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How the Ontario Soccer Association came to foster Olympic medalists

08/19/2016, 4:00pm CDT
By Ali Lacey, SportsEngine

The Ontario Soccer Association is known for its dedication to excellence in sportsmanship and player development for all athletes of ages. It now also boasts several Olympic medal-holding alumni, as a result of the women’s national team taking bronze at the 2012 London games.

Today, soccer is the most actively played sport in Canada. The Ontario Soccer Association is home to 450,000 of the 1 million players registered with the Canadian Soccer Association, making it the third largest sports association in the country, Executive Director Johnny R. Misley said.

The 2012 Olympians didn’t make it to London without hard work and a resolute support system, partially provided by the strong backbone given to them through their time in the OSA.

Ontario soccer is built from the ground up to help players reach their athletic aspirations. “While more and more youth and senior-aged players take to the pitch each day, tens of thousands of coaches, match officials and volunteer leaders support the game through various service roles,” Misley said.

Olympians on the current roster for the 2016 summer games in Rio de Janeiro benefitted from this focused development on character, integrity and the fundamentals of soccer. Now, the OSA is strengthening their approach in an effort to foster even more professional-level players.

They’re working behind the scenes to focus their brand in on values of inclusivity and diversity through introducing new sport technology and implementing strategic marketing initiatives, such as governance reform and rebranding, to reach a wider client base.

“Ontario is the machine, or the engine, of soccer in Canada,” Misley said, adding that they’re becoming more intentional about creating athlete success. He said they’re hoping participants are proud to be a part of a system that has reinvented itself to be more relevant by providing a leading edge approach to player development.

The organization has always served to support the growth of their players through their clubs, said Gary Miller, Ontario Soccer Association technical director.

“More recently, through the development of our talented pathway platform we have begun to better identify and cultivate talent across the province in a way that will ensure we will produce even more Olympians down the road,” Miller said.

The talented pathway platform is part of a long-term plan that the OSA has been implementing in the last 10 years in an effort to overhaul and redevelop the association from the ground up.

A tangible example is evidenced in the their approach toward youth clubs. Rather than putting an emphasis on winning and standings, they’re restructuring to focus on allowing the kids to play and train in a more all-embracing environment, taking the pressure off to promote inclusivity.

These changes are also apparent in the OSA’s advanced League 1 Ontario club, a semi-pro chapter that features the best players that migrate through the program. Many professional athletes have started their careers through League 1, and they are anticipating even more growth in the coming years.

Misley said that in the past the OSA has fostered player development by accident; now they’re championing advancement purposefully. He notes that if a young player wants to make their way to the national team there’s a clear pathway to do that now. “It’s success by design, not by chance.”

Growth and innovation resound throughout the entirety of the OSA. Manager of Player Development Bobby Lennox said, “We create and implement programs and resources that expose players to age-appropriate development environments in safe, positive settings that foster a love of the game and provide holistic skills and qualities that allow players to participate at the level that they choose to compete at.”

The OSA system is designed to give players the opportunity to fulfill their goals within soccer—whether they’re hoping for a university scholarship, searching for a friendly competitive environment, or pursuing their Olympic dreams. Former association participants Candace Chapman, Jonelle Filigno, Robin Gayle, Diana Matheson, Carmelina Moscato, and Melissa Tancredi are all Olympic medal-holders in part because of the support and training that they were given while in the ranks of the Ontario Soccer Association.


“We’re hoping that participants will feel proud to be a part of the system in Ontario, and that those who have the talent, fortune and hard work to be identified to represent Ontario and our national flag will be proud to wear the colors of team Ontario and to represent our Province,” Misley said.

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Photo Credit: Erica McCaulley

Name: Candace Chapman
Age: 33 (4/2/83)
From: Ajax, ON
College Team: Notre Dame

 

Quick Bio

From Ajax, Ontario, Chapman is a defender for the Canadian national team. She is known for scoring the first goal against Argentina at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Tianjin, China. She currently works as a youth team national coach for Arlington Travel Soccer.


Photo Credit: Getty

Name: Jonelle Filigno
Age: 25 (9/24/90)
From: Mississauga, ON
College Team: Rutgers 

 

Quick Bio

Filigno made her Olympic debut at the 2008 Summer games at the age of 17. Originally from Mississauga, Ontario, she scored the game-winning goal against Great Britain at the 2012 Olympics.



Photo Credit: @EriMacPhoto

Name: Robin Gayle
Age: 30 (10/31/85)
From: Toronto, ON
College Team: North Carolina

 

Quick Bio

After playing with the Ontario Soccer Association, Gayle went on to compete with the Washington Spirit and the Canadian national team at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic games. She also represented Canada at the 2007, 2011 and 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.


