Author Topic: US Development in Football/Soccer  (Read 12439 times)

Offline Steve_orino

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US Development in Football/Soccer
« on: September 02, 2010, 12:12:02 AM »
So the Bob Bradley thread has me off on another tangent and I'm fuming... :014:


Klinnsmann is a popular pick for US Manager but I'd prefer him to be in charge of the youth development program.  As a pundit in this year's WC coverage, he had a very poignant commentary on why football/soccer in the US is slow to develop and I thought he was spot on (SEE VIDEO).

What Is The Future For USA Soccer?

Let it load then start it at about the 1:30 or 2:00 mark.  McMananamanamanan has a small giggle b/c of the un-PC-ness of what Klinnsmann says but JK has a very good point:

I coach my 8 year old boy and struggled over the summer with whether or not to get him involved with Academy soccer.  I can't afford it but, if I could, I don't know that it would be worth it:
1) It's almost certain that he'd get burned out by the time he was 14-18.
2) Scholarship?  Are you kidding me, I could take that $3,000+ and put it into a fund over the next 10 years and we could hypothetically have more than $30,000 for college.
3) It's not just a commitment for the child/kid, it's a commitment for the entire family
4) and maybe most importantly, he's just a child/kid.  After reading an article about the Dutch system, they scout players and pick some of the better 8 year olds around to "train".  They don't pressurize their youth with winning.  They let them train and develop.  I believe it's not till they're 14 or 15 that they start putting them in groups of 11 and play in a competitive situation.

The US has football backwards.  It's a "rich" kids game here in the States...you have to 'pay' to play a game that requires just a ball ???  Are you kidding me!
« Last Edit: September 02, 2010, 01:37:34 AM by Steve_orino »
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Offline slow05

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Re: Football/Soccer in America
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2010, 12:52:52 AM »
I agree that the cost of Soccer for kids is getting out of control.  I coached for a number of years at the select level and saw what kind of money the families had to pay.There is a group of players that grow up playing outside of this system and develop great skills. They are unfortunately ignored by US soccer for the most part.  They are the hispanic kids who play all over in place like California were I live, and I am sure Texas whear it looks like you live. These kids are the key to the future of American soccer if US soccer is willing to find them.

Offline Steve_orino

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Re: Football/Soccer in America
« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2010, 01:06:43 AM »
Another issue that US soccer has is a general lack of knowledge (duh) which leads to a general lack of awarness on how to teach the game properly....

I'm no expert.  In my efforts to Coach my son's team, I have seeked ideas from this MB, attended classes, searched for internet sites, read anything available from USSF or North Texas Coaching, and drawn upon my own experiences as a youth.  I have found one site in particular which has helped tremendously and I really like the ideas to their practice games...

This past Sunday, the boy & I went to the field and met another gentlemen & his son.  They told us they were getting ready for a 'pick-up game' and that guys from around the globe would be there to play.  They invited us but we declined (I've told them I'll meet up with them this coming Sunday).  We proceeded to do some work on our own.  When finished we took a moment to watch the game at hand (size up my competition).  As we were watching, I observed a youth team practicing.  They were doing the usual, dribbling around cones & a lot of standing in line...i.e. not doing anything, least of all kicking the ball.  To boot, the Coach had a Chelsea shirt on (no English accent, mind you) so it seems as if he at least followed the game or had an interest in it.  But football/soccer isn't played with cones and you don't learn anything by standing in line...

Yesterday, I had finished working with my U9 team and took an opportunity to watch another coach.  He had two lines of cones and the players had to dribble down and pass to each other...eventually taking a shot on goal.  Passes went astray, time was lost, a 2nd coach tried to apply some pressure, the other girls stood in line - not achieving anything but horse-play.

I can appreciate these coaches effort -- that's not my problem.  They're at least out there donating time and effort to help.  Our age division had a case where one team might have been disbanded if an adult didn't step up and take the role of Coach.

