The Academy is a step in the right direction. There’s a list of things that are correct – many of which have been mentioned within the soccer community.
- A unified national league.
- Virtually year-round.
- Extra day of training.
- Level competition.
- MLS teams involved.
- Better logistics for scouts.
- Phasing out of high-school.
- Abolishing crazy tournament schedules.
- Training is taken more seriously.
- … and other things
The Bad (but perhaps fixable with time)
- Pay-to-play persists which filters out a huge amount of talent from the pool.
- Club interests are not aligned with “development”. There’s no incentive to “develop” a player.
- No clear accountability metric(s) that are aligned with “development”.
- … and other things
The unrecognized problem that will keep the spirit of the Academy from fulfilling its promise is coaching. First, let’s be clear what development at the U-16 & U-18 level is all about – Tactical nous.
It’s not about developing technique. If by U-16 a player does not have exceptional quality on the ball, there’s nothing a coach can do. It’s up to the individual to spend hours upon hours, 7 days a week to have any chance of catching up to his peers. At U16, it’s also not about the list of good things above. Those things only provide an improved infrastructure.
Developing a player at this age is all about further programming his computer. Tactical structure, positional roles, correct decision-making, and vision. These are the things that develop you, and this is where 99 out of 100 coaches in this country fall flat on their face.
If the coaches themselves don’t have tactical chops, how are they supposed to give proper instruction? And of the small minority who might actually have it, they also need to be capable teachers/trainers to transmit whatever understanding they have.
Without the right teachers, you will never get developed players.
Oscar Mayer says
I completly agree with the idea of having competent coaches with the proper Soccer IQ to take US Soccer to the next level. Unfortunately, the Development Academy should have never included established clubs because the Mega Clubs do not develop players, the best players just migrate there for a better opportunity at national exposure. Many times it’s the smaller unknown teams that find the hidden rare gems out there.
I believe the fix is actually quite simple if the Country is willing to spend the money? Allow the big Mega Clubs and the little fish to continue the development process between U5-U13. At U-14 start the Development Academy with only MLS affiliated teams with well paid coaches foreign or domestic that can prove themselves. The Club system then would take it’s proper role as a feeder system for the MLS Development Academy Teams. This is what the rest of the world does, can you say the “Metric System.” I guess we americans just like to be different, even when we’re wrong.
Gary Kleiban says
Yeah, I have lots of ideas on how to improve what exists. But not all the details yet. I’ve thought of the “MLS only” route as well, but always come up with the following issues:
1) Our country is just too big. Only 16 youth mls academy teams can’t accommodate our population and it’s distribution – even more talent would fall through the cracks.
2) The capacity of the current MLS academy coaches to develop a player are no different than the “Mega Clubs”. They are still a disaster.
There are many things that need to take place to be successful. One of them, is aligning club interests with development. This means providing a monetary incentive to the clubs to produce professionals. I don’t have all the details worked out yet, or how the mechanism would work, but you can bet your ass this would oblige clubs to understand and hire coaches that can make this a reality.
Without incentive (ie money), nothing will change.
I completely agree with you. Plus to address the issue that there are not enough MLS teams to serve the country, give Academy status to some USL teams. That will support that league as well. Oh, and it should always be free at the academy level. Always.
The development academy is not just for MLS teams. But… the system is seriously flawed as can be seen by the selection of who is an academy. Locally to me, the Baltimore Bays are a development academy. They have no fields, no underlying program and have the best teams due to recruitment, not player development. They throw away kids with potential all the time because their goals are to win now, even at U10. My son plays for them, it is the only program in town of a high level so I have no choice. At the same time, I have coached in better clubs than the Bays in the DC area and Seattle where true development is being done so I do see where it is being done properly.
Gary Kleiban says
This is for better or worse the the way of not just the academy, but club soccer as a whole. Most every team that aspires to be competitive has a large player attrition rate. We really have no choice.
Specifically for the academy (U16 / U18), I believe this is as it should be. If a coach feels a player does not have what it takes, then it’s time to look for a replacement. As bad as it may reflect on me, that is exactly what I would do. My goal is to develop professionals, so I need kids who I judge to have that potential.
But where I think you are right is in a lack of high level development going on. In the SoCal Division, which I am intimate with, I can confidently say there is:
* only one club that does a good (not excellent) job
* 2 maybe 3 that are mediocre (meaning their players at least don’t get worse)
* the rest are pretty much worthless. I believe the players are actually being harmed from a development perspective.
