Keith Tozer on What is Working and What Needs to Change in Youth Soccer Today
Keith Tozer has been the longtime U.S. Futsal National Team Head Coach and the Commissioner of the PFL (Professional Futsal League), a FIFA and CONCACAF Futsal Instructor as well as the President of the Wisconsin Sports Group. Tozer has been the top coach in American Futsal for decades and has helped grow the sport in the USA.
Commissioner of the Professional Futsal League, Keith Tozer, is synonymous with Futsal in the USA. A retired American professional soccer player who chose to champion Futsal around the world, Tozer was the U.S. Futsal National Team Head Coach for more than two decades. He also coached the Milwaukee Wave and is the Technical Director for U.S. Youth Futsal‘s National program. Tozer is the most winningest coach in North American professional indoor soccer. As a former player, he played in the Major Indoor Soccer League, American Soccer League and American Indoor Soccer Association.
SoccerToday’s Diane Scavuzzo spoke with Keith Tozer on what the future of youth soccer in America could and should look like, particularly on what we need to do to improve player development if we want to make it on the world stage.
Diane Scavuzzo: What do you believe is Right and what is Wrong in American soccer?
Keith Tozer: I firmly believe we have done many things correctly — and we have some fantastic youth players in our system now as well as well trained coaches. And, like most business, there are areas to evaluate and improve on.
One of the issues we face in our society in the USA is the “fast food” mentality.
Our society is based on getting everything as fast as we can and we believe bigger is better. Our youth development will take time, will need to have a methodical approach regarding the process and outcome!
In most countries around the world, soccer is their passion, soccer is the way out to a better life, soccer is a tradition handed down from generation to generation.
In most countries, soccer is the only game or at least the favorite.
Most countries have a culture where young players strive to be like their childhood heroes and in many instances, they are driven by their parent’s passion or their grandparents.
The youth player is “hungry” not for food but hungry to succeed in life through the game of soccer.
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Diane Scavuzzo: What needs to change in youth soccer today?
Keith Tozer: Here in the U.S. we have too many other major sports, entertainment options, and ‘screen’ options for young players to be interested in.
That’s ok, however, building our youth development programs is much more difficult here in the U.S. than it is globally because of all these other options and we must recognize that.
We try to emulate another countries youth system and then we find out that it doesn’t work or individuals in the decision-making positions do not like it, so we find another system, and then another.
We must find the right way for “OUR” players in the USA that is based upon our society, our demographics and our way of doing things and then be patient.
It will come, and we will be successful.
Diane Scavuzzo: How can we better use Futsal?
Keith Tozer: It’s about believing!
First, people here in the states who are in the decision-making positions within U.S. Soccer, State Associations, Clubs and Academies must “BELIEVE” in what the game of Futsal can offer as another tool in the development of our youth players.
Many individuals have bought Futsal in but unfortunately are not in a position of power to make sweeping changes that would really benefit player development.
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There are many DOC’s around the country that do not believe in what the game of Futsal has to offer their players.
When you don’t believe in something you will not teach it.
After Spain won the 2010 FIFA World Cup, we had the first FIFA Futsal Instructor Course in Madrid at Spain’s National Training Center in La Rosa.
I will never forget when the President of Spanish Football opened the conference by saying, “Ladies and gentlemen welcome to Madrid and while you are here I hope you take time to get your picture taking with the World Cup Trophy next door and one of the reasons it is, is because many years ago we decided that “Futsal” will be a part of our players youth development.”
When you believe in something you will achieve.
Diane Scavuzzo: In today’s modern game of soccer — Where have we fallen short and how can that be improved?
Keith Tozer: Again, it’s a process that will take time as the USA has to develop its own way to play.
We have tremendous goalkeepers, defenders, and hard-working midfielders but what we need are the special players who can create goals on their own — and who can win games on their own.
That doesn’t mean they are not team players but players who can think and play outside the box. Messi is a great example.
Christian Pulisic is becoming one of those players but we need 10, 20, 30 of those kinds of players. How are we going to accomplish that in the next four, six, eight or ten years? Better coaching courses, maybe. Better facilities, ok, more competitions, yes.
However, I firmly believe that if we invested heavily in the game of Futsal in the inner-cities, within all the elementary schools around the USA, and transform underutilized spaces into Futsal courts, we would accomplish our goal of creating special players. We would also attract more Hispanics and Latinos as well as African Americans and give all our young players who are hungry for a better life, a greater opportunity to reach their goals.
Brazil did it, Spain did it why not the U.S.?
What do we have to lose?
Everyone talks about how our youth system is Pay-To-Play — that it attracts only a certain demographic to the player pool. There are so many gifted young people that because of their economic situation are not exposed to the game or if so have the ability to be seen.
Creating centers for kids to play Futsal would help grow the game of soccer and develop better players.
Related Article: Keith Tozer – Mr. Futsal
Bring the game to them, build it and they shall come! In FIFA, we have a program called “Teach Tomorrow’s Teachers.” Let’s provide all our gym teachers in the U.S. with a Futsal curriculum and work on providing all the schools with Futsal goals and balls and let the players play.
Create a culture, create passion, create opportunity and with that we create success.
Diane Scavuzzo: Any final thoughts to share?
Keith Tozer: I find it very interesting why so many still have not bought into the game of Futsal, mini-football, street soccer or 5-aside and it goes back to educating and believing.
How can so many great men and women who play the game of basketball become such great athletes even when they reached six feet five inches or more? It’s because they grew up on a small court.
Players who have to react quicker physically in tight spaces have refined their technical skills.
Futsal teaches players to think plays ahead because of the tight spaces, and because players master the technique and tactics of the game, their confidence grows.
So, call it what you want but Futsal can and will be the difference maker! I ask again, what do we have to lose? Go USA!
Photo Credit: Keith Tozer Futsal Academy