By Andy Veilleux
Canadian varsity athletics face a number of issues that are not witnessed in professional sports, or at the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) level.
This statement alone seems obvious, and ignorant however, it is worth looking at the comment with an eye for detail.
While the calibre of play is lower in CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) due to factors such as a lack of scholarships, and in funding for athletics in general, there are other note-worthy differences.
Building a team in the CIS is difficult. The big kicker for team building is that only get a player for a maximum of five years, if they choose to stick with the program that long. Of course, the NCAA is identical in terms of years of eligibility, but the major difference here is incentives.
While the NCAA is known to offer students full scholarships, or a “free ride”as it is often called, the most CIS university are allowed to offer is tuition.
Now, on the surface offering tuition doesn’t seem like too bad of an offer. However, many universities do not offer tuition to their athletes, because they simply do not have the resources to do so.
This is especially true of small to medium sized universities such as Laurentian University.
Obviously this presents a large problem for these universities. How do you entice a player, or in fact, recruit players at all, if you can not offer them monetary benefits?
Having a strong program with a strong reputation helps, but many small-to-medium sized universities do not have a strong reputation or strong program. So why don’t they have strong programs?
Again, the problem comes down to funding. While the head coach may be a paid position (in sports like soccer that usually means a part- time head coach is paid, and his assistants make next-to-nothing), the rest of the program isn’t usually well funded.
It is difficult to build a strong coaching staff, which a requires a large time commitment, if you can not properly pay people.
Let’s face it, nobody works for free, or at least not full-time hours as a volunteer.
So it has been established that CIS universities must actively recruit, as their players have a short shelf life, and that the universities lack to budget to have a fully funded staff.
That being said, most coaches do not get a chance to venture away on scouting trips. Coaching soccer or volleyball, for example, is usually a part-time job, where the coaches have full-time jobs as well. It is not usually a career, but a passion for the coaches.
The case study of CIS university illustrates the bigger example of what is wrong with Canadian sports that do not rhyme with cocky; they are under-funded, and only a select few individuals are able to make a decent living coaching or managing them in this country. Players aren’t usually paid particularly well even, and you just have to look at the Canadian Football League, United Soccer League, or Major League Soccer players for examples.
If Canada ever wants to get serious about sports other than hockey, varsity athletics need to be better funded, as they are often a development ground for young players in Canada.