Ryan: Top 20 Personal Reflections from the 2014 OFC AGM

James Ryan

This past weekend, I once again had the pleasure of meeting with each of the executive members of the Ontario Football Conference (OFC) at the Annual General Meeting (AGM), which was held at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto, but I also had the opportunity to finally meet many of the other great people involved in this organization, who up until now, I had only communicated with either via phone, email, social media or podcast. It was definitely nice to be able to finally match up some of the faces with the names.

Through many conversations and meetings, both formal and informal, and as I finally had some time to reflect on the events from the weekend, a few key points stood out in my mind that I would like to share with each of you now. Please note however, that these personal observations and thoughts of mine are not necessarily directed at anyone in particular, and in some cases, not even at anyone involved with the OFC, but I think they might still serve as important reminders as to why we all volunteer our time for such a worthy cause, and what we need to do (or continue doing) in order to ensure the success of both the league and our players.

So without further adieu, here are my top 20 personal reflections inspired by the OFC AGM and the many great organizations in attendance. Thank you.

1.  It’s not always about working harder, but working better. This was the theme that kicked off the AGM, courtesy of our Junior President, Darren Cocchetto. I really think Darren did an excellent job in summarizing the overall importance of what we do, and how we need to do it.

2. I am truly grateful for this opportunity. I have never before met or been involved with such an amazing group of men and women. The level of teamwork and cooperation that exists at the executive level is truly inspiring. The way that they always seem to have each other’s back, along with the best interests of the players (and clubs) in mind, makes me proud to be a member. As always, it was a true pleasure to work with each of them. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this great initiative.

3. Jake Bellamy brings an interesting perspective to the table. As a graduating OFC Junior player with the Predators football club, and now as a contributing member of the OFC Media Team, Jake is a true “player” in the game of youth football, who brings many fresh perspectives from both on and off the field. Please check out Jake’s post-AGM article entitled: Why do we Play OFC Football? Great read!

4. Rome [Success] wasn’t built in a day.  Sustainable, permanent growth happens in baby steps. With that being said, I do believe that the future is now, and it’s time for each of the teams to start embracing certain key changes that are currently happening in today’s youth football culture. Personally, I don’t care much about what the “Joneses” are up to. I just want the OFC to be the best that it can be for our kids and our communities. Our only real focus should be on achieving our absolute personal best.

5. Rings and championships are NOT the most important aspects to youth sports. I know not everyone in the football community will agree with me on this, especially since “winning” is a theme that has always been ingrained deep down into the culture and DNA of football, but let’s not forget—we’re dealing with children. There’s a perpetuated fantasy floating around out there that these kids will all one day play in the pros. And for a few select players, that might actually happen, but the truth is that the majority of our kids just want to play football, have fun with their friends, and learn about the game as safely as possible under the instruction and respect of a coach who genuinely cares more about the well-being of his players than about winning or losing football games. And I’m not saying that winning isn’t at all important. I’m just saying that it’s not the MOST important.

6. The OFC needs to look after the OFC. That may sound redundant to many, but it’s not always as obvious as it may seem. With that being said, I once had an old boss who always prioritized life in the following order: Health, Family, Work. The health of our business model and the level of cooperation within the OFC should be everyone’s main priorities moving forward. This will ensure that our players will continue to benefit from each of their experiences within our entire organization.

7. Success is not defined by growth alone. Yes, it’s always great to bring new organizations into the mix, but that same employer of mine also had another saying: Death by Expedience. “Be careful not to grow too quickly,” was his advice. “And only bring on those individuals who share your vision and passion for the success of the team [OFC].” There’s no room and no need for detractors or complainers. We only need like-minded winning attitudes that are willing to represent our best interest—our kids.

8. Great leadership is hard to find. Having never had seen our new Varsity President, Mark Thompson in action before, I felt he did an outstanding job in managing the agenda discussions between 18 different city centres (not easy to do), who obviously don’t always see eye-to-eye on every single issue. It’s definitely tougher than it looks, but I feel confident that Mark’s leadership will benefit the entire Varsity division moving forward. I would also like to take a moment to thank Ed Azzola for his years of service with the OFC as the previous Varsity President. Thank you both for your hard work and selfless dedication.

9. Without trust, you have nothing. Coaches shouldn’t have to be “policed” when it comes to following the rules of gamesmanship and sportsmanship. I think it’s safe to assume that they’re all good men, who thankfully volunteer a great deal of their time for the benefit of our youth, and I’m certain that they don’t need to be told when it’s not okay to compromise their own sense of ethics in the name of winning a youth football game. But just in case, please consider this as a reminder.

