AYSO Enters the Competitive Soccer Field Next Year
The youth soccer landscape is always changing — with millions of kids playing the world’s most beautiful game and a strong drive to develop players to their fullest potential, the youth soccer market is always evolving.
The big news in youth soccer has been the announcement of AYSO launching a competitive level of play called AYSO United, which began fielding teams in 2016.
As the oldest and perhaps one of the most influential youth soccer organizations in the world, AYSO’s entrance into the ‘club’ soccer world is turning heads. More than six million kids have played AYSO soccer since the organization started in 1964 and with 50,000 teams and 500,000 players nationwide, AYSO is a large youth soccer organization.
Everyone wants to know how competitive teams will handle the ‘Everyone Plays’ philosophy. Perhaps it is time to remember that Landon Donovan, Carlos Bocanegra, Alex Morgan, Julie Foudy, Eric Wynalda, Shannon Boxx, Brian Ching and Amy Rodriguez are proud AYSO Alumni and all got their start in AYSO. Maybe AYSO’s longtime priority of child development and putting the player before game results really pays off, not only developing great potential but lifelong fans and happy players
What is AYSO United?
AYSO United is AYSO’s official club program offering competitive teams with ‘cutting-edge training’ while still enjoying the AYSO philosophy.
Working closely with U.S. Soccer, AYSO United soccer curriculum is modeled after Zone 1 initiatives — and AYSO National Clubs Program Director David Thomas believes this fall directly under AYSO’s “Development over Winning” approach.
Who is David Thomas?
Thomas grew up on the other side of the pond where soccer is called football and the sport is ingrained in the culture. Thomas developed his passion for soccer in the Huddersfield Town Academy before being recruited to play soccer at Fairfield University in CT and settled here, becoming an Assistant College Coach after graduation.
Years later, Thomas moved to the West Coast and was the Director of the prestigious NHB Winter Academy. Proud to be leading this new endeavor for AYSO, his biggest challenge is explaining how the pillars of America’s oldest soccer organization are not in conflict with competitive soccer. A question he is often asked.
Here is SoccerToday’s Exclusive Interview with David Thomas:
Diane Scavuzzo: AYSO is now entering into crowded world of competitive youth soccer? Can you explain the new AYSO United program? What does it offer and how is it different?
David Thomas: In simple terms, AYSO’s United program is club soccer with AYSO’s values – We want to ensure the philosophies our organization is built on transitions over to the Club world. The question I hear most is will everyone play?
Our coaches will strive to ensure each player receives 50% playing time as we believe that is the key component in player development.
Diane Scavuzzo: I can imagine. How exactly does Everyone Plays work? I can only imagine the questions ….
David Thomas: It can be a challenge to educate parents and coaches — but it is the right way to develop players.
It is easy to say you are a youth soccer club focused on developing players to their full potential but how is that happening when you have several players who sit on the bench most of the time?
A lot of clubs use ‘development’ as a sales tool and then — once the teams are formed, the coaches focus on winning on the weekends and a lot of players become discouraged, some losing their passion and love for the game because they are on the bench more than they are on the field.
Diane Scavuzzo: Are your AYSO United teams not worried about winning?
David Thomas: Winning takes care of itself — if you properly develop your players.
It is easy to take the low road and just play the best players when you are coaching a game.
I tell my parents, ‘It is ok if you don’t have immediate success.’ I want the parents to look for the small things within the same game that show that the kids are developing.
Diane Scavuzzo: How many AYSO United teams are there?
David Thomas: There are 200 plus club teams playing across the nation – we have a very strong footprint in the US Club circuit with over 1,000 players participating as United players. The AYSO United program is being offered where there is strong field access and player base. While AYSO United will not be available everywhere, we are looking to grow the program.
Diane Scavuzzo: Why is AYSO launching a competitive program?
David Thomas: AYSO is focused on meeting the needs of our members and we have parents with players who are 10 and 12 years old who want a more challenging environment and competitive level of play.
AYSO United is the new tip of our pyramid — and we have players who enter our AYSO family with our playground soccer program starting with us when they are very young and stay with our organization until they graduate high school.
Diane Scavuzzo: When does the program official launch? When are tryouts?
David Thomas: We are ready to go, we will be rolling around seven new clubs in 2017. Parents should check our AYSO United website for details but for example, tryouts for players interested in our California based clubs will be in January 2017 and teams will be formed to play in the 2017/18 season.
Diane Scavuzzo: How expensive will it be to play youth soccer in AYSO United?
David Thomas: Our objective is to make AYSO United cost effective but not cheap. Our club is not financially motivate to carry larger rosters as we are clearly committed to player development.
Diane Scavuzzo: Do you think the competitive side of youth soccer is different?
David Thomas: Yes, it is a whole different set up with a different language and organizational structure, and this is part of the of the education process for our members.
Many people think Club Soccer is the scary monster, however there are some tremendous programs doing wonderful things across the Nation. AYSO wants to be part of that and bring our philosophies to the table. Our United program will protect our core value, and I believe this will make AYSO United very successful.
AYSO United will provide a great opportunity for AYSO players to stay within the AYSO family and play soccer in a more challenging environment. All youth players looking for the chance to play soccer and be part of an organization promising to focus on skill acquisition as well as technical and tactical capabilities should check out AYSO United.