Warning!!! To All Our New Readers: This Blog is Probably Not for You


I’m dead serious!

The majority of you likely joined us after the U11 video. That means the chunk of posts you’ve seen since, have been about kids playing soccer and our trip to Spain. So cute youth soccer stuff.

Well, you’re in for a big ass shock if you think that’s what this site’s about.

You’re not going to be getting little heart-warming stories about kids playing this game, and silly “youth soccer development logic”, or the mindless parroting of what perceived US Soccer authorities say.

Not at all!

You know what you’re likely to get here instead?

Consistent slaps of cold hard truth across your face. Yep, that sounds about right.

You’ve decided to subscribe to a site that’s unlike anything in the country. First and foremost, the things that are written here don’t come from reporters or “fans” of the game who for whatever reason chose to write about the sport.

The stuff that’s spit out here comes from a totally different place. It comes from deep within our soul. And it comes from people who actually know what the f they are talking about. Wait! Not just talk, but actually produce. You’ve seen it right? Well that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

Oh yeah, and if you can’t handle the occasional f-bomb, just unsubscribe right now and go read some clueless material elsewhere. There’s thousands of banal, innocuous, and totally clueless media to choose from. But hey, at least their vocabulary is filtered.

Even Worse than F-bombs

Something else you must be able to stomach – and far more threatening – is a likely head-on collision in worldview. Not just a soccer specific one. A general one.

You know why?

Because one’s worldview is intricately meshed with how soccer is perceived, and hence played.

This is threatening because you will be challenged at the core of your beliefs. And that’s going to make you angry. Insulted even.

So there it is guys

Think you can handle this?
Think you can lower your defensive barriers?
Think you can make a concerted effort to not rationalize things so that your worldview remains intact?

You sure you want to stick around?
Now’s your chance to jump ship and continue living in your comfortable soccer pigeonhole.

Oh and before I forget and you conveniently label all this as X or Y, I don’t do this for shock value. This is what’s in my belly when talking about the sport!

So if you’ve made it this far, here’s another crucial takeaway in regards to soccer development at all levels:

This kind of fire is what it takes to be the best. Anything less is not enough.


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  1. BillR says

    “Because one’s worldview is intricately meshed with how soccer is perceived, and hence played.”

    Gary, wow that is so fucking true, and a positively brilliant line… I assume it yours. Views on the game are right up there with politics and religion as a way to start an argument. I’m here primarily because my children’s experience with soccer has been so broadly unsatisfactory. The options, the philosophy and the approach to the game are all severely lacking. In a nutshell, the starting point is too many Americans view anything with an English accent as being quality. Yeah, it is much deeper than that, but that shallow point-of-view is damn prevalent.

  2. Melissa says

    A wise man once said, “The first responsibility of leadership is to define reality.”

    Lead on, Gary, lead on.

  3. Dave C says

    I love it! I have been trying to preach so much of what you guys are doing to so many around the soccer scene in my area until I’m blue in the face! I have been coaching for 9 years using a basis of Total Football mixed in with Brazilian concepts and Futsal to great success. Not just success for the club but true player development success. Still, no matter the amount of Freshmen I send as starters to top teams, no matter the amount of times my club team passes around athletically superior teams many still prefer the highest level license and most British sounding accent they can find. Don’t let my team dominate a game with 80% possession over a huge club and then be unlucky to end at 1-1 either. That will just be an example of why direct play is best. F That!

    I’m so glad to see you guys are here doing what you’re doing. Fighting the good fight to make a difference to the future of the beautiful game in the States!

    • Gary Kleiban says

      Dave, stay strong and doing what you’re doing. Everybody can go suck a chorizo if they don’t like it. The few of us who know what’s what, need to band together. Otherwise the ignorant and brainwashed horde will continue to dominate.

      This is your home man! And I promise you, one day we will crush everybody. Together.

      • Rosie says

        I hear you guys loud and clear……..My biggest pet peeve is when a kid just launched the ball up the field about 65 yards to know body and you hear all of the parents say great ball!!!!! Every time I hear that I just want to scream and say great ball to whom……All your kid did was turn the ball over. It tells me they don’t have enough soccer skill to keep possession for there team…..Its even worse when a coach says it but he says “unlucky” ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG

        • john pranjic says

          Unlucky is the stupidest term in soccer. Every time that I hear someone use it I think of “UNSKILLED”

          • Oscar says

            Rosie & John, thank you for reminding me. I want to apologize to 2 players this past weekend. I don’t know what I was thinking. I must have lost it a bit. I literally asked them if they were “stupid”. Most coaches or parents would think their kid was “unlucky.” We need to establish a concept of excellence that permeates throughout youth sports not just soccer.

  4. Nuno says

    I think that what Gary means is that this is war…
    No, not war against some people or group of people, but a war of ideas about the game and a war of competences…sometimes an open war, many times a guerrilla war fought in the trenches…a war where we hope and need to bring people from the other side to our cause, but also a war where we need to be alert to the many “wolves in sheep’s skin” lurking everywhere
    Hasta la victora!! :)

    • Gary Kleiban says

      I love it Nuno!
      Except that I have no hope, or inclination even, of persuading the “other side”.

      • Nuno says

        I think that you might have much more of an inclination to persuading than you might care to admit…dominating performances and results tend to be quite persuasive

        “talk softly and carry a big stick” TR
        …couldn’t it be Pep Guardiola’s motto as well? :)

  5. George says

    Agreed! Especially about that English accent part (even though I have one). Too many charlatans masquerading as coaches when they really are “recruiters.” Oh, and chest thumping EPL advocates….Embarrassing.

    Keep it up gentlemen.

    • Nuno says

      Amen George!!
      Again this is not about where you come from but about your soccer ideas and your competence…and BTW there are plenty of “bad” soccer ideas and incompetence to be found in Iberia and South America as well

  6. geoff says

    Question….. If playing direct can get you a CL TITLE is it wrong, barca don’t play direct and have been beaten 3 straight times when it really mattered, I look at it as a loss because attractive footy didn’t win, I didn’t have a dog in the fight truly (Gunners baby) but the concept and style of play that won and will win a champions league title is definitely anti soccer if its chelsea, and maybe not so much if it bayern, but still not the possesion rythemic style I would prefer, it seems that to beat a superior technically talented team just sit in and hit it long,

    • Melissa says

      Hi Geoff:
      Barca will tell you straight up that their main goal is not to win. I can’t remember their mission word for word but I think it goes something like this 1. To be the most technically and tactically sound 2. to be the team with the fewer number of fouls at the end of match and the more sportsmanlike and gentlemanly of the two teams, and I think winning is 3rd. Sort of like soccer as a religion, a way of life. First – honor the game; you must play the game in it’s purest form, no exceptions. Second – you don’t dishonor yourself through unsportsmanlike conduct, such as fouling, etc. or playing the game in a way it was not intended. Third – you may get your win – but even if you don’t win, if you met the first two goals, you will still be the team with the honor and you will have upheld the standards of the game. I’m not an expert on soccer, I have only been into it since I met my husband. But it in my mind, this is how I have been able to explain to myself that there is no need for a winner to determined at the end of every soccer match – which was hard at first. In soccer, even if it’s a draw – there is still a clear winner in the eyes of someone who loves the game. I don’t know if it’s wrong to win a CL title by playing direct – but just because you won the CL title, doesn’t mean you’ve won the hearts and minds of true soccer lovers and the next generation.

    • Gary Kleiban says

      Playing “direct” or playing “anit-soccer” is not wrong.

      While I was watching both legs of Barca – Chelsea, one of the things I kept saying to myself is “this is badass!”. Referring to Chelsea putting everyone behind the ball in their defensive third and just sitting there and waiting to catch a break.

      Yep. I enjoyed what Chelsea was doing.

      The problem is that people need to comprehend there’s a when, where, why, and how to do such a thing. And no, as simple as those things may sound, the soccer community in general does NOT understand them. They really and truly DO NOT!

