Before we go any further, something must be made clear.
A line must be drawn between two camps:
- Those who ultimately view soccer as recreation.
- Those who are about creating professional footballers of the highest quality.
Both have vastly different requirements.
This does not mean the ‘rec soccer community’ – as in reserved for AYSO or its analogues.
No. This could include anyone, anywhere throughout the soccer pyramid. From those having a role in Bronze level club to Development Academy, to college, to MLS, to the National Teams themselves. And to any organization and its supporters.
What we’re talking about here is a state of mind.
That, in and of itself, will be reflected in what your product is, and who it’s for.
If you apprentice under a master violinist, you go to reach the maximum at the violin.
Again, you go to learn the god damn violin! You don’t go for mathematics, morality, or treat it as some extra-curricular activity.
It is the curriculum! It is the passion!
This goes for both student and master, and their expectations of one another …
the person doing the mentoring has little place for pupils of a recreational inclination.
Hopefully you can tell this is a vastly different mindset:
You’re all in, or you’re all out.
Here is where we have a severe problem in the soccer community.
FAR GREATER than 99% at any level fall in the recreation camp, and can’t seem to distinguish between the two. Most don’t even recognize, or want to recognize, this line – let alone explore it.
I can accept that.
What I can’t accept is when the recreation mindset pollutes the discussion and policies within what should be an unwavering commitment to quality pro-player development.
That’s a huge problem and reason for this country’s mediocrity.
The requirements are so different, they are essentially opposites.
- “It’s all about the kids”
- “They’re only 12”
- “Playing time issues”
- “Well rounded”
- “Just let them play”
- “Cutting players is horrible”
- “Winning vs Development”
- “High School vs Academy”
- “Referees this and that”
- “Don’t run up scores”
- “Mourinho’s a piece of garbage”
- “Balotelli’s a piece of garbage”
- “Suarez is a piece of garbage”
- “Coaches should shut up on the sidelines”
- “It’s a player’s game”
- “The team just needs to ‘gel'”
These are all artifacts of the recreational state of mind (non-exhaustive of course). And that’s ok … for recreation.
Sure these things have a place in the professional camp, but the frequency and magnitude with which they arise – along with the context – is a dead giveaway on which side of the fence one resides.
If you want to pursue footballers and a field product of the highest quality, you do not apply the recreational mindset and requirements.
Doing so leads to recreational products.
And that’s what we’re living with. Essentially one big AYSO community operating under the guise of ‘competitive’, ‘academy’, ‘professional’.
Couple Brief Examples
- The pro camp relentlessly pursues the scouting, identification, and recruiting of the best possible players – which of course requires the identification and releasing of the weakest players. Something demonized by the rec mentality, and something the rec community wants to dictate and attach certain terms as to how this should or shouldn’t be done.
- The pro camp relentlessly pursues both winning and development. This discussion is closed!
Now, if you don’t churn out quality professionals, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in the ‘recreation camp’. Similarly, if a quality pro happened to have come from one of your teams, that doesn’t mean you’re in the ‘professional camp’.
I think the differentiator is the following:
If you run your ship with genuine and extraordinary commitment to the understanding and execution of the professional mindset (and the requirements that come with it), you’re not a rec person or program.
There exist two camps:
- Those who ultimately view soccer as recreation.
- Those who are about creating professional footballers of the highest quality.
Both have vastly different requirements.
And finally, since FAR greater than 99% at all levels are in camp #1, whatever few camp #2 people exist have enormous pressure to conform and pander to camp #1 mentality (ie mediocrity).
Another excellent post Gary and nice way to start 2013 with this post. It’s good to realign our communal mindset at start of new year. When it comes down to it, there is a huge bubble of kids who have technique, tactical understanding, mental quickness — but in soccer world they are “average”. The professional mindset is often the difference. Many of the rec mentality issues you describe prevent them from the leap to professional mentality.
The Professional Camp describes the system in SA and Europe and Asia. This issue is about wrong system that has been talked about on this site many times.
But I wouldn’t stop there. Affecting the ratio of rec / professional camp membership is first step. What happens when the equation changes, even a few percentage points? That’s where all the stuff we talk about on this blog falls into place: better coaching, better organized clubs, better player id, more meaningful competition (tournaments and league play), better opportunity for elite players, more sponsorship of clubs (Surf just signed deal with Soccer Loco) to open doors for economically challenged families / players who have the talent, and so on . . . .
This is also a topic Daniel Musatti had an article on in Soccer Nation recently.
As you always say Gary, this is a long process and choosing between rec / professional camp is but one small step for a club but one giant leap for soccer.
Gary Kleiban says
I hope we can start holding people accountable instead of faceless systems / organizations though. Individuals need to feel the heat.
I believe the first step is giving people a deeper understanding of what the status quo actually is.
“They want us to play the beautiful game, but we’re not a technical team like the Germans. We’re not Spain or Brazil,” the player told the Sporting News. “What we’re good at is we work hard, we fight and we compete. We have great athletes and we’re a good counterattacking team. Maybe we need to go back to what we’re good at.”
This is from a USMNT player recently about the state of the National Team, maybe they are being asked to do the right thing and they are just not capable of it, I don’t know because I am not there, but I could imagine of course it is going back to player selection, but wow can you look at all this quote says, get back to what we are good at, why because we are bigger faster stronger, and we think that will win….. Blahhhh, but we are not a technical team, Holy Crap, this just screams rec!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It sounds like two problems, JK doesn’t know how to coach and the players don’t know what it takes to play the style JK wants. Gary and Brian have been stressing that you can’t just get a bunch of pros/kids together and say play “4-3-3” they have to be shown how the coach wants it to be played. How much STT does JK do? I would think he would have to be spending 80& of his camps on it. It sounds like he spends 20% and the players don’t even know what their roles are or if they’re even playing the next day.
yes so true, if the players are saying we should play what we are good at, I would then say the coach is not giving a philosophy that allows for the answers….. I was in no way backing JK, I was just saying that the players quote encompass’ everything that is wrong with soccer in America….
Not sure where to post this,
You see everything is going to be fine, they are all over it…
Yes, well said. And, in the rest of the world it is quite easy to identify the pro camps — they are the youth programs run by the pro clubs. In the US, we have every tom, dick and harry with no pro experience, no pro coaches, no pro training programs, no pro scouts, etc. masquerading as if they are a pro club. All you have to do is ask how many players has your club has put into the pros, e.g. La Liga, EPL, or even the MLS to know the truth.
In the rest of the world, even at the young ages, it’s easy to know if you are a part of the pro camp. Here, it’s just alot of snake oil to take parents money.
Gary Kleiban says
Where there is promotion / relegation, there is a better process of distilling who’s who.
Where there is a closed system, there is a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Promotion / relegation may help you identify the best rec teams out there, but leaves way too much to chance. It puts the onerous on youth players to get to the top teams and it seems there could be plenty of players with pro potential who play for teams that are not at the upper echelons. Does Masia only look at top teams to identify youth talent? In order to identify the best, you need pro scouts out there looking at everybody. And then, funneling the potential pool to a yourth academy with pro coaches to look at the players over a long period of time, develop them and move them along or out.
But I agree, the closed club system is a self-fulfilling prohecy. Hence, Europe and other countries are so much better at identifying and developing talent.
Gary Kleiban says
Promotion / Relegation helps to organically incent quality development more so than a closed system. That is one of the grand differences between the rest of the world and the US.
And within this closed system, there are further restrictions, such as the salary cap, that limit ability to attract and retain the top talent, and develop high quality teams. MLS justifies the salary cap of $2,810,000 per team as a necessary measure to ensure the financial viability of the league. With these kind of restrictions on the players’ salaries, is MLS willing to pay transfer fees or other compensation to a local club for developing a high quality player? Ironically, MLS officials are “surprised”, when FIFA president says that the US lacks a strong professional soccer league. Blatter might be a tool, but he has a point here.
