Monday, March 28, 2005

UWO Soccer Reaches Peak

By KATHY RUMLESKI -- London Free Press
March 28, 2005

Dave Peak had just been handed the reins of the Western women's soccer program yesterday.

His first order of business was to tell the players and others gathered for a news conference to announce his hiring that he plans to lead the team to a national title.

"I hope I can bring something here . . . to win a CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) championship," he said.

The Mustangs have had great regular-season success the past couple of years -- including being the top-ranked team in the country --but they have never won a medal in six appearances at the national tournament.

Peak, who comes to Western after nine seasons as coach of the Fanshawe women's team, said the Mustangs have lots of talent.

They just need to get over the national "stumbling block."

"One thing I can bring is a professional attitude," he said. "Hopefully, we can win the gold medal. Hopefully, it will be sooner than later."

Sarah Regan, a third-year Mustangs forward, said the team has the same goal of winning a national title and the players hope Peak is the one to take them there.

"He's very qualified." Regan said. "It's a nice change as well, someone new with lots of experience."

Peak is the Ontario Soccer Association's regional development coach for this area and, in May, begins duties as the coach of the under-16 girls' provincial team.

Because of his access to top players in the province and beyond, Peak, who has worked with national team phenom Kara Lang, feels recruitment will be one of his strong suits.

"The recruiting net needs to be enlarged. I know people right across the country.

"I know certain people in the big clubs. Hopefully, we can touch base and they can send potential athletes here."

Peak said that although he can't offer players scholarships, he believes Western's status can attract them.

Western had more than 20 coaches apply for the position, which became vacant when two-year coach Mike Van Bussel left to concentrate on his studies.

Mike Lysko, Western's director of sports and recreation services, said Peak's coaching experience and his focus on teaching were the primary reasons why he was hired.

Lysko said he also came to understand the importance of women's soccer in London through the hiring process.

"I gained a keener appreciation of . . . what this team means to the community."

Peak has coached with North London, London United and the London Portuguese men during his 20 years in London.

His assistant coach is Peter Young.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Soccer Minnow Has Bite

By MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press
March 20, 2005

He doesn't look or think like your run-of-the-mill soccer executive.

For one thing, he's about 100 years younger than most of the guys who make decisions concerning the sport. For another, he's actually willing to listen to new ideas in a sport that for too long has been run by neanderthals.

Ryan Gauss is general manager of London City's entry in the Canadian Professional Soccer League's women's division and is a vice-president of London City Soccer Club.

Gauss, who turns 19 today, has the nice hair with the blond highlights and wears fashionable clothes. He's the son of longtime "Mr. Everything" for City, Harry Gauss, and grandson of City president Markus Gauss.

Ryan is like a minnow among sharks in the soccer world. Finding someone that young in these waters is rather remarkable. In fact, Ryan's mother Kathleen was steamed that Harry got his son involved.

Ryan's team is in a division that has caused friction not only within the CPSL but in the Ontario Soccer Association, which has yet to recognize it. Part of the OSA's concern is a lack of elite talent for the women's leagues.

Ryan believes in the women's game and believes in the CPSL's participation.

"To be blunt, it's ignorant to say there's not enough talent to form another league," he says.

Did we mention Ryan was Harry's son? He isn't shy. You turn on your tape recorder for an interview, ask two questions and turn it off.

"There will always be skeptics no matter what I do," he says. "All I ask is not to judge me until they see my work. I am committed to this project. This is my family's team, my family's legacy. I want to be a part of it. Many people say, 'You are just a kid.'

"But I also work for the RCMP. I know how to present myself in business. I know how to get things done."

Gauss is studying political science with a major in history at King's University College. He works with the RCMP as an administrative assistant.

"I will run into skeptics who say, 'You are in this position just because of your last name,' " he said. "You know what? . . . it's because of my last name.

"But my family wouldn't have let me do this, the (club) executive wouldn't have agreed to put me in here if they didn't think I could do it. I just ask everyone not to judge my work until it's done. If I can't do it, then criticize me."

Gauss has been around soccer all his life. He has seen City go through good and bad times. That should have been enough to persuade him not to get involved. Instead he goes into this situation with a strong desire to make not only his team but the entire women's division successful, knowing that changing soccer is never easy.

"Maybe that's the problem. Maybe Canadian soccer is too traditional. We're in a rut. It's an old boys' club, and maybe it's time to let some new blood in. If I come in when I'm 45, I already have a jaded attitude (and) I'm not willing to be innovative and creative.

"That's a great thing about me being young. I'm out there talking to people. I get first-hand knowledge that maybe older people don't care about or don't want to listen to. Sometimes it's their way or the highway.

"Am I going to have age barriers in the soccer community, have problems with people listening to me? Of course, but I'm going to face them head-on. For all those people who say I'm going to disappear, they're in for a rude awakening. When I commit to something, I follow through."