      • Geoff says

        I cant say I wasn’t Wowed by the collective effort of Chelsea to get 10 then 9 behind the ball for the majority of the game, What was more outrageous to me was Barcas inability to break it down and get a quality scoring chance, This run by Chelsea has been a talking point within the club I work with, knowing that a far superior team has been beaten by the “special one” and his non-attractive style on multiple occasions,

      • El Memo says

        This is a surprise. But coming from you nothing should be. I am trying to comprehend you. I personally dont like teams “parking the bus,” but -although an admittance of dominance by opponent – it is good tactics for that situation. (I would work on skills, possession and regaining posession after the match) I keep on thinking that at the end it comes down to DECISION and EXECUTION. Make the right decision as a player, team and coach and work on execution. The “right” decision is dictated by the when where and why. The how is the execution. But, agree, in depth knowledge is required, and that is hard to come by.

  7. Chris says

    I’ve been a fan of this blog for well over a year, and it is always a refreshing take on soccer that I agree with 90% of the time. I wish it were required reading for the countless moronic coaches out there who still hoof the ball up the field and don’t know the meaning of the word possession, still less how to teach it to kids.

    This philosophy is independent of a particular accent, or the fate of any one team (Barca). I happen to have an English accent and I’ve been a Chelsea fan since 1970. That doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate and understand why so many English clubs (including my own) so often fall short. But defending against a heavily possession-oriented approach is something every team needs to learn, as we have seen in the last week, and overcoming that kind of defense is something that teams that emulate Barca need to think through better. Celebrating possession soccer is the first step, and a very important one, but it is only the first step.

    • Nuno says

      Well said Chris!!
      As I posted above “…this is not about where you come from but about your soccer ideas and your competence…and BTW there are plenty of “bad” soccer ideas and incompetence to be found in Iberia and South America as well”
      Keeping spreading the good gospel!! :)

  8. Oscar says

    Gary, keep bringing it! I’ll share some interesting theories whether you guys like it or not.

    BTW, Chelsea and Real Madrid won because Guardiola was out-coached not because Barca’s style was flawed.

      • Oscar says

        Guardiola ran out of ideas. He said it himself. He was too tired and mentally fatigued. As my prof used to say the optimal approach is always in the middle. A team cannot focus only on attacking or defending. There has to be a balance and Guardiola didn’t find that balance against Chelsea and Real Madrid. Guardiola was offered the “best” team in the world. Now he has to prove himself as a true great coach elsewhere.

  9. Hawk says

    Like many people I first discovered this site after watching the U11 video. I’ve spent the past several weeks reading through all your posts and comments. For the first time in my soccer experience I don’t feel lonely. It’s truly refreshing to know there are people out there who feel the same about our American development system as I do. Over the past five years when I’ve shared my views with other coaches I am usually looked at like I’m crazy, young, and don’t’ understand how things really work.
    While I agree with nearly everything presented in this forum I have found it extremely difficult (if not impossible) to spread these philosophies. As a young coach does anyone have some advice for convincing the decision makers at my club that they need a strong philosophy, a curriculum that builds on their vision, and most importantly a perfectionist work ethic where by every time something is achieved a new goal is set?
    I have been coaching at a supposed “top 30″ club in the country and unfortunately it is nothing more than a highly organized nonprofit with some great athletes. I presented our director with a 40 page needs analysis for youth development from u5 to u14 last year in hopes that we might work together to bring a focus and direction to our club. It was met with the usual, “this is great, but….” and a few weeks later the club announced that we would be partnering with isoccer ( http://www.isoccer.org ) to “Raise the Level” in our club. What the hell is a level and why do so many posers talk about raising it. The only reason to use such an ambiguous word is because you actually have no clue what you are trying to change and how to do it.
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I was nearly ready to give up coaching competitively until I found this site and am very grateful to know that I’m not alone out there.

    • Oscar says

      “advice for convincing the decision makers at my club ”

      I feel for you Mr. Hawk. Good luck!

      Why would a non-profit or any organization change? They are happy doing what they have always been doing collecting money from kids and parents. After 3 years of frustration I finally moved on and just did my own thing for free. I wanted to develop professional top-level players. When I mentioned it to the club director, he just said, “Now now settle down! We don’t do that here. We’re just here for the community.” In my mind I was thinking I need to get the F- out of here and stop wasting my valuable time and resources.

      Youth organizations are like the blind leading the blind. If you keep doing the same shit you will just keep making shit!

      BTW, iSoccer is good if you know how to implement it. No need to pay for it.

    • Gary Kleiban says

      Hawk, I feel you because we’ve been through this.
      What we are dealing with here, is both ignorance and human nature.

      The average person is weak when confronted with anything they think is a risk to their “survival”. The average person follows the path of least resistance.

      When you propose anything substantial outside that path, they’ll fight you to the death.

      This is precisely why there are so few exceptional people in the world. It takes tremendous effort and introspection to fight against your own resistance to change.

      • Oscar says

        Gary, how did you learn to write in such an inspirational manner?


        Share with us your background, education, childhood, and family environment. Please.

        • Gary Kleiban says

          I’m glad you enjoy it Oscar! But I know I have a lot of to learn.

          How about instead of giving you a ‘resume’, I tell you what I believe is the most important thing of all:

          I give myself permission to be human.

          • Oscar says

            Gary, I’m not asking for a resume. Just want to know what it’s like being a human like you. I believe we can learn a lot from your family, childhood, education. Describe your background and enviroment for us if possible. What you say is one thing but your foundation and development as a human is something else.

          • Gary Kleiban says

            My point is how can one capture or encapsulate a person and their experiences? Maybe a full length biography does some justice. That’s why what your asking gave me pause. Plus I don’t know if the readers here care to know these things anyways.

            But here goes:
            * Parents are Argentine. Loving and supportive home.
            * Spanish was always spoken in the house.
            * Middle class.
            * There was an emphasis on education.
            * Went to private elementary and high school (catholic).
            * I hated English and the social sciences. Loved the natural sciences and Math. But didn’t like school.
            * First job was at age 16 at Knott’s Berry Farm.
            * Ended up with advanced degree in Physics and Mathematics.
            * Worked for 6 years as an Engineer and Scientist at Boeing and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
            * Quit to start my own company (online personal health records). Failed. Concurrently started teaching Physics at Cal State University Fullerton.
            * 3four3

          • Oscar says

            Gary, thank you for sharing. Eerie similar. I think readers care about the person.

  10. Kit Elliott says

    So what happened with that iSoccer idea? I’ve never heard about it until just now, and it seems like “fast food” style soccer training.

    • DrP says

      Isoccer is a good start. Nothing can be improved without being quantified and as mentioned above finding the true reality is the first step to self improvement. Kids that play travel think their skilled and this is very relative because they generally do not have local daily training and other quality players to really measure their lack of skill. Isoccer is a yard stick to measure basic skills under timed pressure and this measurement can be compared against the entire data base to compare your relative skill to other players your age. Is it perfect ? ..no but it starts to ask the question of where are you currently at and what part of your game is weak and how can I improve and how do I know I have achieved improvement ? I appreciate the above blog and know that anyone with this kind of fire will turn off as many as they attract. Also I realize it is only this single minded relentless pursuit of an objective that can push through the fog and doubt to achieve the desired result. More than drills, plans or formations this energy and fire have great momentum and it that special extra something that makes the master better than the rest. Thanks for reminding us that mastery of this game or any worthwhile pursuit requires nothing less than everything all the time.

    • Hawk says

      The club paid for all our teams and coaches have access to use their website. “Fast Food” style is a great comparison! While nothing is mandatory our coaches are strongly encouraged to use their testing methodology in training. It would be ok for a recreational club in North Dakota, but for anyone trying to be competitive the program is quite silly.
      The majority of their Skills tests use short change of direction dribbling and short sprinting as a way for players to measure their supposed “development” against other players from around the country. Not one of their tests measure perception or understanding of time and space. I’m not sure that you can quantitatively measure perception or time/space understanding anyway. None the less isoccer then uses color coated levels (like karate belts) to motivate players to get to the next “level”.

      • DrP says

        The point I am making is it is a baseline and I bet there are plenty of players that are surprised how poor they score with non dominate foot etc.. and are challenged to work on skills that they didn’t know how weak they really were.
        @ Gary still waiting for some Yoda guidelines to fix US Soccer.

      • Kit Elliott says

        Hawk you raised a good point about time and space. As I understand it, the best players always make sure they have these two components; and if they don’t, then they utilize their technical skills to create them. From what I’ve read about iSoccer and learned from you guys, it seems unlikely you will grasp time and space from the website.

