Who ‘makes it’ versus who doesn’t is just as much a matter of circumstance as it is a player’s quality.
Ben Lederman wasn’t some phenom, out of this world, player.
But before we proceed, let’s get something clear: he was a player with good qualities and potential before he left to Spain. And having seen him train with our U12s this summer, and most recently at the U14 National Team camp, I can say he’s gotten much better. Only the untrained eye would question his call-up to Hugo Perez’s camp.
Now, the rest:
- He was playing in Southern California. What if, instead, he had been playing in Montana?
- His team manager made a connection with a little club that, at the time, happened to have a relationship with Barcelona. What if that connection didn’t happen?
- The decision was made (and possible economically) to take Ben’s team to compete in Barcelona. What if that didn’t happen?
- Barcelona agreed to play a match against Ben’s team. What if they hadn’t agreed for whatever reason?
Barcelona rolled out their B-team for this match (pretty sure they thought they were going to destroy this ‘fan club’ from America). Ben’s team jumped out to a 3-1 lead. Barca then rolled out their A-squad. Final score 4-1. Spanish eyes were opened! So … the what if’s:
- What if Barca rolled out their A-team from the beginning? What if Ben’s team was not as talented individually as it was? If Ben’s team was not of sufficient level and they got thrashed, would he have been identified? Would a trial have been arranged the following year? Or what if … Barca had an outrageous crop of players on that team already – would they have made room?
- After the trial, how important was the relationship between Barcelona and us in determining whether they offer Ben a spot?
- What if Ben’s family didn’t have the wherewithal and the brass balls to uproot the family and move to a foreign country?
And so on … ad infinitum.
Yes. You need to have a requisite quality or potential as a player. But there’s so much more to it than that:
- How many other players across the nation could be in Benny’s shoes if their ‘Matters of Circumstance‘ lined up? (Don’t all you parents jump on that boat at once.)
- How many former college players would have been drafted if their team had made it to the college cup instead of not even making the tournament?
- How many current MLS players wouldn’t be pro if they hadn’t landed on the right college team?
- What player would not have been released from their pro club, if the coach were someone else?
- Would Jermaine Jones ever smell the National Team jersey if Marcelo Bielsa were the coach?
- Would Dempsey have been playing Champion’s league with a top 10 club if his ‘Matters of Circumstance‘ were different?
- How many players would have been recruited to a top D1 school if only their club coach had more initiative and influence?
I mean, we could do this all day.
It seems to me that it’s difficult to appreciate the magnitude of these things. Human beings tend to simplify the world around them, so they may navigate it. We are creatures of generalizations – particularly when it comes to topics we’re ignorant or novices in.
It’s far easier to have a blanket worldview where the ‘cream rises to the top‘, than to take the difficult journey of acquiring domain expertise.
It’s far easier to believe Josh Gatt got to where he is because he’s among the very best produced American players, than say he’s primarily there due to ‘Matters of Circumstance‘.
How much is a particular player’s situation due to quality, versus circumstance?
Well, that requires some expertise in what quality means and an appreciation for what the field of circumstances are, doesn’t it?
Every time you reach another level of domain understanding (or sometimes just experience), you realize things aren’t as simple as they seem from the outside.
Very thought provoking as always, Gary. The old adage, “if you are good enough they will find you” isn’t as cut and dry as people make it out to be. And especially when it comes to identifying footballing talent.
Gary Kleiban says
That’s exactly right.
You won’t just “be discovered” if you’re legit.
It’s an unfortunate conclusion to think:
“if the US has all these badasses, Europe and South America would be ringing our phone’s off the hook”.
But as I try to hammer home over and over and over …. just because there’s logic behind something, doesn’t make it true. Not even close.
Curious Larry says
How does Mexico fit into the picture? I’m hearing that some Mexican clubs are looking for US players at U13 & below for their youth academies. Any truth?
Do you agree that US kids < 14 years old are competitive with the ROTW (i.e., "donut" problem)?
There are several American born Mexican players on Xolos youth teams. Even had recent article on Soccer Nation about a Surf player who does that. And I know from my son playing U14 that this is the case with others his age.
Gary Kleiban says
From my experience, it’s true.
It may have all started with a gentleman by the name of Dennis de Klose, who use to run Chivas USA’s youth academy around the 2006 – 2008 time frame.
Incidentally, when the US Development Academy formed, the Chivas USA teams were comprised primarily with Barcelona USA players who left to join the newly formed league. And from that crop, Dennis hooked many of them up with pro clubs in Mexico.
It was during this time that we were coaching in the U18 age group at a now defunct club. And we regularly set up ‘friendlies’ with Chivas USA since our team was the best there was outside the academy. Anyways, as a result of those friendlies we formed a relationship with Dennis, who shortly after left Chivas USA and joined Tigres of Mexico.
Long story short, he also provided opportunities for 2 of our players at Tigres. And from that point forward we’d regularly see him or another from the Tigres organization scouting players at Surf Cup and other high-level competitions.
Currently, Dennis is the main guy for youth development in the entire Mexican Federation. Something akin to Claudio Reyna’s post here.
It would seem Chivas USA has good incentive to invest in proper youth set-up
Dr Loco says
Dennis Te Kloese
Juan de Dios says
That’s what I was thinking, I know Dennis, he lives in my old hometown in Monterrey, neat guy…But didn’t know he was in charge of the whole youth development in Mexico…
Dr Loco says
Gary do you attend these?
Juan de Dios says
Even though he’s been working with Tigres for a long time, their rival’s Monterrey, has been forming more and more complete players than Tigres, in the past 4 or 5 years…
I think this will always be the situation to some extent, but we need to work on creating a better system. I think of American soccer like I think about a 3rd world economy. The idea that the best will make it – is like saying that the kid who survives out of poverty in Africa, goes to college and ends up running a muli-million $$$ business is proof that the system for education and talent identification is GREAT!! No it’s not a good system and it’s obvious that tons of talent is going down the drain, because of the system that is being used. This is the situation in U.S. soccer in my opinion and the solution like Africa is complex. Glad Ben is doing well and I think we are seeing development in the U.S., so it’s not totally all bad news.
Some of these same questions would have to apply to a kid growing up in Brazil or Holland or Spain. There is luck everywhere.
For now, I actually think the NCAA system (which is often criticized as useless) is crucial. It’s flawed, but it’s the only “fat funnel” we’ve got. Until the professional development infrastructure (lower divisions/reserve/academies) mature, it’s the primary way that 18 years olds can keep playing and developing. The Universities may not get all the right players and the development system may be bad,………but at least there are a lot of kids still playing the game.
Dr Loco says
” it’s the primary way that 18 years olds can keep playing and developing”
For most it’s too late by then.
Cameron Minnis says
Although I appreciate your hopeful optimism in our collegiate system, I have to express that our dependence on it is probably the number one problem with the development of U.S. football. First and foremost, I don’t believe that the collegiate system will ever be able to escape the stigma of needing to fit into the culture of our other American sports. Football is a totally different animal, and if we’re honest, completely un-American. Soccer in the U.S. HAS to find it’s own way, and the restrictions of culture the college leagues place on the game will never allow for the production of quality we are hoping for. The MLS unfortunately is basically in the same situation. The only way football in this country is going to grow into a respectable professional/international system, is if we can change our perspectives on what it means to be a footballer, and that requires us to stop applying credentials to organizations such as the colleges and the MLS teams (in general) who do not produce quality individuals nor a quality style of play. Let’s be honest, if we continue to try and convince ourselves that we have something we do not, we will never lift the football “vail” from our eyes and discover our true potential. BUT, that said, it will be the task of the Academy programs in this country to properly enlighten young players to what truly excellent football is, and that will be up to us coaches to figure out. If the possibility and desire to play professional football outside of the U.S. is not coached and ultimately encouraged by enough parents, I’m afraid we are only going to continue kidding ourselves that U.S. soccer can indeed be financially thriving, as well as a vehicle for producing quality. We may have to wait many many years to have an internationally recognized professional league stateside, but I believe we have the ability to be a nation that produces top level players that are sought out worldwide in numbers, in as soon as 20-30 years. But, to me, it will largely be the responsibility of our coaches to set themselves apart from the status quo and “educate” players, and not just make winning teams.
Simon Cooper UK says
Amen to this about player progression, Its about being in the right places at the right time as well as development. YOU GOT TO MAKE IT HAPPEN!
Yes, and that includes shameless promotion of your player as Gary and Brian continue to do. After his stint at National Camp it is clear to many that he is above average but not a stand-out.
John, do you have something to brag about?
“Show us the product”
So you don’t see what La Masia sees. We get it.
So John, what you have determined is the people that are what is wrong with US soccer have determined he is above average but not a stand-out. Really the point might just be that is actually a compliment as their assessment has created the embarassment that is US soccer on most levels……..
Dr Loco says
“Yes, and that includes shameless promotion of your player”
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Same reason English style does not change.
Lost my so-called “best” players because the parents didn’t see possession soccer as visually appealing. According to the parents it was detrimental to their son’s future career and success.
You probably think Busquets is fucking average too. You’re part of the problem in the US. You wouldn’t know talent if it bit you in the ass.
Finally, someone who has the guts to separate the wheat from the chaff. Let’s see who’s right in about eight months when Barca makes their decision.
Very interesting and true. When I played in college we had a teammate who was from Madrid. He came from a family of 5 sons and he was the middle brother. All 5 of these guys played for the infantile and juveniles of Real Madrid and the oldest played one game with the first team at 18, at which time Real sold him to Burgos. He played 13 years in La Liga. When I met with him we discussed my friend, the middle brother. He said he was the best of the 5 sons by a long shot but suffered from lack of “circumstance.” That was the word he used. Player selection and identification will always be flawed by the circumstance or lack thereof.
John Pranjic says
So…………. did you finally read Outliers?
Gary Kleiban says
No I haven’t John.
John Pranjic says
You really need to man. This post makes complete sense to me. Especially because of the examples that have already been given (and proven) in Outliers concerning all facets of life, business, sports, and the list goes on. And I agree that the non-competitive infrastructure plays a big part when discussing soccer specifically.
Brian Kevin Johnston says
***MASTERPIECE*** Gary… I Look Forward To Hooking Up At Nationals Or Before… Blessings To You and Yours This Holiday Season.. Brian/-
But this is the case in life everywhere. Not just soccer.
Musicians, signers, actors, athletes, artists, inventors, engineers, managers even coaches.
Same question would be asked as well, how many coaches from the US are being wasted coaching some rec teams or useless club team here and there, and they could be better than our National staff or even as good as leading a team overseas.
Aside that from lets call all the mentioned above in the article the “Right Factor” = RF.
Aside the from RF, the person has to be strong willed to rise in life in everything. This what makes a good talent to a great talent.
Is the US System missing, yes its missing compared to Germany, Spain, Holland, ..etc. But in England they miss tons as well.
Gary Kleiban says
Yes, I believe this to be applicable in all walks of life.
But in soccer, particularly in this country, the “circumstance factor” is exacerbated due to a closed anti-competitive architecture.
An architecture where we compete not on the production of quality, but rather with politics and marketing. When that’s the case, quality loses.
There will always be players that are overlooked. Here and abroad. The difference is here that we select players based on the wrong criteria. Then stunt their development by having them spend more time traveling than training (either with their team or on their own) Not to mention flawed systems of play that force these players to play within themselves.
I was at a tournament in Dallas this past weekend and witnessed these so called ‘elite’ preacademy teams…the level was disappointing. Our best players from our little independent, east Texas teams were as good if not better than these preacademy players and ‘top’ club teams.
And we had 4 kids playing up…and making an impact!
Great article, Gary. It reminded me of an Albert Einstein quote, “Things should be made as simple as possible but not one bit simpler.” The untrained eye makes this topic simpler than it is and you’ve done a great job of making sure it has not been made simpler than it is. Keep up the great work.
Gary Kleiban says
It’s tough. It’s challenging for us to face the possibility we know essentially nothing of the world around us.
That if we’re truly passionate and committed, we may only achieve a level of expertise in 1, maybe 2 things. Whether it be road construction, light bulbs, batteries, cooking, the piano, or whatever.
Sure one can say a light bulb is ‘simple’. You can read about light bulbs till you’re blue in the face, buy every kind you can get your hands on, have anecdotes from personal use, etc ….
But do you understand? Can you do lightbulb physics? Can you design and innovate lightbulbs? Do you understand the lightbulb industry? Do you understand the challenges in bringing your product to market? Among a million other things.
People do Ph.D theses on ‘lightbulbs’, and spend there entire lives doing lightbulb research.
Yeah … “simple”.
We are all essentially forced to ‘make simple’, those things we have little expertise in.
This is life in general..work ( 10,000 hours)and opportunity with correct circumstances. Indeed Gladwell sends a great deal of time providing examples of this ( Bill Gates..etc) in Outliers and other variations on the theme in Tipping Point too. Its worthwhile for any parent to read.
In our big country for a youth soccer player its definitely an issue. A concrete example is that I have a friend who has a son 🙂 who is a top shelf player. Even if I’m completely wrong on the assessment lets just pretend he’s near Lederman level as an 11 yo. Its a good soccer state but not California or Texas. ( BTW, why is the U-`14 team 60% California, 20% Texas and other NY Redbulls–thats also circumstances)
Greater Metroplitan area of a million, nearest academy 2 hours or so, 4-5 different US academies within 4 hours in different directions.
We’ve now seen the State ODP pool and he’s top shelf..I could go on but we’ve heard enough about parents legends in their own minds.
So now the decision will be do we take that 2-3 hours drive starting at 13 yo for training. 2-3x week. Thats 10 hours in a car at minimum/week. I know Dempsey did it. I know Gary has said suggested that if you even ask the question you’re not ready. Maybe thats my anwser. Lederman’s were willing to relocate to another country.
But the circumstances are such that he could spend some of those 10 hours not on the road but training . The training is excellent locally at the club. He can train with older kids. The quality of club teams his age and one up is excellent- they even been mentioned in this blog. Also Hispanic futsal club locally ..etc. He gets quality training with some free (unstructured play) 4-5 times a week.
So do you ignore this locally, stick him in a car to “improve circumstances” to have him play in the academy. Heck, I’m not even convinced the training improves (uptic in depth and quality of boys he’d be training with but thats it; I’ve seen the training with my eyes) buts its really about improving visibilty. And unfortunately this is part of “circumstances”. I need some clarity soon. Yeah, i know prepubescent and much can change
Neeskens, I say absolutely not. Not at 11, 12 or even 13. If there is adequate unstructured play and decent club teams (where he can play up) then I say stay where you are.
I don’t care what anyone says, at this age, if you spend more time commuting to training/games than you do actually having a ball at your feet…then it’s a big mistake.
Maybe at 14/15. But not before that. No need.
We began driving a year ago sometimes up to 4 hours one way to train with the academy and state pools. Its been hell on the car and the budget. But its improved technique and confidence dramatically… and I have never heard one complaint… actually in today’s fast paced world it gives some quality time as well. Many kids only have to drive 15 minutes down the road for this opportunity. With regards to the US identification process… they are trying to find the best one’s but nobody is perfect. In my humble opinion… the reason Ben was brought in was because they are trying to change the way we play soccer in the US. The US are just infants in this game but we are not stupid and there is a serious push to get better… when we see Barca playing we get excited because we see intelligence and perfection on the pitch consistently. So if you have a kid (Ben) playing in this system as the magician… why wouldn’t you bring him over and let him try to pull his strings? I think it is a very wise move by Hugo. But if you really want to embrace this style of play then you must… must change the way to identify the rest of your team. Embrace technical ability and touch and you must never compromise or be J-wowed by size and speed that is lacking technical ability. At this age I firmly believe that you must have the insight and wisdom to look ahead see what they will become. With regards to the topic of this post. I believe outlier’s has covered this very well. Not everyone is an outlier… some people just keep on pushing.