The 30 kids or so that these coaches are working with aren't getting the proper instruction - so for all the youth that play here in the States, most fall by the way side and I could guess that this just A reason.  In fact, it's the reason I fell out of soccer at 13 or 14.  In Middle School, the 'soccer coach' was an American Football coach and in all seriousness, I probably knew more about the game than he did.
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Offline Steve_orino

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Re: Football/Soccer in America
« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2010, 01:34:38 AM »
Post 3 or a ??? post series --

Jurgen says it a bit oddly but he's absolutely right...

Soccer requires a ball, even less than what's required in basketball.  Like it or not, admit it or not, the predominant athlete in the US is a/the African-American.  In general, basketball is a popular sport amongst the African-American males that requires a ball & two goals perched 10 ft in the air, imagination, creativity, & a great amout of running.  Anybody notice a coincidence?  Besides the goals being 10ft in the air and the amount of players in play, the games get on a lot the same.

Some people get upset about the way animals are treated, some get upset about obesity in America or hunger in the World, some get upset about money or a lack there of, some get upset about moving away from London, some are upset about an inability to sell cd's, some are upset about other's being upset, some are upset about smilies on a MB...

Well I get upset about US youth development in the game of Soccer/Football.  Finn, you ever get that program up and running up there in NY, let me know and I'll jump on board to assist with something here in Dallas.

Thanks for reading/listening.

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Offline HatterDon

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Re: US Development in Football/Soccer
« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2010, 04:36:34 AM »
Great thread, Steve. Thanks for the intelligence.


When I coached in the US of A it was part of AYSO, and it was primarily for fun. I coached in San Antonio in the mid-70s [10-11 year olds] and in Maryland in the mid 80s [13-14 year olds]. I worked on basic skills and positioning, but mostly I wanted the kids to love the game the way I did, so mostly we just played. We finished 2nd in each league -- after majorly kicking the #1 team's ass in each instance -- and I hope the kids wound up with the same addiction I've had for a lifetime.
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Offline finnster01

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Re: US Development in Football/Soccer
« Reply #5 on: September 02, 2010, 11:18:54 AM »
Great thread, Steve. Thanks for the intelligence.


When I coached in the US of A it was part of AYSO, and it was primarily for fun. I coached in San Antonio in the mid-70s [10-11 year olds] and in Maryland in the mid 80s [13-14 year olds]. I worked on basic skills and positioning, but mostly I wanted the kids to love the game the way I did, so mostly we just played. We finished 2nd in each league -- after majorly kicking the #1 team's ass in each instance -- and I hope the kids wound up with the same addiction I've had for a lifetime.
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Offline Steve_orino

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Re: US Development in Football/Soccer
« Reply #6 on: September 02, 2010, 05:55:57 PM »
Great thread, Steve. Thanks for the intelligence.

I hope so.  I was a bit disconcerted while typing and thoughts flowed in and out...

You speak of 'fun' during practice & I think that is my struggle right now...how to incorporate 'fun' & 'proper instruction' along with keeping organized and on task.

We'll have to discuss in November...Tyneside is going down!
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Re: US Development in Football/Soccer
« Reply #7 on: September 02, 2010, 10:55:49 PM »
Steve orino this is ClevelandMo talking.  I've returned from my long FOF exile under the guise of Duffbeer.  With FUSA out of action, I miss these types of conversations so with the help of HatterDon I got my exile sorted.  Here is my two cents, but its actual value is priceless:

1) First of all, Klinsmann's logic doesnt add up.  He criticizes our upside-down pyramid, college-centric system, but then he uses American basketball as an example of what works.  Last I checked, the NBA is still primarily fed by our college system and US basketball is among the best, if not the best, in the world.  So these poor inner city kids have managed to make it in a sport that is college based.  And if they manage to graduate with a degree they are better off as individuals in the long run so what is so bad about that.  Jurgy should have used baseball for his example but it just goes to show he doesnt know what he is talking about and that is one of the reasons I'm thankful that he is not the new US MNT coach.  Also, the US WNT is one of the best, if not the best, in the world (just hammered the WC champs 4-0), and yet these players go to college.  Furthermore, many of the best female soccer players in the world come over here to play college soccer (Kelly Smith from England is a good example). 