        But then as DrP mentioned, you could use it as a standard to measure at least some technical skills against others, which seems helpful. I don’t think there is a worthy substitute for getting out and playing with people in person. In our electronically oriented society, many daily acts are carried out in cyberspace, which I guess is good for some things (e.g. E-trade, emails, shopping, amongst others) but not for sport.

  11. Rivelino says

    isoccer as the only training would be bad. But don’t all kids who want to reach a top level need to train skills on their own a lot? Giving them some competition and some benchmarks seems like a good way to motivate that training. It does seem like a waste of time to do isoccer in practice when you should be working on mentally challenging drills.

    • Geoff says

      Isoccer is a great tool to measure your club as a whole, it doesnt show style of play or creativity, but what it does show is a players technical ability. It gives a TANGIBLE readout on the foundation of a players soccer ability, My U-10 team is currently registered on there and have begun making strides to out do each other, when you the worst player on your roster go from 35 foundations to more than double that in a spring season it gives me the impression that this player will continue to work hard and put in effort on his own,

  12. Nuno says

    Where I grew up we used to go to the beach to among other things play soccer…a particular beach was famous because on the top of a group of big rocks tended to stand a couple of unbelievable ball virtuosos that would all day display the most amazing ball tricks you could possible imagine…then you put on the field and most of them were banal players at best…relation of this story with isoccer? you figure it out

  13. says

    When Mourinho’s Inter beat Barcelona in the EURO Championship by ‘parking the bus’, it left a question mark about the Spanish club’s possession play tactics. That question however, has often been ‘camouflaged’ by Barcelona’s outstanding playing quality and an ever-growing reliance on Messi’s ability to score. But as Barcelona and Messi’s playing reputations have soared, it has meant more opponents being forced to play ultra-defensively against them. Even going back to Spain’s World Cup victory, one remembers the difficulties they had overcoming opponents who pulled numbers back to defend. I have made several comments over the past couple of years about the developing problem that would confront teams such as Barcelona who rely on a ‘one brand’ playing method.

    Without doubt, Barcelona have ‘raised the football bar’, and we have all enjoyed watching them, but their results this year have further emphasised a need for changes to the patient, possession style of play that has characterized their success. There needs to be more variety to their playing style. They are outstanding in the way they regain possession of the ball and because of this they should and could ‘gamble’ more tactically. The high possession statistics achieved by Barcelona as well as others copying their playing method is great, but means nothing without a penetrative conclusion. We, in this country, are Barcelona in ‘reverse’- ‘all penetration and no preparation’! Our poor skill levels demand a simplistic playing style, therefore, the direct route is generally the only option available. So we have two playing opposites; the patient, skilled possession method of the Spanish that needs more penetrative alternatives; and the game here that too often resembles ‘fightball’ and requires an ‘injection of skilled patience. The search for and discovery of football’s ‘Holy Grail’ – real, ‘Total Football’, is more likely to be found by a country who have an established development infrastructure – for it will be easier for problems to be noted and modifications to their playing style to be quickly introduced. That country is more likely to be foreign rather than our own!

    What’s missing from Barcelona’s game-style at present is variables in their preparatory play. They seem over-conscious about ball possession and fail to exploit opportunities to penetrate quickly when available. Their flank play has not improved and any space down wide positions is not utilized enough. There is a lack of individual quality as well as insufficient ‘overloading’ in the wide areas and players who occupy these spaces have failed to produce as one would expect. The Club also seem to have a complete distaste in using any pass forward over 20 metres; this lack of early forward play allows opposing teams to get back and defend more solidly. The use of longer passing is an asset to attacking play—IF USED CORRECTLY and should be an integral part of any sound tactical method used in the game. Barcelona, are, without doubt the best team I have ever seen when keeping the ball around an opponent’s penalty area – (front play- round). They show great ability to play in tight situations and do create and score many goals from highly-skilled individual and combined situations. However, the opportunity to play angled, diagonal crosses from positions around a crowded box is very rarely used. The desire to keep good possession and not risk the loss of it has meant a noticeable lack of variety in their crossing of the ball. This is probably due to both a lack of height and heading ability in the team. I have always said that Heading is, ‘the football perfectionist’s blind spot’ and Barcelona are an example of this statement. The game allows the ball to be headed, but this often means players who are good in the air are not so good on the ground! Barcelona must produce or find players who are capable of being talented with the ball at their feet as well as with their head to complete the total playing quality for the game they seek. It should be remembered that most goals are scored from crossing situations and Barcelona, at present, are playing without sufficient use of this important fact.

    We at PREMIER SKILLS have always recognized the importance of variations to playing styles and already cover these aspects in our coaching programs – perhaps, Barcelona might be interested in taking a look!!

    So Barcelona, the world’s greatest team, must ‘go back to the drawing board’; (variations) must be added to their game to conjoin with their present playing qualities. If this is done I believe they will ‘raise the bar’ for the game once again…… I for one wait in hopeful anticipation.

    • says

      Ok I disagree, 2 weeks ago NO ONE and I Mean NO ONE wanted to play Barca. Did we all see the same matches, Messi had 1 v 1 against Cech, ball hits the post 3 times i think, they stayed true to their style, philosophy and ultimately didn’t win. But none of you would have made the comments you are making now 2 weeks ago. Really, and a coach that Gary talks about, Bielsa said this: “”The game yesterday [at Camp Nou] indicates that attacking football has nuances. But styles cannot be changed.

      “Even if the best team doesn’t always win, the best way of winning is always by trying to be the best.”

      The key is trying to be the best and we know Barca will continue to set the standard, but i would be worried if they had no chances on goal at all, they created a multitude i think they should keep perfecting their approach.

      • Mike says

        Kephern –
        Great post. Reading all the post mortem’s on Barcelona this past week, one can almost forget that they scored 2 goals against that parked bus – not to mention Messi’s narrow miss and the numerous chances they created as you mention. The game could as easily have ended 4-1, but that’s football. Same as when Barca lost to Inter – never mind the volcano and the offside goal in Milan. Everyone was talking about the failure of Barca’s system and the need for a “plan B” – when they already had it – their CB scored a striker’s goal (they also had a goal disallowed for a BS handball and one of Messi’s efforts kept out by a brilliant finger tip save from Cesar). Again, that’s football. It’s a game of inches sometimes and luck also plays a part. Trying to draw conclusions from one or two results is always going to be a flawed process. Consistent results over time are a far better metric. Barcelona has scored almost 3 goals per game this season, 1/2 gpg more than the EPL leaders, in a league which on average has given up less goals this season than the EPL. But yes, as the “experts” all say, their system clearly doesn’t know work anymore so they should go back to the drawing board and bring in a big target center forward who can park himself in front of goal so they can start scoring more on crosses and counter attacks. I’m sure that 7-0 demolition yesterday was just another anomally, and further proof that Messi – despite his 2 goals, 2 assists and creation of another goal – can’t really play well w/o Xavi and Iniesta. There were watching from the bench, after all.

        Sorry for the rant. Guess that was a little pent up.

        The point: The team that controls the ball, controls the game, and will win most of the time. They’ll also be a whole lot more fun to watch – for those who can appreciate what they are watching.

        • Nuno says

          OK Mike, nice talking, but don’t forget that since the still current coach took over this is a team that was only the base to the national team that won the Euro, the World Cup, and at the club level they won nothing more than:

          La Liga (3): 2008–09, 2009–10, 2010–11
          Copa del Rey (1): 2008–09
          Supercopa de España (3): 2009, 2010, 2011
          UEFA Champions League (2): 2008–09, 2010–11(lost semi’s to bus and airplanes on other two years)
          UEFA Super Cup (2): 2009, 2011
          FIFA Club World Cup (2): 2009, 2011

          Clearly a team that plays a nice tipi-tapa to the eye, but just can’t beat the well oiled powerhouses of world soccer. Obviously a club in need of a huge overhaul, and a good thing that its clueless coach is about to leave.

          How ignorant, jealous or short sided can one be?????

