A player ‘makes it‘, and then everyone who’s ever touched him claims development credit.
So who’s responsible? All of them? Some of them? None of them? And how can credit (or blame) be distributed?
So at what age(s) was a certain player under the tutelage of a certain coach?
Much is made of “the golden years” which – depending on who you talk to – can range from birth, all the way to U12. And while there are truths in that meme, the reality is the entire trajectory is critical.
The vast majority of the potential created in the golden years is technical. And technical development during this time happens first and foremost on the player’s own time and/or playing in informal settings like “street-ball”.
Again, the golden years serve mostly to elevate the potential of players. What is lost in that discussion is that potential is useless, unless realized. And that’s where coaching at the older ages is absolutely crucial. Coaches here, must have the capacity to take that nice slab of marble and form a sophisticated footballer.
If anywhere say between U10 to U20, that marble isn’t being properly sculpted … that player’s development is getting screwed. You need god-damned Michaelangelo’s throughout the age groups that can take that potential from the golden years, and realize it.
The US is a very tricky monster in that the players who make it pro here are not a reflection of proper and deliberate development. It is far and away a reflection of the time put in by the player himself, pedigree, crude physical attributes, and circumstance. None of which are bad things, but they are not development attributable to a coach.
Next let’s touch on the time factor.
I posit the following:
- 1 year is sufficient time for a coach to considerably develop or considerably damage a player.
- 1 year with a master is not the same as 1 year with an average Joe.
- Time spent with average Joes hurts, not helps development.
If anywhere along a player’s trajectory, he’s been with mediocre (or worse) coaches, that players ultimate peak has been negatively impacted.
It may be 80% of what a player is comes outside the formal training environment. But that remaining 20% … is like a swing vote! That 20% can make, or break you.
Let’s be clear: not make or break you in the ‘making it pro’ sense (total junk becomes pro here). But rather in the sense of achieving the qualities of a sophisticated footballer. The difference between having that and not, is in the finest of details.
The question is what coach(es), if any at all, had a meaningful and positive contribution to that 20% – to those details?
And what coach(es) were actually a waste of that players time?
These are terribly difficult, if not impossible, things to conclude by the masses. Which is a principle reason why every single coach who’s laid hands on a player can and will continue to claim credit.
Consistency is a key for me when trying to assign credit for developing something. Did you as a coach “produce” one player of quality and acclaim? If your resume stops at one good player then you are probably not deserving of the credit. Once you developed multiple quality players over multiple years then I think the you as a coach can start to claim some of the credit for the results.
Gary Kleiban says
First, one has to know what ‘quality’ is. Something pretty much nobody in this country comprehends.
Second, consistency alone still isn’t a good indicator.
For instance, if one had a coaching gig over 10 years at a mega-club it’s totally possible to have touched quite a bit of players who make it pro. Doesn’t mean any development was going on.
Agree on the quality front. When someone in the USA produces multiple players that are competing with the likes of the top players coming from Barcelona and Ajax then we can START to assign some credit to the coaches and system involved. Key word is START. And credit to the system vs the coach is quickly differentiated when the coach steps out on his own but fails to repeat the results or if the system starts to fail when the coach leaves.
Really I think the coach and the system together are part of the success factors for creating true development.
Re that point Gary…..it could actually suggest that those involved are part of the problem..and yet that “track record” would be one of the criteria for getting Academy status…which then perpetuates the issue.
I recently watched and MLS Academy team train U16 and U18’s..they looked to have some decent players….but the content,ratios and management of the sessions was shocking. I also took from it that they have already sussed first team style precludes any of these guys from being suitable…..which means the Academy is just a cost of doing business in the MLS.
I think one big challenge in the States is that there isn’t a structured “feeding system” like in Spain, for example.
When I look at FC Barcelona and the huge network they have with smaller teams in Catalonia; through agreements, etc, there is a better chance for a player to be developed 100% of the time througout their careers.
I’ve seen so many players that have made FC Barcelona’s 1st team from smaller, more humble teams. The main reason why is because at every level, there were educated coaches who new talent when they saw it, even before they were recomended from those teams to Barca.
I have not seen that same structure in the U.S.
Instead, I see local teams keeping their players away from trying out for MLS academy teams. I know MLS teams don’t compare to FC Barcelona, but I think there is validity in establishing a talent recognition and feeding program to U.S. based pro teams. Otherwise, how can they improve? -at leat in that aspect
As always, thought provoking!
Age and time with proper coach is important. But everything contributes. Parents taking time to drive to practice, watching games on TV, getting onto right team, and all the other matters of circumstance.
But who’s responsible? 1) THE PLAYER! 2) coaches. Secondary influences are some mixture of parents, culture, watching games on TV / in person. In Europe and SA, I would say culture and club are higher level influences. But in USA, clubs don’t have same impact, don’t mean the same(Gary had a post about this topic) and we all know the culture debate.
More on the player . . . self-motivated, disciplined, committed, and so on . . . make for perfect combination. Players need to struggle to overcome and get better as person and player (development isn’t linear). But hopefully they aren’t quashed, dreams crapped on by some self-centered or misguided coach (wrong team).
Making it to “the top” is kinda like the improbability of life itself (not to get philosophical). A long chain of unlikely events (circumstance) that had to happen in a certain sequence to make it happen. Slightly influence each event even in the smallest, and you change the outcome.
We can influence it (sorta like divine intervention), but in the end we can’t engineer a professional player. Rather, lay the foundation. And most of that foundation rests solely on the player himself. “How bad do you want it”? The hand of god in this case is more like gentle touches and course corrections by the coach. Or the Einstein quote about “I don’t teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide conditions in which they can learn.”
Gary Kleiban says
We’re not talking about all the contributing factors.
The context is credit / no credit on the coaching side. Where the crucial ‘swing vote’ details of development take place, or don’t.
I would differ with you on this Gary, the contributing factors in this case and this particular culture have to be integrated in some form. They cannot be dissociated even if the context is credit or no credit on coaching side.