2) I'm sick of people bashing our college system when it comes to US soccer, it makes absolutely no sense.  The college system has served athletes well not just in the US but from around the world in numerous different sports.  The college system is a good thing, it gives athletes an option if they dont know about or havent been offered the opportunity for a pro career at the ripe old age of 16, 17, or 18.  One thing Klinsmann is right about is that we are the only ones that do this, but what he doesnt realize is that it gives us an advantage over other nations.  Our athletes have options, there is not just one way. 

3) People blame the college system because it was for decades our most developed "soccer system" and it hasnt put us among the top teams in the world (for men).  I dont think this is because there is a problem with college soccer, it is because we didnt have a viable pro soccer league until 1996.  So the Kasey Kellers and Brian McBrides of the world had to go to college.  If it wasn’t for our college system McBride probably would have stopped playing competitive soccer at 18 and as a result,  you and I wouldn’t be posting on a Fulham board.  After only 14 years I think that you can say MLS is now a viable and competitive league.  With the cooperation of the USSF most of the MLS teams now have youth academies that have begun scouting the country for talent, including poor hispanic areas.  Furthermore, US soccer has chosen additional clubs all across the nation to be US development academies so kids can stay close to home but still be part of a competent program – they don’t have to live in Bradenton, FL. 

4) Steve orino, you complain about the cost, but then at the same time you complain about the general lack of soccer knowledge in this country.  Well, it is the latter complaint that has caused soccer to be so expensive.  It created a market for europeans and south amercians to come to the US and turn soccer into a business.  The surbanites trying to steer their child away from the dangers of American football started demanding the best, as spoiled Americans tend to do, and the soccer coaching/premier academy industry was born.  And everyone buys into their sales pitch that Americans dont coach the game the right way.  I find it funny because if there is one thing that the US has shown it knows how to do successfully, it is sports.  Soccer is not rocket science.  I think Americans can figure it out much the same way it sounds that you did with coaching your boys' team.  If you’re talking about developing the top talent then yes, the US has needed and in some areas of the country probably still needs the help of foreign coaches, but if you’re just talking about the average youth program then I think people have been overthinking this issue a bit.  Will the programs be ideal and perfect everywhere in the nation, no, but so what, we just need kids playing soccer.

5) The Hispanic factor – aaaahhhh this is another one that I find tiring.  The idea that US soccer has excluded Hispanics and that stopping their exclusion is the silver bullet for US soccer.  On the first point, how have we excluded Hispanics?  Because a bunch of soccer moms, whose volunteering is the engine for the local league to function, havent gone out to recruit them.  Or is it the immigrant eastern European director of the local select team who has excluded them because he needs money to pay his bills and put food on the table.  Or has the USSF purposely based it’s youth system on these questionable characters for the sole purpose of excluding Hispanics?  Have the police gone to their fields and shut them down, confiscated their soccer balls.  Please someone show me all of these undiscovered, excluded Hispanics that will translate into a sure semi-final each WC for the US.  And when you find them, ask them if they want to play for Mexico or the US.  The US has had plenty of Hispanic players given looks and caps on the national team (more or less depending upon what people mean by Hispanic) – Boca, Reyna, Torres, Perez, Borenstein, and numerous others in the youth teams.  As I said before the MLS academies are scouting local hispanic clubs and US soccer (or MLS) has also launched an American Idol-like show on Telemundo precisely for the purpose of discovering soccer talent from low income families.  It is not that Hispanics have been ignored or excluded, it is just that you had to have the infrastructure in place for there to be any point in uncovering any undiscovered talent.  As for the silver bullet that Hispanics represent, I would say look at the USA v. Mexico record over the last decade and tell me what their hungriness, skill, and soccer breeding has given them over our team of wealthy, college boys.  One final thing as far as rich kids, plenty of the US MNT team came from poor or working class families like Klinsmann says needs to happen, and on top of that many were immigrants too. 

