Post-secondary soccer has two major governing bodies. The CCAA generally governs colleges and smaller universities in Canada while U Sports is the governing body for the majority of degree-granting universities in Canada. This week’s newsletter will be a guide for young soccer players who are looking to play for a team in the CCAA while next week’s newsletter will be a guide for young soccer players who are looking to play for a team in U Sports (formerly CIS).

The Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) is the national governing body for soccer at the collegiate level in Canada. The CCAA currently includes 94 member institutions including colleges, universities, technical institutes and cegeps located in eight provinces and regionally governed by five member conferences:

  • PACWEST: Pacific Western Athletic Association in B.C.
  • ACAC: Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference in Alberta and Saskatchewan
  • OCAA: Ontario Colleges Athletic Association in Ontario
  • RSEQ: Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec in Québec
  • ACAA: Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island

The Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference (MSAC) is the governing body for collegiate sports in Manitoba but is not currently affiliated with the CCAA.
The CCAA provides the opportunity for student athletes to combine their passion for sport and pursuit of higher education at a CCAA Institution. Participating in collegiate athletics provides students with multiple benefits and the CCAA National Championships and Awards represent the culmination of each athletic season and the aspiration of each student athlete. The CCAA Athletic landscape includes:

  • being part of Canada’s Long-Term Athlete Development with opportunities for athletes to excel through provincial, national and international competitions.
  • competitive leagues, tournaments and championships that are professionally organized and hosted by the participating institutions and their respective Conferences.
  • experiencing Canada’s world-class coach development system.
  • elite competition and training facilities, many of which are home to national team training.
  • active and significant athletic scholarship offerings - more than $7 million annually.
  • national, regional and local awards and recognition to outstanding student-athletes, honouring both their athletic and academic achievements.
  • an inclusive environment that encourages student-athletes of all-skill levels to embark on their athletic goals, whether it be pursuing a spot on a National Team or playing for your community.

How does a young athlete earn a spot on a CCAA team roster?

Honestly, before I reached out and asked some of the most respected CCAA coaches how to make a CCAA team, I really didn’t know where to start. Esad Elkaz, Head Coach of the Women’s team at Red Deer College let me know that they have a “How to Try Out” website page.

My advice to a young athlete would be to check out the websites of CCAA teams as the first step to making a team. Many of the schools have specific information including information on tryouts, not to mention educational program information.

The second step would be to contact the Head Coach. Often there will be a form online that a player should fill out and will then be directed to the Head Coach or a player can contact the Head Coach directly with questions.

If you are expecting to be actively recruited by a CCAA team…that is definitely a possibility. At Olds College, Head Coach of the men's and women’s program, Niels Slotboom, recruits the majority of his players through contacts, agents, leagues, events and camps.

Quite often a player will look to attend a school because of a specific program they are looking for. That is the case at Olds College as they have a very specific curriculum that no other school in Canada has. If a young soccer player is looking to attend a specific college that they have not been recruited to, they should contact the head coach and ask about tryouts.

Jamie Baldree is the Head Coach of the Vikings Women’s soccer team at St. Lawrence College. I asked her what a player should expect a tryout to consist of: “Our tryouts consist of fitness testing, basic drills, inner squad scrimmages and of course, preseason matches.”
Do you have the necessary skill and/or experience to be invited to a CCAA team tryout?
Most CCAA schools will be looking for athletes with experience in a high calibre program such as:

  • Being a starter on your high school team
  • Playing on another college or university team
  • Playing on a high performance club team
  • Playing on a provincial/national team
  • Playing on a team in the upper division of a city or regional program.You will also likely need to be cleared medically to play.

What type of players are CCAA coaches looking for?

Jaymie Baldree (St. Lawrence) is looking for the following 3 skills/qualities:

  • Time management/commitment: to allow yourself to be successful with both your academics and athletics.
  • Work ethic: hard work has always gone a long way with me. You do not have to be the most skilled player on the pitch, you just need to give me your 100% during training and games, and I am happy.
  • Positive attitude: maintaining a positive attitude throughout training and during matches, and having your teammates feed off that creates a positive learning environment for all. It also allows for you to stay mentally focussed throughout. Student-athletes have enough to worry about. Extra curriculars should always have a positive impact on those that chose to participate.

Niels Slotboom (Olds College) is looking for the following 3 skills/qualities:

  • Coachable/ Willingness to learn
  • Commitment / Dedication
  • Desire to be successful

Donn Sparks (Langara Colllege) is looking for the following 3 skills/qualities:

  • Well rounded soccer skills
  • Committed to completing the enrolled program
  • A good teammate with their own identity 

How to get a scholarship with a CCAA team

I asked Coach Niels Slotboom about CCAA scholarship opportunities:

“In the ACAC there are 2 different scholarship types, Athletic and Academic. As a student athlete you would, of course, qualify for both, and in many cases be eligible to apply for more academic scholarships because you are a student athlete as well.

The Athletic scholarships are different at every school; some schools have large scholarship budgets where others have no scholarships at all.

Most Alberta programs have access to the Jimmy Condon Scholarship, which is a provincial scholarship for student athletes. The scholarship is worth $1,800 for the school year, split in half ($900.00) for each semester. This scholarship is currently under review and will see some changes which will be released later this year. Some institutions will also have an athletic scholarship themselves, this ranges from college to college. No college is allowed to pay for more than tuition and books, which is quite different from the United States where accommodations and sometimes even food can be covered.

At Olds College we have scholarship funds and many of our players are on a scholarship.”

International Players

Although there are no limitations to roster size, a coach is only allowed to dress 18 players for a game. Within those 18, a team is only allowed to have 4 international players. Typically an international student needs to apply to the college 4 to 6 months in advance of the start of their first semester. International players will also need a study permit, a Canadian Social Insurance Number and Health Insurance.

What is the time commitment needed to be successful at this level?

Niels Slotboom: “The time commitment is very substantial and in many cases underestimated. Soccer players will come to campus 2 or 3 weeks before school even starts to begin their preseason. The preseason at Olds College consists of 2 sessions every day on the field as well as sessions with nutritionists and personal trainers and exhibition games. Once school begins the sessions switch from 2 a day to 1 every evening after class. Every weekend from the beginning of September until November is taken up by games. Apart from the practices, games and other sessions there is also community involvement, fundraising and other activities that student athletes are involved in. Being a student athlete requires allot of dedication, focus and time management skills, all of which are life skills essential to becoming successful in many careers.”

Further questions: If you have any further questions in regards to playing college soccer in Canada please feel free to contact me, Rob Kelly at and I will answer your questions or direct you to someone who can.

Thank you to the following programs for their assistance with this guide to playing college soccer in Canada:

Langara College, Olds College, Red Deer College, St. Lawrence College

A Guide to Playing Canadian College Soccer  by Rob Kelly

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