What Are Our Standards? Raising the Level of America’s Youth Soccer Clubs
Updated: U.S. U16 and U17 Boys’ National Team former head coach Shaun Tsakiris is now the proud Technical Director of Los Gatos United in Northern California.
Diane Scavuzzo caught up with Shaun Tsakiris for a series of one-on-one interviews with the former U.S. Soccer Youth National Team Coach and two-time Coach of the Year to get his thoughts on elite players playing options after playing in the Development Academy. \
One of the most respected youth soccer coaches in America, Shaun Tsakiris left his role with U.S. Soccer as U17 / U 16 National Team head coach in December 2018. Pledging to continue to make a difference in American youth soccer, Tsakiris has turned his attention to the Saratoga youth soccer landscape. After years of traveling with U.S. Soccer, his new role as Technical Director of Los Gatos United gives him the chance to work in the community he loves and also spend more time with his family.
A graduate of UCLA, Tsakiris has been responsible in many ways for developing for America’s soccer future.
Experienced and intelligent, Tsakiris is one of the leaders in American soccer and always been highly revered. A man genuinely dedicated to growing the game of soccer in America, Tsakiris is optimistic about the future of the beautiful game in our country.
Youth soccer in America faces several critical issues today, and perhaps the most important one is defining who we are on the pitch.
What is our collective identity and how do America’s professional teams want to be defined? We interviewed Shaun Tsakiris on this and on the issue of college soccer and the ever-evolving pathway to becoming a professional in Part I. Here is our interview on raising the bar at youth soccer clubs.
SoccerToday Interview with Shaun Tsakiris
Diane Scavuzzo: What should be the end game for a youth soccer club’s DA?
Shaun Tsakiris: It is essential to take care of people. This piece can be overlooked and often is. We are developing different at the MLS DA level than at the club level.
A youth soccer club DA should be trying to maximize their players, and that core value should be the same. If you want to develop pros, you still have to develop people.
The goal for a youth soccer club should be to maximize who a player is on and off the field.
Diane Scavuzzo: What does developing the whole player mean? I hear those words often when I interview top directors from around the world.
Shaun Tsakiris: Recently, when I was on the soccer field, I watched a kid spit on another player — twice. The ref didn’t see it, but everyone else saw it, and nothing was done.
Is that a player that should represent a good club? For me, being a good dude is non-negotiable. You know what that means.
There are certain non-negotiables that clubs have to stand for.
Diane Scavuzzo: Can you give me another example of standards that a good club should maintain?
Shaun Tsakiris: Of course. Greeting people is another example. When you come on the field, you acknowledge everyone you see. It might be a staff member who is not your coach but is part of the club. You should greet them.
There are just certain standards that have to be maintained.
1% of our players end up playing pro, and the rest are going to become part of the workforce. There are certain qualities and characteristics that are important to develop in our young players to have.
This is an example of developing the person and not just the footballer.
Diane Scavuzzo: Please tell me about your new club…
Shaun Tsakiris: We are at the beginning stages of developing an exciting program. I am excited.
We are proud to be a small club and support everyone in the area.
I genuinely want to help the sport in our area, youth soccer in our area has become so toxic. I am sad for the sport.
Everyone is in such competition that they have lost sight of why we do what we do and I want to try to change that. I want to try to correct this. Everyone needs to make a living, but that cannot be the reason we get up in the morning.
Diane Scavuzzo: If you had a talented player, would you push them up to an MLS academy?
Shaun Tsakiris: Absolutely and I have already talked to the clubs about this. It is important to me that we work with the clubs in our community.
When I agreed to do this, the first thing I did was call all the area clubs and let them know what we were doing, and that we wanted to work with them. We are here for the players.
We are not interested in coaches leaving other clubs and bringing teams over to us.
We want players to come here because they understand our goal is to create a fun, enjoyable, challenging environment as we develop our players’ love for the game through competition at all levels.
We are here to make a difference and have pride in our community
LOS GATOS UNITED will be offering Summer Soccer Camps for players of all levels starting in June. For more information, please visit Los Gatos United
Read Shaun Tsakiris on Los Gatos … “There’s something special about this town and the pride it has for soccer.”