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Author Topic: US Development in Football/Soccer  (Read 5486 times)
finnster01
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« Reply #15 on: September 03, 2010, 02:06:59 PM »

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.



Mr Barry,
You are a good man. People like you make football/"soccer" work.

I salute you.  clap hands :Sparkyticus:

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pettyfog
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« Reply #16 on: September 03, 2010, 02:57:06 PM »

Good stuff, guys.

Funny that little over a decade ago, collich as a development mechanism was being written off.

But now, there's a third way: imagine the 16yo HS phenom kid who receives two invites in the mail, 'Wow, I have a choice, I can go to Bradenton or I can finish here, accept a full ride and play at the University of Akron" {BTW: I'm still AMAZED!}

Well, guess which any kid in his right mind is gonna accept.  I say 'right mind' because he might have done a little research on it.

The third way is for the kid to play with the Zips and out of season, sign on with the Crew Academy.

Summary, I said here and/or elsewhere:
 JK, put your time and money where your mouth is.  And managing the USMNT has nothing to do with it.
« Last Edit: September 03, 2010, 03:00:29 PM by pettyfog » Logged
Steve_orino
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« Reply #17 on: September 03, 2010, 04:23:42 PM »

And then I find this SI.com article today...
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/tobias_lopez/09/02/mls.academy/
Who's leading the charge?  None other than my local MLS team FC Dallas.

From the article:
- In November 2006, MLS launched its Home Grown Player initiative, which allows the clubs to sign four "HGPs" each year as long as the player is registered with the club for 12 months.

- FC Dallas sits at the forefront of the Academy program having signed four of the 18 HGPs now in the league.

I think this paragraph is interesting...
- FC Dallas also enjoys a partnership with Brazilian club Paranaense, which boasts a top-notch youth academy highlighted by dorms and nutrition programs for the young players. Hunt admitted this system provided an influence on the academy commitment of his club.  One significant benefit of this system is that it takes the prohibitive economics out of the youth soccer picture, which has morphed into a "country club" only portrait.  MLS clubs now benefit from developing the player. Youth clubs chart success solely by building robotic formations and teams that are smothered by getting results rather than individual flair or creativity. After all, the youth club parents are paying for wins or soccer scholarships rather than the beautiful game.  MLS clubs will be footing the bill for the academy players rather than their families.
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duffbeer
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« Reply #18 on: September 03, 2010, 05:33:06 PM »

Barry I always enjoy reading your posts on youth soccer, this one is no exception.  

I've been observing our local rec and travel soccer for about ten years now - for six years as a parent and ten years as the wife of a coach.  Our club does the things that Barry mentioned at the end of his post and here are a few other things that I would highlight as good, positive steps for a youth soccer program.  My apologies if they are obvious.

1) Small-sided teams:  6 v 6 for U8 - U10 (offside rule not in effect), 8 v 8 Ull - U12 (offside rule in effect), 11 v 11 for U13 and older.  Kids get more touches on the ball and you avoid the pack of players around the ball.

2) The club has a philosophy that all the kids will get to play every position in the games with the exception that they will not put kids in goal if they dont want to be there.  This is emphasized to the coaches and for the most part they comply.  My husband is very good about doing this and you can really see the difference it makes when you observe the improvement our travel teams make relative to other clubs that dont have this philosophy.  Also, I think my oldest can serve as an example in this regard.  He was not interested in sports but my husband and I believe our kids have to play sports so he started playing soccer in our local rec league.  He made the travel team at U8 not because he was good but because only 9 kids tried out.  For the first several seasons it was painfully (and I mean painfully) obvious that he had no interest in doing anything on the soccer field.  Every time the ball came to him (small sided games) he would get rid of it as soon as possible and the result often was not good.  Now some coaches might get frustrated with that, stick him in defense, and point in the direction he should kick the ball.  But he was always played at all the positions and now after six years of organized team play, you will struggle to find a player, even at the premier/select level, that is as good as he is at one-touch passing and bossing the center midfield.  It helps that now he watches a lot of soccer and enjoys playing the game.

3)  Everyone plays equal time.  No stop watches or anything but the coaches do their best.