Hall..thanks for the follow up.
At this point I am staying local because I think the training environment and the quality of players around him is excellent. They have had success getting a couple boys to the national level who are now older ( 15-17yo) and eventually went to academy. I’ll keep looking for experiences through camps so he can understand how high the ceiling really is..this really motivates him
That’s good to hear neeskens. Good luck.
My take away is, that if you don’t understand the complexity you can’t improve your “chances in matters of circumstance”. Sure you have to be at the right place at the right time… but it helps to at least know where the place is and what kind of timing is required.
You have to be proactive. As a parent, I know there’s way way more that I don’t understand, than I do. But at least I’m getting my head around it while my son is 8 and not 12. Wish I had started when he was 6.
Steve, relax. he’s 8. The next thing you know we will have elite training for toddlers…before potty training.
Seriously, this whole ‘programming mindset’ is getting ridiculous. Encourage him to go outside and play…especially on his own.
Ha. I meant, understanding what the lay of the land is, so to speak.
At this point, just want him to be in a good environment where he’s having fun, and one that teaches good technique. He already plays up, which is good and bad. Actually thinking of having him play at his age level instead. I’m sure I over think it.
Its funny there has been some debate here and in bigsoccer about how well Lederman was showing. Which is crazy. I don’t consider myself knowledgeable but his quality and sense of himself on the field are so far above everybody else that anybody should see it- just watching the videos.
What’s funny is watching him not get frustrated by the things his teammates are screwing up. How many times does he have to watch them turn the ball into a crows instead of make a simple pass. He seems to be good at just accepting it and stil try to play his game.
Are there links to him playing with the USYNT? I haven’t seen the latest vids.
This guy has a bunch of vids:
Thanks. Wow. The sun is just not cooperating.
fast forward a bit, there are a lot of good bits.
Anyone know who #33 is?
What # is Ben Lederman in the u14 national team video’s? Is he #16 with the A team or #7 with the B team, or am I way off?
I believe he was 7 on the B team.
Curious Larry says
Thanks for posting the link! Ben Lederman is clearly the best midfielder in the few videos that I have seen. He still makes an ocassional mistake from time to time but he slips into space with ease & plays simple & effective soccer as a center mid. I’m going to show some of these videos to my 9 year old son to help illustrate how a top class youth center mids turn and/or twirl into space with the ball. Though, it does seem as if Benny would prefer short passes to his feet though but can impact the game no matter how his team plays 😉
Chris Swope says
Just curious is Ben a natural lefty? Looks like all his passes and his assist were off his left foot.
He had some nice through balls. And I recognize those tight circles away from the defenders… where have I seen that before?
How the story could have been different
“Cruyff or Mulle”, Matters of circumstance:
Of course missed r on the torpedo 🙂
“Cruyff or Muller” how the world’s soccer story could have been so different:
Dr Loco says
“How the story could have been different?”
Yes, your mother and father could not have met and you would not exist.
Nuno, good stuff!
not bad…about this one from Ranieri “Si mi abuela tuviera dos cojones, seria mi abuelo”…classic
Dr Loco says
In the book “Barca” (by Graham Hunter) I just read, is chock full of discussion of how Xavi, Messi, Guardiola, Busquets, Pedro, and even Cruyff (to name a few) were mistreated and forces aligned against them. They came close to never getting a chance. They played wrong position, chances never came, the club wanted to trade them, thought they weren’t La Masia or first team quality, and so on.
A quote from the book: “. . . fate, chance or fluke – has an enormous influence on how the greatest achievements develop.” This is where I was going with my comments about the US U14 National team. Dozens of players in USA who are good enough, but fate, chance and fluke have not been kind to them.
The story of how Iniesta got is break is a good example. His team played a tournament they got into at last minute because another team dropped. Gets noticed by Barca scouts and the rest is history. And even then, he came close to not joining Barca because it was not his favorite local team.
The book explains how one person’s good fortune (such as Cruyff joining Barca) set into motion a long chain of events that enabled opportunity for people years and decades after. Without Cruyff, there would be no Guardiola, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi and the on –field success we see today the book explains.
Looks like US Soccer need it’s Cruyff. But maybe things are changing subtly. And we won’t see it for 4-6-10 years.
So MLS says it loud and clear: It doesn’t want a Barca in the league:
Is it time to stop kidding ourselves?
He means letting teams dominate with unlimited budgets. Do I think MLS is good? Nope. Good for US Soccer? Only that it seems to be growing the sport in the US. I think it’s horrible for young players, the minimum pay is ludicrous. At least make joining a team a viable option rather than going to college. There’s so much wrong with the MLS, but Garber would kill for a club that the world pays attention to. Don’t read too much into that quote.
I try not to read too much in any quote…I read more in the product that is delivered…so far it’s way subpar…but this kind of quotes don’t give me any indication that it will get much better any time soon
Dr Loco says
“So MLS says it loud and clear: It doesn’t want a Barca in the league:” That’s too bad.
Parents you don’t need to move outside of US borders to get quality training. Xolos has training centers in San Diego and Chula Vista.
Who knew we had top Mexican professional coaching centers in the US?
Well he said we didn’t want a Barca, Man U or a Yankees in the league. The financial dominance creates instability. Has nothing to do with the style of play.
La Liga has lots of good teams, but Real Madrid and Barcelona make most of the money. The MLS could mature to a more free market league. But it’s not mature enough to handle it. Not mature enough to even have a really relavent academy system for that matter.
That is a misreading of what he was saying. Garber is being consistent with the structure of the league, saying that they don’t want a league where 1 or 2 teams dominate year in, year out.
Would it have made you feel better if he said “We don’t want a Glasgow Celtic in the league”?
1) true competition throught the system: that’s exactly what MLS does NOT want
2) quality product: a factor of #1… (and they don’t care either…they would care if people demanded it with their $)
They want a league of 20 teams. Eventually two tiers and have 40. Unfortunately it’s modelled after the NFL. It’s franchises. It’s a problem. And yes it has nothing to do with the level of play. What do you expect when starting rookies make 40k A YEAR. Sure you could have 2 clubs with millions to burn and a roster that makes more than all the other clubs. But that wouldn’t make the play any better. The other clubs would still suck. Unfortunately soccer can’t grow organically in this country. The NASL burned out because it didn’t make money, despite being a few clubs with money.
Garber knows MLS can’t compete with clubs in Europe based on what they pay. But they could do better.
And he means based on spending on players. Not because a club has a dominating style of play or system.
From my playing and coaching experience the following is usually the formula to success at getting to the highest level.
QUALITY (you simply have to have the credentials of a good footballer)
LUCK (no or few injuries, or anyting of the sort that stalls development)
THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME (you have to be good and lucky when the right people are watching)
If you miss any one of those 3, it is tought to get there, i am sure there are exceptions and we all have our own stories, but that is pretty much how it shapes up at the end of the day.
Dr Loco says
“Every time you reach another level of domain understanding (or sometimes just experience), you realize things aren’t as simple as they seem from the outside.”
It’s the simple things that are so difficult to understand and do well. It’s the simple things that make all the difference.
Some more quotes from “Barca” related to this post:
“The life of a footballer is packed with coincidences, quirks, lucky and unlucky breaks which determine those who make it and those who don’t. Azar in Spanish, fate or luck in English.”
“The history of La Masia is littered with stories of kids, often far older than Iniesta, who had not been able to cope. Those stories are replicated in academies in every major footballing nation. Loss of society with friends, parents or siblings, immaturity, indiscipline – these are all recurring themes.”
The book also chronicles how Iniesta made it while an equally talented contemporary, Jorge Troiteiro, is now in Spain third division. Troiteiro was frustrated with lack of chances at La Masia, so he left and none of us know who he is. Iniesta was also frustrated and plagued by injuries, but stayed at La Masisa. And you know rest of the story . . . .
As Gary properly states in his post, “Who ‘makes it’ versus who doesn’t is just as much a matter of circumstance as it is a player’s quality.” If you read “Barca”, an underlying and recurring theme is how heavily circumstance played a role in La Masia, club success, and the careers of first team players who the world knows and idolizes.
so what is a motivated and knowledgeable soccer parent to do if circumstances haven’t worked in your sons favor? I’ve watched countless U15, U16 national team / ODP camp videos and I firmly believe my son can match up against any of these kids in terms technical ability and soccer IQ. He will definitely play in college but wonder if their is better route. How do you change the circumstance?!
Bill, I’m in the same boat. Rightly or wrongly or even unrealistically. Your geography plays a huge part. And of course the club he is affiliated with.
It is very difficult (if not impossible) for a parent to be intellectually honest about their son’s ability.
Depending on position, role, ‘relative age’ etc. the possible answer is to put him in situations where he can be seen by enough of the right people.
If you youtube Ben Lederman you will see many videos of his Barca team playing ( without the sun )
I’ve seen those already. I wanted to see what the U14s looked like playing with him. I thought they looked good. Goalie did a good job distributing from the back.
where there is a will there is a way…I think if a kid truly has level, they should move to play in Europe where they can increase their changes
My son plays U14 for a USDA club. His team is pretty good. They have maybe one player who has top-notch ball skills, movement, and ability to play multiple positions. That kid often makes excellent passes and plays right, but never gets visibly upset with teammates around him playing jungle ball or poor passing. My son and I often talk about this and how there are precious few players who are at next level. And like the title of this post, I know a few other kids like that who never had right circumstance. Yet we know some big players (my son is admittedly one) who got to ODP tryouts but pale against other kids in same position (I’m being honest and my son admits it too) who are far better. And players are pretty honest, even at 14. I’ve heard kids talking at games how good so and so is and amazed at how he’s not ODP and some other kid is simply due to size (at least that’s what they think). Matters of Circumstance is very real. Funny how life works.
Giving up is wrong thing. I try to tell me son “if soccer is your passion, chase it with all your heart. If you don’t make it, at least you can’t blame yourself for lack of trying.”
Besides the circumstance of luck or fate, another critical factor can be circumstance of being on wrong team. For example, there are excellent players on not so good teams. They may be surrounded by others who don’t pass well, have poor tactical knowledge, play Route 1. The skillful, tactically smart player is lost in the crowd. Similarly, average players on excellent teams get noticed. I’ve seen both of these over the years. I know players who made it to OPD or National team tryout out because they played on so and so top ranked team but they were really average and never made ODP or National team. I also know some truly skillful, smart players who don’t get a whiff of ODP or national team becasue they are on lesser teams. Lost in anominmity due to circumstance.
As an example, George Clooney and Paris Hilton are supposed sex symbols. Why? Becasue they are popular. Popularity gives some false luster and more appeal than if they were bagging groceries at Ralph’s. So being on right soccer team helps very much. Gets you in shop window.
Agree. Very much like a 2nd and 3rd option receiver on the superbowl winning team (american football). They look great because they’re playing with the best receiver in football and with a great quarterback. They sign a big contract with a different team the following season and look average at best.
Send them to Europe to tryout! 🙂
There are kids in every city in the USA with the potential to be a TRUE world class player. Potential is only one ingredient. “Matter of Circumstance” is another ingredient. Someone to cultivate the potential is also needed and then someone to harvest it when sufficiently ready. There also needs to be a place to consume that talent once developed. I think a lot of what Gary is pointing out in this website is that outside of that first ingredient “potential” the USA is missing or poorly under developed in supplying all the other ingredients.
I have a U14 player who is by far the best player in our league in eastern Oregon, eastern Washington, and western Idaho. This kid tried out for the ODP program in Portland and made the squad, but elected not to participate because it is a 4-hour commute. The kid is already better than me technically and is getting close to the limit of what I can teach him tactically within the confines of the rest of our squad.
We are a small town, already pulling kids from within an hour’s drive into our club and just fill a squad if we combine U13 and U14 to compete. There’s another club about 75 minutes away with better players than mine (honestly if we combined squads, no more than 5 of my players would even make the team) but I think I’m a better coach than their coach at this age level. U14 is the oldest age we have for club because we actually play in a league in Washington for better competition, but they have no club season above U14 in the spring because that’s when their high school season is and our high school season is in the fall. The lead coach at the high school is the typical ex-college/semi-pro player who plays kick and run with the biggest/fastest/strongest kids available.
How do I approach and how blunt am I with the parents in telling them they should move/commute to give their son a better shot at going somewhere? Do I try to move in to a role at the high school? Do I try to take to tournaments in Portland some of the players from the other nearby club that has good players or get them to take my top 2 or 3 players with them?
Rossi NJ says
A timely article for our recent discussions on the US soccer’s “donut hole”-
“There’s a gap in terms of where we are when our players are 15, 16, 17 years old,” U-20’s National Team coach Tab Ramos told me in September. “I think we stay pretty competitive [to that point]. I think there’s a gap from that age group until the players go into the pros, between the players we have and the players that play overseas with clubs. Players overseas … are going into an environment where they’re training six days a week and they’re playing games. And that continues over the next couple of years.”
The hole that is high school soccer, I suspect. We have a hole from 17-21 too, college.
Dr Loco says
“So we’re spotting the talent, and grooming it reasonably well enough to a certain point.”
There are thousands of talented players 14 and under!!!!!!!!!!!!
You’re not doing jack shit. The real work begins at 15.
Tend to agree with your Dr. Loco. So many talented kids at U14 and under who pass well, are “tidy on the ball”, and understand tactics and able to execute on the pitch for their given age. They separate dramatically in next 1-4 years.
Dr Loco says
Players are ready to learn at 15 but there is no one to teach them. You need hardcore intelligent training between 15-18 otherwise forget it. It’s too late by college for most.
Curious Larry says
Rossi et al,
my take away from this article & the following comments is ..
The US youth development falls behind the ROTW after age 14 years old.
Does this imply that we’re on par with the ROTW until age 14?
If this is true, where is the data?
Been reading this forum for a few months. This topic got me to post pent up frustration I have with US soccer.
The worst circumstance is being born in USA if you are a footballer. The circumstance of being surrounded by simpeltons (US Soccer, college soccer, ODP) who cannot comprehend. They were born an ass and will die an ass. Like a father who has an ugly son, his blindfolds cannot see defects. Rather, the father sees beauty. What a monstrous absurdity US Soccer is. Miserable creatures. Fraud, malice, and deceit cloaked in false pretense.
Wanted to comment on philosophy. Something Gary has rightly championed on this forum. Philoysophy drives player id, recruiting, how a coach coaches, how a coach trains players, and playing stle. Philosophy influences who gets onto the conveyor belt of player development and scouting for higher levels such National Team. Philosophy influences circumstance.
Philosophy is why Brazil is Samba and Spain tiki-taka! It’s why they develop the players they do. A function of, not random outcome. Philosophy is the DNA that imprints a sense of direction onto a country’s footballing purpose and well-being.