Gary Kleiban says
The closed system is now incrementally being expanded to absorb the entire youth landscape.
How does the ‘financial viability’ argument apply here?
Well, if the entire youth system is closed, then it’s really not a closed system. The question is why is it closed?
If promotion/relegation is the way to develop pro talent, please do not inform the NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL. I kind of think the US is doing quite well in those sports on the world stage…..
In youth sports, promotion / relegation into some top division in a region is redonkulous. Just a selling point for some club that knows nothing about developing pro level talent, to fleece unknowledgeable parents. Is that the gold standard in spain, gernany, brazil, france, UK, etc? We should start with the gold standard. How do the top countries develop talent, how are their coaches trained, how are the youth players trained, etc.
The NFL, NBA and MLB aren’t competing against the world. It’s closed too. They use High School and College to develop their players… which they never have to pay anyone for. Those players don’t pay to play either. Same with basketball. You can’t compare the systems.
In regards to relegation and promotion, he’s talking specifically about the professional leagues here. Our pro players have very little to worry about in terms of what happens to their team. There’s nothing to lose and not that much to gain. If you’re in the NASL or USL Pro… if you’re champions… what’s it get you? Pretty much zip. Also the parity is of the MLS isn’t organic, it favors the owners, the players have very little leverage. It’s not a free market.
The youth system exists in the USA to get college scholarships… not to create professionals. That’s not a high standard. That’s the problem.
The closed system is incrementally becoming a bigger closed system. DA clubs, particularly the MLS academies, are an exclusive membership club with exclusive benefits – another example of a closed system. As you know, DA clubs normally don’t have much competition from other clubs in their geographic area in terms of player recruitment, but it does not mean that they have the best coaches or the top notch youth development programs. Many of the DA clubs haven’t produced a single national team player or a single player who moved to a top European academy. It looks like a rec model to me. By the way, I am not buying the financial viability argument from the MLS. If the Mexican league can flourish without a salary cap just south of the border (and pretty much most leagues in the world use the same model), there is no reason that it is financially impossible to do it in the US. And Mexico’s youth system, while perhaps not the best in the world, is doing quite well. The MLS owners are just clinging to their business model and in their closed system there is very little incentive to take risks and change.
Curious Larry says
Is it the closed Single Entity MLS the chief cause?
Curious Larry says
sorry .. repost for Gary.
Is it the closed Single Entity MLS the chief cause?
Unfortunately this salary cap is very necessary . Its just part of the growing pain of the league. If they did not do this than certain teams…. (Red Bulls) (Galaxy) would explode with talent and make the league a joke. That being said things should change as the model develops. If progressive people are in place to recognize the change when needed…. then maybe it will all start to gel. Transfer fees are a must… the trickle down affect will allow the recreational/professional track to naturally take its course with out the two muddling each other up.
But didn’t Galaxy win the league the last two years anyway under the current system? No disrespect, but I’d rather have higher quality players in MLS with 2-3 teams dominating the table than its current mediocre self. Would it be so bad for the fans to see more world class players or upcoming young talent even if 2-3 teams dominate the regular season. Plus the MLS winner is determined in a playoff format, which benefits underdog teams. Just look at Xolos Tijuana winning Mexican league last year. If LA, NYC or Seattle could offer Corona or Torres a similar salary and level of competition as their Tijuana and Monterrey teams offer, wouldn’t they seriously consider playing in the MLS? Would Michael Hoyos, who was born in California and played soccer there until age of 15, be less likely to go Argentina to tryout with Estudiantes if our youth development system and professional league opportunities close to what Estudiantes offers?
You need a player cap because soccer/football is not popular enough in our country. You can’t compare it to countries where it’s the #1 sport and even poor teams make plenty of money. Having said that, talking with many European fans, many would prefer a salary cap. Heck, maybe England wouldn’t suck so bad as a national team if they were forced to develop their own players to keep the EPL from instantly going to the worst league in the world rather than fielding 20% Englishmen in their own league.
Remembering that professional soccer is a business first and foremost. Economics 101 by Adam Smith: they are in business to make money, not for altruistic reasons. In any business, growth doesn’t happen unless something triggers it. Investment and smart leadership (such as marketing, strategic staffing, product development, outside partnerships, teaming arrangements, branding, market segmentation, understanding your mission, flexibility to keep with changing market and attracting new customers, etc… ).
Soccer is no different. In my own line of work, salary caps drive away top specialists. Top talent priced out of market or barrier to entry. Cutting edge businesses find clever ways to retain top talent while maintaining cost control or increased profit stream / operating revenue. There are numerous cash flows (positive and negative) and I’m not sure MLS fully understands their business and how to grow. Of course I have no insight. Just a guess as I do believe they can do far more to have better product.
As I heard on “The Locker Room” on Bein Sport last night: “MLS is athletic, but not technical league.” They can change the equation but need to pay for those players . . . and MLS is not changing the equation by bringing in 34-year old has beens. MLS’ slow careful growth plan needs to loosen the reigns a bit. And more needs to be done to better develop the soccer pyramid, like other countries. Young talent out of college have nowhere to go. A good soccer pyramid can offer opportunity, a place for maturing talent to make MLS a better product. I think this is what Blatter was saying, but due to language barrier came out wrong.
Salary Caps are not the problem. The NFL does fine with it. Many of the European leagues are struggling with the lack of a salary cap. They are either in serious debt or have some billionaire funding them.
Ultimately, if you have a better product they should come. The problem is the product is trash and that is largely because our youth system is trash. We don’t have technical creative players. Yet that’s what makes this sport so great. We have big strong fast players. If I wanted to see a bunch of big strong fast players colliding at speed I’d watch the NFL or Rugby.
True, salary cap is not the problem. There are many problems for MLS and US Soccer. All I’m saying is salary caps (in my opinion) are two edge sword. Helps avoid problems you point out, but also limits on field product. NFL is closed system with captive US audience. Their development system totally different. It’s not a easy nut to crack for sure. Don Garber and company have a difficult job to grow MLS and along with USSF, develop a better youth system.
Dr Loco says
“The problem is the product is trash and that is largely because our youth system is trash.”
That is just an excuse. Let’s take a look at some numbers.
20 MLS teams
6 developmental teams U13-U18 each
20 players per team
That’s only 2400 players that need to be developed every year in a country that’s 300+ million.
Sounds like an easy task to me. Just look at Gary creating a national team from 15 players.
Perhaps other big league American sports/media are involved in a conspiracy/corruption against soccer and it’s threat to money/popularity in the U.S.
This is a great article, and I think that you hit the nail on the head when you talk about the pro and recreational mindsets. I think that the mindset of the club and its players go a very long way toward distinguishing if they are professional or recreational. In my mind the mindset is very important and no one will really achieve outstanding performance without the right mindset. But I don’t think that there is any argument that the 1 KEY difference between professional and recreational is who pays for your development. When I player is paying to be part of a club, regardless of the mindset they are involved in some form of recreational activity. Professional soccer players even semi professional soccer players do not pay to play, recreational soccer players do pay to play.
It is easy to talk about all sorts of things in this world, but too many clubs want to be something they are not. ANY club who charges players money to be part of their organization, are landing someplace on the recreational spectrum, this is a fact it cannot be argued and cannot be changed. This doesn’t mean that a recreational club doesn’t have a professional mindset, and it doesn’t mean that this particular recreational club isn’t producing players that are able to take the step to the next level, it also doesn’t mean that this club isn’t doing the work to scout and recruit and develop the best possible players.
There are far too many people in North America who played professionally, coaches professionally, spent a week at a professional club, invited professional coaches to their club, etc and all of these people claim to provide a professional experience, they say that they have been exposed and as a result they are passing along that experience to the young players they work with. The fact of the matter is the vast majority of these coaches charge players money to be part of their professional environment. WHEN KIDS PAY IT IS NOT PROFESSIONAL. Some of these coaches do an excellent job developing players, and regularly produce players who play internationally and professionally, this doesn’t change that they charge the kids to play.
