As reported in the Ottawa Citizen by Richard Starnes, a job must be worth having when 60 people from all around the world apply for the same job as you. That is clearly the verdict from Bjorn Osieck, who was named West Ottawa Soccer Club’s first Chief Executive Officer on Thursday.
This can be considered the second major coup in six months for the second-largest soccer club in Canada. WOSC, which began life in 2010 with the amalgamation of several smaller clubs across West End Ottawa and beyond, has some 8,000 members and a net full of ambition. That was why it hired former Canadian women’s star Kristina Kiss as its technical director and that is why it has now taken on Osieck, a 33 years old and with an enviable track record already in place. There wasn’t a hint of boasting when he told Starnes in an interview from his British Columbia home: “I guess Kristina and I are much the same, young and successful.”
We all know well Kiss’s stellar playing record, but we are likely to wonder where this young man with a familiar name has appeared from. Starnes remembers the days when Holger Osieck was one of the original Vancouver Whitecaps who gained more notoriety as Canada’s men’s team coach than he did as a player. Osieck is the man who led Canada to a shock Gold Cup title. Today he has set up shop in Australia, where he is coaching the Australian men’s team in its battle to make the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. He makes a son proud. That’s the first relevant credential for Bjorn. His family is steeped in soccer.
Born and brought up in Germany, Bjorn Osieck spent a year on high school exchange in Vancouver and subsequently reappeared at Toronto’s York University to earn a business administration degree and a minor in sports administration. That’s credential number two and there are more.
A few heads must have turned pretty sharply in 2003 when the Saskatchewan Soccer Association appointed Osieck as its Executive Director. The lad was 24, hardly out of short pants but he grew with the job and the association grew along with him. But three years in, he wanted to up the ante, find a new challenge. So he moved to Vancouver to pursue work with the British Columbia Soccer Association and landed the top job — executive director in charge of some 150,000 playing members. He was 27.
Osieck has been leading the organization for more than six years now and has helped spearhead a renewed mission, value system and image, along with the introduction of a top level B.C. junior Premier League with eight franchise clubs, each boasting five boys and five girls teams in age groups. He helped establish a broad, mutually beneficial network of associations with B.C. businesses and, in particular, the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Don’t think there was any pressure for Osieck to move on. The association would have been happy to keep him. But the Osieck family had fresh ideas. “We have a young family with four daughters,” he says. “We have family ties in Ontario. So we took a close look at our life after seven years in B.C. and decided it was time to start a new chapter.”
That’s all very well, but why WOSC? What is the attraction of one club over a provincial association in overall charge of Lord knows how many? “I firmly believe the growth of soccer in Canada will have grassroots clubs in its engine room to drive it forward,” he says. “There is a definite trend toward forming larger clubs from the amalgamation of smaller ones.” Does that sound familiar? In Osieck’s view, “West Ottawa has proved remarkably driven and visionary and to be part of the movement is an intriguing notion to for me.”
Until he gets his feet under the desk, Osieck is a little cautious about where he will lead the club. But he has some definite notions running through his head. He believes relationships and partnerships are central to what he does. His hallmark, he calls it.
So he will want to build bridges in the soccer community, cultivate relationships with clubs like Ottawa South United, the Nepean Hotspurs, Nepean City et al. And he certainly wants to be close to the Ottawa Fury, a club he rightly suggests is “going from strength to strength.” “Soccer is a team sport for a reason, to bring people together. Not just in our own organizations but advancing the game in Canada needs to be done in collaboration and partnership.”
He talks about soccer clubs as a big family, building a sense of pride together. He points to the importance of everyone finding a place to play based on their interest levels and their ability. He mentions the necessity for those with the greatest ambition to have the opportunity and the importance of helping kids play the game, even if their circumstance does not allow it financially. “We need a sense of community to pull together to help those less fortunate than us share the same enjoyment, not be left watching from the sidelines,” he says.
And we can expect him to look to the corporate community for partnerships. “My message to West Ottawa members is: ‘Come out and play,’” he says. “Look no further than West Ottawa to find something that will satisfy your soccer cravings.”
Bjorn Osieck is obviously ready to lay down the challenge, but he also has a pragmatic side. “I must first find out what we are dealing with,” he says. “It is one thing to have glorious plans but before any of that, I must understand the true needs of the community.”