  14. Rivelino says

    In the spirit of honest confrontation of this blog, I think that the present approach of the authors is likely going to be a flash in the pan because they are so focused on elite development. Training cohorts of 11-12 of the most talented soccer players in SoCal is never going to effect the broader changes in attitude and culture necessary. The Dutch talk about an inclusionary soccer culture where even average players get a sense of sophisticated culture and can appreciate the elite training. But Gary and Co. , by focusing on the best of the best, are just pulling up the drawbridge and not providing an avenue for the enthusiastic but average soccer player to appreciate what they are doing. And when they get tired of winning state cups, they will not have left behind a foundation for further change- though they may well have put some players in the pros.

    This shows in their attitude toward not really challenging the soccer structure. They are thinking like coaches in saying that they will build teams that beat the other team, the refs, and everything else. In order to actually change the culture they have to think about how to change the structure so that motivated but not exceptional coaches and teams can play the style they want.

    • Gary Kleiban says

      Ah but … what I need to get across is that the philosophy and culture espoused here, along with the show and tell, is applicable to all levels of play. Even Bronze.

      Changing the Structure:
      The architects of the soccer structure we live with don’t reside at the lower levels of play. They reside at the highest ends. Specifically, the DOCs of mega clubs, Division 1 soccer coaches, and the MLS and National Team Programs.

      They are the ones who drive the discussion, as they are the ones who have the media exposure. The result? They run the show.

      To change the structure, you either have to replace the architects or put them under sufficient pressure.

      There are many modes to help achieve that. One necessary piece of the puzzle is having a voice, a strong voice, an authoritative voice. And if you’re not one of the architects with media exposure, the only way to achieve this is by having a product better than anyone else AND having your own media outlet. As Nuno said above, it’s a war of ideas. And nobody will listen to your ideas, if you’re product isn’t the best the best.

      There is a method to this madness Rivelino.

      But if you’ve got alternatives … specific suggestions / solutions, I’m all ears.

      • Dave C says

        Very well stated Gary. The only way to change those in power’s views on these types of issues is via loads of success. Even then it can be an uphill battle at huge clubs.

    • Oscar says

      Rivelino, the stuff Gary preaches works! I’m using it on a Bronze level team.

      I think it does not start at the top like college, MLS, National level. It starts at the bottom at the grassroots level. Individual coaches and teams have to REVOLT and lead a CIVIL WAR against the soccer establishment.

      It’s just like the way slavery was abolished in this country. A few coaches and players have to lead the way otherwise no change will take place. The slave masters will always be in control.

  15. Miguel says

    Hey gary, i agree on almost everything with you. I am currently a soccer player trying to get as far as i possibly can and on your posts you’ve talked about a first touch that caresses the ball such as players like xavi and iniesta. And I was wondering if you have any drills or tips to reach that type of first touch. Thank you very much and keep the posts coming!

  16. Hawk says

    Hey guys thanks for your input. The intent of my comment wasn’t to bash isoccer but at this point I must. Isoccer is crap because it fails to capture the creative essence of total football and from what I can tell, everything this forum is about.
    A player with average skill who reads the game and has a strong understanding of time/space will outplay an extremely technical player with little understanding of his environment 10 times out of 10. Total football is a mentality, ideology, and way of life that is nothing without its core rooted in creativity. In order to engrain such a philosophy into developing player’s mindsets every experience they have with the sport must support the vision. Benchmarking constant variables is totally unnecessary because players will never be in the same situation twice. At least one variable will always be different in a player’s decision making process. Thus, they must train in an environment that asks them to solve problems that are always at least slightly different; not get better at a problem that is exactly the same every time (like foundations or toe taps). When players are asked to THINK first and foremost, they will also be thinking about the sport outside of team training. Such a mentality will lead players to experiment with technical skill on their own time and in a variety of ways. This method of individual improvement is preferred to isoccer’s “homework” bullshit, because it stays true to the philosophy of total football.
    Xavi says the first thing players are asked to do when they come to Barcelona is to “look, think, look”. There is certainly no chicken or egg debate on the subject of player development. You simply cannot execute appropriate technical skill without knowing where and when first. The vision dictates the execution.
    Xavi also refers to Barcelona’s playing style as one of “hopeless romantics”. For those of you who are ready to jump off the Barca boat after a few unfavorable results, I hope you land in shark infested waters. Kephern has it right. If you go back and watch those matches over again you will realize that Barca created two or three times the amount of chances they needed to win all three matches comfortably. Why then didn’t they finish their scoring opportunities like they do 90% of the time? An answer to that question from anyone outside the team is nothing more than speculation. But the answer is certainly not a need for change of style.

    • newtotheclub says

      Hawk, you are spot on in your comments. Yes, as most of you have stated, isoccer(or similar models) are just a “tool,” not meant to be the total player development model. However, there are only 2 types of coaches out there: 1) the one that gets it and will have more creative, self-driven models for individual development than “homework” assignments and simply does not need isoccer or 2) the typical numb-nuts who will flaunt isoccer as some state of the art, “secret” to success to know-nothing soccer parents when isoccer is really just doing their job for them and eliminating the bulk of their workload. As Hawk stated, true individual development comes from the soul of players that truly have passion and love for the game of soccer. They will be their own best coach. Our job as coaches is to stimulate this passion for the game in as many players as possible and an online template just simply does not cut it. It will become monotonous and stagnant. Their drills will become just that, drills that they despise like homework. Their love for the game will fizzle and in the end bad coaches will turn isoccer into a negative. To sum up: good coaches don’t need isoccer, bad coaches are dangerous with isoccer.

      I am another young coach like yourself, frustrated beyond belief with the soccer hierarchy in this country. I got my start as a coach after finishing playing at a mid-level division 1 college as a club coach, left to become a college assistant, and have just taken a job back with a large club. I have learned more about the game in my 3+ year journey as a coach than I did in 15 years as a player. That says 2 things: 1)I am a soccer addict that uses too much of my time thinking about the game and 2) I must have had some pretty incompatent coaching in my 15 years as a player. I I could not take college soccer for one more second of my life and have moved back into youth soccer wher I know I can make a much larger impact. I hope to make a giant impact with my new position and will continue to chip in and follow this blog as it is more inline with my thoughts, feelings, and insights than any other platform for ideas that I have come across. I will still be fighting the beuracracy that is big-business club soccer, but that is hardly the obstacle that the NCAA, and the clowns that squat on their coaching jobs for 20, 30+ years without ever looking to self-improve, has become. Cheers to you all. Off to watch Fulham-Liverpool.

      • El Memo says

        How about the coach that develops their own isoccer? The one that understands the value of pattern repetition both static and dynamic. As well as the demands of game environment. I dont like isoccer in that it seems their intent has shifted to making money. But, see value in some of their patterns. At the end, the player need stomake the decision to apply. If it is homework, you are already doomed. You can only show them their deficiencies and how to solve – skill wise.

  17. DrP says

    We are all drooling at the product Gary, when are you selling? @ Hawk I agree 100% but isoccer it just a tool that’s all. Our Futsal Club has helped turn rec players turn into “travel” in a very short time. We are a small country town with no travel program. In 2 years after 3 day a week Futsal we had to move from Rec to Classic and then Travel won our division and continue to do well. I wished we didn’t have to join a club or a league and could just compete in tournaments (but that’s not how the system works). You tryout for a team (why?), man we lose a lot of possible soccer players just by not having open fun environment, that is cheap, easy to jump in and play everyday with skilled players. My son often just want to go to park on sunday to play with latinos that kick the ball around. Because of the joy of playing.
    I agree vision though 10,000 hours of play. Refining this with higher levels of technical skill and athleticism to have tools to pull the trigger and allow the body to do what the mind sees.

    • Oscar says

      Hawk, I agree with the others. iSoccer is just a tool. A good coach has to understand, analyze, and diagnose each player individually in order to develop them properly. If your players are already talented technically iSoccer is probably not that useful. Most kids I work with can’t even walk straight. Use all the tools possible to develop players. Every player and every team is different.

  18. DrP says

    Also Hawk kids that are home schooled without a curriculum that pushes and challenges them wouldn’t do very well. Kids like their comfort zones they are lazy and will always take the easy road. Kids are kids and they don’t make the best decisions for personal or team improvement. Standards are just mirrors but as the coach there are some basic technical standards you demand of your players…right?