6) So what is the problem then?  It is simply that soccer is not popular in the US so our best athletes do not know that they can make a living at it equal to what they would make in our more popular sports.  They also wont be famous (in the world as they know it) if they play soccer.   And even as soccer becomes more popular and people realize the fame and fortune that can be made, how many of our best American athletes will choose to do this if it means moving an ocean away to a different culture in order to do so.  For me, the answer is all in the popularity of the sport.  We need it to be popular enough so that MLS players make big salaries, are famous, and are idolized by American kids.  People need patience.  Why is it that people think there is some kind of fundamental problem with our soccer programs just because we aren’t a world powerhouse.  I still think our men’s team is pretty damn good, I have a great time watching them, and I couldn’t be more proud of they way they have represented our country.

Sorry for the long reply, but it sounds as if I am as frustrated as you Steve-orino  - only for opposite reasons.  I haven’t quite articulated everything swirling in my head, but maybe another time.  Steve, our soccer club is directed by a guy from the Netherlands with a national dutch license and a national US license.  I’ve seen what he does and while a lot of it is very good, I think it is lacking too. He also brings Dutch coaches over every summer for a battery of camps (they make money from the camps but the purpose is to scout talent).  Our director is good at making the practices fun for the kids, especially the young ones, so if you want I can relay some of the more popular ones to you.

Offline HatterDon

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Re: US Development in Football/Soccer
« Reply #8 on: September 02, 2010, 11:16:13 PM »
Wow, Ms. Maureen, you had a butt load of stuff stored up there, didn't you.

I agree with all of it. Regarding the hispanic players, I think you'll find college rosters full of them and I hasten to point out that our own Clint Dempsey began playing in the hispanic leagues of East Texas.

All good discussions while we're waiting for FUSA to come back.
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Offline finnster01

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Re: US Development in Football/Soccer
« Reply #9 on: September 03, 2010, 12:52:41 AM »
Steve orino this is ClevelandMo talking.  I've returned from my long FOF exile under the guise of Duffbeer.  With FUSA out of action, I miss these types of conversations so with the help of HatterDon I got my exile sorted.  Here is my two cents, but its actual value is priceless:

1) First of all, Klinsmann's logic doesnt add up.  He criticizes our upside-down pyramid, college-centric system, but then he uses American basketball as an example of what works.  Last I checked, the NBA is still primarily fed by our college system and US basketball is among the best, if not the best, in the world.  So these poor inner city kids have managed to make it in a sport that is college based.  And if they manage to graduate with a degree they are better off as individuals in the long run so what is so bad about that.  Jurgy should have used baseball for his example but it just goes to show he doesnt know what he is talking about and that is one of the reasons I'm thankful that he is not the new US MNT coach.  Also, the US WNT is one of the best, if not the best, in the world (just hammered the WC champs 4-0), and yet these players go to college.  Furthermore, many of the best female soccer players in the world come over here to play college soccer (Kelly Smith from England is a good example). 

2) I'm sick of people bashing our college system when it comes to US soccer, it makes absolutely no sense.  The college system has served athletes well not just in the US but from around the world in numerous different sports.  The college system is a good thing, it gives athletes an option if they dont know about or havent been offered the opportunity for a pro career at the ripe old age of 16, 17, or 18.  One thing Klinsmann is right about is that we are the only ones that do this, but what he doesnt realize is that it gives us an advantage over other nations.  Our athletes have options, there is not just one way. 

3) People blame the college system because it was for decades our most developed "soccer system" and it hasnt put us among the top teams in the world (for men).  I dont think this is because there is a problem with college soccer, it is because we didnt have a viable pro soccer league until 1996.  So the Kasey Kellers and Brian McBrides of the world had to go to college.  If it wasn’t for our college system McBride probably would have stopped playing competitive soccer at 18 and as a result,  you and I wouldn’t be posting on a Fulham board.  After only 14 years I think that you can say MLS is now a viable and competitive league.  With the cooperation of the USSF most of the MLS teams now have youth academies that have begun scouting the country for talent, including poor hispanic areas.  Furthermore, US soccer has chosen additional clubs all across the nation to be US development academies so kids can stay close to home but still be part of a competent program – they don’t have to live in Bradenton, FL. 