Note: I am yet to see RSL and the “new” Cosmos play.
Is there a reason why you did not specify the clubs you are talking about in your last post?
Gary Kleiban says
Thus far, I’ve elected not to point the finger specifically at clubs/people. I think that would work against the mission I’m on.
For one thing, my relationships and network need to remain strong and healthy. To be honest, even criticizing Bob Bradley as I do is risky.
Additionally, if I really let loose and mentioned this or that club, or this or that coach as being incompetent, it might just look like I have a personal beef with them – or any kind of ulterior agenda.
So I just think if I’m successful in educating people what quality IS and IS NOT, then they’ll be capable of exposing the posers themselves.
Finally, I have thought of opening some sort of consulting service(s), whereby I would give my customers detailed evaluations of specific clubs/coaches they are interested in.
Hope that answers it …
thank you for taking the time to answer my question and then some. A consulting business huh? That sounds great! I’d love to see the blueprint of the metrics that you would use despite the obvious benchmarks that have already been discussed in various threads.
Daniel Gomez says
You guys are forgetting one huge detail. Americans aren’t students… there just athletes. They don’t know shit about soccer knowledge,knowledge and smarts wins the game. Soccer is for smart players to dominate. Ill give you a perfect example. I went to high school with twin girls who currently play at akron and buffalo, soccer scholarships. These are two powerhouses in college soccer. I asked them who johan cruyff was…. NO IDEA. Or when was the first wordl cup…. speechless. THIS IS THE PROBLEMM! Were just fast and strong…. THATS IT. We dont read about the game, we need players who understand it more and have mpre technique. SOCCER STUDENT ATHLETES
I think the whole academy thing is flawed. If you look at the history of soccer, it’s clear that the best to ever play the game come from modest backgrounds, playing without much coaching, if any, while growing up, and simply playing for the love of the game. They may be brought into developmental teams to increase there “soccer IQ”, as someone referred to it, but the basic skills and creativity are already there by the time it gets to that point. The true “cream of the crop” has been identified. So long as U.S. soccer continues to fail to extend its soccer arms to encompass our huge population of 350 million or so, we will never get to the next level. We are severely reducing our player pool with our current system, looking at a percent of a percent of the young talent that’s out there. I can’t believe with the number of kids playing today, that the U.S. doesn’t have the talent to compete at top levels in the near future. Just look at Uruguay, for example, with a population roughly equal to that of Connecticutt. They’ve won more Copa America’s than any other country, including Argentina and Brazil. Even Costa Rica with fewer resources and a population of 3.5 million continues to compete with the U.S. In reality, it shouldn’t even be close.
Brian Jackson says
Get this: one California Academy club was at risk for losing all of its practice fields (rented from a local school district) because it decided to restrict its Academy players from playing high school. The school district reacted by threatening to disallow use of the fields (there is tremendous competition for use of the fields so the revenue would keep coming in AND those schools are regularly top in the area in soccer which loss of these players would affect). The club responded by saying that the players who go to those schools (maybe 1/6th of the roster) could not play Academy in the months of HS soccer (so, conceivably, the boys could play HS or not but couldn’t play Academy). Then they told all the other Academy players that they CAN’T play HS. Different rules for kids on the same team. Oh, the revolt is coming!
*90% Mental, 10% Physical, I totally agree.
*U.S. pushes youth into competitive level too early. No allowance to grasp the game, build on basics, or time to connect mind & body. Just another way to exploit money from parents with high expectations hiding behind it’s all for the kids mentality.
*You want good teams…make Premier/Advanced/Elite ball FREE. Watch the hidden talent come out.
*U.S. Players are strong, fast athletes but only a handful have good soccer sense. Mainly… it’s a sport – not a U.S. passion!!
*MLS teams are OK at best –good farm team players but c’mon it’s almost like a higher level of soccer could exist in this country; which is why so many don’t get called up overseas.
*Better officiating is a must. Too many emotionally attached Refs. A solid match is where the Ref was barely noticed. Keep the game safe & make good calls.
* Just because someone has an European/English accent does NOT make a great coach. These people are here NOT there for a reason.
*U.S. drains talent, builds them up like a radio stations play hit songs, performance drops – BAM !
*Let’s not forget how you can also build up a solid team with phenomenal possession skills only to watch it all crumble before your eyes during the High School kick, run & tackle season.