We need to get to the point in North America where the best players are not paying to play soccer. In the United States this would mean the Academy League is free, not costing several thousand dollars so that only the upper middle class can afford to participate. Once the best players can develop at the cost of the professional clubs then we will start to see North America develop top quality talent.
Gary Kleiban says
So many angles I can touch on from your contribution.
Some things I’ll throw out there:
* One can not have optimum pro-player development under a pay-to-play model.
* Having a professional mindset is independent of pay-to-play, but the ceiling of your work is capped.
Also, if a club aspires to quality pro-player development, they must make money. One model is to have a pay-to-play ‘recreational arm’ to fund the ‘professional arm’.
Those 3 points sum up my point well. I would also add.
*for either USA or Canada to be competitive internationally, there needs to be more professionalized player development at the youth stages, where the best players are involved, not the players who happen to have access to several thousand dollars a year to be in the top programs.
Once we are able to reduce or eliminate the players who slip through the cracks for financial reasons, we will start to reach the top level.
And you are right you should have a recreational arm that funds the pro player development in your club.
I’ve been reading this blog with great interest, and had some discussions regarding “talent” etc under the La Masia headline earlier in the previous week.
I’d just like to ask what you mean with “One can not have optimum pro-player development under a pay-to-play model”?
I think that we (Sweden) have a very different view on club football for youth players.
Here, every player pay-to-play until he reach a semi-pro or a pro team (seniors). In some cases, kids sign contracts as early as 15-16, but it’s not common at all.
We don’t have any “proffessional” clubs where “talents” (How do you pick a “talent” btw? What do they look for?) play for free. Who pay?
The system in Sweden is based on having many youth players that pay a small amount (to include everyone. Football is a “peoples sport” here.) to the club. This gives the club a bag of money to distribute for coaches, coach education, clothes etc.
The fee for a 12 month season is somewhere around 2-300$. That includes footballs, clothes, coaches, the lot.
Clubs do have some cost reducing agreements with the government though, so they are not forced to pay taxes as if it was a coorporation that makes big $.
I think our system falls short in many areas, but I do think the system as a whole is quite solid. We need to up the status on football though. Many parents view/use it as a kind of babysitting activity, which I want to get rid of.
But my point is, that in Sweden, everyone pay-to-play. And with 9 million people, we still stay top 20 in the world and keep on qulifying for the EC and WC (We missed WC 2010 though).
So I’m not sure the play-to-pay aspect is as important (At least not in Sweden).
What I do think is important is to understand how kids develop, and to understand that learning soccer takes time.
Many coaches and parents all around the world try harder to form a winning team than educating the team when it comes to youth football.
The mindset must be to educate, rather than winning.
Kids are not good enough to compete in Football at the age of let’s say 12. The physical development is way to separated to compete in pretty much all youth years.
The kids are not educated enough either. Im not saying kids should’nt play games, cause ofcourse they should. But to focus on the results as the number one objective is in straight contradiction to youth development.
For instance, 13 year olds in Sweden can differ 17 inches in hight.
How do you tell if the “talent” is related to superiour physics or if it’s outright skill?
Many academic reports (done in Sweden as well as in the US) point out how difficult it is to point out “talent”, and how easy it is to mix up “talent” with superious physics.
Looking much forward to be inighten with how the Soccer culture is structured in the US, and a good and constructive discussion.
Gary Kleiban says
You’ve got several questions interlaced there. So I’ll just begin to address your request for clarification of my following statement:
“One can not have optimum pro-player development under a pay-to-play model”
My use of ‘optimum’ here is its literal definition.
When any variable that is not strictly football related exists, and can influence who plays and who doesn’t, that is not optimum.
The degree to which a certain variable, in this case economic, effects the end product can be debated (as there may be many contexts to consider). But even if it is just a little effect, that is already not optimum.
A trivial example … consider the following 2 scenarios:
1) For my roster of 18, at least 13 players must pay fees on the order of ~$2000/year.
2) For my roster of 18, no one needs to pay a penny.
One of those greatly inhibits my capacity for recruiting and retaining players which I think are ‘the best’ and may have ‘the highest potential’ of becoming a quality professional to my roster.
Now, does it matter how good or bad I am at identifying ‘talent/potential’?
But what’s far more damaging is having a selection process dictated by economics.
Oh, yeah, I got carried away there, so threw in some more text while I was at it. 🙂
I totally understand.
The reason why I asked was that I could read between the lines that you probably talked about fees way over the Sweedish levels.
If a player (parent) need to pay ~2000$/season, I defenetly understand your point. And that was pretty much why I wanted to ask – to get a better understanding of what kind of money we was talking about.
2000$ is defenetly a hurdle, no doubt.
But who finance the “proffessional” clubs if the youngsters in it don’t pay?
In Sweden, each club is like any other organized club.
To take part, you need to pay the yearly fee.
If the fee was ~2000$, it would ofcourse cut the pool of potential players by quite a bit.
But if the fee was 2-300$, the pool of players would ofcourse be bigger.
But as we all know, money is an obsticle, no matter the sum. So I’m sure we miss out on players in Sweden as well because of the fee, but the fee is there to pay for footballs, cones, clothes, etc.
Who would pay for that if not the members?
The government? – not likely
Sponsors? – need money back – can’t guarantee.
It’s a tough equation.
I think this is an interesting subject, cause I want to get a grip on how the soccer culture in the US looks, and how it’s organized to post more relevant feedback in here.
Cause I’ve noticed that everything (for sure) does’nt line up to how we do things in Sweden.
This understanding is important for me to know when reading and responding to posts in here.
“When any variable that is not strictly football related exists, and can influence who plays and who doesn’t, that is not optimum.”
Great insight Gary! We all hate pay to play, but the way you phrase it is so concise and logical. I would include academics (GPA and SAT scores) as not optimal. As someone recently pointed out, getting a college degree is a beautiful and wonderful thing, but it should be separate, mutually exclusive factor for identifying and developing professional players.
Know the Truth says
Gary stop talking too much and teach your brother and yourself some manners, teach yourself not to steal players from other clubs. Not to talk too much, Bragg touch about yourselves and specially learn how to respect others that includes the kids your brother Brian and Sacha Van ser most got rid of for no reason , only keeping on kid which is related to Brian’s best friend and a white boy that Sacha himself recognizes as a very bad player . Practice what you preach , train and develop kids
Don’t get kids that Justo Limon had already train and made them champions.
What you refer to as “Recreation Soccer” I call “Fresh air and exercise soccer”. Same thing. It is a great American institution, but bears enough of a resemblance to the beautiful game to drive everyone on this blogs nuts…
I agree with many of the points, but would like to add that American kids generally have not mustered the desire within themselves to be pros at any level yet because, for one thing, money, or lack thereof in the sport that they see marketed to them. Some of today’s best MLS players will make less money in their lifetime from soccer than if they had taken an unskilled, but secure jobs as cashier or gas station attendants. No offense to cashiers and gas pumpers of NJ…
Also, with such a high percentage of recreational players around them it is easy for decent athletes to be better than average soccer players relative to their peers. Easy social credit. Why take it any further? For who? For what? By the time they figure it out it’s too late to make the switch from rec to pro mindset.
Soccer is the biggest show in the world. We know that. It is inevitable that the ultimate competitiveness of it will infect our shores and our youth, one by one, more of a percentage in each generation. World Cup to World Cup cycle the attributes of the sport will become more present in the minds of all Americans. Even we are not able to resist the lure of the game with the ball at the feet.
Another thing about the rec mindset that drives me nuts is how it protects the status-quo from all of those pesky foreigner kids and parents who know and care so much more about soccer. Their kids are looking to show off their foot skills all the time at such a young age. Why don’t they try baseball and see how foolish they look? Suburban-based soccer culture is like ten thousand Alamos trying to maintain their inner peaceful and orderly apathy for as long as possible, but the ending is inevitable. HOw dare those pesky foreigners take away my native born child’s easy social credit activity! For what a chance at a $40k/year job as a pro for 10 years of his life? No way I’m going to allow that in my Alamo!
