Being a small rural club has its benefits but also some headaches at times. Canungra Owls Soccer Club have continuously strived to offer all players regardless of their ability to play football and organised sport. Their Vice-President Rachel Mathers spilled some hard fact about what it is like to run the club in this way with a sit down Q&A.
MM; What is the clubs motivation and reasoning behind forming teams based on numbers rather than ability?
RM: Being a small semi-rural community, we acknowledge that there are not many opportunities for local children to participate in organised sports; the Owls are the only local team sport in the immediate surrounding area. We want to be able to offer every child a position on a team, so they don’t miss out on an opportunity to make new friends, keep active and enjoy this great game.
Given how small the club is, we often don’t have a choice but to make up a single team with the numbers we have and rather than see that as a negative aspect, we’ve embraced it and try to make sure our main focus is teamwork and friendship.
MM:How has this method worked in recent years and is it something the club will look to continue doing?
RM: In the past this system has worked well, simply because we’ve made it work. Football Gold Coast have been very accommodating when we have requested players to play outside of their age group – they understand that if we’re not afforded that request, whole teams may miss out on playing altogether.
As long as we have kids interested in playing football we’ll continue to offer positions wherever we can. With a new housing estate being built, the township of Canungra is growing rapidly and in the near future, we anticipate having the ability to offer players the opportunity to be part of a team, with teammates with similar abilities as themselves.
For now though, we hope that we’re teaching our kids to not only love the game and the friendships it can form, but also help them realise that not everyone is the next Tim Cahill or Lisa De Vanna, and that that is ok.
MM: What challenges has the club faced in doing this method rather than ability team selection? Has it caused any issues amongst members?
RM: The main challenge we’ve noticed is not being able to develop individual players and in turn, more competitive teams. Coaching kids with different skill levels is challenging and often the more experienced and skilled players don’t get as much attention or don’t get to put into practice some of their more advanced skill sets on the field.
There are a few parents who find this system frustrating, however when they speak to a committee member about it, we are more than happy to explain the situation…as frustrated as they may be with our solution, there really is no other way to work it; with not enough players in the area, we literally have no other choice. The main concern is usually from those families who are new to the area and don’t realise how small our club is. People are drawn to living in our area because of the laid-back lifestyle and being a less competitive club goes hand in hand with that 😊
As they get older, some of the players start to voice their frustration, especially if they are one of the more advanced players. This is where we rely on the parents and our coaches to ensure focus remains on being the best player they can be and recognise the importance of teamwork and working together.
I’ve also noticed that those teams who struggle to win their games are much more satisfied when goals are scored or when they do get that first win – it means so much more to them and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
For those players who want to develop their skills and be part of a team we support their decision to trial at other clubs and have recently affiliated with Gold Coast United so we can have a definite player pathway at our fingertips.
A few years ago, about 5 players from one age group made a Musgrave JPL team and although it was sad to see them go, it was an extremely proud moment for us. Those kids played their youngest years with us and we helped them develop the skills they have so we’ll embrace it rather than look at that as a negative aspect – we’ll never try to hold a player back when they want to pursue their development.
MM: Moving forward, how does the club look to build itself up to compete at a high level in multiple age groups?
RM: That’s a hard one because most of the time, team’s vary from season to season. There is usually a core group of kids who move through the age groups together, with different players “filling in the numbers” and we do our best to place the team into the most appropriate division.
Like any club, we struggle with having enough active, long term volunteers to run the club week to week. Right now we don’t have the capacity to actively focus on building the club to more than what it is and to be honest, it’s a great club and don’t really want it to change what we do, simply to be more competitive. With Canungra’s population increasing, we know that growth is inevitable and so we will grow the club and reassess our procedures as registration numbers increase.
We currently have 2 teams in U8s and have briefly discussed the possibility of introducing a trial process should these numbers remain the same next season, but it’s something that we’ll look into when the time is right.
MM: How many members does the club have currently and have numbers been increasing in recent years?
RM: We have about 140 players this season but it has been up and down over the past couple of years. Last year our numbers dropped significantly, but this year it seems to have increased back to what we’re used to. We spoke to a couple of the families that left the club and reasons have varied – some are trying new sports, while others couldn’t juggle the travel to the coast area every week with multiple kids.
In recent years we have had our home game spread out each weekend, making the travel for families that little bit harder. A few years ago we consistently had most of our home games on the same day and it was great to have the whole of Moriarty Park full of kids, there was something special about those mornings that now seem a little lost…but we’re doing our best to support our community and know that in years to come our members will look back at our club with great memories.