Coaching, player id, philosophy: the big 3 problems of US soccer. Culture and tradition are also influenced by philosophy. Any young boy in Spain or Brazil have samba, tiki-taka, beautiful football in their DNA. It’s supported by culture, tradition, and footballing philosophy. I’m not sure USA will have proper philosophy any time soon because it lacks the tradition and culture to cultivate the proper footballing philosophy (possession over Route 1, tiki-taka over long ball, skill over size, smarts over braun). The cowboy, Rambo mentality is deep in American society.
(possession over Route 1, tiki-taka over long ball, skill over size, smarts over braun??
a long ball executed with perfection and intelligence against a disorganized defence and the end product…very skillful..Newbies always jumping on the new flavor of the month and have no clue what they are licking.
ag — Yes, I am a naive newbie licking today’s chocolate. However, there is an antidote for everything. Sure Route 1 can work. A philosophy that favors possession, good passing, intelligent play is what I belive is “beautiful soccer”. Route 1 is also a philosophy and requires different types of players. Which is better? Depends is always the answer. Keep in mind that there are numerous other ways of playing. Mexicans play differently thatn Brazialns, than Argentines, than northern Europeans, than Germans, than Italians and so on. In AC Milan’s heyday, they were flavor of month. Tiki-taka has surpassed it. What will replace tiki-taka? Nothing lasts forever.
For now, I chose to lick chocolate and you can enjoy vanilla. Thanks for your warm welcome.
And keep in mind ag, there is nothing wrong with an occasional long ball. Keep defense guessing, change point of attack. Tito Villanova is doing that now in Barca. They are evolving. Things change as I said. If you are suggesting Route 1 with no mid-filed or back line build up, then I guess we are from different planets. If you are suggesting an occasional long ball, then nice! Posessoin soccer doesn’t mean you don’t play attacking soccer. But putting on the attack from constant pressing and taking shots inside 18-yard box has higher probabilitry than the youtube you posted. If a team can one day dominate at highest levels with that kind of play, I’m sure you will have disciples. Until then, Hala Barca!
Keep in mind that there are numerous other ways of playing. Mexicans play differently thatn Brazialns, than Argentines, than northern Europeans, than Germans, than Italians and so on…..really?? wow…thank you for the lesson in culture..please tell me something I dont know…been teaching possession based long before it was the new flavor of the month.I really dont need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows…I havent made any suggestions except this ..There is nothing new under the sun…just dont throw the baby out with the bath water with clueless statements because someone else has said them. ..you still have another 30 flavors to go.
Barcelona has elevated the game for sure…just as other fantastic teams clubs countries have in the past.
Good points, Jhun. The core of the Dutch team, whose goal ag posted, consisted of players who went through Ajax system and they played possession-oriented soccer.
Not sure why all the anger ag? If you don’t like this site, why bother posting? You seem like such an agry person. Anger typically comes from inability to achieve your own goals or some other failuers in your life. So what is your failure that you need to take out on others?
what anger? again you just make assumptions …
Dr Loco says
Yes that long ball was perfection for less than 1 min. What about the rest ~90min? Should we watch 89min of awful passing and errant shots?
Perfection?? no such thing…Barcelona plays to their strengths as every team tries to do..and kudos to them!.The game of soccer is made of mistakes waiting for a moment of brilliance to be created…you talk of possession as if you just reinvented the wheel…give me a break.
No one claimed to invent anything. And Barcelona doesn’t play possession because that’s their “strength”… they develop their players to play that way.
Is ag our first troll?
Of course because that is what they believe in..yes i am that troll you dread to disturb..LOL!
Dr Loco says
“The game of soccer is made of mistakes waiting for a moment of brilliance to be created”
Interesting? Is that how you play football, basketball, and baseball as well? I am searching for universal truths.
Mi pasión es el fútbol! Keep searching as Diogenes did…
Dr Loco says
κύων = Cynic Greek for dog.. not the way we use it in modern terms….
because he lived his life as a dog and questioned everything.
What’s the Greek for smart aleck?
LOL think think..surely you can look it up!
Barcelona plays to their strenghts, yes. But they didn’t always have that. The modled the team to what they envisioned as a better way to play. Are you a Madrid troll? Pissed that the Royal Whites are 11 points behind? Not sure if you are pissed at Barca, tiki-taka, or us know it all bloggers who happen to love posession soccer? Is your wife not satisfying you ag? Is the team you coach frustrating you? Or are you just an ass?
And by the way, Barcelona didn’t invent possession, just perfected it.
temper temper dont take things so personal…fanaticism ignorance immaturity not a good combination. No no I am not a Madridista …what a typical response…yes I love possession. There is no perfection…
Dr Loco says
“The result of the long pass is usually a chaotic scramble for the ball as it bounces back and forth while both teams try to win headers or “get stuck in.” Not only are these sequences highly ineffective, they’re incredibly ugly and boring to watch. ”
Possession style has been around for over 100 years. We are just rediscovering it in America. Blame the English not the Spanish.
Learn your history of the game before you put blame on the English …John Jack Reynolds The Man Who Taught Ajax Total Football
That English link in a chain of circumstances…
Apparently Reynolds brought the long ball to Ajax too… according to Wim.
Dr Loco says
John Jack Reynolds…interesting. Have you told Cruyff?
layers upon layers keep on digging…he influenced Michels as Michels influencced Cruyff so forth…each bringing something special to the table.BTW Cruyff fired by Chivas…
Chivas is a mess. Cruyff is probably happy he’s out.
Apparently he didnt even know he was sacked…
Dr Loco says
I know. I think it’s cuz Cruyff was an absentee coach collecting a big paycheck. I was hoping for a long-term effect on mexican soccer.
The owner hasnt a clue but again a clash of cultures..
this too …
Dr Loco says
“each bringing something special to the table”
No I get it. It’s like Obama has to thank Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Bush, Clinton. Let’s just forget about slavery since it’s not relevant.
Long ball could help Ajax right about now. Real Madrid 3-1.
Dr Loco says
“long-ball football done in a clever way’ wins matches”
Not sure what your point is it looked like a possession pass to me. Ball was put on his foot, collected, 1 touch , shot – goal. The pass had purpose, it did not put the player into a 50/50 contest, it was not put into space with no thought. There was very much thought and the risk/reward was very high reward with very little risk. Seems pretty much to fall in line with possession theory.
my point..but lack of understanding seems to cloud some folks thinking.Thanks
Why does this feel like Gary is trolling his own blog. 😉
First of all I am not Gary…I think he would be very up front with his thoughts and I do respect his passion for the game and his understanding, secondly I am not a guy ,thirdly I am not a Madridista and yes I love possesion based futbol played with intelligence.
AG well said through out. Continue to promote deep understanding in place of clone discipleship (save clones for Jim Rome). The last thing Gary is looking for is a bunch of worshipers.
Jhun – Wow, this get testy! Welcome to the forum! Not sure what’s up with ag? I think he’s a newbie too as I don’t recognize him. A Madrid troll as someone suggested? The goal by Bergkamp and long ball was nice. What does it prove? As Dr. Loco says, what did they do other 89 minutes and 50 seconds? I’m sure we could find videos to prove one point or another. So what? There is nothing inherently better in one philosophy over the other. Depends on getting right players who are best at it. Also subjective and in eye of beholder based on their personal prejudices and footballing culture. The more successful you are in a particular style of play, the more disciples you have. Barca play how they do for a reason. Wasn’t always like that. They transformed.
Soccer is fairly static, very true. Same ideas executed differently or more effectively. Differences in the margin. Barca has perfected possession and tiki-taka. That is beyond discussion.
Can someone tell me which team has perfected Route 1 or any other style of play? Which club is has raised the bar on another style of play? Who besides Barca is pushing the envelope, and over such a long period of time, and so successful in the form of trophies? Which club is so successful in last 20-years at developing and identifying talent to best fit their system? You can hate possession soccer or love it, but in Barca it is without question the most successful style of play in last 5-years. Be in La Liga, Champions League, World Cup (to include youngres), or in individual players (as exampled via Balon de Oro).
Every club wants to hire Pep. Why? Do you think it’s because they want him to champion Route 1 or to establish tiki-taka possession? Yes he’s a winner, but it’s because of style of play and the supporting system. If he tries to replicate the Barca success, he won’t without the right players and academy system. Does that mean tiki-taka is a failure? No! Right idea, wrong place.
ag — Can you please tell us which club reflects soccer at its highest level and why? Madrid, Ajax, other? It’s easy to destroy, but can you do some building and let us know your thoughts on playre id, youth development, and club. What is your drugstore philosophy of the antidote to Barca?
do not care for ignorant blanketed statements and assumptions and really I think Barca is fantastico.
Here’s a pretty good example of Barca replicating it in the Super Copa, Mash to Pedro minute 1:50. Not quite as long as the Dutch Option 1 but the skill on both ends is outstanding.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zuHr4ENU2m0. How Barca will crash the bus.
diagonal balls always cause problems be they in the air or on the ground. But people brush everything a long ball statement.
You seem to not understand the difference between salida(long pass with a purpose) and pelotazo(hopeful, desperate, searching).
Of course teams always play to their strengths. Did Pep’s Barca play the same as Cryuff’s or Rijkaard’s?
Is this a salida or pelotazo?
Oh but I do understand..Both sabroso first one pelotazo…but someone with lesser abilty and understanding it would be garbage. First one could have easily been a hopeful wallop but it wasnt.Does the Brazil of today play the same as the one 20 30 40 years ago…of course not but some traits remain which is part of what makes them Brazil. somebody earlier said Barca has perfected possession and then says they are evolving in regards to a diagonal ball…when you have players who can do it and at the right time ….it does not take away from possession based style.
also Juan..using it correctly keeps the other team honest…
also look at the back 4 a mac truck could go drive through..the pass from Marquez caught them in la la land and pulled them further apart..the last pinged pass diagonal with fullback blindsided.
Juan just reposting Pulguitas post…
Here’s a pretty good example of Barca replicating it in the Super Copa, Mash to Pedro minute 1:50. Not quite as long as the Dutch Option 1 but the skill on both ends is outstanding.
How Barca will crash the bus.
Yes I agree you need depth and width. This is a basic principle.
The point is there is very few if any American coaches with the desire of having their teams playing as such.
Are there players available for it? Only one way to find out.
oops it must be ok to do if Barca are doing it!
Uhg. Stop acting like we’re all stupid. We hate long ball as a style of play… endless bombs from the defensive 3rd. Sure well placed long crosses are genius, how many do you see in U12 ball? U14?
I really dont know why you get all sensitive when all i have pointed out that there is a difference between walloping the ball forward kick and rush style and a 30 40 yard diagonal ball …I havent tried to make anyone feel stupid. That is your assumption.Dont know what ability of kids you are working with but the U13 team I work boys can ping one when they see it and it isnt just walloping… and yes we work on possession..but in general I think that north American kids cant strike a ball well nevermind pinging one.
No shit. Pointing out something we already know. Who’s angry?
we? I beg to differ…is that why most keep referring to an aimless long ball and diagonal as one and the same?
Who has referred to them to one as the same? You assumed they were.
not a chance..
College soccer is the ‘default’ destination of the vast majority of “1 percenters”. American parents don’t seem to comprehend that pursuing a professional playing career and simultaneously a college degree are not mutually exclusive.
There have been some exceptional American players that have come out of the collegiate environment. We all know that. College soccer is not the kiss of death…but it certainly needs to be improved. Either that or the MLS has to invest in a truly vertical development system. U20 and even U23 teams.
And I’m not talking ‘summer ball’ for college players either. (PDL)
Also, it is important to point out that even the MLS academies aren’t selecting the best players. They are selecting or attempting to select the best players in their given geographic market. They have to institute a true ‘residency’ program and scout players outside of their metro areas.
MLS Academies seem think they can’t protect or get compensated by their investment in a player’s development…= child labor laws…big issue
Exactly Nuno, they cannot protect them. If the US starts to really develop a conveyor belt of talent MLS has no chance of keeping the top top players and ever making a dime. So in the end development is only a word to them, not a prioritiy.
Red Bulls managed to use the Homegrown Rights to an Akron player in a trade with Porter and the Timbers. I thought that was interesting.
I wonder how many people would relocate to bring their kids to an MLS academy if they were given the change to join one of their teams?
I don’t think having a residency program is a determine factor…not all pro teams have residence programs.
Also, I think it is important to take an honest look at the MLS academies that do concentrate on developing players. For example, DC United has academy players in their first team and are developing a strong program for youth.
‘NYC’, a residency program is a big factor. Because that way, you are truly bringing in the best players. And otherwise aren’t limited by geography.
The vast majority of European clubs bring players into residency. Or at the very least, they arrange for players to live with host families.
Not everyone can or even should uproot their families in order to relocate to an MLS market. Especially given how MLS academies currently operate. No true ‘vertical’ system in place.
DC United didn’t ‘develop’ Najar…they found him. I’m not saying they don’t have a quality academy program…but let’s be intellectually honest. Players in this country basically have to ‘develop’ themselves.
In spite of the current youth system.
Dr Loco says
“Players in this country basically have to ‘develop’ themselves.”
So true. But I think it’s true in most countries. The difference is other countries have a natural environment to create players in local neighborhoods and schools. In the US everything is artificial including the fields. It’s a cultural/social problem in the US.
Most top athletes in any sport 14 and under primarily developed themselves with a little help from parents, friends, coaches. Kids just need proper guidance to learn on their own by mimicking top players. Money, professional coaching, elite clubs, etc none of this matters in developing quality players 14 and under. It’s all about the individual skills and talent. Work on the simple basics and fundamentals.
Youth coaches move on to HS and above. Stop charging naive parents for no development. Unless you are a top national team like Gary’s everybody else is just RECREATIONAL.
Players in EVERY COUNTRY have to develop themselves.
In Spain, the youth top leagues are very demanding and it is extremely difficult to stay in one team.
Barcelona recriuted a lot of players from other top team in Catalunya too; they did not developed each so called Masia player from the ground up. For example Cuenca (reus/Santes Creus), and Jordi Alba (Cornella) were kicked out of FC Barcelona (they said Alba was too short).
Being at a residency program doesn’t guarantee anything for a player.
NYC, I agree with you that residency doesn’t guarantee a player anything. I think most academy coaches abroad go out of their way to explain this to parents and players as well.
And I also agree that young players develop themselves…but the difference is that the coaching is infinitely better (even if by ‘osmosis’..ie footballing culture and experience)
That’s precisely why the MLS academies have to bring players into residency that are spotted outside of their metro area.
Arsenal, Bayern Munich, etc. don’t just bring local players into their academies. Generally by age 15/16 (depends on country) they have to start expanding their ‘reach’ and looking beyond their general area. In that sense, Barca is somewhat of an anomaly in that the vast majority of their players are from Catalonia.
Academies simply are a mechanism for clubs to identify and groom players in their style of play. It is essentially a business investment. Even the players released become diehard lifelong supporters of the club. (Grassroots marketing.) The ones that do make it are sold for a profit or eventually make the first team and consequently make millions for the club.
I’d venture to guess that Ajax probably now makes as much or more off of transfer fees than ticket sales.
I’ve often made the point that there have been plenty of cases where players have achieved greatness without a strong youth background. It can be argued that, in the majority of cases, academies can actually do little to make a player ‘great’.
No team, coach or club (especially in the us) is going to make a player great.
I would say 80-90% of it is strictly up to the player. Through their own hard work and what God gave them. At best they may be able to give the player some exposure they otherwise wouldn’t get.
When parents understand this, we will see a major paradigm shift in pay-to-play. And when that happens, we will let the natural order of footballing things take over.
See Africa and South America for examples.