At a certain point the money becomes enough and the pride of mastery in something important becomes enough to tip the scales and the Alamos go down one-by-one. The question I have is can we utilize the massive existing infrastructure of a 99.9% recreational soccer culture for one more balanced towards creating pros once it finally happens? I think so…
jesran, agree with 99% of what you said. However, regardless of the perceived shortcomings of MLS, I still maintain that a player that has the talent and desire to not let that get in their way.
As we all know, it is becoming more and more evident that American players are gaining some ground and getting more opportunities globally. (Granted, progress is slow.)
To me, it is about the pursuit of true excellence. After all, does an aspiring violinist in a top orchestra grow up pondering and commiserating over the salary they will make? They don’t do it for the money. (Not that there’s anything wrong with it.)
I think it has less to do with ‘demographics’ than people think. Plenty of barrio/inner city kids that are lazy, spoiled turds.
There’s a great DVD to check out called “The Jay Demerit Story”. http://jaydemeritstory.com/
Maybe you’ve seen it. Seems like Jay was a big, strong, fast young athlete growing up in heartland America. Excellent at everything he tried. At some point he got bit by the soccer… big time. He took it upon himself to rise above the rest (like you are saying) and he did, sort of. He played a big part in an EPL team promotion. He played a big part in USMNT Confederation Cup victory over Spain… but still he is a nobody in the soccer elite. His greatness is all relative and it becomes quickly apparent when trying to explain to someone who is unfamiliar with his story why it rightly deserves to have a movie created around it. It’s like a Rocky story but without the championship or the heavy-weight mystique. The main point of interest being the fact that he’s American… he rose up despite all of the pressure to do something else. Be a football player, stay in college, hell just get a girlfriend, a job and be an average-Joe… anything but being a soccer player. For who? For what? I admire Jay Demerit even if I can’t stand the way he plays. He is doing the best with what he’s got… heart, physique, discipline, intelligence… just not a lot of finesse.
Donovan, Dempsey, Tim Howard, even Michael Bradley (despite his nepotism advantage) are all similarly remarkable in how their desire prevails, but they are the ones that Gary is calling “Pro” and they are in the miniscule percentage of our population. That should be every tenth kid like it is in baseball, football, basketball and hockey. It shouldn’t be 1 in 100,000 kids.
In my tiny town we’ve got a couple of kids who at 13 could probably become pros if they wanted. Academy team, super athletes, bright kids, apparent desire. Maybe they do want to and that’s why they are so good. However, you look at them and say do they really want to not play for their high-school team? Do they really want to skip college like so many on this blog advocate because the soccer is so bad? Do they really want to be mediocre in the world arena and making $40k/year maybe for 5-10 years as the culmination of being the absolute best at the town’s most popular sport?
You know it’s going to kill them to be so good at something locally and go anywhere be just pretty good. Demerit seemed to unwilling to accept that and pushed himself to way over-achieve. Now he plays for MLS and is good but you can see he doesn’t get the credit he deserves for being a pioneer and likely one day a legend. Donovan appears to just be burned out by what he has chosen to do with his life.
It’s just a shame. To me it seems as if the sport has been hijacked by the recreationists and they are not giving it back without blood and tears.
Balotelli was playing football… Mancini was being Mancini. Sounds like Mancini needs to chill out… not Mario.
I disagree with you to a certain level Gary. Among the truly elite players, “making it” or not is partly dependent on the strength of their mind. As the saying goes, “soccer is 90% from the neck up.” That’s soccer IQ, but it’s also MENTAL STABILITY.
How did a skinny little kid, become the greatest of all time? Why does Messi get better every year?
“I’m more concerned with being a good person than being the best footballer in the world” – Leo Messi
Messi has worked his tail off – that is how he is the greatest. Stability and identity outside of soccer allow players to work their tails off without destroying themselves (drugs, money… etc.). What I’m saying is… there is something to developing players as people too. It’s like building a house, you need a strong foundation. A solid identity outside of soccer allows players to reach much greater heights in the end.
I know I’m the minority on this blog for thinking this way and that is fine. I hope we don’t blow by this concept of character in the name of attacking mediocracy! I don’t like mediocracy either. I’m about excellence and I think everyone here is too. The proof of my theory will be in the pudding – what will my players go on to do.
“I know I’m the minority on this blog for thinking this way and that is fine. I hope we don’t blow by this concept of character in the name of attacking mediocracy! I don’t like mediocracy either. I’m about excellence and I think everyone here is too. The proof of my theory will be in the pudding – what will my players go on to do.”
I believe your comment above defines the “recreation” mentality and part of the problem. So many coaches confuse their role of that of a boyscout troop leader believing it’s more important or as important to create good human being and a wonderful citizen. Your kids might stay out of jail, pay their bills, and perhaps be president of this country some day, but can you instill a professional mindset. I would think no by your comments and post. Please explain how a “solid identity ouside of soccer” helps on the soccer pitch? Without the identity of soccer and the sole purpose on this planet, Messi wouldn’t be Messi, and that’s what you and so many are missing. You must live it, breathe, want it, or you won’t ever have it.
Gary Kleiban says
I agree with your sentiment as well Tim.
Unfortunately, when you say things like that, many take it as an opportunity to attack your character. As if you were a proponent of raising some low-life scum.
“Please explain how a ‘solid identity’ outside of soccer” helps on the soccer pitch? Without the identity of soccer and the sole purpose on this planet, Messi wouldn’t be Messi, and that’s what you and so many are missing. You must live it, breathe, want it, or you won’t ever have it.
Your kids might stay out of jail, pay their bills, and perhaps be president of this country some day, but can you instill a professional mindset.”
TIm, what I’m saying when I say “solid identity” is just that the whole person is important. If we don’t recognize the value of each player and help them develop qualities beyond soccer, we might have kids that: go to jail, don’t pay their bills, gamble their money way and essentially WASTE their talent. A true “professional is one that has some class. I know the Kliebans are concerned about the players as a whole and so this is not a personal attack. In my experience I have had seen many talented players that I grew up playing with totally wasted their talent, because they didn’t develop as people. I grew up playing with the likes of Michael Bradley, Feddy Adu and others, so they were truly talented players (by American standards) and many of my friends played and many other didn’t because of personal reasons. The kids that were best at U13, U15, U17 didn’t always end up becoming the best players. Side note: Michael Bradley was nothing special as a youth player. He made it because he improved and gained people’s respect with his hard work. (dad might have helped a little). There are character development that a coach needs to help teach his players.
I would love to have you outline in more details the qualities and characters of a true professional.
Only superstar players can get away with being jackasses. It’s important to have some class is what I’m saying. Kids that lacked a support and stability in their life – were the most susceptible to getting into things that lead to wasting their talent. Every kid needs people in their life that care about them outside of soccer, sometimes the coach is the only one, otherwise it’s harder for them to make it.
Soccer Purist says
Tim- Barcelona would disagree with you. A large part of their identification process and philosophy at La Masia centers around developing good, honest, humble people as well as great players. I would venture to say it is a significant factor to their success outside of their training methodology. Someone like Balotelli would never be welcomed at the club.
Then why did Barca sign Ibrahimovic?
I’m not sure saying coaches “confuse” their role is always right. There’s a huge percentage of the population in the states that lives in an area with a population base that doesn’t allow for the professional mindset – myself included. I already recruit any player with any level of talent within an hour radius and combine U13 and U14 just to fill a team. In situations like mine, we don’t have the luxury of recruitment and release in the sense that you big city folk talk about. There is no option of my better players going to a more professional club because we only have one club within a reasonable travel time.
In this community, at this time, my role absolutely is to develop people first and high quality soccer players second – else I wouldn’t have enough players to field a team at all.
Dr Loco says
” In situations like mine, we don’t have the luxury of recruitment and release in the sense that you big city folk talk about.”