If we are assuming ~80% credit / no credit is on player, the remaining 20% swing vote cannot be totally / absolutely attributable to the coach. Other factors play in. But may I’m misunderstanding your premise?
Gary Kleiban says
The accuracy of percentage was not important to me.
The main intention was:
1) Isolate the coaching
2) The greatest portion of a player’s potential is not attributable to the formal coaching environment. Yet even if all those things are exceptional, if coaching quality in the formal competitive setting is not exceptional, the player’s potential is ruined.
Whether one can make statements of 70/30, 80/20, 90/10 is another discussion. As is what are all the contributing factors within that “80%”, and what should be done within that realm.
Dr Loco says
The player must give the coach credit for development. If the player does not understand his own development the coach was a bad teacher.
I still remember my good and bad teachers. I only give credit to the special ones.
Gary Kleiban says
That trail is an interesting one for sure.
If all you ever had is mediocre coaches, then that’s what you think coaching is.
If you had 6 horrific coaches, then you get a mediocre one … then you think mediocre is good.
See where this is going?
Dr Loco says
You must ask quality players to find out who the quality coaches are. If there are no quality players then no quality coaches exist.
Ask Ben who developed him.
Gary Kleiban says
That’s a good approach.
1) Again, one must know what a ‘quality player’ is.
2) Quality players may exist, but they’re not selected.
3) Players are also subject to political pressures. They do not open up to the public, or to individuals they do not confide in.
A 12 year old has no perspective on a subject of this complexity. I believe one needs time and a wealth of experience to look back and reflect.
Dr Loco says
As you say “the entire trajectory is critical.”
“I believe one needs time and a wealth of experience to look back and reflect.” So true.
At 12, I didn’t understand much. At 20 it became clearer. At 30 I was beginning to understand. We will have to wait the course and reflect on the outcome.
Maybe no one developed him. Just the player himself. Natural born ‘baller who got an opportunity. Would have been a talent no matter where he played. Who developed cannot be proven, so open to endless conjecture.
You can say Barca developed Messi, Xavi, Iniesta. But did they? Mabye they just molded him. Merely helped chisel out the statue of David that was already there, gave him the conditions and right environment to be who he had the God-given talent and ability. And anyway, what does “develop” mean. Just becasue a player is exposed to right environment doesn’t mean he will be “developed”. The raw material needs to be present.
Does develop mean getting to pro level? Does it mean providing right conditions and environment? Does it mean realization of said “development” environement?
Does playing professionally mean you were “developed”? For some players, does it have more to do with natural strength or speed (hard skills)? Conversely, are more technically gifted, tacticallly smart players (the ones with soft skills) better developed?
Gary Kleiban says
All good questions.
Certainly ‘development’ is a subject that can exist at all levels.
But I think a line has to be drawn somewhere. A line that divides the following two camps:
1) Development in the ‘soccer as recreation’ sense. Meaning it’s ultimately viewed as an extracurricular activity.
2) Development in the ‘making a professional footballer’ sense.
Both have vastly different requirements.
Absolutely correct.. a separation of attitudes..the word development has been thrown around with many meanings…you cant make a silk purse out of a pigs ear.
The game has changed so much in the last 80 years in regards to what path a young kid would take to become pro it makes ones head spin…in those days it was frowned upon if a boy wanted to become a pro… now a big business all around for better or worse.
I would say molded with the right environment…I read somewhere awhile back when Messi first came to FCB he drove coaches nuts with his constant dribbling but they understood this was part of his expression and thankfully they allowed it to flourish along with molding him to be tactically aware.
Gary Kleiban says
Loads of research and debate on “nature vs nurture” …
Dr Loco (youth coach) says
Natural born player. Why are we coaching then?
It comes down to your philosophy and beliefs. I believe genetically the majority of young children have the potential to be great at anything. It is up to the enviroment to trigger the genes that make it a reality. The few exceptions are primarily American sports where physical size impose extreme requirements on the gene pool.
Maybe the relevant dicussion is..should credit or blame be distributed..and if so..why ?
What would be the movitivation behind doing this?
What is the desired outcome ?
Gary Kleiban says
Good questions which all deserve a lengthy treatise.
If this country is truly interested in producing a sizable number of quality internationals along with some world class ones, then the identification of who can develop versus who can’t is absolutely necessary.
Dr Loco says
We need a list of accredited coaches from U8-U24.
That ties back in to/ the matters of circumstance post: what if the best U14 coach we have doesn’t have any certifications? In the league I coach in, the ones still coaching kick and run to the big/strong/fast kids are the ones with certifications and being paid to coach. Most coaches trying to teach playing out of the back and possession are either volunteer parents who just love soccer or young guys like myself who are just breaking into the coaching world.
I was at a USYSA certification this weekend and they didn’t even mention philosophy or style of play. It was basically just “here’s how to organize a practice and here’s a collection of drills.” I was lucky enough to have a coach from Oregon’s chapter of Barcelona USA in class with me so we were able to have good discussion so it wasn’t a complete waste.
You were expecting more from that class? There were people there who were struggling with even the basics that the instructors were sharing. I was relieved to hear at the end that not everyone was going to pass. The sad part is knowing that even without their licenses some of them that failed will still be out there in the Winter or Spring season “coaching” kids in soccer. The attendee list went out Tuesday. You can find my email on there easily. No aliases here. Always glad to connect with someone else in the area interested in a better brand of football.
I was wondering if there was a small chance you were the same Wolfgang. I’m the guy from eastern oregon that hoped you were too. It was nice to meet and play with you. I was surprised to find a couple other coaches there had heard about/read this blog.
I’m thinking about doing the NSCAA national course in Portland this June. I’ve heard better things about NSCAA than USSF courses.
To define development you might need to define the context.
Development relevant to the context in which you want them to play/perform in ?
Eg. Development occured for Song along the way….but not entirely relevant to what is needed in Barca set up…..further development now needed.