  19. Rivelino says

    As Musashi says, when facing a stronger opponent, attack their strongest point. The organizations you are in conflict with aren’t strong because they have superior ideas, they are strong because they are well organized,large, and have control of lots of resources. You need a bigger club that provides a better soccer education to the masses. Perhaps start by taking over a struggling rec league somewhere and running it better. Then build. I know that isn’t what you want to do with your time, but you have coaches flocking to you now who want to learn, use them.

  20. Hawk says

    If I can create an environment that engages, connects, and empowers my team under the total football philosophy not just as players but as people, then they will hold themselves to the necessary standards away from the team. Remember This is a Way of Life! Anything less and you will fall short.
    And no, unfortunately I do not accomplish this with every team I coach. But it is worth working towards, and maybe one day I’ll have the support structure to make a permanent difference.

  21. Ken Sweda says

    Great discussion as usual. I’ve found a club for my older daughter that focuses enough time on technical work, something that was completely lacking in our old club and frankly was the sole reason we left. Our old club tried to do tactical drills that would literally fall apart because so few kids had a reliable first touch. So I fundamentally I don’t disagree with the iSoccer concept because technical facility (while overrated to some) is still the foundation for allowing the feet to do their thing while the eyes and brain do theirs. But iSoccer is simply a start and nothing else.

    In the broader discussion of how we’re going to change the system in this country, I don’t think we can change it, at least not directly. I’ve tried (at my dd’s old club) and the level of defensiveness is mind-boggling. So what am I going to do to? I’m coaching a single team of advanced rec U8 girls, and if things continue to progress like they are (based on our ideals, methods, attitude, all of which are echoed in the comments posted here) I plan to form a club around this single team, and put ourselves out there to be judged. We’ll see who recognizes us as a better alternative, and if no one comes to join us, well then we’ll keep it to ourselves. I can tell you that already, we do it better, our girls are learning more, and have shown improvement that at times is beyond words. And we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface with the tactical ideas that Gary and Brian have their U10/11s doing. But we’re doing it with the same basic ideas, on a smaller and less sophisticated level, as it’s really my first go-round with this. I’ve even started my own blog about it in case anyone is interested. Think of it as a “if you don’t want to join them, beat them” kind of thing. You have to be willing to be all-in with these ideas, and convincing an established money-based enterprise to do things this way just ain’t gonna work.

    Here’s the blog: http://zone14footy.wordpress.com/

    • Oscar says

      Ken, thank you for sharing. I too have had similar experiences. I started coaching a single team of rec players that were average at best. Now they are starting to look good and get noticed by the big clubs that monopolize youth sports. I see other coaches and parents trying to recruit our players all the time.

      Unfortunately my daughter was not so lucky. I pulled her for comp soccer because her teams/coaches just wasted our time and money. They just want big, strong, fast, athletic players and don’t care about smart, savvy, little, weak players. Everyone has potential in soccer but few coaches/teams recognize that.

        • Oscar says

          No club. I operate independently for free.

          You stated
          “You need a bigger club that provides a better soccer education to the masses.”

          I don’t believe it. You need highly specialized coaches who understand exactly what is required to develop elite players. Think of it as a great mentor to a craft/art/science….a concept that no longer exists in modern day society.

          If you study the book Outliers you will realize that some of the best athletes, performers, musicians, etc were developed from a small group, school, teacher. Take boxing for example. The greatest trainers work alone in a small, dirty, old gym.

          Typically large organizations lose sight of their focus and lose their competitive advantages. It only takes a small, startup or determined entrepreneur to take down a large corporation or change the business world. Learn from the great business leaders like founders of Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, etc.

          A successful coach is both a LEADER and MENTOR.

          • Rivelino says

            What team then? if you are playing in the area, I’d like to check it out.

            But I disagree on the not needing a big organization. Barcelona resurrected possession soccer for the global audience, and it wasn’t just the great soccer, it was also the organizational smarts and broad foundation that lets them not just develop their great players, but also keep their best players together. Arsenal’s solid organization has enabled it to show off attractive soccer as well. I don’t at all doubt that Gary and co. can train some top-class players. But it’ll take top-class organizing to effect the change they want.

            Imagine what they could do if they were in charge of Chivas or Galaxy youth academies. They would have way more impact on U.S. soccer culture.

          • Oscar says

            I think you are confusing youth players (1,000,000s) with professional players (10s) Yes you need a big organization with money to market and showcase young professional players. Youth players under 16 can be successfully developed in their local communities given the right circumstances.

            To me US Soccer is like the Wild, Wild West. Everyone just does whatever they want. Why would anyone give up their job at a US academy to someone else?

            How would an academy have a huge impact on the local kids in our communities, the kids most coaches and clubs don’t care about because they are either not good enough to make it or can’t pay for it?

            US soccer culture starts at the home.

          • Gary Kleiban says

            “Imagine what they could do if they were in charge of Chivas or Galaxy youth academies. They would have way more impact on U.S. soccer culture.”

            See now that has some truth to it.
            If we were in charge of an MLS academy, we would rock the nation. Not only will our teams crush everyone (playing the ‘right way’), but this country would finally have a real pipeline that develops quality professionals. And our personal network and influence would grow in that regard. But, nobody can predict the potential downside of being in an organization like that. Who knows what kind of crap or red tape we’d be dealing with.

            In any case, earlier I stated:
            “To change the structure, you either have to replace the architects or put them under sufficient pressure.”

            Your current suggestion falls under the “replacing an architect” category. The result of which would be that by us showcasing incredible soccer and player development, the remaining architects across the nation would start feeling the pressure to up their game.

            However, your suggestion of taking over a recreation league and making it better accomplishes none of that, nor is there any clear path forward.

          • M says

            If an architect builds in incompetent structure, and that is proven because the structure crumbles, then the architect should get the boot. Our problem locally is that no one can figure out who has the power to fire the architect?

          • Oscar says

            You can’t fire the architect in local communities because clubs are decentralized. Clubs, teams, coaches have no standards, no curriculum, lack understanding of child development, no lession plan, no testing and evaluations, no equal opportunities for all players. Coaches and clubs spread “lies” and parents and players foolishly believe it because that is all they know. Too many times parents/players are enslaved by their coach/club with promises of player development when from the begining there was no real plan to reach an elite level based on the “world” standards.

    • Oscar says

      Nuno, thanks for the article!

      I had a 9 year old die-hard Barca fan say the other day “Guardiola is leaving and Messi can’t score. I don’t like them any more. I’m going for Real Madrid, now.” Funny how American kids love “winners” and hate “losers”.

      I think as a nation Americans are psychologically weak…hence all the problems with depression, obesity, drug addictions.

    • M says

      I agree. That last part about trying to basically Americanize soccer and taking all the bits and pieces and making it our own – crazy. Why are we so arrogant as Americans that we have to think everything needs to be Americanized? Why can’t we admit that this game was not our idea, but it’s the best game on the planet and we need to learn it – not change it. I guess it’s like everything else, soccer can’t be rushed or mass produced so we’ll just try to change it so that it can be a la McDonald’s.

      • Nuno says

        The conclusion of those couple of of paragraphs don’t follow the rest of the article, and it’s just not compatible with a top level player development possession soccer philosophy…so this it’s either just lip service or they just don’t get it

        • Mike says

          From the article (for those who don’t follow the link):

          “I like that we’re trying to emulate the styles of these big foreign clubs,” Eskandarian agreed. “But I’m pro-American. I want our own style. The great thing about our country is that it’s so eclectic with so many different backgrounds. My vision of how we should play is that we have to take bits and pieces and make that style our own.”

          Call me an arrogant American, but I agree with that 100%. We do need our own style, one that reflects the best of our culture just as the Brazilian, Argentine, Dutch and Spanish styles reflect their own cultures. One of the problems with an American style up to now is that at best it we have attempted to be a poor copy of the English game. Our “victory” over Spain a couple of years ago is a case in point. Sitting back and defending, conceding that the other team is better than us and hoping to just get lucky on a counter-attack – that does not reflect our culture. We’re arrogant, remember! We lead the world in inventions and innovation, … “yankee ingenuity”, … we invented rock ‘n roll for crying out loud! We should not play the most boring, unimaginative brand of soccer in the world. The hard work, never-say-die, selflessness, belief-to-the-end, .. those are American qualities too and we shouldn’t lose them. But if we were truly to have a style that reflected our culture – it would be a style that says “this is our ball, dammit, and you don’t get to touch it until you are picking it out of the back of your net. And we might even make you look a little bit silly on the way – just because.” An American style would be to play soccer the way Michael Jordan played basketball – never a harder worker, never a fiercer competitor, never a more dominant player, and never a better showman. Like Barcelona would be if a super fit and hard-working Ronaldinho (use your imagination) had stayed. Someday we will play like that. The world will hate us for it.