I live in a big city and still have your problems. The professional mindset doesn’t appear to exist in most places in any sport. It’s a product of our society. Our kids are not really hungry…too much McDonalds. Mommy and Daddy always holding their hand.
“my role absolutely is to develop people first and high quality soccer players second”
A coach’s responsibility is to develop players first, period. Coaches are not equipped to develop people unless they work with psychologists, nutritionists, therapists, health professionals, etc. Don’t lie to yourselves like most youth clubs.
Dr Loco says
We need more kids like this one.
Gary Kleiban says
I agree with you Alec.
We absolutely touch on the development of the human being.
It’s just that we have to understand people have different views/cultures on what that looks like in varying contexts.
And when someone doesn’t agree (whether genuinely, or with an agenda), attacks ensue.
“I hope we don’t blow by this concept of character in the name of attacking mediocracy!”
I’m with you man!
The problem arises when one’s character is attacked for a competing agenda. This happens over and over again throughout history, and is an instrument to keep different ideas under control.
I think it is safe to say that our (American) culture is ignorant to the price that is paid to become the kind of dominant winner that we all idolize. We all love the winner…then get squeamish about the price that was paid to achieve so transcendently. Yes, Messi wants to be a great person, but he means that in the context of the nurturing bubble that has allowed him to pursue being a footballing genius with singular focus. Don’t confuse what he means by that.
This topic is one of Colin Cowherd’s favorite rants and he says it well. Check out these two brief quotes:
“For 20 years the best athletes: the Tigers, and Kobes, and Peyton Mannings and MJs are selfish, and they have to be. You can’t be a 9 to 5 guy, best Dad in the world, there for your wife every night and be the best in the world at anything. What often makes the best athlete would make a terrible human. The most balanced people I’ve ever met who have got their family and job and relationships and social life just perfectly coordinated are never ever the most successful people. To be a great you gotta give stuff up. You gotta be manic.”
“To be great – to be TRANSCENDENT – you have to be unbalanced… There’s not enough time in the day to work on your cross-over dribble 12 hours, and be academic, and care about literature. These people that we idolize are mostly unbalanced.”
Gary, I think what you are really getting at is that the recreational among us ought to get comfortable with what they are…recreational. IT’S OK!!!! Lot’s of people can enjoy this beautiful game recreationally. There’s nothing wrong with that (some of us have to pay to watch the game while the pros play it)! But stop pretending to be the gold standard of player development when you’re not. That farce is, of course, going to require that you attack and criticize the truly elite teachers of the game since they threaten your ability to continue fooling the masses.
I could say much more on this topic, and I have as many questions, but I’ll stop.
Gary Kleiban says
Please continue whenever you get the urge Jason!
I doubt I can say it better.
“Risk more than others think is safe. Care more than others think is wise. Dream more than others think is practical. Expect more than others think is possible.”
Coaches in the professional camp don’t let a training session or a match go by without casting a vision for their players of the biggest stage.
Coaches in the recreational camp dream small dreams themselves and, therefore, aren’t able to transfer anything more to their players. In the end, for most, it’s a question of following the money. Hugo Perez alluded to this in his interview on the Football Garden podcast a few weeks ago. Clubs are most concerned with attracting players (which really means attracting dollars). And for the most part our culture just won’t tolerate the kind of laser focused lifestyle that produces world class professional players. So the clubs “follow the money” and just give the customers what they want: A well rounded, safe, gentle, warm, fuzzy youth soccer experience, that keeps the dollars rolling in, but produces scarcely little in terms of quality players, and then only by accident.
Now, this is not a problem in and of itself. In fact many would argue that producing a vast army of decent soccer players who learn to love the game serves the purpose of creating an attentive fan base of soccer supporters. That, in theory, should bode well for the critical mass of backing the US will need to become a world power.
BUT…and this is huge… we need to delineate between recreational pursuit of the game and professional pursuit of the game, so that those who want to aim for the peak aren’t fooled into climbing the ladder of soccer greatness only to discover that their ladder was leaned up against the wrong building.
I have two daughters and a son who play club soccer. They play for respectable clubs in our area, my son for the youth club of an MLS team. It literally baffles me that most of the education that they get about just how big they can dream, and just how high they can reach comes from home. I read this post and some of the comments to the kids tonight. My middle daughter said that she would rather be a balanced person to which my son blurted out “I want to make enough money that I can buy a house every time I play a game.” (He’s nine). Two completely different responses, both of which are perfectly good.
But here is the problem. Where does my son go to get the truth about what is required to achieve his dream when most everyone out there is posing as somethig they are not? Who will develop and mold him??? Maybe we will have to move to LA if we can get a trial for him with Brian and Gary.
A few other thoughts:
1. Totally agree with Steve that if you want to hear the actual voice of someone who passionately agrees with what Gary is saying in this post, got to the Football Garden podcast and listen to the interview of Brent Goulet. He was so transparently frustrated about this issue that I almost grabbed my pitchfork and started organizing the peasant uprising against the US soccer establishment. Thanks Jacque for all your good work.
2. Also TOTALLY agree with Hincha that this post lifted a ton of fog for me. Gary, like many people who find themselves here, I first was exposed to video u11’s last year. After seeing that, I began reading the blog furiously but a lot of it was just confusing, like you were speaking in riddles. Thank you SO MUCH for opening up more in this post. There are about 5 or 6 things that instantly made sence from other posts that were previously fuzzy. Like the culture issue, and the philosophy issue. I get it.
KEEP IT UP!! You are making a difference.
Dr Loco says
Well rounded people tend to be mediocre. Interesting. Does being crazy make you special?
I think there is some mix-up between a well rounded person and a jack of all trades and master of none syndrome – if I might call it that – that permeates the recreational mentality. You can be well rounded and become a master of something but being foolish will not make one special.
Dr Loco says
“I think it is safe to say that our (American) culture is ignorant ”
This is the definition of “Culture”, and why we don’t understand culture from a footballing standpoint!
Recreation is our culture
Dr Loco says
We are a nation of disposable income. We need recreational activities to keep us happy…youth soccer, golf, country clubs, coupons, black friday, shopping malls, iPhones, HDTVs, cars, assault rifles, fast food, etc
Since most of us have been brought up within the “Recreation” world, it’s hard for us to even recognize what the Pro Development environment even is…
Could you bullet out 8-12 things that are identifiers? What the differences are in their levels… like what do they look like at u8-u10… do they even bother at that age? Low fees/high turnover of players?
Since apparently 99% of clubs aren’t developing for pros, knowing what to look for and what’s expected at the 1% would be helpful.
Gary Kleiban says
That’s exactly right Steve!!!!!!!
Essentially nobody in this country has been exposed to what a “professional” philosophy is, and what it’s execution looks like.
And no, parents, just because you may have a kid on a ‘top-level’ team or club with great organization and infrastructure doesn’t mean shit!
And a short list of what the Pro Development philosophy IS/DOES differently.
I’m sure the list is long… but what are 6 things that are vastly different than what we do?
Agreed with Steve and Gary, virtually nobody native to America was raised in a professional soccer environment…. including me btw… Ok contrast that with all the various foreign professional leagues. You know Serie A, Serie B, Premiere League, Second League, Turkish First League, Turkish Second League, etc., etc., etc. all around the world at every level. OK. Now think about all the true professional footballers that got injured, got married, had a child, or otherwise saw a better opportunity to move to the USA to raise a family. Where the hell are these people in our youth soccer?! We shun them and we shouldn’t. They are a tremendous resource. Their varying viewpoints are a commodity to us, but we keep them out because of their funny accents. We love the ones that speak English as a first language and pay them too much and hold them too high up. Anyway, English as a first language, second language, or not at all these new Americans are the only people available that really know what it’s like to train to be a professional in the world’s most competitive sport. Let’s use them. Jurgen Klinsman is a good example. There’s more. Otherwise, we wait for people like Donovan, Dempsey, Howard and Bradley to retire and get into coaching and hope they do it with a professional focus. Again, most MLS players I believe were brought up in a Recreational environment and succeeded despite it.