Again back to context…..which may be the critical component for everything.
Take a drive any Saturday….take a drive any training night….go see what’s happening. In most places I’ll bet the context of either is not too relevant to the game they would need to play/understand to be at the very highest level.
So at the younger ages it’s absolutely critical that parents are soccer educated about what constitutes good coaching.
That’s where I’m at. Trying to understand what to look for. How’to find those coaches, even if I know what I’m looking for, is a challenge. Of course I think my son is good. But he’s only brushed past big clubs in his first year and a half of travel, they seemed to be doing something right. Coaches have told me he’s talented, he’s only 8, he’s no prodigy. But he has a good foundation, at a critical stage where learning proper technique can get him to the next level. I want to find him that coach, yesterday.
pg 19 says
In talking to many, what I would consider high level soccer coaches, when asked what was their favorite skill that they learned over the years playing soccer, all answered that it was something they learned on their own at home, knocking a soccer ball into a goal or evading defenders which both were constructed out of objects found in a typical yard. Many of these coaches had access to pro-club coaches, college coaches, some even professional coaches while playing abroad. In spite of their access, they cite the very same things I do; someone who had none of those opportunities.
pg 19 says
On the other hand, I know I have helped my players become better soccer players, especially on a technical standpoint. However, I also know anything my players truly become great at doing, it will be something they choose to relentlessly work on in the absence of coaching. At best, I can influence greatness, I cannot create it. Just like this forum can influence me to become a great coach, I still must work hard at seeking education, example and dialogue as well as practicing my craft, trying something new, and refinement of how I do things. In spite of everything I know, I’ve identified a mountain of things I have yet to learn.
This is sort of off subject, so forgive me if it is bad form on my first post, but I am curious how you measure your success Gary? Is your ultimate objective having your teams win matches? Tournaments? Is the objective advancing young players into the top echelon of prospects?
I think soccer development, player development and coaching in the US are such interesting categories to explore and thank you for the forum.
With the ‘golden age’, it comes down to a coach that teaches and preaches the importance of technique. A nurterer. I don’t want to oversimplify, but I feel it really is that simple. Fostering a love, a passion for creative play and encouraging players to take risks. A player that age ‘discovers’ his technical ability on his own at that age.
At the older ages, U13+ it becomes more about measured risk taking and providing an environment for applying technique to the given tactical situation on the pitch. It shouldn’t be about taking tactical ‘shortcuts’ in order to achieve a result i.e. the path of least resistance.
With perhaps a handful of exceptions (the Kleibans being one) it by and large isn’t being done. The handful of players that do ‘make it’ largely do it all by themselves. Usually it is a combination of hours spent honing technique..combined with being a devout ‘student’ of the game and perhaps an inate mental aptitude for the game.
And of course “matters of circumstance”.
The vast majority of youth coaches in this country are pigeonholing players into playing ‘within themselves’. The EPL may be the best league in the world (most popular) but I’m convinced that teaching EPL type tactics at youth level actually stunts the player’s tactical growth.
Maybe that’s why the EPL’s best players were all ‘developed’ somewhere else. You can’t teach a ‘high speed’ game unless you master technique first. And America tends to look at England. (With a few exceptions.)
There’s a fine line between applying pressure and stifling a player. There is a difference.
Finally, how can ‘we’ develop players if we can’t even get player id down?
What if, for arguments sake, everyone is wrong about the focus on the early ages.
Consider the following possibility.
In the game you must perceive beofre you can act…..so the successful application of technique requires first perception. It could be argued, that without perception, technique cannot be successfuly applied.
Mostly, as I see it, technique is taught in isolation..devoid of relevant context with no cognitive or perceptual component. This is done with the notion that players become technically sound first…so that they can later learn the game and apply that technique.
What if this is wrong ? What if between 8yrs and 12yrs you miss 4 crucial years of building a cognitive/perceptual “library” in your head. And what if the context in which you play does not lend itself to create cues/anticipation/predictions/ pictures that will be useful to you re the game that you will be asked to play if you progress too a good level ? Does this create inattentional blindness….you can”t see/read a game poss based game because for 4-6 yrs you’ve been looking long etc.
What if the way technique is taught ( see above) is contrary to everything that research and evidence has shown re motor learning and skill acquisition ?
Barca v Man Utd CL Final at Wembley….what was the difference between the two teams ?
Gary’s teams….what is the difference when other teams can’t get the ball.
I’d wager a bet that if you tested technique the way that it is taught….the gap wouldn’t be nearly as big……….yet off everyone goes to do more “technical” work…in relative isolation…to possibly compound the problem.
What if neuroplasticity show us that all those things we hold so dear in the golden ages can be learned along the way…as dictated by the needs of the game….what if the notion that if you don’t have them by 12 you are done is absolutely wrong.
If this is possible..to learn them along the way and past the age of 12…..what about game reading skills…..how would they be learned ? Would that be the component that actually takes the time and exposure to context ? If so, then what becomes critical now ?
” faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so…almost everyone gets busy on the proof”.
Scott Smith says
This is what the Belgian FA has been exploring for a while now and I think they have produced some excellent results with a number a potentially great young players coming up through the ranks lately. Michel Bruyninckx is leading the way with his Cogi Training method. Very interesting stuff. It is all about developing the mind first then the body will follow.
Quite a bit different from what I am suggesting. Their approach, for me, more along the lines of Schollhorn research.
My suggestion is that we may inf act have the emphasis on the wrong things throughout various ages….and the notion of certain “windows of opportunity” for areas of focus re development are not, as I am aware, based on much evidence or research.
For another argument…..what if it is far easier to pass the ball than to dribble re attentional demands for kids..and if kids are spaced out…lessens the attentional demand again ? Then you could increase the attentional demand and increase the complexity of the ball control/skill etc. as you go. This is contrary to everything that is normally done…………..yet research would suggest it makes more sense. I am sure some Sian Beilock work would support this notion.