Hall97 et al,
African and South American pay to play too.
Also, I find it ironic that people on this blog knock MLS academies down or would demand/recomend they open residency programs, etc. Yet they wouldn’t pay to go top an MLS game.
I think too many parents have unrealistic opinions on how great their kids are and expect teams in the US teams to start subsidizing programs but they aren’t willing to support those teams by attending their games.
I go to 4-6 Red Bulls matches a year. My son has participated in a Red Bulls RDS. They’re very active in the region. Their teams do well. Their players get recruited into good college programs and they sign them to homegrown contracts. I think it fails though. Rarely do they make it to the first squad. There’s no incentive for the coaches to start them. They fail to see the value in starting local talent. The mls structure is a problem.
There a lot of teams that have a bad record of using their homegrown talent but nevertheless end up succeding; Real Madrid, the Best Team in the planet of the XX Century is a great example of that.
I think Red Bull, DC United, NE Rev, etc. are instituting programs that did not exists decades prior in the U.S.
Yes, there is a long way to go, but how long did it take Spain to become a world power in soccer?
I think Red Bulls follow the European model despite the fact they can’t really can’t benefit that greatly from it. It serves the region well. Creates goodwill towards the team. They supply 2-4 players to every age group in the YNT. Wish the first team and management would get it together though.
‘nyc’, you are making assumptions. I’ve been to plenty of MLS games. If you think pay to play is the same everywhere else, well, you are certainly entitled to that opinion. But I disagree. I have spoken to many expats and that is the one thing they say they notice first about the American youth game.
The reality is that, the better the player is (in the states) the more money the parents have to shell out. I’ve heard state DOC’s/TD’s admit to this.
Now, perhaps in the northeast, where you have a very large player population in a more confined area, maybe there isn’t the perceived ‘need’ for bringing players into residency.
But in the south, midwest and west, geography is a huge issue.
Now, we can debate whether homegrown players are given ample ‘chances’ with the first team all week.
But, look at how the rest of the footballing world operates, and then try to hash out a viable argument that MLS is ‘doing it right’ when it comes to youth development.
Now, I can certainly agree that the vast majority of parents ‘overestimate’ their son’s ability. But that doesn’t have anything to do with the ‘residency’ argument. If an MLS academy finds a player that will is exceptional…then finding room and board for that player shouldn’t be an issue.
Again, this is how it is done everywhere else in the world. Especially at 15+.
Unless the MLS looks at their academy as more of a community outreach/PR component than it does developing players for the first team and/or to sell.
Bottom line is that if they aren’t developing players good enough for the first team by the age of 19, 20…then they aren’t doing their job.
Look at the level of Japan’s J-league. I believe it is around the same age as MLS…now look at the number of Japanese impact players making their way into the top teams in Europe.
While things may be improving in MLS…they’ve had 17 seasons…and they still have a long way to go.
I really like that input… very nice point.
That was directed at hall97… not sure why it went to the bottom.
Cameron Baker says
This reminds me of a quote that I heard Arsene Wenger said years ago to kids on trail at Arsenal. It was in a video i saw somewhere.
“Football is a constant battle, a constant audition, seize your chance.”
It’s holds very true. My best friend in high school was a good athlete and decent player, or so he thought. I made him come with me to try out for a good club team near our home town. He hemmed and hawed about it, but eventually came. He made the team his and now is playing in college. He did really well at the D3 college this year and is considering a move up to D2, most likely SVSU, who just lost in the National Championship game if i”m not mistaken. I always think that if i never forced him to come with me, he wouldn’t have had those dreams or ambitions. I’m really glad i did. The kid had the talent but need a kick in his ass to show him that he could do it. Once he figured that out he had this unrelenting drive to better himself and be the best player he could be for his team.
Collin has worked for where he is and i think that holds true for all the top players in the world, but it takes hard work along with good fortune to reach these levels. Take Messi for an example. I know that he has Human Growth Hormone Deficiency. This disorder stops a gland from producing growth hormone, not allowing that individual to grow properly (hence why he is small). Messi had to take injections daily to replace his deficiency and this medicine costs over $10,000 a month (at least it did for my family and I). He moved to Spain because Barcalona agreed to pay for his medication. Imagine if Messi never had this opportunity to train at La Masia. What is Messi was never properly treated for his disorder? Crazy to think about. No doubt in my mind though that Messi trained his ass off once he got there to prove himself.
pg 19 says
I remember a debate I had with a co-worker years ago. It was about how many Michael Jordans we thought there possibly were in that given point in time when there were no other players like Michael Jordan. Between the two of us, we felt a good estimate would be around 100 or so possible people that have the physical capacity and genetics to be the next Michael Jordan. The reason they were not was because they either lacked ambition, drive, motivation, work ethic, mentors, coaches, opportunities, life experiences, etc, etc, etc or all of the above.
The point was Michael Jordan wasn’t special in the sense that he was a one of kind. He became a one of kind through his mentors, his coaches (even the one that cut him from the Varsity HS team), his life experiences, his resolve and attitude all contributed in making him, him.
How many potential Ben’s do you think are out there right now? My guess, there are more potential Bens that are out there than there will be Jordans. However, the actual ones that become a “Ben” will be exceptionally small because of circumstances.
Interesting post. How to use it in the corporate world? How about interviewing your boss or your boss’s boss to find out how they got to where they are? Often their start isn’t much different than yours. Often the decisions they make could/can be the ones you consider moving forward. In many ways, this blog is similar to that interview, only with other coaches instead of bosses.
pg19 — Agree with you that there are many “Ben’s” who for whatever reason haven’t gotten a chance. In terms of workplace, timing and networking / right connections is significant factor. And like soccer, those at top levels wanted to get there and had the motivation, committment to lay groundwork to make it happen. Same true in soccer. Of course, there is a mountain of people in soccer or any walk of life who had the desire and committment and better than those who “made it”, however, matters of circumstance didn’t work out for them for whatever reason. What’s the saying about thousands of beautful, talented Hollywood stars waiting tables?
Guys… Nike ID2 national camp starts tomorrow… A few of the kids are from the u14 national team… but the vast majority are from those same circles…. but just not able to be included in the national camp. It will be interesting to see this group compared to the National team group. Hopefully some video will be posted.
Watch G’town in Fridays college cup semi vs MD.
They play a nice possession style ball. MD has some good skilled players as well. Uconn dominated Creighton with skilled passing and moves but could not finish, so they did not make it. Never seen Indiana play.
My first and only post (I’m too old to be blogging and arguing). I’m from England and coached for 36-years. Coached numerous teams in English and continental Europe tournaments. Coached few years in USA at end of my career, but was mostly for fun and keep active. Now retired.
Circumstance is part of life and soccer. Some of the best players I coached or coached against never made it. Many I didn’t think had the talent somehow made it. Luck, timing, key relationships. The adage about do your best and you will be noticed is not entirely true: it’s often who you know.
Below article best sums up my feeling on soccer and difference between USA and Europe:
“The biggest difference between American youth players and those in other countries is passion and patience, said Franc Carbó, a coach with Barcelona’s youth development program. Americans tend to focus on moving the ball toward the goal, even if that means forcing bad passes.
“Sometimes they think a playback is a bad decision,” said Carbó. “We believe that when we pass back, it is the best option to find a better option.”
Americans bring a tremendous amount of size and athleticism to the field, Carbó said, and can often out-muscle their European counterparts.
But size is secondary when it comes to scouting young players with serious potential, he said.
“They need to be really intelligent, with high technical skills,” Carbó said. “Then, if they are also fast, that is the perfect combination.”
It’s seldom spoken about on this forum, but regardless of philosophy or playing style (formation is not a playing style, but influences it) – the best teams I’ve coached and competed against have commonalities: discipline, patience, accountability, understanding. They do as coach asks. They know their role and responsibilities. Players are accountable (sit the bench) if they do not play as their role and responsibility requires. When I came to USA, that was biggest difference (refer back to above article).
Proper player id is so important. When I first started out, the bigger and stronger was better. I was taught that. After licking my wounds in continental Europe tournaments to better skilled teams, I had to rethink. Be independent and not “drink the Kool-Aid”. I could write a dissertation on it. But refer to above article instead. In fact, it’s worth repeating: “They need to be really intelligent, with high technical skills,” Carbó said. “Then, if they are also fast, that is the perfect combination.” The USA has the talent. They are not being identified. Especially at the U12 – U15 where bigger kids are more than often preferred. The diamonds are overlooked. Once you are in the elite system (e.g., ODP or national pool), you tend to stay and those who are unnoticed tend to stay that way. The wrong players get misplaced attention and development.
I can also tell you that as a coach and player, the most difficult teams to defend were not what we are calling Route 1 soccer – it was skillful, fast, intelligent teams. Route 1 is easy opponent. I’m English and not ashamed to say I love tiki-taka (I watch more German and Spanish football because I think it superior technically and tactically than EPL and Champions League is proving that time after time in recent years and as late as yesterday).
There is nothing wrong with USA players. It’s the mentality and lack of understanding by the soccer community (coaching, scouting, ODP, USSF, college, MLS). When these disparate groups align for common good / goal, matters of circumstance should align to proper compass setting.
This was a great post to read. Well put and totally legit..
mike S. says
Ian, I agree completely. I would like to add that the US often gives lip service to the small vs big mentality in the U12 -U15 age group. A prime example is the recent US BNT camp completed this November – there were about 30 1999’s and 6 2000’s invited to the camp. I have to say these 99’s are some of the biggest 99’s I’ve ever seen! There are exceptions but the majority of these kids were 5′ 5″ or bigger. You don’t have to believe me – just look at the YouTube videos of the games (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ArjYfafkoQ) and compare the size of Ben Lederman (who is not small for a 2000- he is 5′ tall) to the other players in his team. Sadly, it’s still more about winning games that’s more important than it is to develop the most talented players.
Actually 5″ seems average or below for a 12 year old. I watched the same video and only a couple of the players seemed huge for U14. I don’t think you can look at how that team played and who was on the field and say it was lip service.
mike S. says
These were 99’s by CALENDAR year only- so not club year U14s which can include Aug 98 thru Dec 98. These kids were towering over Ben- at least 5 to 8 inches. 5′ is average for a calendar year U12, even by American standards (just look at any US growth chart – it’s in the 50th percentile.) They obviously favored the bigger 99’s (with a couple exceptions).
Player #17 is at least 7 or 8 inches taller than Ben and if Ben is 5′, that makes this kid 5′ 7″ or 5 8″ . I see at least 7 other kids on the US team about the same size as #17 so 5″7 to 5′ 8″ is the typical height of these ’99s. If this is calendar year 1999s, I agree these boys are very tall for their age. I’m not surprised though. Deep in their hearts size matters more. I see it all the time at the club level, ODP level and id2 level so why would it be any different at the National team level?
Curious Larry says
It seems to me that the “style of play” requires these type of players. Did Hugo get define the “style of play” & choose all the players?
There’s a podcast over at football garden where they talk about that team and the style of play. Jacques and Gary and or Brian were there.
I have no problem with tall players, but I don’t see the point of choosing big kids just because the are big. For example, I know a lot of teams in Catalonia (including FC Barcelona) pick very tall kids for some positions. Nevertheless they have level; that can actually play.
I’ve seen some of the kids in the U14 BNT and U15 -in the past- play with smaller players in ODP and against them at games. THEY HAVE VERY loW level. There are many more players with much higher level, stronger, faster, and more inteligent than them.
US Soccer appears to live by a self defeating profecy where American players aren’t as avoid as kids in other countries so we must rely on size to have a chance to do OlK. Meanwhile regular size and smaller players are playing at a higher level overseas against big kids with actual talent.
I’m not implying that All the kids in the pool are bad, but there is a significant minority of players that don’t belong in a National pool.
Campos did not choose players just because they were big.
Been following the posts and seems like US take a bad rap for choosing big players. I have been to some websites for youth teams in big clubs in Europe and tried to see the average size of players being selected. Barca don’t post size and weight. I have noticed that most players in the calendar year 1999 are born between January and July of that year. Real Madrid actually posts size and weight and they only have a limited amount of small players and also some very huge players that wieght up to 145lbs
So don’t think that USA are the only ones guilty of this trend of picking big players.
While many teams outside the US are guilty of looking/choosing taller,bigger. And stronger player; the huge difference is that many of these teams actually take the time to develop these players. And, they don’t look exclusively at size. If you look at many teams from Spain competing in Alevin tournaments, there are some big kids, but the majority would look small compared to their u11/u10 counterparts in the US. Perhaps more importantly, the technical level is much higher. There is no point in recruiting big kids to simply run after the ball like horses.
Edfoot it just seems that at these age groups U12 to about U15 there are serious differences in physical and physicological development amongst kids. I never said that these kids are not technical but just seems based on what I have seen that taller and older get the nod in the 1999 age groups, since most are born between January to June of that calendar year. Awhile back I got to talk to a youth coach from the mexican youth national teams and he thought that Brazil was addressing this issue by having two national teams by age group until they get to the U16 level. One team for the first half of the calendar year, and a second one with the latter half of the calendar year.
Edfoot, continuing on what I said before on the calendar year 1999. Barca’s infantil A has only 5 out of 20 players born after July of 1999 http://www.fcbarcelona.com/football/formative/detail/card/fc-barcelona-infantil-a
Real Madrid only has 4 players out 24, and AC Milan has 5 out 24 http://www.acmilan.com/es/teams/youth_teams_roster/543/players. This might not be a large number of teams to get a correct average of how kids are getting selected, but its safe to say that 80% of the players being selected are the ones being born on the first months of the calendar year and of course the bigger and most mature.
I think it’s worth seeing these kids actually play to see their level and height. When you see them live, you can see it is not about height or strengh, but it is about skill.
There is a great tournament coming up which will be broadcast live for free (U10/U11) here is the schedule. Let me know if you folks want to see it can compare them to the current U14 BNT. You will find a huge discrepacy in height and skill.:
BBVA Futbol & Tourney
Grupo A: Real Madrid, Espanyol, Juventus y Liverpool
Grupo B: Atlético de Madrid, Sevilla, Málaga y Borussia Dortmund
Grupo C: Barcelona, Valencia, PSG y Betis
Edfoot, again, I never questioned their skill level. I recognize that the USA is behind in that department. I was just making a point that the USA chooses to develop players just like any other county, and that is be picking the most mature at that particular age level. Some times the most mature ones are not the tallest, in many cases they are, and of course some skill needs to be displayed. But just looking at birthrates, it is eye catching how most of kids in european clubs are born in the first 6 months of the calendar year. Ben’s team, birth year 2000, only has 2 kids out of 22 born after july of that year.http://www.fcbarcelona.com/football/formative/detail/card/fc-barcelona-infantil-b
Found this article in the internet, it does a good job of explain this situation.http://www.sportsscientists.com/2009/01/matthew-effect.html
Maybe being born in the first quarter of calendar year should also be included in matters of circumstance
I understand your point. I had made similar observations in the past; other countries pick taller kids too.
I should’ve made my point clearer and say that while you are correct about coaches in Spain and other countries picking taller/older kids in a particular age group, the difference I see between US coaches and their counterparts in Europe is that they teach the kids to play better instead of using them as chest pieces to win matches based on physical attributes alone (sorry about the run on sentence).
Moreover, these countries have so many youth teams competing at the top level against the larger teams that there is a place for smaller talented players to still compete and do well until the time comes for all the kids to develop and catch up.