If a man or women in your town says they played professional soccer at any level from a foreign country or domestically sign them up for your club’s board. Listen to them.
Quick story: my wife, who is Turkish, does the equipment purchasing for our local league. She changed the uniforms to ones that look more European. Red and white vertical stripes like Sunderland http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1101807-ranking-the-20-english-premier-league-home-team-jerseys/page/17. Having grown up in the shadow of Fenerbahce Stadium in Istanbul, to her this type of uniform looks right. Recently, men were banned from Fenerbahce stadium due to bad behavior and they filled it with 41,000 women and children who all wore the vertical striped jerseys and had the banners and new the songs. Imagine that in US!
Well, in US men would never be segregated this way… but the point is that there is some real passion for the beautiful game where my wife grew up. Anyway, the kids start wearing these vertical striped jerseys, like Fenerbahce and Sunderland, and the criticism starts rolling in from the parents (kids love them btw). Who ordered them? What was the rational? Etc. The best comment was from a mother who asked what was up with the new uniforms? When my wife asked what she didn’t like about them she responded that they looked “too soccery”. I’ll leave us with that…
Gary Kleiban says
“Could you bullet out 8-12 things that are identifiers?”
That’s a big challenge Steve! Justice can never be done with brief bullet points. Certainly something I’ll be thinking about for years to come.
But not to leave you hanging, a starting point is looking at the bullet points from the original post and be contrarian:
Rec / Pro
“It’s all about the kids” / No! It’s all about producing quality professionals
“They’re only 12″ / So what? If we want to develop quality pros, they need to be on track
“Playing time issues” / Decent aggregate playing time throughout the course of year is important, not a single game or weekend. This is not a charity!
“Well rounded” / If you want to be the best at something, you don’t spread yourself thin.
“Just let them play” / Maybe before U9. After that … absolutely not! Players should not be doing whatever they want on field. Ultra-specific roles and boundaries should exist.
“Cutting players is horrible” / Nope. There should be a relentless pursuit of building a roster consisting of players with perceived highest talent
“Winning vs Development” / If you’re not winning, there’s a problem
“Diving” / Any talk of ‘diving’ as an ‘outrage’ is a problem
“High School vs Academy” / ‘Academy’, unless there’s a master coach at your HS. End of story.
“Referees this and that” / Those who spend ‘too much’ breath talking about referees, generally can’t talk about the game.
“Unlucky” / Saying unlucky is a sign of a recreational culture
“Don’t run up scores” / Build a killer mentality in players
“Mourinho/Balotelli/Suarez a piece of garbage” / Those who attack the character of a person, generally can’t talk about the game
“Coaches should shut up on the sidelines” / Absolutely not! Especially operating in the US landscape where every moment a coach spends with a player is far more critical than our international counterparts.
“It’s a player’s game” / Absolutely not! You should be looking for the deliberate choreography of the players. This is a team game!
“The team just needs to ‘gel’” / Teams don’t magically ‘gel’ to their potential. You should be looking for the deliberate choreography of the players.
In general Steve, I recommend thinking the opposite of just about everything written in the media or on soccer forums.
Thank you. That’s exactly what I wanted to see, the contrast in philosophies.
I find the US Soccer media falls into the habits that pervade talk about the Big 3 sports in the US (NFL, NBA and MLB), they talk about the personalities, or statistics or money. We’re insulated, we don’t play a global game. Throwball, 5 second plays strung together over 3-4 hours? With as many commercials as possible. Baseball… look at the guts on those guys. World Series? Not really. NBA, yeah I love the ends of close games where there’s 4 timeouts in the last minute of a game. Way to kill the excitement.
These are the sports the media here loves, the culture we’re used to… and it’s clueless about the game when they cover US soccer… even the writers that love the game.
I avoid the media and forums. It’s too depressing.
Coaches shutting up on the sideline. That’s a new one. I thought the coaches really needed to let the kids figure out if they are going to learn to be spontaneous. I was just reading up on the Dutch model that encourages this. Are there differences on this point across the pro development community- some places the coach lets the players work it out and others they don’t?
-I have always been a fan of Phil Jackson’s laid back approach so that’s why I thought this was a better approach.
““They’re only 12″ / So what? If we want to develop quality pros, they need to be on track.”
Yes, they’re only 12. They’re kids. How do you get them “on track”?
What does it mean to be “on track” according to you?
If the coach is good enough, they’ll be “on track” (depending on what you mean by that?) without feeding them with pro-this-and-pro-that. I agree, they “need to be on track” (according to me, that’s about loving the game, and be focused. NOT related to “skill” or “talent”).
But the question is how do you accomplish that? – By recruiting? Recruit based on what?
If you think that you can recruit a group of such 12 year olds, and be 100% sure they’ll stay “on track” all the way to the seniors, I’d love to know what you base that on?
The team I’m seeing here is a team of good 12 year olds that win games all the time.
Does that give their coach status to win?
Does the kids develop because of the wins only, or do they can devolop without winning?
Why do we want the kids to win at the age of 12?
Is it because the competative coaches want to win?
The coaches need to understand that they are educating for something that are supposed to blossom 6-10 years up the road.
The coaches need to understand that kids deveolop at different rates, and that judging performances below 15 is a trial and error process in terms of seeing who’ll become a pro at 18-22.
““Just let them play” / Maybe before U9. After that … absolutely not! Players should not be doing whatever they want on field. Ultra-specific roles and boundaries should exist.”
They will not do “whatever they want on field” if you PRACTICE right.
There’s a huge difference in beeing a coach, and a trainer. Kids don’t need to be coached (part from when and who to swap etc,), they need to be trained. The games are when they practice what they’ve done in practice. If parents and coaches shout “do this”, “do that”, they are blocking the kids, effectively tressing them – no preformance.
Perticulary parents should lean back. Many proffessional clubs have parent policys that say just this.
““Cutting players is horrible” / Nope. There should be a relentless pursuit of building a roster consisting of players with perceived highest talent”
It depends on what grounds players are cut.
On what grounds do you cut players (if you do)?
How do you know if a player you cut at 12 would’nt/won’t become a hi quality proffessional once they reach 18-22?
Then you have the general health aspect on top of that, but we’re only discussing how to educate the pros here, so forget that for now.
What’s a “talent” according to you?
““Winning vs Development” / If you’re not winning, there’s a problem.”
Why? The kids need to win?
Ok, on what grounds do you say that?
““Coaches should shut up on the sidelines” / Absolutely not! Especially operating in the US landscape where every moment a coach spends with a player is far more critical than our international counterparts.”
See “Just let them play”
What this comes down to is that you in the US (who really care), are where Europeans was 20-40 years ago (depending on club and country) with these discussions.
Europe has been standing still for decades. But the last few years, things are changing. And once this “hard” menatality (that still excists in Europe, but are on it’s way out) that you now promote will be all gone in Europe by the time it’s implemented. And you will still be behind.
Youth football is changing all over Europe.
You’re looking for killer athletes.
What to notice about that is that football is’nt classified as a game of physics, it’s classified as a game of skill and mind (according to resent studies in Europe).
With the above in mind, how could you ever compete (at a senior level which I do believe is the target here) if you look for the best athletes, in a game that is’nt played in that way?
Your tradition on how to develop athletes goes deep, since you’ve done a great job with developing the highest quality players for NFL, NHL and NBA. But all those games are athletes games, while football is a game of skill and mind foremost. Ofcourse the players need to be athletic. It’s one of the toughest sports in the world because of the competition. But good physics won’t get you anywhere in the game of football if you don’t posess the skill and mind.
Skill and mind are attributes that takes a long time to learn.
And it’s hard to teach it as well.
It requires quality coaches, and solid curriculums.
When I grew up, in the 80-90’s, I was in the eye of the system you’re talking about.