Challenge current practices……all the time….why do we do what we do….and maybe then we get some real learning going on IMO.
Dr Loco (youth coach) says
Innovative! I do rely on non-traditional training working most importantly the mental, psychomotor and social aspects. Most coaches would probably laugh at me.
I’d like to know the people on this blog who are coaches, parents, fans, etc. Identifying yourselves allows me to filter through all the BS. Very few of us actually know what we are talking about since we have not developed ‘quality’ players. We have no experience regardless of our credentials and 20+ years coaching. Discredit yourself first then start learning.
Dr Loco….not sure so just wanted to check..are you are directing this reply to me or is it just a general statement ?
Dr Loco (youth coach) says
Everyone step up and identify yourself. We need to know who we are learning from. It’s ok if you’re a gardner or janitor.
I have no idea what relevance this has to the discussion.
I recently saw a session by Roy Hodgson that for me did not stand up to examination. Should I just have accepted it was good or fact because he has coached at a very high level ?
My suggestion is that everyone should question current practices based on evidence and research….which is freely available to all that care to look for it.
However, it does take quite a bit of work and time to separate fact from fallacy.
Gardner….I think the danger is following the Chauncey Gardeners 🙂
Dr Loco (youth coach) says
I agree time and energy is limited. Let’s try to be more accountable. I’m not asking for your resume.
If I go to the doctor I want to make sure you’re not the janitor. The doctor might be a ‘nut’ but at least I have a reference point.
It is relevant.
I can confirm I am not the janitor at your doctor’s surgery…and sorry to hear that he is a “nut”..I’d change doctors 🙂
We all post on this blog on our own terms. I prefer to keep it that way for a reason.
Dr Loco (youth coach) says
“Fostering a love, a passion for creative play ”
Sounds like something I would read on a Hallmark card. Why is everyone so ‘soft’?
If you do not create a hardcore environment how do you expect your kids to excel?
You are confusing ‘soft’ with being too passive and not encouraging (or even demanding) the pursuit of perfection.
There’s nothing ‘soft’ in the way I have approached and studied the game. I asked my son recently if he thought football was ‘poetry’ or ‘war’…he answered, “to me it is war”!
A war fought with brains and brawn. Does anyone really believe that teams like Barca would be as good if they didn’t have players like Mascherano, Abidal, Pique and Puyol?
The emphasis always seems to be on the aesthetics…but in this country we do just as horrible a job (if not worse) ‘developing’ strong defenders than the attacking/finishing side.
It takes a skilled, intelligent player to beat a skilled, intelligent attacker.
Some of us are in locations where a hardcore environment might cause less-committed players to quit, resulting in not enough players to fill out a squad.
Dr Loco says
“less comitted players to quit”
great that is what you want…stop diluting the talent pool
If that happens, I can’t field a team at all which would result in also weeding out the three or four guys who have the foundation to have a chance at going somewhere.
Sorry for the grammatical error. Nurturer.
Also, another big issue is the lack of consistency regarding instruction. Most clubs rotate coaches every 2 or 3 years…good and bad I guess. But, there’s no consistent style of play or even framework.
Well, Gary, I think you answer your own question. You always say that kids (at least in your area where your experience lies) have enough technique that technique is not an issue and that coaching in the U.S. sucks and is the reason that U.S. has not developed high level players- so its obvious, therefore by your estimation, that coaches have to make a huge impact on a player’s prospects.
I believe this is partially true, especially in the U.S.where there is so much ignorance (mostly from parents) on what is good soccer, and what coaches are actually good at creating the type of players they supposedly want their kids to be versus what the coach will actually turn their kids into.
I actually believe that parents make as big an impact as anybody, since they create an environment and culture within the household that holds large sway over a child.
Excellent points TD. Even with the advent of ‘helicopter parenting’, ignorance and lack of experience playing the sport is a HUGE factor.
Not so much with the other team sports. (In addition to the other obvious differences between soccer and the others…ie player driven vs coach driven.)
That may explain why so many of the elite American players that are identified are mostly children of immigrants….parents that at least have some knowledge and background.
With mine, it’s been ‘total immersion’. No NFL, NBA, NHL or MLB even allowed at my house.
We never played ‘catch’, shot hoops, etc. We always went outside and had a kickaround..or I played him balls (with increasing difficulty) and had him control them. We watch games together on TV. Went out and watched hispanic league games, high school games, club, MLS, college, etc.
At least he thinks like a footballer.
Dr Loco (youth coach) says
“With mine, it’s been ‘total immersion’. No NFL, NBA, NHL or MLB even allowed at my house.” Are you sure that’s ideal?
“We never played ‘catch’, shot hoops, etc.” Perhaps missing out on learning opportunities and minimizing his potential for growth.
“At least he thinks like a footballer.” What if he doesn’t make it as a footballer?
Dr Loco (youth coach) says
“here is so much ignorance (mostly from parents) on what is good soccer”
mostly from parents
mostly from players
mostly from coaches
mostly from DOCs
mostly from USSF
mostly from Media…
pg 19 hit it on the head…”anything my players truly become great at doing, it will be something they choose to relentlessly work on in the absence of coaching”
As coaches, we believe we are the key ingredient to a player’s success, although important of course, we forget about the will of the player to actually want to improve and work on things they need to get to the highest level. You can be Mourinho, but if the player is not coachable and refuses to internalize your good teachings, the player will be average as they get older. i grew up and played with some wondrfully talented players with good coaching, but they just did not have the drive. I spoke with a European agent a few months ago and asked him what is the difference between our kids in N. America and rest of the world? i expected to hear that in N. America the top level players dont get good coaching…his answer…”you kids are not hungry enough”
Dr Loco (youth coach) says
Coaching is overrated but important to reach last 10-20%. 80% is just a B.
”you kids are not hungry enough” It’s because we overfeed our children. Blame McDonalds and now Klinsmann with his nutriion program.