4) Steve orino, you complain about the cost, but then at the same time you complain about the general lack of soccer knowledge in this country.  Well, it is the latter complaint that has caused soccer to be so expensive.  It created a market for europeans and south amercians to come to the US and turn soccer into a business.  The surbanites trying to steer their child away from the dangers of American football started demanding the best, as spoiled Americans tend to do, and the soccer coaching/premier academy industry was born.  And everyone buys into their sales pitch that Americans dont coach the game the right way.  I find it funny because if there is one thing that the US has shown it knows how to do successfully, it is sports.  Soccer is not rocket science.  I think Americans can figure it out much the same way it sounds that you did with coaching your boys' team.  If you’re talking about developing the top talent then yes, the US has needed and in some areas of the country probably still needs the help of foreign coaches, but if you’re just talking about the average youth program then I think people have been overthinking this issue a bit.  Will the programs be ideal and perfect everywhere in the nation, no, but so what, we just need kids playing soccer.

5) The Hispanic factor – aaaahhhh this is another one that I find tiring.  The idea that US soccer has excluded Hispanics and that stopping their exclusion is the silver bullet for US soccer.  On the first point, how have we excluded Hispanics?  Because a bunch of soccer moms, whose volunteering is the engine for the local league to function, havent gone out to recruit them.  Or is it the immigrant eastern European director of the local select team who has excluded them because he needs money to pay his bills and put food on the table.  Or has the USSF purposely based it’s youth system on these questionable characters for the sole purpose of excluding Hispanics?  Have the police gone to their fields and shut them down, confiscated their soccer balls.  Please someone show me all of these undiscovered, excluded Hispanics that will translate into a sure semi-final each WC for the US.  And when you find them, ask them if they want to play for Mexico or the US.  The US has had plenty of Hispanic players given looks and caps on the national team (more or less depending upon what people mean by Hispanic) – Boca, Reyna, Torres, Perez, Borenstein, and numerous others in the youth teams.  As I said before the MLS academies are scouting local hispanic clubs and US soccer (or MLS) has also launched an American Idol-like show on Telemundo precisely for the purpose of discovering soccer talent from low income families.  It is not that Hispanics have been ignored or excluded, it is just that you had to have the infrastructure in place for there to be any point in uncovering any undiscovered talent.  As for the silver bullet that Hispanics represent, I would say look at the USA v. Mexico record over the last decade and tell me what their hungriness, skill, and soccer breeding has given them over our team of wealthy, college boys.  One final thing as far as rich kids, plenty of the US MNT team came from poor or working class families like Klinsmann says needs to happen, and on top of that many were immigrants too. 

6) So what is the problem then?  It is simply that soccer is not popular in the US so our best athletes do not know that they can make a living at it equal to what they would make in our more popular sports.  They also wont be famous (in the world as they know it) if they play soccer.   And even as soccer becomes more popular and people realize the fame and fortune that can be made, how many of our best American athletes will choose to do this if it means moving an ocean away to a different culture in order to do so.  For me, the answer is all in the popularity of the sport.  We need it to be popular enough so that MLS players make big salaries, are famous, and are idolized by American kids.  People need patience.  Why is it that people think there is some kind of fundamental problem with our soccer programs just because we aren’t a world powerhouse.  I still think our men’s team is pretty damn good, I have a great time watching them, and I couldn’t be more proud of they way they have represented our country.

Sorry for the long reply, but it sounds as if I am as frustrated as you Steve-orino  - only for opposite reasons.  I haven’t quite articulated everything swirling in my head, but maybe another time.  Steve, our soccer club is directed by a guy from the Netherlands with a national dutch license and a national US license.  I’ve seen what he does and while a lot of it is very good, I think it is lacking too. He also brings Dutch coaches over every summer for a battery of camps (they make money from the camps but the purpose is to scout talent).  Our director is good at making the practices fun for the kids, especially the young ones, so if you want I can relay some of the more popular ones to you.

Quality post Miss Mo.