Yes, it does give better results compared to the system you’re having now (if I got it right), but it produce less results compared to where Europe is already heading.
You have a major shot at taking a giant leap towards Europe.
Going the elitist way (up to the age of 15) will just keep the differences intact.
And this is in no way in favour for what you label as “recreational”. It’s the opposite, believe me. It’s just that Europe have already done what you want to do for decades, and are now following curriculums on reports on:
Youth development (coordinative, physical and mental)
Brain reserach (decition making – calculate risk/reward)
Social Health and menatlity issues.
Your absolute biggest issue frm what I understand is to wipe away the recreational attitude. Form a structured and high status way of looking at football.
Football in Europe got the highest status imaginalble.
And from that, the coaches will be educated and experianced, with a more educated point of view, and with less parents that does it cause no one else do.
As long as the status is what it is, you won’t start producing players like in Europe.
Focus on the training content – not the games.
In other news, the savior for Real Mardrid last night was Raphael Varnae. Signed to a professional club at the ripe age of nine and made his debut with the first team at 17.
Pardon, c’est Varane.
Great rant Dennis! Can’t say I disagree with anything you said.
I’m sorry if it came thru as a rant.
It was supposed to start a debate rather than beeing a rant.
Jake: Mikael Nilsson played div 6 (really low) at the age of 23. When he ended his career a few years ago, he had represented Sweden in 2 EC’s, and 1 WC. And was proffessional in many countries in Europe.
Henrik Larsson played div 2 (semi-level) to 21. When he ended his career, he had represented Sweden in 3 WC’s, 3 EC’s. Won the golden boot in Europe (the best striker in Europe), won several awards as Swedens best player, won the ECL with FCB in 2006. Played the UEFA cup (former Europa league) final with Celtic in 2004 (iirc).
He also represented Feyenord and Manchester United.
Grosso, Italian defender played semi-pro up to 24. In the WC final in 2006, he scored the deciding goal against France.
The list of exeptionally good players that did not turn pro at 17, and was not regarded as “telents” at young ages can be loooong.
The rant was good. I like the banter.
Those are great examples, but are they the exception, not the rule? The US has been looking for exceptions and it hasn’t worked.
I can’t decide if you’re hopped up on coffee, akvavit, or the Swedish bikini team, but you do have some passion. I like it.
“You’re looking for killer athletes”
If you’re speaking of US Soccer leadership, you are preaching to the choir. If you are speaking of posters and commenters on this site, then you are mistaken. Everyone that I have read on this site is looking for the “right” athlete, not the killer athlete. Just wanted to clarify.
“produce less results compared to where Europe is already heading.”
I’m not sure that I’m on board with the fact that Europe is shifting to the “S3” – Softer, Swedish Style. They may be evolving, but they are still recruiting kids from the age of 7 to their academies, playing high level competition at young ages and making their first team debuts at 17. Since you just started your program we will have to follow your progress and see how some of your over 20’s are assimilated into the pro and national team ranks.
Don’t get me wrong, I like your concept and as Dr. Loco said it would be a great fit with our recreation system. You could filter some late bloomers back into the system that way. In my opinion you still need an accelerated development model for the advanced player to get the proper training and competition level to be prepared for the pro academy at approximately 16.
“Results- Why? The kids need to win”
Isn’t winning the natural result with the excellent practice and coaching you speak of? Maybe you don’t need to go 20-0, but 14-6, or even 13-7 seems reasonable. I will give you a personal example. One of my sons plays on a U7 rec team, we played the two biggest, most athletic teams early in the season and lost 3-4 and 1-2. We just played them both for the second time and beat them 8-2 and 5-0. Not an academy league situation, but it’s all relative and I think it shows the effect of results after proper training.
My question is, that no one here has answered yet.
On what based do you recruit a 7 year old? Or a 12 year old?
Sweden is in no way softer than what you’re describing.
Sweden set the bar high enough to not run recreation football. Such a thing does’nt excist. When it comes to developing the pros, it’s about educating every player according to his skill level, even if that player is’nt up to his peers at the age of 13..
To just push kids in to some kind of pro-factory has proven innafficient in Europe for 40 years.
It do matter what you look at though before deciding who to push in to that factory.
And it’s pretty much all attributes but the physical one.
And the top clubs over here got the money and perticulary the knowledge and infrastructure to do that.
That is not a system you’ll be able to create just because you want to. 99% of the clubs in Europe does’nt have that ability either..
Zlatan Ibrahimovic went pro at 20. Without beeing in a program/factory.
He’s one of the best players in the world.
Something tells me that it’s a lot more about the person than the pro-factorys etc (if we for one second don’t stare ourselves blind at FCB, BM, MU etc.)
Sure, those academys produce a lot of players, but the bulk of proffessional players in Europe does not come from such academys.
And yes, we start to see changes in Europe.
You got the chance to take part of all those reports that point in which direction to develop youngsters.
Cause if you want to wait until you see results, you’ll still be behind by decaded ones the results start comming.
If you want to be the best, don’t walk in others foot prints.
I know that there has been a lot of academic studies on these topics done in the US as well.
Look them up, and create a way that works well for your culture, and I’m sure you’ll take a giant leap towards Europe.
No rant. Just want to throw in a point of view for you to evaluate around that I’ve not found anywhere on this forum.
Much of what is being tossed around here is that we do not even have ONE academy of the FCB, AJAX, MU, BM type and how to create a path to that system/academy with the only real avenue available to us right now, MLS. Our main options are ODP, USDA, USL and college.
Unfortunately, the system that we have now “works best with our culture” and it obviously hasn’t worked. That’s why people in this forum have discussed developing a new culture of soccer in America.
I’m not sure who was talking about recruiting 7 and 12 year olds, but my opinion is that you train 7 year olds heavily in skills/strategy in programs somewhat in the model of yours and the 12+ year olds would filter out into our new mystical system of high level leagues comprised of MLS, perhaps Liga MX and South American pro academy system. For instance Santos FC has an “affiliated” presence in the US that could perhaps be tightened. I won’t bring Chivas USA into the discussion! Then you could have increased competition between North, South and Central America.
How many top level youth academies are there in Sweden? I wonder how that would compare with the Dallas/North Texas area.
We don’t have any “top academy” in Sweden either, if you’re on about what they do at La Masia for instance.
However, we do have some semi-acedemys so to speak, where the club and school cooperate, and where the school and club share the coaches pay check. This is a good structure, but we still don’t educate and develop the players efficiently enough (my remark).
They try to get all kids in the team to select the same school, so as many as possible can practice on daytime with a payed coach.
Perhaps this is a good way for you to start in the US? To set up coorporation between already excisting schools and existing clubs is a good first step, instead of trying to create La Masia from scratch, cause to me, it seem like an impossible task… for now..
I don’t know. Just an idea.
And what’s important to point out here is that despite the lack of “top level youth academies” here in Sweden, we still enter most WC’s and EC’s, are constantly top 20 in the world, have the worst possibilyties in terms of temperature and snow 4 months a year, and a population of 9.000.000. That’s not even half of the number of registered soccer players in the US (about 20.000.000, correct?). We have somewhere around 280.000 (I believe I said 500.000-750.000 or similar in another post in this forum that was wrong. That number is how many are involved in football in any way) registered players.
So the fact that we with a bad weather, small population, and no “top calss academys” can fight with the big ones must mean that we’re doing something right.
But believe me, we can do much much better. And I’m sure we will in let’s say 10-15 years time when we’ve built more roof covered pitches and heated pitches to use during the long winter, and when we’ve been starting to really be efficient when it comes to produce quality players thru educating in the right way, we’ll take a leap, or worst case scenario not fall behind as the evolution of youth soccer occur in Europe just as we speak.
If you think that you can recruit a group of such 12 year olds, and be 100% sure they’ll stay “on track” all the way to the seniors, I’d love to know what you base that on?
Seniors? Are you speaking of High School, I would say on track means, they would not be playing High School soccer according to this blog, that is where you misunderstand, on track means they are training at a high level, in academy somewhere preferably out of the US……..
