Waterloo United is celebrating a half-century of soccer in the city in 2021 and what better way to ring in the occasion than entering both a Men’s and Women’s side into the League1 Ontario fold.
While Executive Director Paul Burns calls the overlap of their entry into L1O and the club’s 50th anniversary ‘a nice coincidence’, he feels Waterloo is now one step closer to offering local opportunities to play the beautiful game at every level.
“The next step for us is League1 and for us, it's a natural progression to complete that player pathway,” Burns told League1Ontario.com. “I think that's really the best way for me to put it, it's a natural progression of the development of our club, we're growing in terms of our professionalism and in terms of our offerings when it comes to on the field or off the field.”
Burns and the organization pride themselves on offering structured soccer programs for three-year-olds through to adulthood, ranging from recreational now up to the most competitive level Ontario has to offer.
It was with this same ‘soccer for all’ mindset that the club prioritized entering teams into both the male and female L1O divisions when given the opportunity.
“We had no plans to participate in League1 unless we had both a male and female entry. For us, it is important to provide that level of soccer for both genders and we're doing the same on the reserve side as well.”
If the theme of the club’s first 45 years was evolution, the emphasis has since shifted to inclusion in the past five years for Waterloo.
Making everyone who wants to play a part in the game feel welcome has been the main objective of Burns and the rest of the organization, as is clearly demonstrated by the off-field initiatives they’ve taken in recent years.
“Inclusivity has been a very big theme for us over the past couple of years within our programming. We started some new initiatives when it comes to our ‘diversity and inclusion speaker series’, we have a special edition jersey, our ‘play for all jersey’, where the funds for that will go to our BIPOC scholarship, which was created in late 2020.”
“It's very important to us to provide that equal opportunity.”
As the hope to make every participant within the Waterloo United community feel welcome remains strong, Burns and the rest of his staff recognize the need to adapt and evolve on the soccer side of things as well as they enter another level of competition in L1O.
With this in mind, the competitive sides within the organization — including both the Men’s and Women’s L1O teams — are being equipped with the necessary tools to have success in modern soccer.
“We’re focusing on technology, so looking at analytics and video, and providing more of that education to our coaches and our players about the game and opportunities within the game.”
Having already accomplished so much in the past 50 years, Waterloo United has clear goals for the club’s next chapter — which in Burns’ eyes might not come in the form of silverware.
“We want to be able to provide the best programming in the area, but when I say best, I don't mean necessarily winning every trophy, I mean providing a safe, enjoyable experience.”
Waterloo United is set to play their home games at Warrior Field (University of Waterloo’s home field) once League1 Ontario play resumes.