4)   Parents are required to sign a code of conduct agreement at the start of the season which says they will not yell at the players, refs, coaches, or other team.  From my observations our parents pretty much follow this - I'm not sure if it's because they have to sign the agreement or not, but I dont think it hurts.

5) In addition to free footskills clinics our club has weekly free goalkeeping clinics.  One thing the club doesnt do in regards to goalkeeping that I think they should is consider a kid's goalkeeping skills at travel team tryouts.  I think this penalizes kids who are willing to play a lot in goal.  Also, since our travel players will make up most of the high school team it doesnt help develop decent goalies for the high school program.  This season our high school team (both JV and varsity) doesn have any kids that have played goalie so we are in for a long one.

6) Our club has rec level, travel level, and premier level.  The premier level allows an unlimited amount of players from other cities (travel only allows 2) and it competes with the best teams in the state league.  A kid that plays premier is also required to play travel.  This prevents our best players from leaving our club program and helps maintain the overall quality of play for the benefit of all.  Some would say it's a disadvantage for our premier players because they have to play travel, but I disagree.  I think it is beneficial for them to also play on a team in which they are one of the best players - they will be more likely to lead and more likely to experiment or do things other than what they are best at.  It also keeps the cost and travel time down for our parents.

Now I think something was said about "playing to win" and how the Dutch dont worry about this in their youth programs.  Here are my thoughts on that.  I think if you do items 2, 3, and 4 from the list above, you've addressed the unsavory elements of "playing to win" that are counterproductive to youth level development, but then you "play to win".  I think there are positives about playing to win.  First of all, a lot of the kids care about winning whether you want them to or not.  I saw this when the state league tried to replace the league competition for U8s with Saturdays of 20 minute scrimmages between several sides because it was more age appropriate.  The kids, not the parents, said "no thank you".  And it is usually the most naturally competitive and agressive kids that care about winning and these are also the kids that tend to be the better soccer players.  For the life of me, I cant understand why you would want to take the desire to win away from a kid.  As long as you require them to show respect and shake hands at the end of the match, wanting to win is a good thing.  Winning and losing builds character, does it not?  Kids need to know they might lose; they need to believe they can win.  They need to believe that even if they are playing the best team on the planet, or even if they are down 2 - nil with 20 minutes left and are relegated, they can still win.  Between the Confederation's cup, WC qualifying, and the WC itself, how many times did Bradley's boys do the un-doable?  Same with Fulham.  Then ask yourself why the Netherlands, for all their methods and skill, havent won a world cup.

 

« Last Edit: September 03, 2010, 05:41:08 PM by duffbeer » Logged
RidgeRider
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« Reply #19 on: September 04, 2010, 03:51:41 AM »

Enjoyed reading ALL of your posts. I have nothing to add but thanks. I still WATCH my kids play rec league and work with them individually before practices. Only reason I posted was to say for awhile I was taken back to the old FUSA days. It was nice.  :045:
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duffbeer
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« Reply #20 on: December 27, 2010, 06:03:35 PM »

Resurrecting this thread to post this article,

http://msn.foxsports.com/foxsoccer/usa/story/ncaa-winning-akrons-caleb-porter-leading-by-example

because I like how Ives explains the role of college soccer in the US soccer landscape.  Like me he believes it is needed.  It is also a nice feel good story about Caleb Porter, the coach of the NCAA Champion Zips, and his decision to turn down MLS and stay at Akron to build their program.  Our local paper said he just signed a 10 yr contract with Akron for $350,000/yr.  A lot for a college socceer coach but still less than Akron's basketball and football programs which will never come within 150 miles of a national championship.  Also, I dont know what DC United offered Porter but I bet it was significantly more than $350K.
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pettyfog
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« Reply #21 on: December 29, 2010, 07:06:14 PM »

Resurrecting this thread to post this article,

http://msn.foxsports.com/foxsoccer/usa/story/ncaa-winning-akrons-caleb-porter-leading-by-example

because I like how Ives explains the role of college soccer in the US soccer landscape.  ...