I think Germany might be the only country that is trying to separate age groups into kids born early in the year and the rest. I don’t know enough about it, but I think they started implementing the new age brackets this year to avoid loosing on talented players that might be smaller in their earlier years. Perhaps someone else knows more about this; goes in line with what your had commented before And might be a smart solution.
Arsenal et al,
This is sort of off topic but educational and entertaining nonetheless ( I didn’t know whereelse to put it in case people want to see it). Here is a link for the Futbol 7 International tournaments. These are not highlights; they are the fulll games. This tourney has “introduced” some of the best up and coming young athletes including Iniesta, Llorente, and Pique to name a few. This is going on this week (started today). While you might be able to view this in another page,you won’t have to worry about any spolier alerts since the scores are not posted. This is an Avelin tourney and it includes kids born in 2000. Each team pick the best players from their a,b, and c futbol base teams and merge them into a small pool (18-22) to compete at this tourney.So here you will see the VERY best of the best players born in 2000 and younger from FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Espanyol, Valencia and more. Enjoy:
Edfoot, for being 2000’s there are many that are huge and very mature looking, some little ones. Looks like some teams depend to much on individual skills of thieir bigger players, for example the Valenica team. They had 2 or 3 boys that looked like 15 year old’s. Have you seen the USA Barcelona U12 team play? Did not see any team play like that.
Edfoot, I meant the ATthletico Madird team.
One of the reasons I wanted to show these games were to address your point about the larger players and my point about those players being at a higher level.
I cannot comment on the Barcelona USA since I haven’t really seen them other than one or two videos posted on line. It would not be appropriate for me to judge. I understand Barcelona USA is a team from one of FC Barcelona’s Penyas (fan clubs) in the US. The Fc Barcelona kids playing at this tournament are the Academy players. One could assume the actual academy players (as a whole) are better than the fan club team players spread all over the world. Also, the boy that came from Barcelona USA is not playing with the team at this tourney -I wish he would; i think we need to get behind any US player competing in Europe
I did see the BUSNT and I think, as large as most of them are, it would be very difficult for them to beat any of these teams. I’m making the assumtion the BUSNT is better than the Barcelona USA since they are suppossed to be a national team.
There are a lot of African/African descent players in European teams right now. Fc Barcelona Infantil (99) has this kid that looks like an 18 year old 🙂 I think they develop a lot faster because they come from a region that is closer to the Ecuador -I least that what I’ve been told by people in Catalonia-. . But they are not just big 2000sThey are also very talented players. I remember seeing Llorente at this tournament, he was just as big at that age but the reason why he stood up was because of his talent. I have not seen players of that age and that caliber in the U.S.; mostly because there is no national stage for them, really-
I will be posting other games throughout the week. I hope you and others enjoy them.
Just wondering, what parts of the USA have you been evaluating talent? My kid plays out of northern california, and I can assure that there is big pool of skilled and talented players up here at those age levels. And we also have 12 year old’d that look like 15 with skills, but they usually play up a year or 2. They are not going to european clubs, but are leaving to mexican clubs..
We evaluate kids mostly from the West/Wesy coast, North East Coast and Florida; not too many from the Midwest -not because there is no talent, the opportunity just hasn’t come out.
You are correct about there being many talented player in the West Coast (of all sizes). I actually think the East Coast is very underrated; there is a lot of level too.
But there are other doing the same (evaluating players to go to Europe); not just for Spain but Holland too. And, as you mentioned, Mexico.
BTW, I just uploaded the the PSG vs Barcelona game; I think it’s the most technical game so far in the tourney. PSG is very good. Also, there is a boy from Valencia that FC Barcelona “snatched” who is very good too (tall kid).
Rossi NJ says
Listen to the Football Garden podcast with Bryan Wallace at around the 31 min mark (although the entire interview is definitely worth a listen). Bryan Wallace is the coach of the United FC team that scrimmaged the U14 Nat “A” Team and he had some terrific insight on the “size” trend of the selected players as well as some high praise for the team in general.
Yes, all other factors being equal, size does make a difference but so do other physical attributes like quickness, strength, foot speed, etc.- like they do in all competitive clubs around the world. I’ve seen most of the Red Bull Academy players and many of the DA teams in my area play and most wouldn’t be described as giants.
“If I have two players, one big and one small, with the same technical skill, I will keep the small one as he will overcome the big one. He will have to work harder and he will be more resourceful. He will need to come up with clever strategies to compensate for his lack of size. The bigger guy won’t try as hard. Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro are all like this.”
“In a 2012 study by the Professional Football Players Observatory of the top-flight leagues in 33 nations, Barcelona’s squad was the smallest in height. ”
Dr Loco says
Went to watch UCLA-Stanford PAC-12 final. One roster is like 50-80 players (not sure exactly too many to count) but there were only 3 players under 6ft.
I could be very wrong but I think player selection in soccer favors the dominate cultures in the US and those in charge of USSF. We tend to like players like our kids and us — matters of circumstance.
Rossi NJ says
That article had lots of insight. Unfortunately we have a bias against shorter athletes in this country for most sports although I think there exist different regional attitudes also due to various demographic and ethnic factors.
Connor Lade of the Red Bulls and a product of it’s academy is only 5’6″. Not necessarily a creative magician in the Barca/Spanish mold but Thierry Henry’s favorite nonetheless.
I think more and more parents will seek overseas opportunities for their talented kids especially if they have an ethnic background. Many see the general soccer landscape in this country i.e. hs, college, mls, player selection although improving, they still can’t relate to it or might be excluded by it. There was a U11 player from De Anza Force that just trialed with Real Madrid and the list will just get bigger and bigger.
Speaking of dual nationals, Juergen Klinsmann spoke about scouting players with U.S. eligibility in the Washington Post.
“We want to make sure we don’t lose the next Giuseppe Rossi [the Italian-American from New Jersey who chose Italy]. It doesn’t mean we jump on [a player] and invite him right away but we are looking at them to get a better idea. So maybe two, three, four years down the road, something has been established. It’s the player who has to make the decision with his family. That’s why we have not pressured Timothy Chandler. I wanted him in May-June, but this is huge, this is the final call about where you want to go. All we can do is build those relationships.”
Not relly a “trial” but regardless a fantastic experience for the young kid. It’s great when american clubs can maintain relationships with international clubs.
Curious Larry says
Hi Rossi NJ,
Thanks for link to the podcast w/ Bryan Wallace. I listened to the podcast & watched a large chuck of the YouTube video of the u14 BNT vs United FC. my take always .. 1) SoCal needs to get better; 2) u14 BNT is on the right track ie Hugo & others are doing a good job; 3) Calab Porter is still the right guy for u20/u23 MNT.
Lastly, I think Bryan is good spokesman for u14 us boys soccer.
I from time to time read this blog. Had to give some comment on Bryan Wallace. Bryan is a superior coach. I wish every coach took his occupation as serious as Bryan. His tiny-tike BU14 team has dominated much bigger stronger competition in SoCal for a few years now. Through intelligence, patience, passing. Fellow SoCal coaches should be ashamed of their far inferior abilities. Bryan’s players aren’t most athletic (far from it), tallest (tiny-tikes mostly), strongest (not even close), most skilled. But they are disciplined and patient. Bryan doesn’t yell on sidelines. Lets kids play.
There are dozens of BU14 teams (my son plays BU14) who recruit best youth physical specimens to win. They do win, but not against the mighty-mite UFC BU14. And guess what, I think Bryan is a bit outspoken (as he admitted). Don’t’ know him personally, but he’s a bit arrogant. I’m ok with that (his team is a competitor of my son’s, but UFC has our ticket . . . better coached I’ll admit).
There are maybe a dozen or so BU14 kids in SoCal with the talent to be on national team.
Ian, I greatly appreciate your insight. it reinforces what I have suspected for quite some time now.
if a kid makes it into the u14 and u15 ynt’s, they generally stay there through u17/18.
Occasionally you see new players coming in at u20 level.
It seems these problems are happening world wide an upheaval be it in England or North America.Great post Ian and what you said about Discipline, patience, accountability, understanding it is so very true.
Ian, sorry to learn that you won’t be posting more.
Almost all coaching (can only speak to U14) is shit in SoCal. Bryan Wallace’s team is rare breed that actually builds from the back. That forces defenders to develop foot skills and tactical awareness to build up to mid-field. And that domino effect of positioning and movement has to be in the mid-field and forward positions to make it work. Now you’re talking attacking possession soccer, with smart passing! But you need disciplined, patient players to do that. 99% of players art U14 don’t have it. They want to bum rush to goal at 5th gear each and every time. That’s coaching and instilling accountability, not youthful exuberance. They players will revert to jungle ball is you let them. Our coaches are too liberal in what they allow. But 99% of teams (including my son’s) never get there because the keeper just whacks up field as far as he can for a 50/50 ball and the coach doesn’t give a shit and parents wooo at how far the keeper can kick it. This is incubator for jungle ball. Stupid parents ooing and aaawing at how far the keeper can kick the ball and watching a man-child forward chase down balls. Morons! Build from the back! I don’t think I’ve ever hear a coach get pissed at not building from the back. They should! They should get real pissed. Let the keeper know it. In fact, any player on the pitch should get pissed. “Why the fuck are we playing 50/50 jungle ball! You can’t play possession, attacking soccer with a 60-yard whack from the back! And sadly, so many stupid ass parents who are clueless.
Inability to build from the back. Keeper trying to set world record punts. You’re talking about my son’s team? Building from the back will go a long way to cure jungle ball. Not sure why coaches don’t mandate it as it’s a critical component that aides in touch, positioning, thinking, movement.
And how many teams cheaply give away the ball within 1 – 3 touches from start of play in center circle? Impatient and undisciplined play at its finest! An educated / experience-based rough guess is 66% of U14 teams have pass sequence of 1 – 3 times 66%,6 3 – 5 times 33%, 6 or more less than 1%. The UFC team you mention is the exception. Coincidence they won Nationals, Dallas, Far West, and close to a dozen other tournaments in last two years? And they truly have some vertically challenged players on roster!
I’ve never seen Gary / Brian’s team play, but I bet they are in that 99th percentile of teams that average 6+ passing sequences as the norm. The video of USMNT U14 team also plays this way, and agree with the Bryan Wallace podcast that they may be signaling our transformation to different playing style. How long will it take for other coaches to figure this out? But some people like to ignore the truth. Still mired in old ways since it’s so embedded in their DNA and psyche.
Just realized my percentages read funny. 66% of passing sequences are between 1 – 3 succssful passes; 33% between 4 – 5 successful passes; and 1% of passing sequences are 6 or more successful passes. Other opinions / observations welcome.
Dr Loco says
Matters of Circumstance – heartbreaking.
For 3 consecutive tournaments we have reached the finals but come up short to a faster, stronger, more athletic team. I know this is probably not the right place to ask but anyone with feedback on how to overcome this problem would be a savior.
We build from the back, play attractive soccer, complete 4-6 passing sequences. Under high pressure against stronger players we chock, turn over the ball, and get countered. I don’t want to park the bus.
Well first of all keep your patience even though it can be hard. Beyond that, if you are filming your games really try to breakdown why the goals on counters are happening. Are to many numbers going forward, is nobody recovering? Are you getting pressure on the ball? Are you tracking runs? How is the line that your back is holding? It’s hard doing things the right way and not just relying on athleticism, but it’s the best way long term. You just have to look into depth at why these things are happening, these other teams are taking shortcuts, and it might be frustrating now but down the road they will suffer for stealing results while playing bad soccer when they were younger. Trust me, I know. I won tons of shit when I was a little kid, the older I got, the less I won.
Dr Loco says
Our age group is U11. I know our players limitations and they get exposed against stronger teams. I have made huge progress in 1 year but it’s still not enough. Gary and others tell me it’s possible so I keep pursuing excellence with these players. Ultimately I am completely responsible since I selected them and took on the challenge of training them.
Average to low ball/foot skills
Average to low intelligence
Average athletic skills
Average to low strength
Average to low mental speed
Average to low pure speed
Average to low shooting
Average decision making
Even with all these areas of weakness we still manage to compete with 80% of teams. In the past 2 years we have played something like 80 different teams and perhaps only 1-2 teams come close to playing our style. It is so fun to watch but the wins don’t come as easy. We mainly lose because the other teams have strong shooters or we get pressured and foolishly pass to the opponent and get countered with speed.
I know Gary is too busy but I would like to hear more from youth coaches who have experienced raising the level of average players. Most teams we play against have “pro” coaches with impressive rosters recruited to win.
How do I radically improve my players’ qualities?
I believe the solution is technical/physical and not tactical but don’t know for sure because I lack experience.
At U11, you need to worry about technical and tactical. Physical will come with age and maturity. Instead of waiting on Gary / Brian, just blaze your own path (as you seem to be doing). You seem to be on upward trend with recent successes. Just keep doing what you’re doing and taking your own initiative. If you already build from back, play attacking posession — you are already on right track. I think you spin wheels waiting for Gary / Brian or anyone else to show you the way.
Dr Loco says
Kana, thanks. I do need a mentor because I want a more direct path to the gold standard. I just can’t be aimlessly training along like everyone else. I believe my methods are not traditional and 99% different from anyone in my area. Only time will tell if I’m better than the establishment.
It is absolutely possible to take a team full of sub-par players playing route-1 jungleball to a team that at least attempts to play possession-based soccer and find some success with it. I moved to a small area and got pulled in to help coach a U10 pre-club team (basically just elite rec) that happened to have the association president’s son on it. We had the bottom of the barrel kids for the 4 teams. We lost every game the first half of the season but teaching them to basic proper technique and just simple 1-2 wall passes paid off at the end when we were passing around other teams and ended up just one point shy of third. They asked me to take over the BU14 club team.
The kids I inherited for BU14 had never won a single game in 3 years despite being full of good athletes and taught the “try hard, run fast” jungleball style. I took over and started instilling the value of possession and actually taught them how to properly pass and receive the ball (some were still toe-punting everything prior). We ended up 3-3-4 that first season, first games these kids had ever won. This fall, half those kids moved up to the high school and half stayed with me. Of those that moved to high school, six of seven made varsity as freshman and their coaches thanked me for giving them smart players.
The half I kept were joined by another group full of athletes-but-not-soccer players who had no tactical awareness and low technical skill. We ended up going undefeated and winning our league by playing possession soccer. The boys I had in the spring were completely bought in to my style and so the new group did as well. My area doesn’t have the population base to ever have enough talent to play true possession soccer as we have to combine U13 and U14 just to field a squad. However, getting the talented players to stop trying to dribble through everyone and getting the less-talented players to just play simple passes to feet (instead of kicking it as far as they can) has been completely successful in just one spring and one fall season. We will never be as good as Barcelona USA, but we beat the “elite” teams from cities with 10-20 times the population-base by playing quality soccer despite other teams being bigger, faster, and stronger than us.
Dr loco- you’ll probably see improvement over the most of those categories if you focus on 2 of them: Speed and strength. I suggest you mix into your practices: sets of 25 sit-ups and run sprinting drills like relay races. Most kids that age haven’t had any coaching of sprinting technique or done regular fitness exercises. If you could add that to all your practices over a season you will see stronger faster players. And if possible- add an outdoor futsal practice so you have 3 practices a week. You can make it “optional” but let it be known you are selecting players for a futsal team…just some ideas I have used with that age group.
Dr Loco says
Interesting. I need to rethink my training. We are not ready for 3 practices/week at the moment.