          • Oscar says

            Mike, I like what you say.

            “One of the problems with an American style up to now is that at best it we have attempted to be a poor copy of the English game.”…..”yankee ingenuity”….????

            “An American style would be to play soccer the way Michael Jordan played basketball ”

            Here is the root of the problem!!!!!!!!!!!!

            Americans are a very diverse culture. We need to select diverse players not rich kids from the suburbs who grew up playing club sports. Until the color of our soccer team rosters look like NBA and NFL teams we will continue to play “Yankee Ball”

          • Mike says

            “yankee ingenuity” refers to the reputation of Americans as being the kind of folks who just figure stuff out – clever and innovative problem solving. It’s a good thing.

            Michael Jordan grew up in the suburbs. Color has absolutely nothing to do with it.

          • M says

            Unfortunately, to some children, color has everything to do with it. Everyone has their own life experiences and just because Michael Jordan grew up in a suburb and succeeded in basketball, doesn’t mean there is not a Hispanic child in the Western North Carolina mountains that has more talent in his pinkie toe than any doctor’s kid playing for CASL in Chapel Hill, NC. He can’t afford an academy, a camp, an instructional video, nada!!! I’ve seen them, they are out here and they can play the hell out of this game, but the current structure won’t let them in. Open the door before they knock it down – that’s all I’m sayin!

          • Oscar says

            Color has everything to do with everything…politics, war, religion, business, education, sports.

            Michael Jordan is who is because he is black. Where did his parents grow up? How were they raised?

            “yankee ingenuity”…do you know something like 40-60% of the PhDs in the US are given to foreigners. The US imports intelligence just as they import players. Some of the most talented players from around the world come to play in the MLB and NBA. Read baseball and basketball blogs. They actually think US soccer is way better at developing local talent than their counterparts in basketball and baseball.

            All I’m saying is diversify your roster so it reflects the diversity in our communities. Some of the best players I’ve seen are from the inner city who can’t afford to play in fancy tournaments out in the suburbs.

          • Geoff says

            Oscar that’s the most interesting comment i have read here, Color has nothing to do with it, I am an African american, and in politics education, war and religion the end all be all is not skin tone is the color of money. you never saw an inner city kid who could out play a club kid because in this country inner city kids dont play soccer, the one free resource needed for it they dont have….OPEN SPACE TO PLAY, its funny to me that just being of latin origin someone is just supposed to be good and understand soccer, well thats just as naive as all black guys only play basketball, or that the Brits invented the game that has been played by the Mayans in ancient civilization, Gary Tell me that every South American you ever met was an expert on soccer, I have met far to many foreignesr who dont know the game from their CULO, but since they grew up with the passion in the culture and community that gives them the impression they are experts, when many couldn’t even play the game. Now in foreign countries its a numbers game poor kids in foreign countrys are not white, also its the national identity(soccer),
            What you do get from inner city kids that you dont get from club kids is a passion and a need to get out of their current situation, if they view soccer as the vehicle to get out than they use it, but it has nothing to do with color, Unless your saying that only poor people are black and latino..
            Yank ingenuity for all its misconceptions is the Work rate and creative means to accomplish anything, as far as a soccer revolution its not hard all you need to do is start at 7 not 10, the 11v11 kid video is just that, Unless Gary says those kids just got here this season or havent played together for 2+ years thats your recipe….(providing your teaching soccer and not crap ball..lol)
            I am also under the impression that Winning is not the focus for these kids, its the byproduct of a proper education and skill development, mixed with the passion they gain from this understanding winning just becomes inevitable,

            I see it on a much smaller scale here in Idaho but as my boys continue to get education that is focused on the proper age level Winning is a byproduct of what we do not the focus,

          • Mike says

            Excellent post Geoff. Responding to Nuno and M, … as I see it the preconditions for a foundation from which to develop great soccer players are:
            1) a soccer culture, both in the home and in a community;
            2) ample opportunity and motivation to play & train at least 15-20 hrs/week, year round, starting from a very young age; and
            3) top quality coaching – which means not just technical instruction but also a coach who teaches possession soccer.

            When those 3 things are present, producing great soccer players is possible. When they are absent, it doesn’t matter what color you are or how poor and hungry you are, it’s not going to happen. That’s what I meant when I said that color had nothing to do with it. It was in response to the statement that we need to have “the color of our soccer rosters look more like NBA and NFL rosters.” Statements like that shift the focus from what matters more – culture, opportunity to play, access to coaching, style of play … Come to think of it, taken literally it would also mean that you thought we needed less Latinos on our soccer rosters (b/c there aren’t too many in the NBA/NFL), and that’s just plain funny (in part b/c I know that’s not really what you meant ;).

            Perhaps all of us are guilty of a little over simplification in our statements. Nothing I’ve said should be taken to mean that I don’t think race makes a difference in this country, or that we don’t need to continue to expand the opportunities available in our sport, particularly socio-economically by reducing the “pay-to-play” impact, or that I am in any way against diversity. To the contrary. To M’s comment, the door is wide open in my club. Maybe living in Northern Virginia for so long as made me take diversity for granted. For example, last night I supervised the weekly “pre-travel” training session for our club – about 90 kids 6-8 yrs old selected for extra training opportunities. If you were looking at skin color, the field would look pretty much like what you would expect in the heart of NOVA – Caucasians mixed with Latinos (from just about every different country in central and south am, Asians (from 5 different countries), African-Americans (from 1st and 20th generation, and from all different parts of the continent), Indians, Pakistanis, Europeans (of both distant and recent decent), Middle Easterners, … it pretty much looks like the UN, and hardly anyone really pays much attention to it. There are too many offspring of inter-ethnic marriages to even count. Focusing solely on skin color though, you’d miss some things. For example, you probably wouldn’t notice the two anglo-looking kids, 1 with an English last name and 1 with an Irish last name, whose mothers are Brazilian and Argentine, respectively. They were introduced to the game through their uncles and cousins. You couldn’t tell that by looking at their skin, but you sure could if you watched them play. It’s the culture that matters. Even at 7 years old you can tell after 5 minutes which sport is on the TV in a household.
            As for socio-economic diversity, our fees are $85 per season, spring and fall, but the training is year round. So for $170/year, we offer 6-10 hours per week, 50 weeks per year, with a mix of volunteer coaches to run practices, lots and lots of pick-up soccer (supervised by yours truly), and the targeted use of professional trainers for technical and footskills training. That’s at least 3x as much, for about 1/3 the cost, of our neighboring and competitor clubs. And if someone can’t afford our fees, we give them a scholarship. There are those within the club who constantly advocate increasing our fees so we can spruce up our web-site and hire a full-time professional technical director – both of which are good things – but I and others have resisted the cost increase, to make sure our area still offers an opportunity to play that isn’t entirely dependent on parents’ financial status. After U9, when travel soccer starts and the need for professional coaches to take over from parent-volunteers goes up, it becomes more difficult to avoid the pay-to-play paradigm, but we do what we can … with scholarships and fund-raising. The point of all this isn’t to toot my own horn, but just so you understand where I am coming from.
            Moving on …
            As for comments like this: “I think as a nation Americans are psychologically weak…”, as a former Marine who’s seen the kind of psycholigical strength Americans can show in combat situations, that’s hard to take. But it’s a free country and you’re entitled to your opinion. Before you become too sure about our collective pyschological weakness though, read on …
            M says “there’s not much about our soccer culture that I’m proud of….” Much like Oscar’s comment, I guess it all depends on where you choose to look, and what you choose to see. If you were talking solely about the American soccer establishment, I’d agree with you. There is much more to criticize than to praise. But remember that American soccer culture is much more than just what gets pushed on us by the federation and youth associations, or the MLS. This blog itself is part of the culture now. Gary and Brian’s teams are a part of that culture – surely we are all proud of those 10-11 year-old American teams who compete and play so beautifully against the best of the world. My club and many others around the country who who are trying to do things the right way are also a part of the culture.
            Back to the psychological weakness point, … I shot this video 2 years ago. This is of Kephern’s group, Joga SC. When a winter snow storm dumped 4 ft of snow on us, so even the turf fields we had been using all winter were closed, we found a parking lot so the kids could keep playing. The camera shake is me shivering — it dropped to 25 degrees. Psychologically weak? I don’t think so – the youngest there was only 4 years old. The typical robots our country usually produces? No, not that either. American kids from diverse backgrounds playing in a way that expresses their personality, their individuality, and their culture? Definitely. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cD1l7dMQgb0

