Orange County Surf SC’s Platini Soaf — 2017 Girls Far West Region Youth Coach of the Year
in January of 2018, the United Soccer Coaches presented to Orange County Surf SC’s Platini Soaf the 2017 Girls Far West Region Youth Coach of the Year.
It is with great pleasure that I interviewed Platini Soaf for this article in the series on What’s Right & What’s Wrong in American Soccer.
Soaf is a long time champion of player development and although he may be best known for coaching World Cup winner and Olympic Gold medalist U.S. Women’s National Team player Rachel Buehler Van Hollebeke when she played at Surf SC as a youth and Amy Rodriguez privately, this is a coach who seeks greatness from all his players.
Who has coached Women’s World Cup Champion and hundreds of other talented youth soccer players?
SoccerToday’s Diane Scavuzzo interviewed Platini Soaf on the future of soccer in America and his thoughts on earning the USC coaching award.
Diane Scavuzzo: How long have you coached youth soccer players?
Platini Soaf: I have been coaching for 29 years. This year I have been Directing the Academy Program for OC Surf and coaching the Girls 2001 DA and Girl 2000/1999 teams.
I was a young kid when I started coaching the beautiful game and I am still a soccer coach today because of the support of my family, of all the players I have coached. Having survived cancer and being able to coach players is an amazing gift.
Diane Scavuzzo: Where you surprised with being awarded the 2017 Girls Far West Region Youth Coach of the Year award?
Platini Soaf: I was very surprised. But highly honored to represent my soccer community for this Award. Thank you so very, very much.
Diane Scavuzzo: What do you remember most about coaching Rachel Buehler when she was a youth soccer player at Surf SC?
Platini Soaf: My best memories coaching the formidable Rachel Buelher Van Hollebeke are about her work rate, her positive energy, her hunger to get better and to improve in every session, and her serious talks to me at a very young age about her soccer expectations. Rachel’s communication with her coaches was incredible.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is right and what is wrong in American youth soccer?
Platini Soaf: Coaches like myself, like all of us, are always being called upon to do better. We, as coaches, can do more to help the game and players develop.
We do a great job running practice sessions. But we need to improve coaching during the game.
We need to help our players to problem-solve on their own.
Especially during key moments of the game — for example, those big moments of the game when the team is up or down a goal.
Coaches also need to understand how to differentiate between games that should be played with a focus on development and those during the season when the emphasis understandably is on earning a win, if possible.
All kids want to win – no kid, even a 5-year-old likes to lose.
Youth soccer coaches must take a leadership role and explain when there is a time for winning and time for development.
Sometimes failure can be a success because it teaches you what you did wrong. Winning can be like being on cruise control — you don’t get better when you are winning all the time.
Two years ago, I was invited to spend ten days with Real Madrid. I learned there how important it is to have a role model. And, to watch and learn from your role model in action. Try to copy what your role model is doing.
You can not become an elite player without being inspired by your role model.
Our American youth players are too dependent upon their coaches. Players need to be more responsible for their own development and to work on training themselves.
Players need to master working with the ball and develop individual confidence with the ball, then everything else becomes easier.
Diane Scavuzzo: What needs to change in youth soccer today?
Platini Soaf: We are developing the game, but not so much the player, and we need to do a better job for the player’s passion for the game.
There is a need for the DOC’s to be more involved in the development of their own coaches. Because, in reality, the most important team is their team of coaches, especially the young coaches.
By developing young coaches to a higher level, the DOC’s can help these coaches to transfer that knowledge to their teams and players.
Diane Scavuzzo: Where have we fallen short and how can that be improved?
Platini Soaf: Speaking of our own National soccer qualities …
This is the only country that provides a great opportunity for the majority of players to play college soccer and earn a degree at the same time.
In other countries, 1% of players will make it to the pros, and the rest will have no future because they have no college degree to fall back on.
While coaches do talk about their expectations, we need to help the players to speak up about their own soccer expectations as well.
The coaches are middelmen – this is the player’s game.
Diane Scavuzzo: What do you recommend?
Platini Soaf: Here are my recommendations …
- 1v1 playing 4 to 5 days a week is the foundation of a good player all the way to 11v11 game — with and without the ball.
- Passing shows us a good team or precisely what their coach philosophy is.
Dribbling shows us a good confident player.
- Coaches should work more with youth teams to promote the 1v1 competition almost on all their sessions.
- At the older ages, passing is required because the game is faster.