Average to low ball/foot skills
Average to low intelligence
Average athletic skills
Average to low strength
Average to low mental speed
Average to low pure speed
Average to low shooting
Average decision making
How do I improve these areas? Is fitness the solution? I must investigate further.
Not until after the players reach age 16 is there fitness training.
12. Running (ie physical fitness) should absolutely be incorporated (in the US landscape) at the early ages. Not for reasons of ‘fitness‘ or ‘winning‘, but rather the development of mental fortitude.
Perhaps I have been misunderstanding American players.
Tell me more.
Dr. Loco — Indoor futsal i’ve found to be quick way to build touch and quickness of thought. Do that once or twice a week during winter months. Works wonders, I promise. Find a school gym or YMCA. Windsprints builds quickness, especially windsprints uphill. Also works on stamina. I’m not a fan of physical strength at young ages before puberty. Teach proper positioning and using your body to defend. If an opponent is big but has poor ball skills, a smaller player can force a bad touch. Barcelona does this very thing. If a player is slow, then teach him to read the game and react quicker. Build their strenghts and not try to make every kid big and strong just to compete with other big and strong kids. If we focus on proper way to play at younger ages, they will be much better as they enter puberty and beyond when natural physical maturity and strenght will complement their smart play.
What age Dr. Loco? Up to about U13, smaller kids are intimidated by bigger, faster, stronger types. At U14 and above, if players still “choking”, I’d be very concerned if it was due to fear. Hopefully not. Could be as simple as not used to the high pressure. If so, keep doing what you’re doing and they should get used to higher pressure with bigger stronger types. Worst thing to do is throw in the towel. If your team plays as you say, it will pay off and you’re developing a better brand and eye s/b on how they are when they are 18 and opening doors in college, not what they win at U14, U15 or whatever the age.
pg 19 says
Making a few assumptions.
Going to assume its just a handful of players, possibly two or just one player that are the speedsters, playing up top for the opponent. The team has figured out how to play into their own strengths by launching the ball forward quickly, without much thought for the breakaways. Without a thought is a misrepresentation as it is intential and the quicker they can do this (without thought), the more likely they can catch an opponent off guard or even to where their speed advantage can be used.
Key is to take away the advantage. Does your team, upon loss of possession, have a moment of delay before recognizing the transition from attack to defense? Can that be shortened through training? Your center back, are they good at commanding? Can they hold a line against the opponent working a trap? If not, is your center back fast and or quick? If non of these fit your defense, then you need someone that has decent speed but can read the clues of that moment of trasition and pick up clues as to the long ball being played.
This player will need to recognize when the long ball is going to be played. What are the clues? Typically the opponent about to kick the long ball has space (little to no pressure), will check for the space on the field to kick to, then they will put their head down and they will draw their leg for the big kick. There is a one second to a second and a half wind up for a 30+ yard kick. Your center back needs to recognize these clues then make the retreating run to take away the long ball advantage before it is kicked. They also have to recognize the clues as to where the ball is going to be kicked judging by the body anglle of the opponent kicker and where they may have looked up before putting their head down to launch into the ball. You are giving up space by compromising the offisides line, but your player will have position relative to the ball and the opponent player making the run onto the launched ball. If this player can read the clues of a long ball, he also should have the ability to know how to ride the shoulder of the opponent and force him wide of goal, but still encourage the opponent to dribble, to which he’ll be slower than your other fullbacks making a recovery run centrally. The key is to avoid making an open field tackle against an opponent that may be faster than you. Better to maintain position and angle to the ball protecting goal (goal side) than to risk winning the balll (outcome either win or lose, you want win or win).
Finally, when the ball is recovered I would dangle it a bit in front of the opponent player that just made the big run and failed. Toy with them a little with your team’s superior possession abilities. Make them the monkey in the middle. I’ve tried that on two occassions and in both, succeeded in making that player puke. We didn’t win those games, primarily because I didn’t recognize the clues on how to get the ball into the opponent half of the field or trust that my team was ready to be offensive against a team that was supposed to be significantly better than us in speed, size and aggression.
Did the kid really puke? No fibbing on this blog!
pg 19 says
She did and I made sure to point her out to my bench who was yet to get into the game. From that point on we looked for this to occur on the sideline. The second person dry heaved, but I still counted it.
pg 19 says
Just a follow up: To date we have played two opponents to which a player from the opponents’ team had to be carted off the field due to exhaustion, hyper ventilation (carted might have been an exaggeration, but definitely play was stopped as if it were an injury).
We are starting to really get into the swing of full possession soccer. I think the disconnect right now is in our scoring as often we are rushing our shots or trying to force a shot through a goal keeper versus the dish off to an open player to far post (aka German NT, Bayern). We are off to the best start of our program’s history beating teams we’ve never beaten before.
Last night’s game we almost exceeded the 500 passing attempts mark with a 78% conversion rate. In looking at stats a high game for Barcelona is just above 800; do not know what their success rate is. Will have to observe their next game. Our goal is 1000 just to see if it can be done in a Varsity match. At 480 players of our opponents are dropping.
There is also another thing to note. Last night’s game for us was tied 1 all and we went into golden goal OT. Our possession was remarkable in spite of playing on a highly crowned “football” field to which we had to fight gravity near the touch lines and a variance in the density of vegetation as the grass was 3 inches taller and thicker along the sides making havoc to the pace of our passing and our runs off the ball. As the first OT was nearing an end, it was obvious the opponent was starting to choose to block passing lanes versus pressuring the ball. Our “10” was encouraged to keep dribbling which started just shy of the midline. She dashed through 3 defenders, to which the 3 defenders collided with each other. She then drifted right all the way left to out flank two other defenders. She reached the end line then dashed towards the goal, the keeper in position to block an impossible angled shot. The ball was struck low, driven and knuckled its way through everything for the game winner.
Without the possession element of our game, that “Messi-esque” play would not have been possible. The opponent was conditioned to stop the pass forgetting the most fundamental of rule of soccer; the player with the ball is what you must prevent from advancing. As the opponent was physically more exhausted than us and we relatively “fresh” we could make the run of approximately 80 yards to goal, zig zagging up the field. Timing was critical as the OT period was nearing an end, there was not much risk in making that attempt as the opponent struggled to connect more than two passes in a row. In addition, had we ignored the fundamentals of establishing good 1v1 technique a couple of years ago, there would have been no skill to go at pace with the ball against our opponent picking them off one by one for the win. I’m a big believer in order to have a good possession game, the team collectively has to have superior 1v1 skills compared to their opponent. You must be superior to your opponent in 1v1’s before you can be at 2v2’s all the way up to 11v11’s. Possession individually and as a team is critical to play Tiki Taka soccer. Obviously I have a ton to learn but those are my two cents regarding what I’ve learned so far.
This is a perfect example of a kid with some skill and abiltiy but playing against “crap” and with ” crap” and most likey coached by “crap”. This is the slowest soccer I’ve ever seen at this age group. Is it the YMCA league. Why is everyone walking? Why is the grass so high? It so hard to watch because it’s sooooo slowwww. My concern is he’ll be absolutely shell shocked when he finally plays with and agaist equal quality kids his own age. Again, it appears the kid has ability but its in slow motion. WIll he be able to play at speed? Not unless he’s exposed to it, and soon. He wasn’t playing against even 1 kid with defensive understanding let alone a team full of kids understanding press and cover. Good luck and next time start making video’s with him playing against other soccer players. I noticed a kid in the futsal vid wearing basketball hightops.
Not YMCA. Misc. footage some from ODP. Some from pre-academy.
The FC Delco team didn’t look all that sharp. If you just watch him it looks great, but once you notice how bad the opposing players are… makes it less impressive. Horrible defenders.
You’re right a lot of “better” teams had defenders that started to lunge and flail when he did his thing. It does have to do with what he does contrary to what you might think. His game is 90% mental.
I’m not questioning his skill just the level of his opponents.
Is There A Difference Between MLS and Club Academies?
Didn’t know where else to put this rant and since it starts with a Hugo Perez quote from Jacques Pelham’s interview of him for the Football Garden podcast, I thought I would put it hear since there has been a lot of talk about the U14’s and Perez. Check out these comments by Perez:
The biggest thing we need to improve here in our country is coaching education. Without that we can’t help our kids. The talent is here. No doubt about that. At the younger ages it is. The issue becomes that the coaches who are working with those kids daily, do they see the football that those players can probably play one day, or are they restraining from doing that because they want to get results? This is what I think is difficult here in America because it is a country that is more keen on results in tournaments which help coaches get paid better and attract more kids to their clubs. I would say we are failing in the sense of really concentrating more on the development of a talented player or talented players that you have in a club and that’s what’s been hurting us for years.
– Hugo Perez, U-14 Boys National Team Head Coach (Stated in an interview by Jacques Pelham, Football Garden Podcast, Aired December 14, 2012, at 36:55)
I agree with Coach Perez that the biggest problem in American youth soccer is the overemphasis on winning (most of what youth coaches do to produce winning teams – and it’s not rocket science – is detrimental to individual development). Coaching education, while a part of the solution, will not solve the problem.
Let’s not put all the blame on the coaches and clubs. With a few exceptions, I’m confident that most coaches I personally know here in my area (Central Ohio) would do things differently if it weren’t for the pressure to win that comes in tsunami-sized waves from the customers (a.k.a. parents). For the good of the players, however, thoughtful and hardworking coaches and clubs should invest significantly in “parent education.”
To me, this simply means giving parents two things that most don’t have due to lack of a soccer background: (1) A genuine understanding of how to evaluate their child’s individual developmental progress in ways other than team success, and (2) A set of very high and long-term goals by providing a vision of their child’s future in the game that extends beyond this season’s team standings and culminates years (like a decade) down the road with their child ultimately making it to the very highest level.
If parents truly buy-in on these two points, they can reach the right conclusion (I’ve seen it work), and free up coaches and clubs to do things the right way. A well educated, thoughtful parent isn’t going to ask how many U-15 or under State Cup winning teams a club or coach has produced. He or she is going to ask how many players from the club have gone on to play division I, or professionally, or for his or her country in international play.
How is your club doing in that department? Does it even have mission statement that includes the aspiration of producing players capable of reaching that high? If not, why? Maybe it’s because it is trying to run a successful business and knows its customers aren’t capable of that kind of delayed gratification.
Let’s not forfeit our kids’ chances to reach their true long-term individual potential by forcing our youth coaches to care too much about producing winning teams.
Gary Kleiban says
We have to be really careful.
The presumed direct causal relationship:
pressure to win => reason for non-elite development
is severely flawed.
I certainly like your points on parent education.
I knew you, or someone would say that. And your right, the causal link is illogical in certain limited circumstances. It is only flawed if the pressure to win does not cause coaches to select the biggest, fastest, strongest players and then play U9 jungle ball. High pressure to win, ASSUMING that a coach will teach a team to win in the context of a possession oriented, tactically choreographed system, clearly would help elite player development. You do realize, though, that you guys are the exception. In my community, pressure to win = jungle ball because especially at the younger age groups it works if you have the athletes to do it. I think that is what coach Perez was saying. It’s the norm. You are not, unfortunately.
biggest, fastest, strongest …
Don’t forget late birthday kids which may the most profound effect on winning and perversely the least to do with any outcome in the long term quality of the player or club (good, bad, postional advantage… nothing!). What a cruel joke to put these kids on the pedestal at the formative U9-U12 years and then, boom, pull the rug out from under them when their 6 month advantage means less and less. In the meantime, think about all of those early birthday kids who come from soccer families, love soccer and had their confidence shaken at U9 and 10 while they warmed the bench with the shorter mediteranean spawned kids… the kids who do not do any sport other than soccer… AKA NOT the biggest, fastest, strongest…. there’s you soccer future there USA… sitting on the bench… while on the field are those that will likely despise the game more each day as quality in the eyes of the coaches, parents and peers becomes more elusive to them. Some will rise; i.e Donovan, Dempsey. Vast majority will fail. None will feel fulfilled.
Your assumption is flawed: pressure to win= select big players= jungle ball. Our team is one of the most succesful teams ever in our state, multiple time state champs. We NEVER selected based on size and were usually one of the smaaler teams but we almost always beat bigger more physical jungle ball teams because we possessed the ball and scored. A highly skilled small team can normally beat a bkg unskilled team. If they are not than they are in reality a small unskiilrd team being coached by someone who only thinks they are skilled and doesnt knoew the difference
Curious Larry says
^This is one of the harshest slap downs that I’ve seen on this Blog! You’re good .. real good 🙂
Curious Larry, I’m a little slow on the uptake, so forgive the question: that was sarcastic, right?
Curious Larry says
it was trying to be funny (being facetious with a mix of sarcasm). I hope this helps! 🙂
Gary Kleiban says
We need less of that here, and more serious discussion.
This site will not turn into that pile of shit like others.
Curious Larry says
Hi Gary (& Hincha),
I’m sorry but I felt it was a good time for us to laugh at ourselves instead of trying to bridge two diametrically opposed view points.
Yes. I’m guilty for throwing up my arms i.e., using humor in an attempt to diffuse a situation before feelings were hurt.
Have a nice week end.
Larry .. still curious 😉
Dr Loco says
What kind of training program would you recommend to improve unskilled players/team?
Most coaches I know just recruit skill not develop it.
NOVA Mike says
“A highly skilled small team can normally beat a bkg unskilled team. If they are not than they are in reality a small unskiilrd team being coached by someone who only thinks they are skilled and doesnt knoew the difference.”
That is a great point Hincha. I think a lot of coaches using the “winning vs development” false dichotomy as an excuse for consistently poor performances are really hiding from that fact – the bottom line is that they and their players simply aren’t good enough.
Pressure to win + coaches who don’t know what they are doing — > select big/strong –> jungle ball & short term success but long term dead end for both team and players.
Pressure to win + good coaches –> select skilled smart players –> intelligent possession soccer & winning teams in both the short and long run.
One of the most important things I’ve learned from this blog is to put excuses and really focus on improving my coaching – part of which means accepting responsibility for the team’s performances. I’ve told my U8 parents that if the team us not not playing dominant possession soccer and winning most of their games by Spring of U10 season then I will consider myself a failure and step aside. I have no intention of failing so the self-imposed ultimatum provides daily motivation to make sure I am doing absolutely everything I can to develop the players to achieve that goal. It would be a lot easier to say “we aren’t worried about results b/c we are just focused on development,” but in reality that’s nothing more than a cop out.
I have no doubt you will be a successful coach. Striving to improve yourself everyday, learning from mistakes (which are normal for any coach to make as any player- so cut yourself some slack), and reaching out for sources of information, and putting in the time (10,000 hours to become a master coach just like any other skill) are critical to become good at anything, including coaching, so don’t give up after 2-3 years.
You are exactly right about the supposed false dichotomy between winning vs.development = winning vs. playing possession soccer. If big and strong beats small but skillled and smart, how come the U.S. doesn’t win at the senior level? Real skill and soccer smarts have been shown at every level to consistently beat big and strong, yet people make the excuse somehow that at the youngest ages in the U.S., somehow that it does not apply. Of course it still applies.
For me as a coach, development vs. winning applies more is at the micro level than the macro level. Do I switch players to different positions where they are not as naturally comfortable or pigeonhole them into the position that seems to fit them more naturally at the time (as Barca mostly does). In a close game, how do I sub certain players which may give me an advantage in the particular game, but give some players a little less time in that particular game. Forcing players to practice their weaknesses during a game (and accept that they might make some errors while working through the process). Individual development vs. team development (not necessarily the same thing all the time). The answers sound easy from a couch but become much more difficult and nuanced when you are coaching (especially in a prestigious tournament).