I’d like to see this applied to some actual players. We know Donovan’s development trajectory pretty well. Yes, not world class, but a quality player, mentally a quality player. Clint Greenwood was his main coach prior to going to Germany. Was he the key coach, or did Donovan pick up most of his soccer intelligence in Germany?
The other guy locally who has produced a lot of pros is Cherif Zein, he’s had a bunch of pros come out of his teams (I wish we lived closer to CZ elite). Is he the key developer?
Gary Kleiban says
Those are the questions, aren’t they Rivelino?
Again, a coach can be a donkey but be in a situation where they touch a number of players that go on to the pros. In the US, that’s the general rule.
Yes, the player is almost completely responsible for his development. Finding right coach is critical. Difficult to put into a recipe of proportions each provides. Coaches can mold or destroy through neglect, selfishness, bias, or lack of coaching qualification / knowledge. Players affect development through commitment, discipline, desire, drive and motivation to learn and get better. Talented player with these qualities + proper coach = perfect combination.
But development isn’t do all, end all. We often connect development with opportunity. That’s where club, coach, ODP, USSF, scouting come into play. Are they looking for players best developed at a given age or ones with best long-term probability? Barcelona focuses on latter. Much of criticism of USA is focus on the former.
I should clarify that player with best long-term probability is specific to a playing style / system a scout or national team is looking for. Therefore, development doesn’t always lead to opportunity. Player id, development, and opportunity are optimized when serving a common goal (i.e, style of play). A major reason Acadamies like Ajax, Barcelona, Manchester United, Santos, and so on . . . are so successful. Same for national teams like Spain, Argentina, etc . . . .
And what kind of coach one has at various stages must be important too… one coach taught an excitement for the game and built confidence, one taught invaluable fundamentals, one instilled discipline… kids will have a huge range of coaches and mentors. Who gets credit? All? None?
I’d be happy if the majority really had knew what they were doing. In this country it’s probably rare. I’m hoping my son’s next coach will great.
Great blog entry, Gary! It’s great to bring this topic up. I am a huge admirer of how FC Barcelona develops its youth players. One of the most important ways is that the younger kids are trained using the same mindset and methodologies as the older kids. It’s this kind of continuity — over time — that allows for proper and deliberate development in the evolution of the player. I wrote about this recently in an article at the Soccer Nation.com. You can read it here: http://www.soccernation.com/youth-soccer-spotlight-stealing-barcelonas-style-cms-3626
Been reading this blog for a long time. Appreciate the insightful posts from Gary and especially responses from bloggers like Kana, Kephern (who doesn’t post enough), Dr. Loco, and a few others. You make me laugh, get angry, think and learn. “Optimized development”, I love that! And I always thought development was plain and simple, didn’t realize it could be defined with such nuisance. Makes me scratch my head and think “is my son really being developed”? Thanks guys for the little tidbits to make me a more informed parent and hopefully put my son in right environment and being smart enough to judge if he’s in right situation! That’s the beauty of 3Four3.
Dr Loco (youth coach) says
“Kephern (who doesn’t post enough)” –Agree, must be too busy developing real players.
Ken S. says
He is. And he’s probably in Holland right now doing so.
I think the coach makes a much bigger impact at 15+ than at 9-12.
Before that it is all about fundamentals…and the player’s desire and work ethic.
based on what????????and what about ages 12,13,14? You usually think before you post but this entry a little odd for you. Where does this player learn “fundamentals”, if not from a coach at these young ages? Perhaps they could read “soccer for dummies” before bed each night. We all agree desire, work ethic, and passion are important but the kid with quality instruction will player higher level soccer then the one that doesn’t given the exact same skill set. Is that even a debate????
I’d be interested to hear what “fundamentals” are and the specifics of how they would be best taught by the coach.
I recently heard a coach say his strength was in tuning the fine details of technique….wow,that’s interesting!
tim, I’m not saying that coaching isn’t important. But, how do you explain all the kids that come from Africa and elsewhere in the ‘developing world’. Do you think there are Kleiban clones in Ghana, Ivory Coast or Peru? I seriously doubt it.
No, it’s usually an older brother or parent…or if they are lucky a phys ed teacher at the local school.
I think it is a dangerous assertion to state that kids 9-12 need ‘gold standard’ tactical instruction in order to become truly elite players.
Then again, maybe to clarify just what constitutes high level tactical instruction/coaching is for those ages.
How many of you have studied what they do at Clairefontaine in France? From 13-15 their curriculum is all about honing and perfecting technique. There is tactical instruction but it is relatively basic…at least according to their curriculum. The players there live and train during the week and go home on weekends to play for their hometown/local clubs.
Now, the one thing they do is teach the players that ‘passing is the language of the footballer”…which 99% of us would agree with. It is important to point out too that, 10 years ago France was considered the ‘gold standard’…at least as far as the ussf was concerned. Before that, it was Brazil. And so on and so on.
Now let me clarify that “technique” to me is not isolated to receiving and dribbling.
I think players at the younger ages often learn alot by ‘doing’ and watching.
Anyone ever hear of Zidane, George Best, Michael Platini?
They had little to no real formal training (in terms of sophisticated tactical instruction) until they were well into their teenage years.
Now, are they better served developmentally being exposed to advanced tactical instruction BEFORE the age of 12…probably so.
I just think that automatically assuming a player is ‘toast’ without exceptional coaching by the age of 15 or even 18 is at least highly debatable.
Looking at the current “gold standard” which has been mine since 1982 -before it was cool to be a fan- I think U11-U14 are very important years for talent management and development,
In Spain is very difficult to make a team playing in first division academy team by age 15 if the kids have not been playing at that level years prior. Even pro teams make a big deal about the Avelin tournaments; they are televised! They seem to believe that that is a very important time in player developoment. It was at that age where Iniesta, Llorente, and many more were “introduced” to the world as “the next big thing;” at age 10, 11, 12…by this age, kids in Spain playing at in the top divisions already have a very strong foundation; a product of educated coaches who know how to identify talent and put them in a development track.