Photo Credit: TheWomensGame, transferred to Commons by Kaffufle

Name: Diana Matheson 
Age: 32 (4/6/84)  
From: Mississauga, ON
College Team: Princeton 

 

QUICK BIO

Originally from Mississauga, Ontario, Matheson is known for scoring the bronze medal-winning goal against France at the 2012 Summer Olympics. The midfielder played for the Washington Spirits and won a gold medal on the Canadian national team at the 2011 Pan American Games. She is on the roster for the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.



Photo Credit: Relay2009

Name: Carmelina Moscato
Age: 32 (5/2/84) 
From: Mississauga, ON
College Team: Penn State
 

Quick Bio

A centre-back from Mississauga, Ontario, Moscato began playing soccer when she was just 4 years old. She played for the Burlington Flames before pursuing an Olympic medal at the 2008 games. She is an assistant coach at the University of Wisconsin.


Photo Credit: TheWomensGame, transferred to Commons by Kaffufle

Name: Melissa Tancredi
Age: 34 (12/27/81) 
From: Ancaster, ON
College Team: Notre Dame

 

Quick Bio

Tancredi is an Ancaster, Ontario native. The striker started her soccer career at the age of 4, going on to compete in a number of school and club teams to deepen her expertise. She attended the University of Notre Dame and made her Olympic debut at the 2004 games in Costa Rica. She scored six goals at global Olympic and World Cup final tournaments, taking home a bronze medal after beating France 1-0 at the 2008 London Olympics. She is on the roster for the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro.



Photo Credit: Douglas O'Brien

Name: Kadeisha Buchanan
Age: 20 (11/5/95) 
From: Toronto, ON
College Team: West Virginia

 

Quick Bio

After playing with the Ontario Soccer Association, Kadeisha Buchanan made her debut on the Canada National team at the age of 17 while she was still in high school, becoming one of the youngest players on any women’s team. She won the Young Player Award at the 2015 Women’s World Cup, and is on the current Olympic roster.


Photo Credit: Angencia Brasilia

Name: Allysha Chapman
Age: 27 (1/25/89) 
From: Courtice, ON
College Team: Alabama & Lousiana State

 

Quick Bio

Allysha Chapman is a defender from Courtice, Ontario. She plays for the Houston Dash and is on the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.



Photo Credit: University of South Carolina Athletics

Name: Sabrina D'Angelo 
Age: 23 (5/11/1993)
From: Welland, ON
College Team: South Carolina

 

Quick Bio

D’Angelo is one of the few Canadian soccer players to be drafted immediately out of college. A Welland, Ontario native, she plays for the Western New York Flash and is on the current Olympic roster.


Photo Credit: IQRemix Canada

Name: Jessie Fleming
Age: 20 (3/11/98) 
From: London, ON
College Team: UCLA

 

Quick Bio

Jesse Fleming made her debut on the Canada national team at 15 years old. Originally from London, Ontario, Fleming currently plays for the UCLA Bruins and the London Nor’West Soccer Club.



Photo Credit: Ilgar Jafarov

Name: Ashley Lawrence
Age: 21 (6/11/95) 
From: Caledon, ON
College Team: West Virginia

 

Quick Bio

After playing in the ranks of the Ontario Soccer Association, midfielder Ashley Lawrence signed on with League1 Ontario in June 2016 to get experience before competing in the Olympic games in Rio. She currently plays for the West Virginia University Mountaineers.


Photo Credit: Angencia Brasilia

Name: Nichelle Prince
Age: 21 (2/19/95) 
From: Ajax, ON
College Team: Ohio State

 

Quick Bio

Originally from Ajax, Ontario, Nichelle Price started playing with the Canadian youth program at the age of 15. The forward plays for the Ohio State Buckeyes and is currently representing Canada at the Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympic games.



Photo Credit: Canada Soccer

Name: Rebecca Quinn
Age: 21 (8/11/95) 
From: Toronto, ON
College Team: Duke

 

Quick Bio

Rebecca Quinn is a current member of the Canadian national team. Born in Toronto, Canada, Quinn began playing for the national team at 18 years old. She is currently representing Canada at the 2016 Summer Olympic games.


Photo Credit: Canada Soccer Association

Name: Deanne Rose
Age: 20 (3/3/99) 
From: Alliston, ON
College Team: N/A

 

Quick Bio

From Alliston, Ontario, Deanne Rose is representing Canada at the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro. The midfielder began playing with the Canadian youth program in 2014 when she was 15 years old. She currently plays for Scarborough United.



Photo Credit: Rovena Rosa/Agencia Brasil

Name: Shelina Zadorsky
Age: 23 (10/24/92) 
From: London, ON
College Team: Michigan

 

Quick Bio

A London, Ontario native, Shelina Zadorsky plays for the Washington Spirit of the National Women’s Soccer League and for the Canada Women’s national team. The defender is on the 2016 Olympic roster.

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    About the Author

    Ali Lacey is an Associate Editor at SportsEngine, helping manage content creation for several client sites. She is a 2014 graduate of the University of Minnesota’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication and has written for a number of Minneapolis-based publications.

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