Coaching Association of Canada

Soccer Master Learning Facilitators in Ontario do it right

March 14, 2012

This past weekend I had the privilege of working with soccer Master Learning Facilitators (MLFs) from Ontario. What a privilege to work with these soccer gurus who were selected for this role by the Ontario Soccer Association.

Sometimes MLFs in a sport are chosen because of ‘who’ they are, (their soccer resume per se), instead of the skills that are needed to be an MLF. The role and skill set of an MLF is quite different from that of an athlete, soccer coach, or even a Learning Facilitator (LF). The Ontario Soccer Association recognized this and brought together a group of people who were open to learning and growing in their new role as an MLF.


My road to becoming an MLF went like this. I was a multi-sport athlete who played basketball at the university level. It was an easy transition for me to go from being an athlete to a coach, because I started my NCCP training when I was 16 and in grade 11 thanks to my high school physical education teacher. I was also playing and coaching with great coaches at the Olympia Sports Camp as a counsellor when I was 17 years old. I also volunteered at a local high school the entire time I played varsity basketball, thanks to the requirements needed for my physical education degree. By the time I was a full-time coach at 21, I had a lot of NCCP certification and a lot of practical experience.

When I received my first teaching job, I wanted to give my students NCCP certification, so I became trained as a Learning Facilitator. Due to my educational background, and my training in adult education, it made sense to me, and I was sent out to practise -- a key component, in my opinion, to be proficient at anything. I continued to coach and facilitate for 15 years -- when I was approached to become an MLF.

There was no ‘formalized’ MLF training at this time so I received specialized, one-on-one training on the specific role of the MLF. It included how to train other LFs, speaking with the writers to fully understand the intent of the modules, learning how to evaluate and mentor other LFs, and finally co-facilitating the LF training with someone more experienced than I. I never had to go off and do anything on my own. I had support and ongoing training. Completing this training gave me another new perspective. Instead of teaching people how to coach, I had to teach people how to teach. I had an entirely different role. At this training we did not talk about coaching, we did not talk about the tactical and technical aspects of sport -- instead we talked about teaching, facilitating, group dynamics, instructional design. It was a new role but one I was ready for.


Today, many sports have to anoint their MLFs based on their sport resumes -- not necessarily because they have practised their skills, or currently have the skills required to be an MLF. This is not a criticism, but a reality. The MLF training done to date with the majority of sports, has really been a national LF training, teaching a group of people about the new workshop and how to facilitate it. These coaches, now MLFs, are going out and facilitating workshops.

The Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) did this as well. The CSA brought together a group of coaches from across Canada and trained them as what they called ‘MLFs’. Once that was complete, Ontario repeated the training with their top LFs. Now Ontario had nine LFs that could deliver the content in a consistent way and be leaders in the province. Some had the designation of MLF and others had the designation of LF but essentially all of them had gone through similar training.


The Ontario Soccer Association had satisfied all of the NCCP minimum requirements for facilitator training, and could happily have continued on this path. But they demanded better from their group of facilitators. They wanted them to experience MLF training that would change their role from that of a really good LF, to a role that would see them supporting and evaluating other LFs. This training would see them become not just teachers of coaches, but teachers of teachers. They were the first sport and province to further train their MLFs in this enhanced pilot MLF training. Throughout the day, the nine individuals honed their skills through role playing, brainstorming, working with evaluation tools, and creating a page of next steps. Right before my eyes, due to their willingness to learn and grow, I saw their role change.

The CAC is now developing new MLF training that sports will be able to implement once they have completed and practised LF training. This pilot project is due to be launched at the Petro-Canada Sport Leadership sportif conference in Montreal in November 2012. Stay tuned for more information.

Editor's Note: Laura Watson, Interim Executive Director of Coaches BC and also a Multi-sport Master Learning Facilitator also recently wrote a piece about BC Soccer's LF Training that contains some excellent information.  You can read it on their website by clicking here.

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