10. Reputation means everything. Travel rep players, coaches, and even parents, all need to remember that they are in fact, not only representing themselves as individuals on social media or during the games, but they are also in fact acting as ambassadors for their entire communities, as well as their coaches and teammates. Your reputation is sometimes all that you have, so stay classy, Ontario.

11. There’s nothing wrong with a little accountability. As both a parent and a coach, I can easily understand the two separate perspectives, and as such, I do believe that our parents have every right to voice their concerns or question a coach’s motives. And also, they deserve a better answer than, “Why don’t you leave the coaching up to the experts?” Just think of your coaching role as one of customer service. You’re only here to benefit the very specific needs of your clients and customers, who in this case, are the parents and players.

12. We’re all teachers. As you may have already noticed (hopefully), the world is constantly changing and evolving at a rate that’s difficult to keep up with. I can promise you that our kids worry more than they should about their own uncertain futures, which is precisely why we need to do our best to prepare these kids with the life skills that they’ll need to not only succeed on the football field, but in life as well.

13. If you’re afraid of failure, than you don’t deserve to be successful. Failure is not the worst thing in this life and we shouldn’t be teaching our kids that it is. There’s a lot that can be learned about ourselves and about life in general by going up against enormous challenges that scare the living daylights out of us. I guess what I’m basically saying is, you’ll never get any better at anything if you’re not at least willing to try. Take a chance. It might actually pay off.

14. Social Media is the best way to reach out to your prospective players. Long gone are the days of spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on newspaper advertisements in the hopes that someone might see your message. The Internet has given each of us the ability to reach out to our specific demographic at no cost, and in an extremely well-timed fashion. When it comes to promoting your organization, it’s imperative to take your media and marketing initiatives by the horns. You must be proactive and in control of your own destiny at all times.

15. Concussions are not something to be taken lightly. If player safety isn’t your number one concern, then maybe you need to rethink your priorities. I would just like to take this opportunity to once again thank Bernie O’Donohue who is the co-founder of “See It. Protect It.”, as well as a traumatic brain injury survivor himself, for his great presentation on concussion awareness and prevention. We definitely look forward to partnering with this organization, as we hope to become pioneers in the area of youth football safety here in Canada.

16. If it’s in the best interests of our players—it’s worth doing. What’s good for each of the teams is also good for the entire league. It is for this exact reason why the OFC is committed to continuously supporting and developing relationships within our organization. When I was teaching at Niagara College, I learned a very valuable lesson from one of our Coordinators. His message was easy: Students First. I have always appreciated the meaning behind those two simple words, and I would encourage each of you to adopt this exact same mindset when it comes to the needs of your players.

17. Show, don’t tell. There’s a time for talking, and there’s a time for action. If you truly believe that you’re the best at something, then there’s absolutely no need to waste your breathe telling everyone about it. Won’t they already know by virtue of your reputation and your character? You’d think so, wouldn’t you? That’s why talk is cheap, and people will always respect action.

18. Take care of your current levels of responsibility, first. New initiatives are always great, especially in an ever-evolving world, but before you take on too much and bury yourself in good intentions, it’s important to master your current level of responsibilities before attempting to add even more to the pile. Then, once you’re up to speed (hopefully with the help and support of others), you can look at taking your organization to the next level. Always be ready for success when it comes knocking at your door.

19. No one ever said this was going to be easy. Some of you may be asking yourselves, “Why do I put myself through this stress and adversity each and every year?” And I think the answer is simple—because you care. If you didn’t, you probably wouldn’t subject yourself to the challenges of volunteering or running a non-profit organization. Well, you’re not alone, and your actions are definitely appreciated. Thank you all.

20. We’re a family. This is more than just a mindset to me. This is what it’s going to take to truly separate ourselves from our competition. We’re always worrying about things that we can’t control, but believe me when I tell you that that’s a bad habit to get into. As for me? I only worry about the things in this life that I can control. I love my new football family very much, and I’ll do whatever it takes to show my support to each of you. Hopefully, many of you reading this, will feel the exact same way.

And if you don’t, I’m telling mom on you lol.

So anyway, like I said, those were just a few of my own personal reflections from over the weekend. But more than anything, I’d really love to hear your post-meeting thoughts as well. Please leave them in the comment section below, or feel free to email them to me at:

Cheers! And have a great day!

Written by James Ryan


James Ryan
James Ryan


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