Hard to argue your post, especially since I am a relative newbie to the US of A. What I certainly already can relate to though is the inner city focus on the NBA (as I live in Harlem, NY) and I am trying hard to get a project going up here in Harlem to put in a mini-soccer field so 14 year old kids not 6ft 9 also have a sport to play and don't hang on corners and sit on stoops selling drugs. It is a long journey though, but I am making some progress.

The one thing I will say though is that not all European soccer stars are retards that never graduated from college. I went to uni with Brian McClair and he was a very smart fellow, and smart enough to get a good degree in electrical engineering whilst still at Celtic before he moved on to Man U. He is now Man U's director of their academy.

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duffbeer

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Re: US Development in Football/Soccer
« Reply #10 on: September 03, 2010, 02:10:27 AM »
Fair point Mr. Finn, I would not have generalized in such a way if Klinsmann had'nt done it first.  

I am very very happy to hear about what you are trying to do in Harlem.  You need to get Theirry (sp?) Henry on your side.  He seems a nice guy.  Also, Eddie Johnson came from the projects (didnt realize Florida had projects) and it sounds like it was some guy like you that got him into soccer.  Read this article

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1111451/index.htm

Maybe you could recruit him to help you someday.  As much as he isnt Fulham's finest (yet  :dft012:) he has the sweetest smile so I have to believe he's a good'n.  It could work, you get some pro help and EJ gets some respect from a real Fulham supporter.  
« Last Edit: September 03, 2010, 02:18:48 AM by duffbeer »

Offline Steve_orino

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Re: US Development in Football/Soccer
« Reply #11 on: September 03, 2010, 02:58:16 AM »
Fair point Mr. Finn, I would not have generalized in such a way if Klinsmann had'nt done it first.  

I am very very happy to hear about what you are trying to do in Harlem.  You need to get Theirry (sp?) Henry on your side.  He seems a nice guy.  Also, Eddie Johnson came from the projects (didnt realize Florida had projects) and it sounds like it was some guy like you that got him into soccer.  Read this article

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1111451/index.htm

Maybe you could recruit him to help you someday.  As much as he isnt Fulham's finest (yet  :dft012:) he has the sweetest smile so I have to believe he's a good'n.  It could work, you get some pro help and EJ gets some respect from a real Fulham supporter.  

O no Mo, Finn's two "favorite" people in the world!!!  :005:  As you're more of a regular on FUSA, you wouldn't have seen the 'outrage'  Finn has had against those two  :035:

Must admit though, I think it's a good suggestion to try and get those gents on board.
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Offline Steve_orino

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Re: US Development in Football/Soccer
« Reply #12 on: September 03, 2010, 03:33:04 AM »
A little Ying to the Yang...

MoDuff, great write up!  One of the points I thought of while writing and didn't express, was that there isn't just one area lacking and there isn't a perfect solution...it's going to take time & patience -- something I believe we can agree on.

For 40 years, the sport existed in anonymity here in the States.  20 years ago, we made it back into the Cup.  And this year we saw the fruits of labor of those 'college kids' efforts in '90. 

I think exposure is one thing that would really help as well...feel free to read the following link http://www.goal.com/en/news/1884/north-america/2010/08/06/2058103/media-microscope-why-the-mls-on-versus-needs-to-happen

Recently, I've found myself going over to telefutura & galavision recently just to watch MLS (Columbus' game vs. Dallas, for instance).  There just aren't enough games available on ESPN.  The link hints at MLS being on the Versus channel and how that could assist with exposure.  I'm not sure that Versus is the answer but I do think that exposure is key.

It sounds like you're further along in your examination of the sports development here in the States.  I've coached for about a year now (entering my 3rd season) so I'm still observing & learning.  I'm glad you posted, I needed to read other experiences and I appreciate the insight.
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Offline Steve_orino

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Re: Football/Soccer in America
« Reply #13 on: September 03, 2010, 03:46:33 AM »
I agree that the cost of Soccer for kids is getting out of control.  I coached for a number of years at the select level and saw what kind of money the families had to pay.There is a group of players that grow up playing outside of this system and develop great skills. They are unfortunately ignored by US soccer for the most part.  They are the hispanic kids who play all over in place like California were I live, and I am sure Texas whear it looks like you live. These kids are the key to the future of American soccer if US soccer is willing to find them.