I would even dare say that for MLS academy teams, 15 and older is a bit late to try to enter.
Just by chance, another contributor reminded me a great sample of the importance of have a structured talent id and feeding system.
Checkout this great academy in Catalonia, Santes Creus:
nice video nice quality!
NYC, I don’t think 15 is ‘too late’. A player on my son’s U16 team (who also is a u15 playing up) was recentlly invited to train with FC Dallas’ DA team early next year. Last summer, my son trained with their 97 preacademy team (which has 2 ynt players and they also won a national championship for PA teams..beating NYRed Bull in final) After 2 training sessions, the coach approached me directly and asked me to bring him back for another look.
Logistics and injury prevented us from returning. (Not to mention we live 3 1/2 hours away.) FCD DA is constantly looking for additional talent. Or at least this appears so.
Now my son has experienced both good and bad coaching. I would venture to say that he has never had the level of tactical instruction that the Kleibans provide.
Would it have made a difference if he or others had that type of instruction? I have to believe that it would make a positive impact.
I also have to think that it would enable a lot more American players to be properly identified (by pro clubs) playing under coaches of that caliber.
I just don’t think it is a ‘deal killer’ if they aren’t. Improve the odds? definitely.
In the American system, the true difference is that coaches/clubs are looking for players that can ‘win now’….where a player ends up is a distant, secondary consideration.
Hence why we have ‘isolated’ individual player development.
Style and systems of play aside, there are no real scouting systems in place. Lack of patience, investment and overall inefficiency,consistency along with piss poor player id are keeping the US a mediocre footballing nation.
The more successful youth academies in the world spend more money on their youth academy than most MLS first team salary budgets.
You touch on a lot of good points which I’ll try to respond:
I comend you for looking at opportunities for your son to further his career and wish you luck. But I think that while it’s great he has gotten the attention of the coaches, he’s probably the exception rather than the rule. Many academies with which I am familiar are open to seeing U14-U16 players but hardly any of them make it because they lack the foundation to play at that level -even in the U.S.-
For some kids “early intervention” is not a ‘deal killer’ but it would most likely improve their odds. As it is, the first thing that I’ve heard coaches in Spain tell kids (at several academies) is “none in this group/classroom/team will make it to pro; you have to train and work hard because you love the game.” I think is an attitude many high level sporst take. I think it is a great attitude because it keeps your feet on the ground while allowing you mind to dream. With this in mind, the better structured the development system, the better chances the player will have. Of course there are exceptions like Herculez Gomez who only a few years ago was an unknown. But look at him, while it is wonderful he’s making a great living as a player in Mexico, he’s too old to think of higher level leagues in Europe. Makes you wonder how much better he would have been had he had better coaches before age 17 in a structured id system. Another example is DeRosario -who played for Dallas too- I really thing he’s a great player naturally but not good enough for high level European leagues. These things are affected by early development. And, as you pointed out, a sytem of coaches that find opportunities for their players. I’ve read a few coaches in this blog talk about what they are doing to open the door for their player outside the U.S. to improve their chances of success. We need more of that in the U.S.
While most coaches in the American system are looking for players that can ‘win now’ I have seen several academies truly trying to bring high level coaches from Europe and elsewhere to establish better teaching systems that better discriminates good players from the rest.
You and I made the same point about not having a real scouting systems in place. But I do see some improvement, and I think we have to support those changes to promote even more progress. Like you said MLS academy teams/USDA need more money, but they need more local support to get there. For example, I think there is a correlation between cities/towns in the U.S. that have an MLS team and the level of the youth players in those areas (Texas being one of them).
I bet the correlation between higher level youth players in those places is even more clear when those teams have strong fan support (like D.C., Houston, So Cal, Washington State).
In sum, I think early development is a big component of higher level player development.
Sorry I meant to say DeRosario played for Houston not Dallas
Can’t disagree with that, nyc. A better system definitely improves the odds. And I agree things are improving.
Dr Loco (youth coach) says
“In sum, I think early development is a big component of higher level player development.”
I will agree. The problem I see in youth sports is the coaches responsible for early development are mediocre and ultimately ruin the potential of player. The few players that make it do on their own if they are fortunate to get on the correct trajectory by 14-15.
Early development in the US is overrated because most youth coaches are not actually improving a player. Given a club with 500-1000 players you are lucky to have 1-2 quality players with potential by 16. If your success rate is ~0.1% that is not good. Quality training should be producing like 5-10%.
Who developed him?
First I will give credit to the parents and family environment/culture that instilled the passion for soccer. I believe quality players are formed by the age of 9. The rest is training for a purpose. The formative years 3-8 create the foundation for the development. Unless there are exceptional coaches involved during this time period the natural environment of the player is responsible. If clubs are getting player at U8/U9 it’s only the players who made it by natural selection. We missed out on an enormous potential.
Coaches such as Kephren at JOGA SC and NOVA Mike seem to be creating a natural environment for young players during their formative years. Look at the results!
Hall 97, I have to disagree with you quite strongly on this one. On what basis do you make that assertion? I think each age is equally important for development and that each stage builds on the one below it. People wrongly think that until about 12-13 its all about technique. While proper technique (and knowing what “techniques” are the most important to master and therefore to emphasize) is imperative, soccer development at the 9-14 is so much more than that. Like technique, it is an age when understanding of space, movement, passing lanes, and spacial and timing relationships between the ball and players can be deeply ingrained (just like technique) so that recognition and responses become quick and automatic. Like technique, a player can acquire these skills at older ages but it is much more difficult and doesn’t sink in as deeply.
I agree with you …..there must be a balance…
Dr Loco (youth coach) says
“the reality is the entire trajectory is critical”
“technical development during this time [golden years] happens first and foremost on the player’s own time”
“that’s where coaching at the older ages is absolutely crucial.”
