Andy Charsley - Maintaining a focus on the end G-O-O-A-A-L-L
by Randy Pascal
The conversation was hardly unique within the realm of the local soccer community when Andy Charsley entered the mix. A lifelong resident of
Sudbury who played just one year of recreational soccer in his youth in Valley East, Charsley had followed his daughters through the early stages of their
soccer careers in the same area.
But as the girls looked to take the next step, the long-time engineer by trade noticed exactly the same scenario that so many had identified before him.
“It was in 2004-05 when I first started having the conversations on the field with people who had long been involved,” said Charsley after a recent meeting
of the Greater Sudbury Soccer Club (GSSC).
“Everybody I talked to seemed to think that something had to be done – I never talked to one person who would say, “things are good.” The cause for
concern, within the competitive arm of youth soccer in the Nickel City, was a very fractured approach that would see seven different clubs offering various
degrees of youth competitive soccer, all battling, to some extent, over the same relatively limited pool of talent.
But where many had bemoaned the state of youth competitive soccer and then allowed the conversation to simply die there, Charsley forged ahead. “I was a
bit naïve – and partly, due to my background as an engineer, when I see a problem, I try and solve it,” he said.
A natural introvert who is most comfortable with a slow, well though-out pattern of speech, Charsley will be the first to acknowledge that he is not a
“soccer person.” Not in the same sense as those who have competed from their youth right through to their adulthood, fully aware of the latest fate of their
favourite teams back on the other side of the pond.
But he was more than capable of overseeing a process. “I’m pretty sure the day was February 7th, 2007,” said Charsley. “I put up 10 or 12 slides (at a
meeting of the SRSA – Sudbury Regional Soccer Association), talking about identification and development of players, a better integration of the
houseleague and competitive sections, and a review of structure.”
He would accept the offer from long-time SRSA President Gail Arbic to chair a committee looking at the structure of soccer in the area, meeting on
a monthly or bi-monthly basis with representatives from all 12 groups who represented youth soccer.
“I don’t believe I had any preconceived notion of what the final outcome would be,” said Charsley. Or rather, almost did not come to be.
Two years into the process, an impasse had been reached. From four initial framework models, the group had selected two that seemed feasible – either
amalgamating all 5000 players in the entire district under one club, but continuing to run six different recreational leagues based on geography; or
bringing together just the seven competitive clubs, allowing the recreational leagues to maintain their autonomy.
A meeting early in 2009 provided a watershed moment. “Prior to that meeting, I had essentially decided that I would resign from the committee, as I felt
that we did not have the ability to move forward,” said Charsley.
But with the help of OSA (Ontario Soccer Association) representative Bruce Henderson, common ground was found. “Bruce had noted that there
were not a lot of differences between the two options, other than governance,” explained Charsley.
With the OSA’s blessings to introduce the concept of allowing the affiliation of multiple recreational clubs with a singular district competitive arm,
the concept of the Greater Sudbury Soccer Club began to build traction.
Through it all, Charsley had absolutely no doubt about the passion of the local soccer community for the “beautiful game.” His chore was to channel that
passion in a positive direction.
“I think that I have the ability to be a facilitator – and, for the most part, I have the ability to be diplomatic.” These personal traits proved
critical to a process that involved bringing together a variety of individuals with strong convictions regarding the right or wrong way to develop young
Charsley, along with the countless others involved in moving the GSSC forward, have no false illusions about the work that remains to be done. A complete
change of mindset is required before the real benefit can be seen down the road.
“I’m confident that five years from now, looking back, we’ll have a much better system in place than five years ago,” said Charsley. That belief, and
the steady support of others who shared the same vision, allowed the “man who changed soccer” to always maintain the end goal in sight.