          • M says

            I appreciate your response. First, I would like to clarify, I did not say that there was nothing about America’s youth development culture that I was proud of. I said that there was “not much” about our youth development culture that I am proud of. And you are correct, I was speaking of the “establishment” that most parents have been forced to entrust the development of their children to for lack of an alternative. More specifically, I am disgusted with the culture at our local and, perhaps, state level. Your description of the experiences you are having in NOVA compared to the experience we have here where I live is a perfect illustration of the point I was trying to make. No children here are being identified for extra training opportunities. And even if they were, there would be no one within 100 miles qualified to train them. Heck, there’s never even been a formal assessment of our kids, not that the coaches would know how to perform one anyway. They will hand out a paper that says it’s an assessment, but it’s total bullshit – because the coach doesn’t know anything about soccer. Our academy trains 3 hrs a week maximum for 3 months in the fall and 3 months in the spring. Games on Saturday (somtimes Sunday). I’m not even sure they are going to adopt the 10 month training schedule yet….no one seems to know. And as far as the fee schedule, your folks are getting a real deal because we pay a lot more than that….and the unemployment rate where we live is right at 14%, and 57% of the children who attend my son’s elementary school are on the free or reduced lunch program – and we’re paying more than the folks in NOVA for a lot less…more issues with pay to play. We did a fundraiser – raised a pretty good chunk of money – but no one seems to want to let go of it for scholarships for kids who can’t pay. Hmmmm, I wonder why? Northern Virginia is a wonderful place, and one of the places we are considering moving to if things don’t improve in our area. I am happy and encouraged to hear how diversified your team is. Of course, anyone, including me, would be proud of programs like yours who are trying to do things the right way. But, unfortunately, there are those areas of the country that lag behind when it comes to cultural awareness and diversity. The wide swings and lack of standards from region to region, club to club, coach to coach, it’s just mind boggling and frustrating. The structure – where I live – is broken. So we can fix it, or we can move….

          • Oscar says

            “psychologically weak”

            Mike I would say marines make up 100million.

            My concern, especially for this U11 team playing at such a high level and intensity, is players are not psychologically ready. The stress and pressures of competition can easily break down the mental stability of families and players. These young kids might be “peaking” way too early based no their mental maturity. Now in other countries…mainly 3rd world kids mature much younger. By 12-13 they are already working and helping take care of their families. Kids in the US really depend on their parents until in their late 30s. In essence their adolescent years are extended much longer than most of other kids in other countries. Real adulthood in delayed in the US by like 10 years.

            The social and psychological development of players must be taken into account in order to be successful as coach.

          • Oscar says

            Mangled that post a bit.

            Meant to say marines make up a small segment of the population :)

            I have been told that in Holland players don’t win at all internationally until after 20years of age. Then they become some of the best players in the world.

            We have to be careful that we are not forcing players to peak early.

          • Oscar says

            Geoff, I think the world is about color. The first thing we see from a distance is the color of a person. Color is closely tied to genetics, culture, and ethnicity. Color places you on the socioeconomic ladder. Color places you in a class. As humans we naturally like some colors more than others. It’s evolutionary. There is nothing wrong with color we just need to understand it.

            Regarding money, well that tends to make all skin colors turn to green.

            Being black or brown doesn’t automatically make you a great athlete. Of course not. It’s the classic case of nature vs nurture. It’s the same reason why Michael Jordan’s kids are not great basketball players.

            Inner city kids exactly have the drive, passion, and desire to get out of their environment. There are theories that the stress, poverty, violence of inner cities produces dominate youth males. The same environments that produce gang members produce great athletes. Of course you still need soccer culture, training, quality coaching.

            Regarding open spaces, it is well known that the tighter the space the better the player. Inner city kids playing on dirt, rocks, alleys, streets develop better ball control skills faster. I believe one of the major obstacles in US player development is that young kids spend to much time in front of goals in nicely kept grass/turf fields.

            You must understand the ingredients of a great player before you can begin to develop them. Starting at 7 years versus 10 years is too simplistic…just like you can’t polish a piece of coal to make a diamond.

            Mike, the club you belong to is not typical. Sounds amazing!

          • Geoff says

            That right there is whats wrong with the world too many people over the age of 10 are in it, go to any playground anywhere, Kids dont notice color until we tell them about it, all your thoughts about a social ladder and what not futher the stereotype that latinos are dirty and blacks are lazy…. this train of thought has to end NOW,

            as for Inner city youths, its called a concrete jungle for a reason, (grew up in the East Bay Cali…seen plenty of hoods)
            futsal would take off way before soccer does, and they are 2 different games regardless of what anyone tells you, but either way kids in the hood here have grown up with Baseball and Basketball as a cultural Identifier, nobody looks up to Clint Demspey and says man hes got a nice life i want that, they look up to guys like you said MJ, Kobe and Lebron, those dudes play hoops, inner city kids play hoops…. you want em playing soccer better go to an MLS game and give away your money until they have the resources to get quality players in the league, then eventually we will have a star here and then kids in the hood will play(20 year plan ….lol), It happens in other countries because they dont play the sports that go on here, every south american, European, whatever country you want to name is relevant in no more than 2 sports, as a kid in those countries you grow up with a sense of pride in those 2 sports, go to brasil and get them hyped about american Football or Hockey…not an easy task,
            So for me its a much better Idea at this point in the evolution of american soccer to teach a 7-9 year old they joys of a ball and a field in a nicely organised field with goals, so that when they are 10 they have a sound technical ability that will carry them forward

            P.S what happens when you rub a piece of coal 1000s of years before you need a diamond??

          • Oscar says

            You are definitely correct about having too many adults in the game. It plagues all youth sports in the US. I mentioned earlier that kids need to take back the game from leagues, clubs, coaches.

            As long as adults are in charge there is no real equal opportunity for everyone. It’s myth are at least an ideal that is difficult to achieve.

            If kids first exposure to the game is from a coach on nicely organized fields that is a bad start to creating the next Messi, Ronaldo, Maradona, Pele, Cruyff.

            Inner city kids don’t just play baseball and basketball. You don’t need to go to Europe, Central, South America to find kids with a sense of pride in soccer. Los Angeles has the largest urban population of Mexicans outside of Mexico City. It’s basically the USA’s native foreign country. Other hotbeds exist like Houston, Chicago, NY.

            Street soccer and similar forms of playground play is key to creating that “diamond in the rough”.


            We can’t wait on a piece of coal!

          • M says

            I’m all in with the hard work, never say die, selflessness, I agree, all needed to be competitive globabally and Americans are good at applying those attributes to certain competitive pursuits. However, youth soccer development is not one of them. In order to fix this problem, we must be able to objectively take a look at ourselves, admit to our own shortcomings and prejudices, and realize that there is no shortcut. Change the culture of soccer in America from the sport only played by affluent, white, suburban children, to the sport for every child, regardless of ability to pay. “To have our own style that reflects the best of our culture” – sounds wonderful, except there’s not much about our soccer culture that I’m proud of….

      • Dave C says

        “Why can’t we admit that this game was not our idea, but it’s the best game on the planet and we need to learn it – not change it.”

        WTF? Thank the heavens the Brazilians, Italians, Germans, Dutch, etc. didn’t approach things with this type of attitude.

        • Mike says

          Exactly. The Brazilians reinvented the game. Spain took a style that was essentially Dutch, and modified it to make it uniquely their own. The German style has changed as much over the last 15-20 years as, well … Germany.

          For those who haven’t read it, the book “Brilliant Orange” is a fascinating look at the interplay between football and culture.

        • M says

          By change it I mean corrupt it into something not even resembling art, passion, discipline and finesse. Change is needed, no doubt – but change only for the sake of change is bullshit.