Good for you, Maureen.  I dont see why this thread couldnt be stickied.. or relabeled national players development or some such.  Would be good to see what's going on in Oz and elsewhere too.
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McBridefan1
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« Reply #22 on: December 09, 2012, 02:55:14 PM »

I know college is important and has its place in developing soccer, but too many kids that are really good slip through the cracks. My little brother in law is trying to get into college, the kid is the son of a professional soccer player and he has offers from developemental teams in portugal So if he can't get into at least a division 2 college because of his 2.0 GPA then he is off to portugal... just another good future ball player lost to over seas clubs that know what to look for. Our "scouts" in this country haven't got a scoobie because if a kid isn't in college he goes unnoticed, sad really.
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Steve_orino
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« Reply #23 on: December 10, 2012, 08:28:41 PM »

Interesting read from Michael Owen's blog: http://www.michaelowen.com/blog.html

The title is: "Too much too soon" – Website won’t allow me to cut & paste…

Cliff Note version:  Mr. Owen suggests that between the ages of 19 & 24, 125 to 175 games need to be played by the typical football (soccer) player to make sure their body develops (about 25-35 games a season).  In his early career, he played a lot of games for Club & Country and he has been labeled as injury-prone after sustaining a hamstring injury.  On the other hand, Scholes & Giggs, both were brought in slowly and thus we’ve seen a sustained quality about their careers.

The College season is 20+ games in 3 to 4 months time.  Reserve squad in MLS gets less, only 10 guaranteed games.  This, during a crucial age too. 

@ Mr. McBridefan – perhaps going to Portugal would be the best thing for your brother-in-law if he wants to pursue a professional career.  College wouldn’t be so bad, especially with a degree, but being under their radar suggests that maybe they don’t know what to look for, considering a country with a solid League & solid National Team is interested in signing him.
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« Reply #24 on: December 10, 2012, 10:33:57 PM »

The Bundesliga & German National Team are a great example for MLS to follow.
 
I posted recently on a FC Dallas website...

From: Leander Schaerlaeckens – http://msn.foxsports.com/foxsoccer/mls/story/youth-over-aging-stars-in-post-david-beckham-major-league-soccer-era-120412

From Bundesliga.com – http://www.bundesliga.com/en/liga/news/2012/0000232784.php

At the turn of the millennium, however, the picture was far bleaker. With an ageing and mediocre side, Germany’s national team, as defending champions, exited UEFA EURO 2000 with just a paltry point and one goal to show from their three group games. The humiliation was compounded by a humbling 3-0 defeat to an already-qualified second-string Portugal team as well as a first competitive loss to England for 34 years. It was the watershed moment that revealed the need for German football to reinvent itself.

 A new directive was required to restore football in Germany to its former glory. The path decided upon by those in charge at the German Football Federation (DFB) and newly-created German Football League (DFL) was to invest in youth. In practice, this involved replicating the French model of a national academy at Clairefontaine and extending it to all 36 clubs in the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2, a plan that was finally implemented in 2001. "

 
And from Goal.com (India) – http://www.goal.com/en-india/news/2292/editorials/2012/12/04/3573849/the-bundesliga-blueprint-that-has-the-german-league-taking
“It all started in 2000 after Germany disgracefully exited the European Championship, having only gained a single point in a group which included Portugal, Romania and England. Luck had deserted the Nationalmannschaft, which looked old and devoid of any inspiration, and had few talents to look forward to down the road. In response, the DFB revolutionised the system of youth development in Germany.
 
In December of 2000, the DFB created the DFL (German Football League) to manage the 1. and 2. Bundesliga. Shortly after its creation, the DFL enacted strict mandates for clubs to get their licence to join the league. All teams in the top two tiers of German football were required to have for their academies: a certain number of training pitches, an indoor training facility, massage rooms, saunas, and physiotherapists. In addition, the DFL raised the bar for obtaining a coaching licence at youth level.

 The DFL’s initiative to promote youth development was beneficial, not only for the German national team, but for Bundesliga sides,"

 
I wish Mr. Garber would stop spending time & money on a 2nd team in NY – he needs to use that money to make sure we have a better Reserve League (ie 20-30 games, full reserve squads, decent pitches to play on). The quality on the pitch is what will bring in fans/viewers. Take the TV ratings for example, there is more viewers of the PL & La Liga than MLS games. If there is quality available to view, we will find it no matter what obscure channel it is on...
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