NOVA Mike says
Thanks Hincha. I’ve been at it for 10 yrs now and there were already many lessons learned, but it’s a never-ending process. I have no intention of giving up in the next 2-3 years. I actually think we will hit that goal by the Fall of U9 with our A team, Spring of U9 with our B team, so giving myself until Spring of U10 was kind of being conservative.
You are spot on in identifying the really difficult decisions faced by a coach who is committed to playing the right way, not willing to use the “we’re-focused-on-development-instead-of-winning” excuse for poor (coaching) performance, but is ultimately focused on long-term development. The dilemma is not whether to resort to kick and chase but do I keep kids in positions which play to their strengths or move them around a bit more to challenge them, work on weaknesses, help them develop a more complete understanding of the game, …? Do I keep my stars in all the time or try to balance playing time to give everyone a chance to develop?
A couple of ways I’ve tried to address these issues:
1) Keep rosters small. B/c the bottom line is that kids want to play and parents want to watch them play. No one is happy sitting on the bench. We are a small club without a large marketing budget in a very competitive market, so we are not going to be able constantly draw significant numbers of good players from other clubs. Player retention is critical for us.
2) Differentiate b/n regular season league games, and tournaments. Our travel league (NCSL in DC metro area) helps by not keeping standings b/f U11. So for league games for the 1st couple of years I have said we will rotate positions and try to keep playing time within the 35-45 min range (out of 60). For tournaments though, I’ve made it clear that we will be playing to win. That means players will be asked to play where the coach thinks they will best help the team, and playing time will not be as close to equal as during the season.
The winning vs development debate cropping up here kind of seems like a hi-jack of the original post topic – matters of circumstance — but it actually isn’t. Team performance — getting into and then doing well in prestigious tournaments, — is a critical “circumstance that matters” in terms of which players get an opportunity and which ones don’t. It’s not about winning for the sake of padding your resume or fluffing your ego, it’s about getting your players seen. Scouts don’t show up to watch the consolation game of the bronze division in a low-level tournament, they watch the championship game of the premier division. As coaches I believe we owe it to our top players to give them the opportunity to showcase their talents on as big a stage as we can hoist them onto. For the most part those players have put in double or triple the amount of work as some of their teammates, and at some point is only fair that all that hard work gets rewarded.
I’m particularly more interested in finding coaches that can produce players that can leave their teams to move on to bigger and better teams (e.g. pro farm team, national team, etc.) instead of coaches a a long list of trophy collections.
I think there is a huge misconception about development when people say that adopting development over winning is a cop out for poor coaching.
In all honestly, aside from the National Premier League (US Club Soccer), there is no tru structured league that comes close to mirrowing true competitive leagues in Europe and elsewhere. Even the NPL is behind, but at least they are making the effort to move towards a more comprehensive struture.
For example, in Catalonia there is one league where there are several division (1st, 2nd, 3r..) all top teams play in the same league and compete for 1st, but more importantly, they play to keep their team in the dividion in which they compete. This is a better structure to teach kids about being competitive. I know some local league in the US have so call “1st and 2nd division” but there are structured like in Europe.
I think developing players that can move onto a top farm team, pro team or national team is a bettter indicator of good coaching than a bunch of medals from an adhoc soccer system.
Dr Loco says
I’m starting to believe that 99.9999% of coaches do not know how to develop world-class players. In order to believe someone they actually have to do it.
“As coach of the University of North Carolina women’s soccer team, Anson Dorrance has won more than 90 percent of his games, groomed far more All-Americans, and captured more NCAA championships than any other coach in the sport ten times over”
Yet ask Anson Dorrance and he might tell you that the UNC team that won the NCAA was his worst ever. What is he developing?
Don’t get me wrong, I like winning. But as someone who tried out for the olympics 3xs, competed at the world level many times in my own sport, I know I was able to win WHEN IT TRULY MATTERED thanks greatly to coaches that taught me that competitions many times was for learning so I could win when it was important to win. Without values ther is no progress
CSO et al,
I think the whole winning hungry attitude is a vicious cycle promoted by teams, and nurtured by parents.
for Example, I have worked with a small soccer school in Las Vegas, NV since it’s establishment in 2008. Since the beggining, they adopted the motto “Education, Development and Values Through Sport.” http://www.universalfc.com/ They were ridiculed my many “big” clubs in the area whose whole message in their Websites and other marketing material was “we win” “where champions are made” and so on. This was the only soccer school that made a point of putting development before winning in the area. Consequently, they have produced players now playing in academies including Chivas USA, DC United, and in Europe; as well as ODP players who have been part of Region VI champion teams. I think a key to their success has been parent education. They really make a point to say that regardless of the game results, the important thing is development. There have been times when their teams have finished their season undefeated. And, instead of making a big deal about it, they tell parents something is wrong if you are always winning and that the level in Las Vegas is not big enouhg to serve as an indicator of success. They also began researching MLS academies that truly teach development. Even with academies in Europe, they colaborate only with academies that promote development.
It’s funny how the “big” teams in the area started using the words :academy” “development”, etc. only after it became a new marketing trend. Yet they continue to care only about winning as shown in this local article http://vegasseven.com/latest/2012/06/07/soccertown-usa
Clubs have to condition parents to understand the value of development. While other clubs that compete with Universal continue to push the win, win, win, attitude as the key to a future in soccer; paying frachise fees to MLS clubs to attrack naive parents thinking that’s going to get ther kids in a pro team, this little school continues to develop players and shipping them away to larger teams. Soon they will have a 6 year old going to Barcelona in a trial with RCD Espanyol…
kids playing in Europe, and MLS academies without having a huge franchise and a “winning attitude”…yes, it is possible but it need to be part of a club’s strategic plan and core values. Check out this radio interview in Las Vegas NPR about soccer…Interesting http://www.knpr.org/son/archive/detail2.cfm?SegmentID=7027&ProgramID=1994
Very helpfully EdFoot. While I completely understand (and agree) with the points made by most of those who “pushed back” in response to my original post, it is good to hear that there is someone “in the room” who appears to understand where I’m coming from. Looking forward to checking out the stuff you link to.
Gary, after looking at what coach Perez says, it was exactly the causal link you warned against: pressure to win ==> lack of elite development. Obviously, what a coach does with that pressure to win can be bad or good. My entire point is that most of the coaches I have personally observed believe (right or wrong) that jungle ball is the surest path to winning, so that’s what the pressure to win produces: jungle ball. Can you explain your objections a little more? As usual when you comment I’m left feeling like you’re holding out, that there is something you have to say but aren’t saying it. So out with it man!
Curious Larry: no need to make attempts to diffuse elevated emotions. If we don’t get elevated emotions about this stuff, then we don’t care enough. I for one appreciate that my ideas expressed here are going to rigorously examined and “publicly” disected. I have been following the blog for only a short few months and my mind has been changed is some significant ways. In large part, I post my beliefs here to test them.
Gary Kleiban says
“My entire point is that most of the coaches I have personally observed believe (right or wrong) that jungle ball is the surest path to winning, so that’s what the pressure to win produces: jungle ball. Can you explain your objections a little more?”
Several things for now:
1) I am going to reduce my participation in discussing topics outside the premise of the main article.
2) Observing coaches does not mean you know what coach’s ‘believe’. Neither does speaking to them. Not even reading 200+ articles they’ve written (again, this site is a pitiful representation of what we do & what we believe).
3) How do you KNOW if relaxing the pressure to win would lead to elite level development?
Of course I am ‘holding out’ on most responses.
A enormous part of football is philosophical. That is, the ‘answers’ aren’t simple one-liners or deduced with these superficial logic trails. It would be a terrible injustice to what I know for me to respond like that. I would feel disgusted with myself, particularly when it’s not the topic of the main post.. Teaching philosophy is difficult.
Most people have been conditioned to the back and forth one-lines. You have your worldview, I have mine, and we proceed to throw our tired little logic at each other. That’s no way to teach.
And all I want to communicate for now in regards to this ‘winning vs development’, is that it’s conjecture. And sadly, most people aren’t looking for real soccer solutions for the development of the elite player. Most are looking for explanations that make them feel better about their current situation.
Thanks for responding Gary. I will look for, (or wait for) a more appropriate article to respond, ask some questions that come to mind and otherwise flesh out some of these issues. Sorry to be off topic.
Dr Loco says
“Most are looking for explanations that make them feel better about their current situation.”
So true. We want solutions to our curent problems. They really have nothing to do with development of the elite player. We have yet to define ‘elite’. Few if any coaches will ever see an elite player especially since we don’t know what to look for. From a coaching stand point if we don’t know what the purpose is it doesn’t matter what we do.
Here is a scale that could work to define an elite player. It is not self serving and it involves development over winning:
Rec Player- self evident
Local Player: currently playing in a local or state league
State Player: Currently part of his state’s ODP team, id2 pool in his state
Regional Player: Currently part of his Regions ODP pool or id2 Regional pool
National Player: currently competing at the National Premier League (whatever region) in a U.S. Development Academy or Pre-academy Team; or currently part of a National Team pool/national camp
International player- currently playing in an international farm team/academy outside the U.S. (example: Catalonia Federation 1st division)
Elite Player: Currenty playing in a profesional league (i.e. getting paid); or an amateur player representing the U.S. at an international event sacntioned by FIFA
NOVA Mike says
Check out these threads for more discussion on what constitutes an “elite player.”
Something I read once but can’t ever seem to find again, is a quote from Jose Antonio Iniesta to his son when Andres was a boy: “Learn to never lose the ball, and you might find yourself playing for Barcelona one day.”
Dr Loco says
NOVA Mike, thanks for taking us back…way back.
I’m a new reader and coach and can’t tell you how grateful I am to discover this forum and what I’ve seen/read that you and your brother are doing for soccer in this country!
Regarding Matters of Circumstance, I’m curious what you think about this. I’ve recently discovered that there are u13 and below kids in the U.S. that are developing skills and understanding the game at a much higher lever than I ever remember growing up. One thing I’ve also recently heard even from coaches who have trained some of these kids is that they aspire to give the kids a shot at college scholarships. Not that this is bad, but do you have an opinion on whether or not the future talent in the U.S. will be stifled if players are more conditioned to see college as the end game and not the professional leagues (namely Europe)? Hope this fits into the topic of the discussion.
Dr Loco says
Good stuff. We play in both Ligas Americanas and Ligas Mexicanas. Why is it necessary to play in organized, expensive leagues?
If clubs and coaches were honest to parents the majority of players would choose other options
I guess a better logical depiction than the one you derived from my post would be this
pressure to win ==> jungle ball ==> reason for non-elite development.
I made a comment which is ” is awaiting moderation”
I hope you like it, if it ever gets published
Of course you need to have the right priorities depending on the circumstances and moment but pressure to (or just plain playing to) win as an impediment to playing the right way is one of the biggest red herrings in the business…in a snap it goes from “they are too young to be taking things too seriously, let’s just have fun” to “now it’s too late, their fundamentals are so poor, we just can’t play that way”…and voila the recipe for mediocrity is served!! …a popular alternative is “we are losing because we are playing the right way”…isn’t all this a dandy way to “explain” so much?
How can we separate the wheat from the chaff? We have to look at the product on the field…meaning we need an educated base…yes I wish it was easier, but that why we are here 🙂
I like the “winning is for the team, development for individual” mindset. As well as the “our goal is development but we always try to win by playing the right way” mentality. And finally, “you can’t separate winning from development, they aren’t mutually exculsive.”
I think the catch is to not 100% favor big and strong (if you’re talking youngers) and skinny Johnny on the bench in important games. Skinny Johnny, slow Paul, or weak Pablo SHOULD get onto the pitch in “important” games (and how many games are truly “important at U18 and under . . . i mean really?). Even if it’s for 15-20 minutes, they should get the chance to make mistakes and pressure of high level competition. That will make them better won’t it? Certainly sitting them on the bench entrie game won’t build confidence or impart learning. Ideal world. But fact of matter is most coaches don’t think like that, at least teams my son has played for.
And I’m not a fan of 50/50 play time. That’s for rec. Kids needs to work towards getting better and not handed play time.
This is painful. Matter of circumstance… you live in PA and never learn how to play the game the right way. This is painful to watch. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9l9EZVMJtT0
Dr Loco says
Such gangsta tracks for suburbia.
We will be posting the games for the BBVA FUTBOL 7 AVELIN INTERNATIONAL TOURNAMENT.
This is a great opportunity to witness the best up and coming player in the world (U10/U11).
Thursday Dec 27- Saturday Dec 29
Grupo A: Real Madrid, Espanyol, Juventus y Liverpool
Grupo B: Atlético de Madrid, Sevilla, Málaga y Borussia Dortmund
Grupo C: Barcelona, Valencia, PSG y Betis
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Young player from Las Vegas, Nevada invited to trial with RCD Espanyol de Barcelona Academy Team, 1st Division LFP Team in Barcelona, Spain.
This boys family need to raise fund to bring their kid for his 2 month trail at RCD Espanyol Academy. Please help him out! The more American players we can get to Spain, the better 🙂
Sounds like a money making publicity ployt to me. OXSportsMarketing?
OX Sports Manages players.
We are simply trying to help this kid get to Barcelona for his trial.
Like this particular blog talks circumstances,
It appeared appropriate to mention it here.
People keep on talking about American kids playing Europe, how money should not impede kids from getting a chance if they have the talent, and so on; We figures this would give some people an opportunity to support someone who actually has a chance. We’ve done it for kids from Brazil too.
Anyway, the information about OxSport is on line should you ever want to review it before making a statement about the company in the future.
Good luck with your players. I hope that if any of them ever show talent, they can have people around them to help them get as far as they can.
Here we go again talking abouut 8 & 9 year olds. This kid was born in 2005 so he’s probably 8. If he makes a team is the family moving over there? If not then he’s raising money for a family vacation which is honestly difficult to support. How much talent can a kid demonstrate at 8? The greatest player in the world was signed at 13, not 8. I don’t mind the parents doing this but asking for money is not appropriate. How was this kid spotted? How was he given a trial or tryout? This doesn’t add up. Press release looks like all hype for marketing company. Sounds like you got this kid a week to train with the club but besides that it’s just good marketing, nothing more.
Tim et al,
If the kid passes the the trial, the parents would have to move there.
We did not get this kid a week trial. A week would not be long enough for a serious trial.
This kids was “spotted” through tapes and live evaluations (a common practice).
There are several youth players represented by OXSport currently playing in Spain. Some families need help, some are able to manage on their own. This is the first time we are trying to help a player in the US with fundraising.
It is interesting that many people in this blog celebrate families that move their kids to Europe to play for top academies (some as young as 8) and then critizice others for doing the same.
I don’t want to mention names because it would not be appropriate and I wouldn’t want to get into how I know this. But many of the top youth foreign players in Barcelona (the provice) had to do some fundraising to spend a moth (or more) in Barcelona for their young kids to be undergo trials. I know the case has been the same for other foreign players in other European countries.
Many people have had to find ways to raise funds to finance their kids training tours, and summer camps. While OxSports provides these type of events for lower level players (training tours, etc), this is not the case.