Like MoDuff said, I was a bit contradicting, the beautiful game has become expensive here b/c of the lack of knowledge which lends itself to be taught by foreigners, who require a paycheck to provide for their families.  A case of Catch 22?

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Offline BarryP

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Re: US Development in Football/Soccer
« Reply #14 on: September 03, 2010, 06:30:54 AM »
Steve my friend you have hit on a subject near and dear to my heart.  I can and often do talk about youth soccer for hours on end.  I sit on the board of my local youth recreational soccer league, I have coached or helped coach rec soccer teams for better than a decade and my kids have played both rec and travel soccer.  I am by no means a soccer expert but I am a youth soccer enthusiast.  There is so much to love about soccer and so much love about working with children that I cannot get enough of doing it and I sincerely miss the rec season when it has passed.

I don't know what is wrong with youth soccer in the US because I am the proverbial blind man in the room with an elephant and am not even sure if I am holding the tail or a rope but I can tell you about what has changed in my little corner of the world over the last nearly two decades.  

ACT I - The beginning of soccer
OK it wasn't the beginning of soccer it was just my introduction into youth soccer.  When my oldest two children started playing rec youth soccer I knew soccer existed but that is about all I understood. My kids joyfully played in the local youth soccer league and I joyfully sat on the sidelines applauding when they kicked the ball hard and far.  Soccer practice consisted mostly of line drills, games of knockout and scrimmaging if the other team wanted to do so. Rarely if ever was more than one soccer ball employed at any point in a given practice.  I was happy with the program because my kids were having fun and  that was all the was really important.  Make no mistake I am not being flip when I say that my childern having fun was all that was important.  My children enjoying soccer changed my life. Neither of my two oldest were athletically inclined but they did serve as good cones for the occasional talented child who could actually control the ball but we were all at the soccer field having fun. Spending time at a soccer field was something that a mere few months before I would have scoffed at.  At that time I coached youth baseball and could never imagine coaching anything else.  I grew up playing baseball, loved working with kids and coaching youth baseball was my passion.  However, it was not a passion for any of my older three kids. Since my childrens lives did not include baseball my life could no longer revolve around baseball.  My oldest two children wanted to play soccer so I began spending time at the soccer field enjoying the sport, my childrens happiness and  my ignorance of the sport.  

ACT II- I've seen you at the field before or how I became an assistant coach
If you ever spend enough time around a youth sporting organization that your face becomes recognizable or better yet your name is familiar enough that people know you are (fill in the blanks) mom or dad you are probably on the volunteer hit list.  Volunteers after all are the life blood of most youth sports organizations.  It so happened that one season my youngest son was placed on the same team as the brother of a boy my oldest son had played with the season before. Said boys father had coached my oldest sons team and was now coaching in the younger league also.  I believe the conversation went something like this:

   “Hey aren't you so and so's dad.”

   “Yes”

    “I'm coaching two teams this year and I could really use your help with this team”

   “Me? I don't know anything about soccer.”

   “No problem, all I really need is someone to help me keep the boys moving through the drills      
   and to help me watch the matches to let me know what is going on with the defense while I    watch the offense.”

   “That's all?  Sure I can do that.”

That is how I began my stellar career as a youth soccer coach.  I acted (yes I mean stood around and pretended I knew anything about soccer) as an assistant coach from the time my youngest son was five or six until about six years ago.  During that time I watched and tried to learn as much as possible but what I learned was how important winning is to many parents.  My kids were still having fun and my youngest son showed some inclination toward being a defender so coach after coach played him in the back because that is what was best for the team.  He wasn't a great defender but he was athletic enough to make up for some of his mistakes and man he could send the ball a long way when he connected with it properly.  I asked my youngest son several times if he wanted to tryout for one of the local travel teams but he was not interested for reasons that were his own so we passed on that option but I was once again happy in my ignorance because my kids were having fun.

