Leading the Way Forward: Former Pro and Longtime Director on Building a Better Future For American Soccer
Kansas City is an exceptional city in the heartland of America. Straddling the borders of Missouri and Kansas, Kansas City is a passionate soccer city and the words Sporting Kansas City command respect as do its coaches and players. The man at the epicenter of the youth soccer scene is Sporting Kansas City Academy Director Jon Parry – dedicated and outspoken champion of the game and player development.
Youth Soccer News: Former professional soccer player Jon Parry became the Sporting KC Academy Director of Coaching in 2008 after an impressive career in soccer. The man who represented the USA on the U.S. National Futsal team in the World Championships, Parry has worked alongside Sporting KC‘s Manager Peter Vermes for the many years.
Parry is also the Director of Coaching – Boys at Sporting Blue Valley Soccer Club. A former collegiate soccer head coach for both the Men’s and Women’s team at Kansas’ University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth, Parry has coached at every level of the game.
As a player, Parry played on the 1996 United States FUTSAL Team and the 1998 team that played in the Mundialito de Futsal Tournament in Brazil. Parry also played professional soccer for five years in the Continental Indoor Soccer League (CISL) for the Sacramento Knights, where he was the leading scorer in franchise history with 127 goals and 84 assists. Parry, an All-Star four times, finished his career with over 400 goals scored.
Parry is also the Executive Director of US Youth Futsal and holds a USSF A coaching license, has taken the Academy Director’s Course and is one of the very few coaches who passed the French Football Federation’s Elite Formation Coaching License.
SoccerToday’s Editor in Chief interviewed Jon Parry on what we need to change to have a brighter future, the value of training in Europe, the benefits of playing Futsal and how the U.S. Soccer Development Academy is performing.
Diane Scavuzzo: What makes a good leader?
Jon Parry: A good leader is able to possess a clear vision and surround themselves with a great team of people.
It is important to have integrity, humility, and clarity to be able to guide your team.
It’s always important for a leader to exhibit passion as that will inspire a team, and create a positive culture and working environment.
Diane Scavuzzo: What do we need to do to transform soccer into the #1 sport in the USA?
Jon Parry: I think soccer is the sport of the future in the USA.
The investment that is being made by MLS owners into soccer-specific stadiums and training facilities has been truly incredible.
The pathway to the professional game is clearly defined and has changed the mindset of young players in this country. Players are now being given the opportunity to play professionally at 15, 16 and 17-years-old — which will improve the depth of talents in this country.
Diane Scavuzzo: What are the most important priorities we face today?
Jon Parry: It is the responsibility of each MLS Academy to create the best environments for players to develop.
We are still in the infancy of our Academy system.
One challenge that needs focus — I believe there needs to more consistency in staffing as there is too much turnover in the coaching and leadership of MLS Academies.
Diane Scavuzzo: What are your thoughts on the best way to lead the way forward to create a positive and better future?
Jon Parry: The Academies need to create incredible player development environments by hiring coaches who are true educators of the game.
It’s great to have people with ambition, but sometimes that ambition gets in the way of doing the actual job.
To build the future we all say we want, there must be a stronger commitment to develop and play the young talents on the first teams.
Related Soccer News: SPORTING KC’S RIBEIRO ON AMERICAN YOUTH SOCCER – WHAT’S RIGHT & WHAT’S WRONG
Diane Scavuzzo: American youths playing abroad — how strong is the lure to play soccer in Europe?
Jon Parry: I think you will always have the lure to play in the top leagues in Europe.
I truly believe that we can help facilitate a player’s pathway to Europe. A player can now go from their respective Academy, B team, MLS team and be sold to a European power.
It’s important for us to prepare these players for success at that level and equally important for our owners to benefit from these transfers to protect their investment.
Diane Scavuzzo: What can we do to stop our talent from leaving the USA?
Jon Parry: It’s simple … the clubs have to play the young talents!
Diane Scavuzzo: Training in Europe at a strong club — is it still valuable?
Jon Parry: It all depends on the philosophy of the respective club. There are only a handful of clubs in the world that provide academy players the opportunities to progress from the Academy to the First Team.
You can have great training anywhere in the world but if the philosophy of the club is to buy the best players and not develop their own … it makes more sense to find a club who believes in promoting the youth.
Diane Scavuzzo: Raising the bar on player development— What are the biggest mistakes most youth coaches in America make?
Jon Parry: We need to continue our investment in developing quality coaches.
We need to play our talented youth players in professional games. We have to believe in the young talents.
I don’t think enough coaches try and play creative and attacking soccer, I see too many teams playing to win at all costs … they defend and counter. In my opinion, it’s not enjoyable to watch or play in that type of system and then the training is not focused on developing players.
Diane Scavuzzo: Are the games in the U.S Soccer Development Academy competitive enough to help develop homegrown talent?
Jon Parry: For sure. I think this league helps develop professional talent but the upcoming tiering will provide more meaningful games every week.
Diane Scavuzzo: Many of the greatest pro players play or played Futsal — What is the value of Futsal for youth players?
Jon Parry: I think futsal — if played the right way — provides unbelievable opportunities to develop technique and speed of play which transfers to the outdoor game.
Diane Scavuzzo: What specifically makes playing Futsal so valuable for player development?
Jon Parry: Futsal allows players to become technically proficient due to the quicker pace of the game on a small court.
It is crucial for young players to play small-sided games.