“The US is a very tricky monster in that the players who make it pro here are not a reflection of proper and deliberate development” — in most team sports
“they are not development attributable to a coach”
“reason why every single coach who’s laid hands on a player can and will continue to claim credit”
Someone told me about this site. This post is interesting. Thought I’d share.
Random thoughts on development (many of which already stated by others):
• There is no definition, no standard model.
• Difficult to factually prove causation
• Numerous variables affect it and each individual player each affected differently by each
• Random occurrences can and do affect it
• It is not measurable
• There are many phases (beginner, intermediate, advanced, elite)
• There can be and are numerous models, theories, and proven “development” techniques
• Winning and development are not mutually exclusive
• Winning by playing within a style of play is development
• Losing is part of development
• Competition is part of development
• Struggle and fighting to earn a spot or playing time is part of development
• Not everyone can be “developed”
• Competitive soccer is and by nature “competitive” and unequal
• Playing each kid 50/50 doesn’t equal development, it’s parental appeasement (why should everyone be treated equally in a competitive environment? Refer to last few bullets to understand why.)
• Development absent strong will to win is meaningless, aimless
• Some minimal level of negative learning or improper coaching is as much a part of proper development as is learning by making mistakes on the pitch
• Development is not linear
• And I’m sure there are more if I had the time to sit and think . . . .
Messis first coach at FCB…http://www.espnstar.com/editorial/news/detail/item910081/Meeting-Messi's-first-coach/
AG, nice insight from Rodolfo Borrell…learning from the masters…BTW Sporting did win that event 2-0 in the final vs LFC
and seemingly without ego or self interest..humility..a quality at barca!
a quality that is in most top coaches whether pro or not…
Dr Loco (youth coach) says
Dr. Loco…that is absolutely priceless….the old guy reminds me of my dad..a different era and time all but forgotten.
I’d like to offer up Dictionary.com definition: “The act or process of developing; growth; progress.” Assuming the right conditions and environment exists (player commitment, right coach, etc.), this can happen. Even in less than perfect conditions, it can happen. Not as efficiently or on ideal trajectory, but it happens.
But what trajectory (to what end)? Is it a starting spot on club, high school, college, MLS, Europe? Shoot for the stars is always good advice. So why isn’t the goal Europe? I vaguely recall Gary stating that is his goal and that of FC Barcelona USA. True Gary?
Doesn’t the desired trajectory dictate they type of development and commitment of coach? And doesn’t that also dictate they type of player selected to get onto that conveyor belt? I say “yes” and “yes”. Isn’t that the model top Euro and SA clubs use? “Yes”! Their goal is develop players for first team or good enough to sell to another club.
In reading recent article on Soccer Nation by Daniel Musatti, he’s saying same thing I believe. Treat elite players differently. The USDA U14, U16, and U18 Academies are trying to do that. But are they? Are clubs and coaches trying to produce European level players, or D1 college, or just any college regardless of level? Plan “A” should be Europe. Set the bar that high, and no need to worry about MLS or college.
Is the American model misaligned? Is development the problem or symptom?
Instead of asking “who developed him”, maybe we need to ask “for what purpose (to what end) are we developing him”?
No sooner do I post and read article on Soccer Nation about FC Dallas Academy.
“We implement our curriculum to develop players who will fit the mold of what the first team is looking for with regards to style of play, knowledge of their role in their position(s), working on both sides of the ball, emotional and psychological demands, and finally, understanding the culture of the club.
The ultimate goal in our system is to develop players for the first team, and in the process develop players to warrant interest to top level college programs.”
Maybe I’m trying to prove my own point (?), but seems to me development at FC Dallas based on a goal (desired trajectory). Development model and player id put in place to achieve that trajectory. Development without a goal / purpose / trajectory in mind is pointless as I read on another post.
I can tell you that based on what I have seen personally, FC Dallas da/pa teams play a much more attractive brand of football than the senior teams does.
With all the accolades their DA program receives, I find it interesting that they recently released two homegrown players.
Gary Kleiban says
Nice contribution Kana.
To me, your post helps communicate how important context is.
If the context is the dictionary definition of ‘development’;
Then it can be said that development is happening 100% of the time.
From the outset of 3four3, we provided our context (found on the About page):
“The target is to develop quality players for the professional game. And the models used are that of the best players and teams in the world. There is no intention of forming the next Omar Gonzalez or Connor Casey: that is failure!”
or brek shea whatever his name is…
Gary (and anyone else who wants to answer), what are your opinions on a coach being “stubborn”? Is this a good thing, a bad thing, or a mix? On the positive side I think a stubborn coach can be good because they have a firm grasp of what they like and don’t like regarding teaching the game, picking players, etc. On the other hand, it would obviously be a bad thing if you aren’t willing to learn new things, but anyways I just wanted to hear your thoughts.
Be stubborn in your goal and style. Be flexible in how to get the kids to understand it and how you get them there.
this might interest some people..somewhat related….player archaeology.
you may need to cope and paste this link
I’ve been following the blog for quite some time now and I have to say (IMO) it’s the most truly informative forum for “real” soccer related material. As a soccer parent who is constantly looking for the next step in my son’s development I frequent the site to research how I can help him evolve.
On that note, I wanted to get everyone’s thoughts on homegrown players verse players that take the plunge and move to South America or Europe at a younger age to develop instead. My son currently plays for a very competitive team in Southern California, and has excelled at soccer from an early age. We are always looking to push him further as well as develop his ability as much as humanly possible. His current coach does a phenomenal job and while there are a number of quality players on his current team that are fully committed to ingraining themselves in the sport, not all of the players have fully bought in. We do our best to organize time outside of normal practice with the players that really want to improve and take the sport to the next level here in the States, but in my mind that doesn’t seem to be enough.
My son has already trained with a couple of European academies and I have seen the difference in terms of level of play. The biggest differences that I’ve come to find are; commitment from each and every player, total immersion from each and every player and a high technical ability from each and every player. Additionally, not only do these kids eat and breath soccer, but all they see from the outside world is soccer as well. It’s on the TV, it’s in the newspaper, it’s essentially everywhere. I’m sure it’s very similar in South America as well.