ACT III- Along comes the fourth child and a slap in the face
The day finally came that I signed up my youngest daughter for the youngest age group at our local rec league.  They start playing at four or five and at that time soccer is more of a pack activity than a sport.  The herd follows the ball and all is very cute except for the occasional kid who decides sharing is not nice and refuses to give the herd access to the ball once they get it.  Five year old children are naturally selfish and my lovely daughter was that annoying child who refused to play well with others.  It took her all of about ten minutes to figure out that if she took the throw-in (kick-in) and threw it where nobody else was on the field that she could beat everyone else to the ball and have it back without anyone else touching the ball.  When she was seven and rec season ended my daughter asked if she could keep playing somewhere else so we checked around and one of the local travel clubs offered skill training in the winter.  The club said she was too young to play on a team but she could come to the skills sessions.  My wife and I discussed it and decided that was perfect and we signed her up for skills training.  At the second skills session the director of coaching approached my wife and I and asked if we would consider allowing our daughter to join the U9 team.  After a lot of eye-batting and twisting of daddy around her finger my seven year old daughter joined the U9 travel team.

The twist to this was coming home to my eleven year old son who upon learning that his little sister was going to play on a travel soccer team declared out of the blue, “ I wish I would have had that chance”.  Not  understanding what he was talking about I asked him what on earth he was referring to and was promptly told that he wished he was good enough to join a travel team.  I am not sure what the look on my face was but I could hear the gears inside my head grind to a stop as I reminded him that I had asked several times if he would like to try out for a travel team.  His response was that he was not good enough to play on a travel team.  Once again confused I asked why he thought he wasn't good enough and to my utter horror he explained that if he was good enough to be a travel team that I would have played him as a forward on his rec team like all of the other travel players.  Several conversations and many phone calls later we got him a travel team try-out and he did make the team.  As a defender.  The coach then, unknown to him, began to explain how correct my sons astute observation had been when he politely explained that my son was welcome to join the team as a defender because he had not developed the skills needed to play in midfield or upfront.  The coach was sincere and polite when he said he would work on my sons ball skills and he developed them he would be given a chance to play other positions.


ACT IV- What are you going to do about it?
I felt about two inches tall for a long time after my son's revelation.  As the next rec sesaon rolled around I decided that it was time for me to make a difference.  I intended to volunteer to coach my sons team but that was not an option available to me since my son decided to play in his middle school league instead of playing rec soccer so I volunteered to coach my precousious daughters team but I set myself some rules to coach by.  Simple rules like:

 Winning a match would not interfere with Suzie or Billy's chance to play forward.  On my team every kid gets a chance to play both an offensive an a defensive position every match.  
Every kid is encouraged to try new things even if it means they give the ball away in the process.
Training would be fun.
Lines are the key to getting kids to quit soccer.

I will admit that things went poorly at first.  It was a bit intimidating to step on the field with a bag balls, eight girls and no real idea of what to do.  I took bits and pieces of things I saw the kids travel coaches do in practice and more than once I resorted to line drills but gradually, like Steve, I was able to find other resources to learn from so that I can throw together an age appropriate rec practice on the fly where kids don't stand in lines and multiple balls are almost always in play.

What does all this have to do with Steve's post?

In the fifteen plus years I have been around our local youth rec league I have seen the following:

1. For the first time this season we were able to give the coaches in our three youngest leagues an illustrated lesson plan book we purchased from our state association.
2. We have been able to provide coaching clinics for all of our youth coaches put on by licensed coaches.
3. The kids in the league are able to attend free skills sessions put on by area travel team coaches for free.  Yes they are recruiting sessions for the club but the kids can attend four or five a year with no obligation to join the club.
4. I have seen multiple people like myself get involved in running the rec organization.  People who have taken the time to improve the organiztion for the sake of the kids.

It may be baby steps but the more people learn and get involved the better things are getting on my end of the elephant.


"Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never--in nothing, great or small, large or petty--never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense."