Jason Pratt on What Needs To Change in American Soccer
Jason Pratt is the Senior Manager for Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) and the founder ProConnect Sports as well as the former Director of Coaching at Boyertown Soccer Club. Pratt has also worked with Paul Riley’s Women’s Professional Supergroup as Director of Operations.
In addition, Pratt is the author of the most read article we have ever published: PARENTS ON THE SOCCER SIDELINE.
Soccer News: The United States have failed to qualify for the World Cup.
You can blame me for that, and you would be right. I can blame you for that, and I would be right.
Blame without solutions is not what we need, yet it’s what we see too much of these days.
We’re starting to hear different ideas that address the collective and systemic issues.
There is no one single change that will solve the obstacles staring at us, so let’s look at where we can get the best bang for our buck. We hear a lot of blame aimed at the Pay to Play clubs. The problem isn’t that those clubs exist, they generally offer a good environment and make-up a very small percent of all clubs in America.
It’s the “affordable alternative” community clubs which are the overwhelming majority of the market.
Based on the percentage of the market they represent, and also upon my time consulting with many of these clubs, I say with confidence that it is here where we need to focus our attention.
Related Article: Challenges in American Youth Soccer
U.S. Soccer is said to have a surplus in excess of $100 million.
As the Founder of ProConnect Sports, I’ve spent a massive amount of time contemplating ways to improve the youth soccer puzzle in America. At this point it feels like there are no ideas too crazy to discuss, so here is what I call the “ProCon Plan”:
ISSUES I INTEND TO ADDRESS IN THE PROCON PLAN
- Overcoming the financials
- Quality of coaches and trainers
- Age group allocation of top trainers / player development
Academy clubs and their peers are hiring qualified Directors of Coaching to set a curriculum and create the learning culture at an annual cost between $50,000-$120,000.
A paid coaching staff – often getting roughly $750 per player per year – becomes about $10,000 per year per team.
Plus name-brand kits, quality fields, and so on. It adds up very quickly and the costs are the responsibility of mom and dad to cover, which is fine for those who can afford the experience of those clubs.
However, the majority of the marketplace are the community clubs which tend to pull from their most local kids, oftentimes similar to the borders of their school district and not much further.
These clubs rarely have the funds for paid coaches, let alone a Director of Coaching to set an ideal training environment for them.
COMPONENTS OF THE PLAN
“Community clubs” can choose to be an affiliate of U.S. Soccer, which will provide them with a share of the surplus keeping registration costs low / affordable for all income levels while providing critical support towards a drastically improved learning environment.
By accepting financial support from U.S. Soccer, the club agrees to the following:
- Club will have two trainers for every one travel team. Trainers must be licensed at a moderate level at minimum (standards to be defined). Trainers are responsible for all training sessions.
- Highest licensed/qualified trainers must be assigned to the U9-U11 age groups, the “fundamentals” and habit-creating age groups.
- Trainers are paid a reasonable stipend for the effort. Pay is on a sliding-scale depending upon license achieved and is covered by US Soccer through this program.
- U.S. Soccer will provide the club with a curriculum for their trainers to follow – and a system for assuring that the curriculum is finding its way to the field.
- Gameday coach can be the team trainer or a volunteer since game results aren’t important at these ages. Coach must be Double-Goal Coach™ certified by Positive Coaching Alliance which will educate coaches on how to develop better competitors through game situations.
- Additional allocated money goes into a scholarship account to cover costs of those with financial restraints – using a defined system for dispersing these funds to those in need.
- Under this system, costs are subsidized by US Soccer which keeps registration fees manageable for the masses, while providing scholarship money for those who would struggle for even the first $1. In addition, more athletes are in a position to enter the system and stay in the system.
Finally, the training environment is consistently coming from formally-educated trainers who are paid for their efforts, and game-day coaches are developing fundamentally sound soccer players into better competitors.
For clubs which wish to set their own charter and offer the higher cost option – they exist now and will continue to exist on their own merit.
It’s a choice – and it’s one that I believe a large number of community clubs would jump on so that they would have immediate means to a quality staff that doesn’t affect their bottom line. Registration numbers would likely increase while the training envrionments improve, and player development follows.
Worth the discussion, no?