Great point regarding celebrating some while critizicing others. I guess I find the age of 8 young for a trip like this. I wouldn’t question a 12 year old for the same reach. It appears to be a significant sacrifice for the family and I applaud that and also have no problem with fund raising. I just think 8 is young for a trip like this. Not sure of the impact.
Taking the chance for an 8 year old is not the right thing for everybody.
I usually advise parents to wait till 12 or 13 to make the move. And, only after going to train with a team that would give a player the chance to participate in 1-2 pre seasons -preseason is usually a month long and they don’t need to be registered with the team to participate. That way they know what they are getting themselves into, adjust to the languages, etc.
But for some kids, it is worth the while -very few-
After a little digging on the net, this seems to justify my last comments. It appears to me that Oriol Olivé Duñach, who is inferred to be the main scouting director of the Espanol, is in reality affiliated with a program that different than the club’s main academy, much like FCBEscola is different from La Masia in Barcelona (FCBEscola is run by the marketing arm of the club while La Masia is run by Sporting Director and the team’s professional coaching staff tied to the first team). It appears to me that Olive Dunach runs a program that is more part of a marketing arm of the club that makes money for the club offering training sessions for players and teams from overseas. EDFOOT, for the purpose of clarification and transparency can you tell me where Oriol Oive Dunach and this program falls under Espanol’s heirarchy? Is he part of Espanol’s professional youth academy (the equivalent of Barcelona’s La Masia) or an adjunct program?
Espanyol Stage runs international programs: the academy, which is aim is more for brand expansion (eg. international schools in other countries); Escola summer programs, whic runs similarly to the Barca Escola (as Hincha has stated, more of a money making stream for the club), and international trial for players with level to go onto futbol base (what people in English call academy teams). Oriol is the person from who we get invitations for the futbol base trials. He also manages the other internatinla programs I mentioned.
I appreciate your interest in transparency. If you care to know, OX Sports currently represents 3 players currenly playing in the futbol base (the latest passed the draft trial this past summer).
I hope this puts things to rest, but if you are more interested in “got ya” cheap shots, I don’t think this will be exchanges will be productive.
Sorry, I was talking about RCDE Futbol Base. We also hav had other players in other Pro, 2-3 divison teams, and the equivalent of development academies.
Here is the latest kid that passed a trial: http://oglobo.globo.com/serra/um-talento-do-tipo-exportacao-5599009
Like I said in a prior post to someone else, we offer all three services: brand expansion; training tours at the Escola and the futbol base teams; and actual team trials for futbol base.
The kid in question is doing an actual trial.
What are the names of the three players that you currently represent that are currently playing in the Espanol futbol base and what age groups are they?
I sent you a link to one of them already, he’s a ’97 but is in the reserved team (not the Cadete).
I would lik eto put this to rest. I think I’ve been as transparent and patient as possible. I also think is funny that people with fake names are asking questions in the spirit of transparency.
Typical answer from a huckster, deflect questions about your own legitimacy by some stupid counterclaim (what fake name am I using other than what is normal on these blogs where no one uses their real name?) Why are you so defensive? Why won’t you answer the questions straight up? Are your players on Espanol’s Professional Academy (base) teams or not? Why can’t you just answer questions straight up? A sure sign of a scam artist.
Here’s how it works: you make money of these people who send their kids to these tryouts, mistakingly believing that they are being offered a tryout by Espanyol’s professional academy (base) when in fact, they are being evaluated by the Escuela, a whole separate program than the professional base.
No where in Espanyol’s professional academy (its base as opposed to its Escuela) is there mention of Oriol Olive. His only link seems to be with the Escuela and the Espanyol stage, both under the marketing arm of the club, not the academy (base).
All your answers above, equivocate, are not clear and clearly designed to mislead. Just be honest, and upfront on what you are about. I have no agenda here other than the truth. You are the one who made the original claims on this blog.
People have every reason to be wary of these claims after a boy in British Columbia raised money because he claimed he had been given a tryout with La Masia FC Barcelona when in fact, he was going to tryout with FCB Escuela.
Of course you are going to ignore this under the guise that you have answered these legitimate questions (which you have not).
Here are examples of your unclear answers:
“he’s a ’97 but is in the reserved team (not the Cadete).” What does this mean? Is he on Espanyol’s academy (base) team or not?
“Sorry, I was talking about RCDE Futbol Base”. What are you talking about the Escuela or the professional academy (the real base)?
Sorry, I assumed you knew more than I thought.
I’ll spell it out for you:
Cadete= Academy Team (futbol base)= what you wrongly call professional Academy team
Reserve team are players who play in division 2b or 1a Catalana.
In other words the real teams not the Escola.
I’m disappomited at your calling me a scam artist because you are simply not smart enough to understand what I’m telling you.
If you are dumb enough to ignore the link of the player and his name and still beating on the dead horse, there is no point on continuing talking to you.
Feel free to respond whatever you want. I’m won’t answer your your questions anymore to you. It doesn’t make sense.
Now I have no idea what the hell you are talking about some BC kid; and honestly I don’t care it has nothing to do with me.
Gary Kleiban says
The comment policy please:
I apologize for loosing my cool.
I enjoy exchanging post with people inetersted in learning and development. I will measure my words and address those who are commenting in the spirit of this blog.
You are a cule and I’m a perico, but I respect what you do here.
There are bad practices/apples everywhere. No fairy tales. A question of level/degree and system, culture:
Atletico Madrid won the tournament with Federico Arona child protagonists and Solomon
The triumph of the brothers Obama taunts and suspicions generated
“We removed 25 centimeters and 20 kilos each child … Brutal!”
José Pablo González, December 30, 2011 at 00:23 “The Obama want to dedicate the win to his family and children” The Obama brothers led to victory by Atletico Madrid in the 2011 season at the Madrid autonomous division of juvenile category. His meteoric progression is football, and a few months later at the XVI International Children Football Tournament held in July in Arona (Tenerife), returned to lead his team to success in the championship and Solomon filiales.Fede include, among children his age, not his exquisite technical game, or for his football intelligence, but by its powerful and larger bodies, more developed than usual in its category. Obama Guineans, midfielder and striker, are too much for any team rival.Sin But wasting his game and physical difference with the other players is such that the suspicions are constantly revolve around two young footballers Atletico Madrid.”
El Atlético de Madrid gana el torneo infantil de Arona con Federico y Salomón como protagonistas
El triunfo de los hermanos Obama genera burlas y suspicacias
“Les sacan 25 centímetros y 20 kilos a cada niño… ¡Brutales!”
José Pablo González, 30 de diciembre de 2011 a las 00:23 “Los Obama quieren dedicarle el triunfo a su familia e hijos”Los hermanos Obama llevaron al triunfo al Atlético de Madrid en la temporada 2011 en la madrileña división autonómica de categoría alevín. Su progresión futbolística es meteórica, y sólo unos meses después, en el XVI Torneo Internacional Infantil de Fútbol 7 celebrado en Arona (Tenerife), vuelven a llevar a su equipo al éxito en el campeonato de filiales.Fede y Salomón destacan, entre los niños de su edad, no por su exquisito juego técnico, ni por su inteligencia futbolística, sino por sus potentes y grandes cuerpos, más desarrollados que lo habitual en su categoría. Los guineanos Obama, mediocampista y delantero, son demasiado para cualquier equipo rival.Sin embargo, el derroche de su juego y la diferencia física con el resto de jugadores es tal, que las suspicacias no cesan de girar en torno a los dos jóvenes futbolistas del Atlético de Madrid.
Are you saying these kids are cheting and are not ’00 players?
I know there is “controversy” in Spain about this. Truth be told, if having big black kids in academy teams would be a practice of some bad apples, FC Barcelona and the Eto Foundation would be the one of the most rotten apples of them all 🙂
Look, just like in the states, there are people who will make up stories to justify their favorite team loosing. I think the obama twins and many other large African players in Spain are playing at that level because they indeed have level, not just size.
I agree with the idea that these kids should be playing up to benefit their development. But like in the US, many teams fall victims of their need to win all the time, which limits some kids development in the interest of winning. But Atletico MAdrid is hardly the only one that does this.
These questions have been around for decades…mostly involving African precocious phenomenon but not only:
Mexico Given Ban in Soccer
Mexico was banned from all international soccer competition today, including the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea.The Federation Internationale de Football Association, soccer’s world governing body, banned Mexico for two years because a Mexican junior team in a recent world championship qualifying tournament used four players who were over the age limit. The severe sanction byFIFA’s executive committee means Mexico is out of the soccer tournament at the Seoul Games, for which it had qualified, and is effectively disqualified from the 1990 World Cup. Mexico’s replacement in theOlympics and the 1990 World Cup qualifiers will be determined later, FIFA officials said. The Mexican under-20 junior squad was also disqualified from the junior world championship in Saudi Arabia next year. Mexico’s berth was awarded to the United States.The two-year ban is retroactive to April 25
How old is Fredie Adu? Really? Why haven’t we seen another young kid breakout on to the scene at 14 year olds, anywhere? My guess was Freddie was 17 and not 14. Still a wonderful player for a 17 year old but not the “pheonom and prodigy” he was held out to be. Just my opinion anyway.
terry malloy says
I disagree about Adu’s age. Back in ’03 I went to see the U.S. U17s scrimmage Mexico’s U17s in Lancaster, CA. Like many others I was curious about this “phenom” named Freddy. Oddly enough, they allowed spectators to stand right on the touch line, so in addition to seeing all the players at a short distance, I was actually no more than 5-10 feet away from Adu during several moments of the game. Beyond watching the game, and how Adu played, i was interested in his age, as much was written about him being older than his stated age (he was 13, about to turn 14). During warmups I not only observed Adu, but paid close attention when he stood near his teammates. What was striking was how different he was from his teammates. He not only was slighter in build, with less development in his musculature, his face was also much, much younger, with none of the characteristics of someone closing in on adulthood, as were all his teammates. The way he moved both on and off the field, were also characteristic of someone in the 13-14 age group. Unfortunately, I have no photos or videos to prove what I saw, but that game convinced me that Freddy Adu is his stated age. As for why he never became the “star” many thought he would become, that’s a whole different discussion.
I read this just after replying to an online comment about Ben Lederman that has everything to do with matters of circumstance. The original comment related to Ben’s recent training for the U14 USMNT. “You have to be kidding me. There are hundreds of kids like him, he made some mistakes on the field, and it didn’t matter if Ben was playing for the Barca Academy or the Harlem Academy. ” First, I watched the video and I doubt there are hundreds like him (although there are and hopefully will be some others) and despite any flaws I thought Ben did very well. More importantly, it does matter to me that he is playing for the Barca Academy and I think the original comment is entirely missing the forest through the trees. Ben may benefit from circumstances, but he is also paving the way for others in the USA maybe even ultimately a kid from the Harlem Academy. That benefits us all and it matters. Why can’t people set aside their inclination to be jealous for a moment and realize the power of what this kid is doing? Moreover, it cannot be understated that your effort has helped create the circumstance for this kid to go a long way and the platform will hopefully do the same for many others. Kudos. As for the hundreds, you have to start somewhere and start with one. I hope others can follow in time. I see one new player joined your U10 squad I want to keep an eye on. Knowing of you both independently, I thought he would be a really nice fit for you about a year ago and now it will be interesting to watch. Juan Pablo Angel’s (Colombian ex Aston Villa&NYRB striker) son is the most tenacious and talented little kid I have seen; 10X better than his dad. I had the pleasure of watching him a couple years ago before they moved to LA. Hopefully he has continued to develop (I’m guessing he has and will) because he could be a handful for the Barcelona Academy team this year. Good luck!
Chuck. What do you think of this kid?
Another big pet peeve (besides lack of focus on ball skill at younger ages) is player id. I would guess Ajax and La Masia would be closed to 80-90% objective in player id. There is always some element of subjectivity, an eye for talent based on experience. We need that human element.
We often hear people questioning how so and so made ODP or National Team pool. I do same. Maybe 20-40% of time. Why such variability? Some picks are downright jaw-dropping. Is it based on 80% subjectivity, little to no objectivity? Politics, old boy network, or just plain dumb scouts?
Ajax and La Masia have lengthy scouting and vetting process. I’d bet their national teams to as well. Have to meet fairly stringent objective technical criteria. Have to show tactical understanding. Must have physiological / mental capacity. Meet physical characteristics. Must fit into system and type of playing style fore given position.
Who makes it and who doesn’t is largely a case of subjective circumstance. How do we move towards a more objective situation like Ajax for example? How effective is ODP or USMNT scouting? Can it be improved?
Player id is a topic I think worthy of a post by Gary. Player id is like the raw material of a product. Get it wrong, and end product is of less value.
Besides better coaching, I’m convinced player id for elite levels is an easy way to improve success at highest levels without upsetting the apple cart too much. I also think clubs/teams need to be more selective, but this gets into cash flow. Thorny issue! Improving coaching, longer league seasons, pro-centric youth development, moving away from pay to play, revamping college are all significant challenges fraught with politics and deep rooted interest.
I definitely appreciate the importance of player ID much more than before I started reading this blog. If you don’t pick the players that can perform the roles you need your style will not be successful. Similarly when projecting players for the future and whether they can learn/adapt to playing the way you want.
From my experience at state and region ODP levels, there are two main flaws – lack of game model/philosophy and poor ability to evaluate talent. When there is no direction at all throughout the age groups in terms of how the teams should play it’s hard to pick the right players. You can’t find what you aren’t looking for. When there’s not even a general idea of how to play, it’s left to the coaches and evaluators to pick players based on how they see the game. From what I’ve seen, it’s usually the typical explosive athlete that gets picked. The reason is that kind of player ‘stands out’, which is a nice way of saying the person evaluating can’t actually understand the subtleties of the game well enough to see anything other than someone who runs hard and fast.
And that brings me to the second issue. Many can’t tell the difference between a quality player and a dumb athlete. I had someone helping evaluate at ODP tryouts this year and we had to ignore all of his notes because he was so far off in his judgment. Similarly, I was helping to evaluate at the regional level a few years ago and had to almost beg the coaches to take this one player. They eventually took a good look at him near the end of camp and about a year later he was getting called into youth national team camps and made an MLS academy. But he would have been overlooked had I not kept telling the coaches how good he was. That shouldn’t be the case.
Until player develop programs like ODP establish some criteria for player selection on a macro level rather than allowing the coaches free reign will the situation begin to improve. Too much is left to chance by giving all coaches that much freedom in player ID. There are some solid coaches within these programs, but I feel their work is offset by the ineptitude of others. There also needs to be a lot better coach development going on to help improve the coaches, but that’s a whole different topic.
dr loco says
“I’m convinced player id for elite levels is an easy way to improve success at highest levels without upsetting the apple cart too much.” You might be called a racist.
I would like to see each state with a YNT, larger states with 2. They can eliminate themselves to represent the USA internationally…similar to Miss USA Pageant.
Gary, I see clearly your points on the importance and role of circumstance in a player’s fate. However, I must say that, as a parent of an 04 kid, the trouble is that most of the clubs with the right connections (circumstances) fail miserably to teach/develop their players, while a small club, with less stature, might actually be the better or right learning environment for the player. In short, parents are left to choose either a USSDA club with possible connections (right circumstances) but no real learning or a smaller club with no connections but with a real development purpose and environment. In my case, my son played USSDA this past year, 2016-2017, but I took him out because the club failed miserably in the responsibility of aiding his development. At his age, I value development over exposure/ or so called connections.