While we can do our best here in the States to emulate this and increase the soccer culture as a whole I’m not entirely sure we will ever be able to replicate what these other footballing nations are doing to develop their youth. I am, however, pleased to see that with the likes of the Kleibans and those committed to truly growing the soccer landscape here in the US that we are on the right track, and I’m hopeful that we start to develop quality players at all positions that have the ability to play in any league in the world.
Dr Loco (youth coach) says
“While we can do our best here in the States to emulate this and increase the soccer culture as a whole I’m not entirely sure we will ever be able to replicate what these other footballing nations are doing to develop their youth.”
It’s the culture in our society, values, and lifestyle first. We are a “soft” nation.
I totally agree djr and Dr. Loco. It seems that youth soccer in the US, even at the ‘Premier’ level is controlled by the lowest common denominator. Rather than concentrate on excellence, the system pushes the average kids to be better, while the elite kids become complacent, lazy, uninspired (pick one.)
Eric Maimon says
I’d just like to point that this topic of “who developed him “ at times can kill a players career due to business implications of development and solidarity fees.
It’s more than credit, its money- Over the last year or so, I have helped (I am not an agent, just leveraging connections) a number of American based players with trials in Europe. A number of them signed. In the negotiation of the players’ contracts, their agents state “player X was developed by 6 different clubs and each club is demanding $ 15,000 each as development and solidarity fee”. Most of the times, the agents are lying and trying to milk everything they can get out of the club. Sometimes these American based clubs ask for money (some are entitled, some not) and this extra baggage sadly stops some players from going to the next level.
Our laws dictate what we can and can’t get away with and FIFA has very general and high incentive programs for player development. Because these laws are so general everyone and their mother who have seen the kid who signed, try to get money out of it.
Defining quality is the root of the problem, it’s unquantifiable, based on perspective, and instead of FIFA coming up with their formula for it; they choose the easiest method “Time”. You get paid development fees based on time of development not quality of development. As always it’s the quantity over quality argument.
How can we quantify player development so that those who are recreational (hurt player development) are not given incentives, and those who are professional (create player development) given higher incentive so they can scale and reach more kids?
Once we can figure that out and define quality, American Soccer will change for the better.
How damaging is the existence of the MLS draft to our development as a soccer nation?
It’s shocking to me that we still have an MLS draft. But its not surprising when you consider MLS is and has always been run by NFL guys who have zero soccer DNA and really don’t even consider soccer to be a global game.
If you saw the 3four3 twitter feed yesterday you’d really see how true that it. The scouts, media and coaches couldn’t even focus on their own sport. Distracted by the NFL. Maybe the quality of Players wasnt worth talking about.
I was thinking more along the lines of the MLS draft being a barrier to entry for young players. For instance, a player that lives in Michigan has a tougher path to a pro career than a player who lives in NY. The NY player can go the academy route. The Michigan player, if he wants to join MLS, has to go through college, where chances are his growth may be stunted. Then he must go through the MLS draft. He has no say in the beginning of his career. This doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world.
Not only that but there is no competion for players by MLS teams. What if an MLS team develops better training methods and a better academy. In the perfect system they would benefit from this by attracting more young players who want to train in their system. But since they don’t where is the incentive to improve their youth coaching?
Then there is the case of Omar Salgado. A kid who is from Texas and had youth career in Guadalajara, He decides he wants to play in MLS. Can he sign with any team that wants him? He was 17 years old, could he sign with a team in his home state of Texas so he can play closer to home? Nope. MLS makes him enter the draft and he starts his career 2000 miles away in Vancouver. Nowhere else in the world is this done. Only in this stupid league.
I think we forget a major factor in this discussion.
Sure, a good coach (I prefer the word “trainer” though) can ofcourse have an impact on a players success. It would be silly to say otherwise.
But if we look deeper than that, I think we need to look at what system/curriculum to give credit.
A good and solid curriculum is the base.
Educate the coaches
Make sure the coaches gives the right instructions etc.
I think this is where credit should go.
But as I said, a coach can ofcourse be very good all on his own, but such a good coach does’nt come around that often, and to look for such a coach is probably going to fail.
All good coaches I know of have a solid curriculum in his back.
On the other hand, we can make a parent who’ve never played football himself become a great coach if the club educate him in what drills etc to do. This is ofcourse harder the more the players require/need from the coach.
Coaching isolated technical drills are much easier than coaching the understanding of the game.
curriculum – education (of the coach) – coach is where credit should go.
If we lack curriculum and education, finding coaches that on their own produce world class players will be extremely hard, and probably too expensive for most to hire.
Different aged youngsters also need coaches with different skills thru the entire career. A coach for 6 year olds only need to know the very basics, and need to be extremely good with kids. And so it goes all the way to pro football, but as the age increase, the knowledge requirement grow, and the ability to handle individuals are less important. In pro football, the coaches does’nt give **** about injured players etc for instance.
I’m not saying a coach can be a total deuche at the pro level, cause deeling with people always require some kind of skill. But less so in the pro enviroment compared to the when working with the youngest.
If I look at my own career, I can defenetly point out a bad coach or two. But apart from that, the rest all play part. And since the performance on the pitch not always reflect what you’ve actually learned in youth football (you can be a super good 14 year old, but are not on par physically), it’s imo impossible to say which coach to give more or less credit.
Curriculum – hire good coaches that work according to the curriculum rather than towards his own will to win games – develop players <— This is where credit is due imo.
I’ve always thought players at somewhere around U14-16 “developed themselves”. Not the coach. Hopefully the answer to this post is “the player developed himself”. And hopefully he had the right coaches to steer him in right direction, give him ideas, mentor his development. Whoever achieves a high level in anything is always directly a product of his blood, sweat, tears. People help, but squarely the player.