A word to the sharks. This minnow has some serious bite.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Elite women's league gets no respect from OSA

JIM KERNAGHAN, Free Press Sports Columnist
2005-03-01 02:06:03

Always powerful ingredients for a Hollywood script, power and sex underline an unfolding soccer story. It's not likely to win any Oscars.
The establishment of a proposed elite women's soccer league remains unclear because one party sees its power threatened and has taken what can only be interpreted as a sexist stance to consolidate it.
The Ontario Soccer Association has sought to nix a women's side of the Canadian Professional Soccer League with what appears to be an effort to keep the focus of the women's game on mass participation.
The CPSL, which wants to embark on a six-team elite league the first season in enclosed parks, feels there are ample reasons to establish a top-level loop.
Of course there are. Anyone who has witnessed girls' and women' play the past decade can tell you of the astonishing skill levels they have seen.
Fans who watched the national women's team on TV know all about it.
One of the great moments in Canadian sport recently came from the foot of young Kara Lang. When she struck the top corner from 20 metres at the under-19 world championships in 2002, a lot of people stood up and took notice.
It underscored the level at which women play the game. Just as hockey fans have come to appreciate the kind of game the Olympic gold-medal women's team can muster, soccer fans have become aware of the talents and fine skills of elite female players.
The OSA is in danger of becoming known as the Old Sexist Alliance if it continues to oppose a league that wants to take the game to a higher level. The argument that the Ontario Women's Soccer League exists (well-controlled by the OSA) is a non-starter.
Especially the argument that the new league would be draining off talent. If anybody should know, the OSA should be aware there is enough talent to go around and then some, even with the London Gryphons of the U.S.-based W-League in existence.
There are about 140,000 female soccer players registered in Ontario. Some estimates, when non-registered players are included, hike that to well over 200,000.
Plenty, in other words, for a feeder system to stock multiple leagues, especially when young girls see a clearly defined outlet for their talents as they mature.
The CPSL women's loop intends to operate not as a regular league in the coming summer but rather as a tournament league covering three months. Splitting hairs, the OSA charges, probably accurately.
The CPSL is under the governance of the OSA. And since the OSA is responsible for game officials, there's the threat it will restrict its refs and linesmen. But qualified refs and linesmen who have left the game are available.
Moreover, OSA control is not absolute. It falls under the umbrella of the national body, the Canadian Soccer Association and its decisions.
One fact remains: You can't stifle talent. And if there's a forum for it, talent will gravitate toward it and grassroots numbers will increase in anticipation of that.
What the OSA should be considering is a means to keep women players in Canada and not head south to play. Any top-level loop that can boast all the perks of a men's league ought to help that.
At the moment, elite girls' teams from around Ontario are as strong as any nation in the world. In other parts of the world, mind you, females playing soccer haven't quite caught the imagination of the people who control the game.
Here's a wager: It's a safe bet a Canadian women's team will win a World Cup long before a men's team if there are growing elite stages on which to prepare.

CPSL plans to have women's division

The Ontario Soccer Association is concerned about a lack of players.
KATHY RUMLESKI, Free Press Sports Reporter
2005-03-01 02:06:00

Officials from the Canadian Professional Soccer League say a women's division will be on the field this summer. "We're on track. Everything is going forward," said Ryan Gauss, who will manage London City's entry. "We are going through the proper channels to get (approval)."
However, the vice-president of the Ontario Soccer Association, which is the body that would approve women's play, said the CPSL could hurt its men's program if it doesn't receive approval for the women first.
"It could put the whole league in jeopardy," John Knox said. "That's the last thing we want to see."
He said a non-sanctioned women's division would be considered an "outlaw league" that would have trouble getting referees.
OSA director and former CPSL president Vince Ursini, who served the league until Sunday, said the CPSL plans to hold an all-star tournament over three months, with the hope of running a league next summer.
"We're trying to step on as few toes as possible," he said.
He said he didn't believe the CPSL would ever run an outlaw league.
Knox did not like the idea of a women's tournament over three months, calling it "a farce."
He said a CPSL women's division could have a "damaging effect" on the Ontario Women's Soccer League, which has been campaigning to stop the CPSL because of a fear of losing players.
Ursini was upset with the OWSL's position.
"It's a selfish attitude," he said. "It's like coaches holding back talented players because they want to win the Ontario Cup."
Knox also said the North American W-League has four Ontario teams, including the London Gryphons, needing talented females.
"At the present time, the (OSA) league management and most of the board don't believe there are sufficient quality women's players in the province right now," Knox said. "If the CPSL is given permission to form a women's league, where are they going to get their players from?"
Knox, who acknowledged the CPSL has a proven track record, said he is hoping to reach a consensus with all parties involved.
He'd like to see a top-flight women's league in the province but believes it is a couple of years away.
"The present W-League teams, if they would come on board and work with us and the CPSL and the OWSL to form a top-level women's league here, we would support that 100 per cent."
A meeting between all parties, including the W-League teams, will take place April 2.