The smile on Klaus Baedorf's face is sincere.
This photo was taken at the Toronto International Soccer Show (TISS), in January, 2010.
Promoting the United SC and the USC Academy, he was enjoying the positive vibes of soccer. At that time, things were looking good for soccer in Toronto, this Province, and Canada.
Heading into the 2011 season, the staff and volunteers at the USC Academy and the United SC can't help but think back to 10 years ago, when the USC Academy was just an idea and the United SC a necessity.
Klaus Baedorf, president of the United SC and USC Academy arrived in Canada in 1973 and discovered that soccer in Canada was just a six-letter-word. It was not until his son, at age 6, started playing House League soccer for the North Toronto SC (NTSC) that Baedorf realized true soccer development did not exist in North Toronto.
Players were only coached and trained by well-meaning parents, who had their own ideas of how to fulfill the role of coach.
With that problem in mind, Baedorf decided to get involved coaching, thereby catalyzing his dream of providing a better environment for competitive players at the North Toronto SC.
The club needed structure, obtainable goals for the competitive side of the organization and means to involve knowledgable and licensed coaches to educate the volunteer soccer parent coach.
It was not easy to convince the board members to follow that direction, in a club that in those days mainly served the community by providing a recreational league for soccer players, young and old, but missing the elite player in the process.
With the help of a few like-minded club members, one of them Ian Wiggins, who established the 'nitros' brand at NTSC (the division for competitive teams) the vision at the club became more focused on player- development.
After a few growing years at NTSC, Baedorf became involved with other clubs as well, one of them the North York Cosmos where he had a short role as the club's technical director. With the help of friends and coaches Vittorio Villacis and John Melotte, he managed successful youth teams and helped develop goal keepers as an assistant for the PCSL team, the North York Astros.
This triumvirate of coaches soon became fixated on the idea of forming a new club, the United SC. The reason was to provide players with a proper pyramid of play, from House League to Elite Teams.
In order to fulfill the Ontario Soccer Association's requirements for clubs, namely the minimum player requirement to constitute a club, NTSC and the United SC affiliated.
Over the years, the two affiliates continued their friendly relationship and, once the United SC reached its member enrolment goal, the United SC became an independent, not-for-profit, OSA sanctioned club.
The first House League season took place at the then hardly known Saranac field, in the Lawrence and Bathurst area, owned by a local School. It was very exciting to see the field fill with kids from all around the neighbourhood.
In the spring, every Sunday morning, tenants of the surrounding buildings could watch entertaining soccer games from the comfort of their balconies.
Unfortunately though, as if it was too much of a good thing, the school decided to expand, which meant that the field was sacrificed to accommodate a new, larger, building.
The search for an alternate field was on, and Mr. Gorrie, principal of the Bannockburn Montessori School, arose as the saviour of the United SC.
Ever since, the United SC operates their House League at Bannockburn and continues their Sunday morning soccer trend just a few blocks north of the original site.
Because the league is wedged in between more established clubs north and south, it took time and patience to show the community what USC has to offer. The main difference might be that United SC stubbornly sticks to a 'loose' format, which some members have jokingly referred to as 'organized chaos'. On some days, it really seems to look like that....mostly because between 10 am and 11 am over 300 people cover the Bannockburn field, while up to 15 games are being played, age 4 to13.
In this scenario, the casual observer might miss that the USC Academy provides leadership of how the individual teams are coached and trained. In the midst of all the 'chaos', professional instructors teach the players skills and basics, before the volunteer coaches start their matches.
Further, in order to keep the focus on playing the game and to promote sportsmanship, at the United SC House League game results are not important and hence, no scores are kept.
As an alternative, the United SC also fields competitive teams.
In the past, successful teams have participated in the TSA and competitive leagues such as the CSL and CGSL. Some players who started in the House League were scouted by USC staff and are currently playing on highly skilled USC Academy Teams.
The United SC operates outdoor leagues in May/June and September/October.
Indoor soccer is provided October/November and January February.
Parallel to the inception of the United SC, baby steps were taken to create a true 'player development company'.
Baedorf teamed up with Andre Jasinski, whom he had met previously at coaching seminars around Toronto. Many evenings were spent discussing possibilities, and during Baedorf's stint at the NY Cosmos, both coaches ran a successful training camp, the 'Dutch Touch", with Joop Haan of the Dutch KNVB as a guest technician.
Shortly thereafter, the NTSC invited them both to run a summer camp at Eglinton Park.
This was when Jasinski and Baedorf decided to form the USC Academy.
The KixKids camp was the first USC Academy camp under the umbrella of the NTSC. A second one was held the upcoming year.
Both coaches decided that running camps was a good vehicle to demonstrate what the Academy had in store and in the following years camps were held at Havergal College and Crescent School.
The USC Academy continued their working relationship with the NTSC by providing their services, which involved training teams, individual players and running camps.
While the United SC grew up nicely, the USC Academy experienced 'growing pains'.
Andre Jasinski left the Academy to further his career overseas and currently serves the USC as a liaison in Europe and advisor on their technical board.
It was only when the USC Academy was accepted as a SAAC (Soccer Academy Aliance Canada) member in 2006 that a new and promissing situation arose. The USC Academy and the United SC were now in a unique position which allowed them to share and channel talented players either into the Club stream or Academy stream.This was a tremendous flexibility not available to other academies or clubs. Therefore, the United SC was able to field a number of teams in the TSA, CSL and CGSL, while some players merged with the USC Academy enabling them to play in the fledgling SAAC League.
In the meantime, the USC Academy has made efforts to be involved with the community. Its 'Community Trust' program is based on giving support to community organizations in terms of providing them with coaches, offering advice, and running coaching courses.
The motto is Care, Develop, Educate.
USC has successfully run after-school programs. Courses to educate teachers about the logical progression of how to set up their own training sessions, age and skill appropriate, have also been in demand.
Over the years the following individuals have made enormous contributions in one way or more and all deserve an honourable mention:
Tom Moulsdale, Vittorio Villacis, John Melotte, Andre Jasinski, Mike Jasinski, Przemek Wielenski, Konstantin Rabinovitch, Adel Bahri, Dolapo Maxlino, Dean Smith, Isiaka Onibudo, George Sheregy, Paul Slovenski, Jaques Konig.
These coaches form a 'united' front with Klaus Baedorf, because they believe that integrity and a player first philosophy will produce happy players, students and coaches. With that attitude, both organizations, the USC Academy and the United SC, can make a difference in North Toronto.
The USC Academy prepares players to play at the highest level. Sending a player to the CSL, MLS or a European club is their ultimate goal. But it is the small achievements that make this Club and Academy special.
Seeing players grow and develop to the best they can be is the biggest reward ever for a passionate coach and trainer.
The USC Academy provides professional training, year-round, for players 6 to 18 years of age.
Various programs are available and try outs are only necessary if one wishes to play on an Academy Team.
The soccer landscape is constantly changing, and USC is proud to be part of the positive development currently taking place.
Visit USC Academy at http://www.usc-academy.ca
Visit United SC at http://www.unitedsc.com.
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