people with the credentials for one. We simply want to run it differently.

One interesting development that just came to light: The NCYSA DOC, who spent the better part of this year pushing to get this program passed, and who as DOC would have been responsible for running it at the state level, has just left the state DOC position to become DOC at one of the larger clubs in the state (and will thus run their Academy program). Interesting.

Another interesting development was after emails started going to the club presidents about the player movement issue noted above, many responded with in depth emails about why pursuing this was a mistake due to the incomplete nature of the proposal or the restrictive nature of the rules. We really needed those opinions at the special board meeting. It’s a bit late now.

So we’ll see how things go the first year. I think it’s going to be difficult for the NCYSA Board to really judge how well the program worked because the clubs who pushed for it so hard will be the ones who form academies first and are sure to view the first year as successful. Getting objective information about how the programs worked will be difficult. But that’s where we’re at. The one concrete metric we’ll have is the impact of Academies on existing Callenge leagues and how many teams disappear at U10.

Anyway, if you still feel strongly about the program, then you need to make sure you’re at the January 2008 AGM where the permanent adoption of the Academy program will be considered.