        • Ken Sweda says

          But all the styles you mention are based on possession. Brazilians do it with individual flair and a little more emphasis on dribbling. The Dutch did it with passing, movement and interchange of positions. The Spanish brought that idea forward and took it to another level. The Italians used positioning and tactical knowhow to win possession, then kept possession in a defensive mindset.

          Possession can lead to many styles. Unless you are a prodigy (which we clearly aren’t, or we would have invented our own style by now) you can’t write your own music until you’ve learned to read music and studied the great composers before you, right up to present day.

          We have no deep understanding of soccer in this country with which to go forth and define an American style. I agree that it would be nice, great even, to have such a thing. But let’s not try to play like Wayne Shorter when in fact we’re not much more than Kenny G (yet).

  22. Nuno says

    Gary, quick question.
    Doesn’t Chivas USA have a youth setup in SoCal?
    What kind of work / approach are they doing there?

    • Gary Kleiban says

      Well they’ve had the U16 / U18 Academy teams since the DA started.
      And the quality has been the same ol, same ol.

      Now, the past year they started with the youngers.
      I saw their U9s play in State Cup final.
      It looks like they’re trying, they’re going to try to do things the “right way”. The question remains: are the coaches capacitated?

      • Nuno says

        I think you mentioned you were not a full time soccer coach…I guess the question really is then, with the quality of the work you have shown, why is someone like you is not employed full-time by Barca or Chivas to develop players in SoCal? Maybe in the near future?? :)

          • Nuno says

            What the next level of what you guys are doing now Gary?
            Barca jumps in big time and gives you guys the resources to execute their vision or you guys go execute your vision somewhere else, no? but something will happen sooner than later…everyone knows the potential is here, just a question of who can untapped it

          • Gary Kleiban says

            I don’t know where all this will take us Nuno.
            All we can do is continue creating, learning, refining, and sharing our art.

          • Nuno says

            “Nada es más poderoso que una idea cuyo tiempo ha llegado”
            Mentalidad Ganadora, Unai Emery
            — Daniel Fernández (@DanielFerCech)

      • Bren says

        I recently watched the Chivas USA vs Real So Cal academy teams play at the u18 level and I found it to be very entertaining. Real So Cal’s academy looked like any US soccer team, with big fast players all over the field but no technicality or awarance. But the Chivas u18 academy team was impresive as they definitly had 80% of the ball possession and created many scoring chances playing the “Barca” style. They won 1-0, but they should have won 3-0. Like I said it was very entertaining, but what suprised me the most was that what seemed to be the head coach (as he wore a different colored shirt from the rest of the staff, was doing the most *instructing*, and made the descision as to who came in and out and when) was a white man with red hair. This tells me that he probably didnt grow up in a hispanic family or culture, meaning he had to learn this style and know how to teach it to his players. The Real So Cal team was a typical US team playing “American style” soccer the whole game.

        After they played, the u16′s played as well. Same academies, chivas usa vs real so cal, but niether team played at all like the older chivas team. I believe this just proves my theory more as the white coach was doing none of the coaching for the chivas u16′s. Real So cal had the edge only because their guys were faster and more physical, surprise, surprise……..

        • Bren says

          I have one more analysis over this coach of the Civas u18 team, although I could be completely wrong about all of this. As I mentioned before he isn’t hispanic, and possibly he had to learn this style of play, and know how to teach it to his players. This tells me that little by little more people or coaches are learning, and hey, you never know maybe he even spends some of his time on this website. Anyways I was just wondering if you feel the same way Gary? That more people or coaches are staring to realize how to play the “correct” style of soccerin America, or maybe not. I would like to hear your thoughts Gary. Please share if you can!

          • Gary Kleiban says

            First I have to say that I have not watched this team play.

            Now, coaches across the nation are feeling some heat, no doubt.

            We (the general soccer community) are just going to have to be that much more astute at deciphering what’s being displayed on the field. Meaning, the details are important. Is what’s being shown really possession from a development and efficacy perspective? Or is it sloppy and subpar?

            But even if it’s the latter, at least it’s a starting point.
            I’m just concerned that people might not be capable of identifying it as such.

          • Bren says

            I only saw this team play one time thus far, and let me assure you, the u18′s did not play sloppy at all, good possession that was mostly on the ground and the few long balls that were played had quality and hit the target very well. As you always say details make the difference, and this is very true. One distinct detail that I remember is that both outside backs were very involved in the offense, but while one of the outside backs went forward, the other stayed back so that even if a counter attack surprised the defense, they were still ready and able to weather the storm. Another detail I remember is that just before the game ended chivas gave away a controversial free quick just outside the box and their player got a red card. The Real So Cal player missed the free kick and that was the game, but after the game the chivas coach had a very serious talk with the boys getting extremely angry with them for, and I quote, “almost giving the game away.” (this is how loud he was yelling) even though they had played well and won anyways. Telling them the TRUTH and trying to perfect the mistakes, yet another major flaw in the coaches of U.S. soccer.

  23. Brendaninho says

    I am new to the site, yes drawn by the U11 video, but joined after seeing you blog, telling it like it is. You are my kinda people!!!!!!! Love it! Keep it coming, no apologies. System is broke. Needs to be shaken up. Would love to buy you a shot sometime! Great stuff!

  24. Mike says

    I am new to the blog but have been trying to teach my two sons these principles for a few years now. ..Gary, What would you tell a kid that wants to play “the right way” but is stuck in an area with no teams/clubs that play this style?

  25. says

    This is the best weblog for anybody who desires to find out about this topic. You understand a lot its nearly hard to argue with you (not that I really would want…HaHa). You definitely put a brand new spin on a subject thats been written about for years. Nice stuff, simply great!

  26. stuck says

    I was lucky to get “realistic” training early on as a club coach. That DOC didn’t give a shit about results (he was the architect of two Utah Blitzz national champion USLD3 teams); he cared about playing out of the back and utilizing one’s imagination, not passing the ball from “A to B to C,” as he put it. Sadly, he stepped away from the game at his peak in part to overabundant youth club politics and those parents “buying in” to winning games, as opposed to player development. Even now, as I try to develop players “the right way,” and steer clear of stupid boom-ball tactics there are always players, and coaches and parents who perceive a better way and leave. I agree; youth soccer in the US is a mess and it starts with the administrators. But it continues with the coaches, who are under pressure to win from these same club administrators and nutty parents, and trickles down to the kids, which is the biggest shame of all. I doubt I’ll ever find a club that extols the same soccer virtues as my first now-defunct club did but I remain hopeful all the same. It would be wonderful for the kids in my community to receive a good soccer education. Until then, we’ll keep plugging away, play the 3-4-3 (which my current DOC despises, by the way) and make the very simple but costly mistakes at U12 that we must make in order to win later — when it really matters. Meanwhile, my current DOC says he’s elated that six of his teams won division titles (2/3 of whom do not make proper on-ball decisions and resort to boom-ball, according to my analysis), and that he’d like to see changes in my team for next year. Keep in mind that on these “championship” teams I speak of, one player is responsible for scoring 80 percent of the goals while my team (which did not win a division title but still had a winning record) had seven players score 6 goals or more. Like many other coaches stuck in this so-called Hell, I stumbled upon this site by watching the U11 video and wondered whether my team would ever play at that level. Hell, I even fantasized about it. I know it’s possible but how do you fight City Hall? As an aside, I did pass along the U11 video to my DOC, who claimed he thought of it first and so intends to implement some, not all, of these ideas in the club. We shall see. I suspect his thinking may involve State Cup appearances and winning.

    • Geoff says

      Dude, dont worry help is on the way. Continue teaching the sum of the parts is greater than the boom ball tactic, Im not too far away (boise) and have already seen the culture change in the last 2 years here, My current group has a similar philosophy to their style of play. Its not about scoring tons of goals, and having your fast kids up top to run away all the time, its about everyone being comfortable on the ball in any situation, then knowing what your teammates around you can do to maximize your chances at being successful in that moment, when it ends up as a goal for you soccer wins, and when it ends up a costly mistake its actually a learning experience for you and soccer wins again anyways, all these ASSCLOWNS with their state title teams(But still aren’t even regionally relevant) need to re-think what they have has goals for players firsts, teams second, and the club will be a winner by association

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