Less Games, More Training – Restructuring Soccer Development in the U.S.
NEW SERIES: CHANGING THE DYNAMICS OF YOUTH SOCCER DEVELOPMENT
There are many suggestions and beliefs as to how we can improve soccer development in the United States — and the training mentality has changed dramatically in the last 5 years. Now, as soccer’s popularity increases and is the preferred youth sport in modern marketing — just pause for a moment and think of all the prime time commercials featuring happy kids playing soccer — we need to get it right. Youth soccer coaches are building tomorrow’s lifelong fans — as well as looking to develop the first American trained Messi or Ronaldo. With America’s thriving need for winning — how can all these forces be balanced on the pitch? Here are leaders in youth soccer with their insights on how we can do a better job developing youth soccer players.
SoccerToday new series brings together the minds of the leaders in our youth soccer community to discuss the direction of player development in America.
Rene Miramontes, Crusaders Soccer Club Director of Coaching
Related Article: State of the SDDA
There is no doubt that youth soccer has grown in leaps and bounds and there is a steady climb in the player’s ability to deal with the ball. Even though we are not there yet, I believe that technical development has improved quite a bit in the youth game over the last decade.
I believe our gap is closing with the rest of the world in the pure technical area.
Where we need to improve and are still behind, is in the application of technique to a tactical situations under pressure.
As Bob Bradley used to say: “Our players don’t have the full package” — the ability to think while dealing with the ball, is an area of improvement in player development but I’m optimistic in that the players are getting better.
One aspect that needs to definitely improved is the amount of meaningless games the young ones are playing today.
The belief that playing more games will result in better players is hindering development.
Players will improve with the combination of proper competition (at the right level and in the right amount) with deliberate progressive training.
We continue to place such value in winning trophies and medals that we forgo a well developed course of training. I believe that less games and more deliberate training would improve not just the level of play but also the youth environment in general. Hopefully this will reduce the importance we place in winning over development.
Otto Orf – HandsOnSports Foundation
Otto Orf is Regional Director for US Youth Futsal and runs HandsOnSoccer – futsal equipment designed for coaching futsal teams.
Related Article: Otto Orf on US Youth Futsal ID Program
There is no doubt that youth soccer is a huge hit in the United States. More children — especially more girls, more leagues and more soccer related products are sold here than in any other country in the world and for the past decades the ‘Soccer Mom’ demographic has been the belle of the ball.
We are all very familiar with the positive impacts including; inclusivity, physical fitness and young people learning to work together on a team to achieve success.
On the not so positive side, the problems in youth soccer include the participation trophy — the ‘every player gets a trophy’ scenario — along with parental mania which have damaged the success of our player development environment.
If I could change youth soccer to help foster our young athlete prodigies, I would look to these three areas:
- Encourage the identification and separation of higher level athletes into groups at younger ages, 6-12 and provide high-quality curriculum to these players.
- Use diversified game play at ages 5-12 and include handball, futsal, soccer, rugby, basketball, badminton, table tennis.
- Create accessibility and opportunity for inner city youth.
At the end of the day, we have to remember that in sport all men and women are not created equal. We also must remember that the most formative years of a child’s development are before 12 years old.
I believe when gifted athletes are gathered, a competitive environment comes about naturally and participants improve at a faster rate producing creativity and problem solving abilities as beneficial byproducts.
If we provide for our standout athletes at an early age they will have the foundation to reach their full potential and then our country of 350 million plus citizens will produce our Messi, our Maradona, our Pele.
Wayne Harrison – Soccer Awareness
The biggest change I would like to see in youth soccer in the USA is fewer tournaments and coaches/teams doing more training instead of going to a tournament.
Four or five games in three or four days burns players out and offers up potential injuries due to tiredness.
Spend a weekend training and working on the players knowledge to play the game rather than have a tournament. But the problem is tournaments bring revenue and parents like competition and “winning” usually regardless of how they win too. It’s a big educational exercise that I don’t think is likely to happen in this generation unfortunately and it takes brave coaches to do this and make a stand, and clubs will continue to push to go to tournaments rather than have their players doing “more important” training instead.
They can include a friendly game in training where they can stop and start and educate them and take what they learn from that into their regular training. Like a weekend training retreat. I am sure players / teams / coaches / clubs will benefit greatly from this in the long run and will get far More out of it than playing a tournament to get a medal around their Necks (or not). This is especially so at the younger ages.
Matthew Madeira – Executive Director of Cal North Soccer
In Northern California, youth soccer is a wonderful organism. It’s a wonderful sport and it’s a wonderful social interaction.
Youth soccer is, by definition, diverse and evolving. Recreational soccer….competitive soccer…2 years old and younger soccer to 19 years old and younger soccer – there is a little bit of everything in youth soccer. As a soccer playing area and a soccer playing state and a soccer playing nation, one area that offers excellent opportunity is in our joint focus and vision. I’m reading a book written by Patrick Lencioni and he offers the following quote;
‘If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time’.
Youth soccer has global record levels of passion, energy and investment. We have passionate players, we have dedicated coaches, and we have supportive volunteers and parents. As an industry (local, state or national), partnership and shared vision will provide benefits to all involved in our beautiful game…played by our children.