Ok, Dennis I re-read what you wrote, now I see….. ignore what I previously wrote, but still I think the idea is to prepare them at 12 to funnel into a professional academy so they have the ability to achieve elite status, still what we do at 8 to 10 in the US has to be better than the present system, for years I worked with older teams and would repair players that had either been trained wrong, and came to me with no Soccer IQ, or everything was wrong, the slowest players (not speed) because they had no background….. Letting them play, does not work, it only creates bad habits, giving them information, teaching them how to change the information, and set tactical work, teaches the game and now that I am working with 8 to 10 year olds, I see why I was always frustrated with 14 to 17 year olds, that were donkeys on the pitch….. I credit this blog and other influences in my life for helping me get to where I am at as a trainer. I have a group of U8 players that have a goal of connecting 10 passes everytime they gain possession….. and they can and do….. When they lose the ball they fight to get it back quickly…. It is not about the score, it is about how we play, but winning games follows, not every game, but give me a 10 pass sequence through out the game and lose by a goal, I am happy (at there age), winning by 6 goals because we are better athletes does nothing for anyone, pass the soccer ball, have a pattern to your play, that is what I am going for…..
kg: Yes, my english sometimes require the reader to read it twice.. Sorry for that. 😉
What you are describing is exactly what I’ve been trying to point out.
The importance of educating players. And educate them in the right way.
What you’ve experianced at the ages of 14-17 is ofcourse, as you say a result of a bad period before 14.
That’s why I keep on pushing for the education and development in favour of the winning.
If you practice right, the wins will eventually come. But then, the wins are a result from good education and development, rather that the Coach “ability” to recruit the “best” and most “talanted” kids.
You’re defenetly doing the right thing.
Up the lowest level. Get rid if the 3 month recreation structure, and transform it to a all year activity, with focus on good coaches that understand how and why 8-12 (i.e) year olds perform like they do.
Change the parents result focus to a more supporting culture.
Like in any system that require sustainabiliy, you need to go to the grassroot level first.
Sort the recreation mentality.
That alone will produce way more high quality players than some implementation of “top academies”.
When the grassroot level is at a desireable level, then start looking in to what happen from 12-15, and then from 16-22.
Regarding “Soccer IQ”.
What you’re on about is the ability to play according to the principles of the game.
And that’s exactly what develop the “Soccer IQ”.
I sounds like you know what you’re doing.
Keep it up!
I’m genuinely curious. I’ve seen a lot of comments about the “three month culture” or something similar. I have no idea what the NCAA rules are for college players, but at my son’s age (U-12), all the way through high school, I don’t know any kid who only plays three months per year.
The kids younger than high school play 11 months per year. Fall, Winter (indoor), and Spring. The only month we have all year is July (and trust me – do we look forward to it!). The high school kids play Fall with their high school teams, and then Winter and Spring with the club teams.
I honestly don’t think that’s really unsual. Even at the “rec” level there are fall, spring, and winter indoor opportunities for play around here. Heck. Even my six year-old plays pretty much year-round.
Julie: I’m not from the states (obviously), but from what people have said to me regarding recreation soccer is that it’s a ~200$ fee to play in a local league for ~3 months.
Perhaps there’s opportunity to “re-register” so to speak.
But to me, charging ~500$ for a 12 month membership, with a more structured and consistant curriculum seems like a much better way (if the coach know what he/she’s doing. Like kg.) to educate and develop players instead of “jumping” from one structure to another.
In Sweden, the football is played paralell to high school, collage and university, instead of beeing integrated.
It can be integrated in some semi-academy structures, but if so, the club that the player belongs to outside of school also run the schools soccer program, creating consistency. Which is key for development.
Dennis, KG (or anyone),
Thinking about the U8 players with the goal of connecting 10 passes. How do you feel that affects dribbling skills in that stage of development?
The reason I ask is because I was observing the practice of a very well respected coach in my area recently. During some supervised, small sided games of a group of mainly U8-U10 players the asst. coach told one of the players to pass in a couple situations. The coach eventually pulled the assistant aside and quickly said, ” I want him to dribble”. He told me that sometimes “we” coach out dribbling excellence in some kids and that this one needed to be allowed to try and create dribbling excellence for a FEW years. This boy was new and he was smaller and looked to be about 6 with pretty quick, excellent feet. He basically dominated against the older kids after that.
My long winded question is do you agree with that or do you think all kids should be taught to connect multiple passes even at this age as the norm?
Great point and so often over looked here. As many of us watched the USA Canada game it was apparent we didn’t have a player capable of taking 1 or 2 players on and makihg a play. Movement off the ball was for the most part terrible but the 1v1 stuff was a disgrace and an embarrasement. I’m not against great passing and appreciate the idea of stringing along passes but I think 6,7,8, 9., and 10 year olds should have the flexibilty, freedom, and encouragement to take players on and attack. It makes no sense to create a generation of robotic passers either.
Everything in soccer is passing, so bring on the “robo-passers”, I say.
Let me explain, either you are passing to a teammate (as in Barcelona tika-taka), you are passing to the back of the net (as in shooting), you are passing out of bounds (as in clearing the ball), or you are passing it to yourself (as in dribbling). A human cannot hold a ball with his foot or any other part of his body and run with it. Everything is passing, so learn it!!!
Watching USMNT vs. Canada it is so painful to watch how slow the minds of the USMNT work when they get possession of the the ball. You know that 1-2 second pause when a player receives the ball when nothing is happening except he is lifting his head up to look around the field, not moving one foot, and you can haer the passing lanes slamming shut and hear the hiss of the pressure mounting on the ball from all four sides. I call it the “Duh interval”. It was huge and maddeningly long on Wednesday. I could not stand to watch it. To compare, the “Duh interval” can be measured in a few milliseconds, like a flash, in the La Liga and it is noticeably longer EPL where you see the wheels churning and the opportunities shutting… and in MLS forget about it. It was much like the USMNT vs Canada. It is so excruciatingly long. You know it is the death of any attack. You know it is the precursor to losing possession.
ANyway, this long rant is to explain that our extended “Duh interval” when recieving the ball comes from the fact that almost every one of our homegrown players formed their relationship with game believing that they can carry the ball through crowds and beat a midget goalie for a heroic goal like they did up until they were 13 years old. I swear to God, that is the urge that they are all fighting during the seconds long “Duh interval”.
Passing should never be a second option. It is the only option. Ball comes to you immediately pass it… either to yourself (into a better position, to a teammate, out-of-bounds, or into the back of the net.
Duh interval. I like it! Will use it.
I teach ball skills, learning new moves and practice 1v1’s in training as well quite a bit…… The way I explain it to my teams at all levels is we need to recognize when the pass is on and make it then, if the pass that we see is not there when we recieve the ball, that is to say we know where we want to go with the ball before we receive it, but if it is not there, we can change the information by dribbling and creating new passing lanes(gaps, alleys, call them what you will) . Also we ask the players to recognize when we can go 1v1 to put the other team in a bad situation, which does happen quite often. I guess one last point would be that because we connect 10 passes does not mean we don’t dribble, we do dribble, and for U8 the boys have tremendous skills with the ball, I want them to recognize when to dribble, I would say when you watch the gold standard at it’s best (Barca) they dribble to create, as well as tiki taka, it is the genius of the game. I will also say that it has been my experience with players so young that when I bring a new concept ie. (outside backs making an overlapping run) they then believe that is the only way to play and the next game they try it everytime it is there whether it is on or not. I say that because when we ask something of the players when they are young, the key is allowing them the courage to try it, and sometimes if not always early on fail, but as you continue to teach they will find success….. Hope that makes sense, but I have friends that are trainers that believe at a young age just tell the player to be an individual and not to worry about the tatical aspects of the team game, but it has been my experience recently mostly due to this blog that they are wrong, at least that is my belief. The perfect pass is just that perfect, that is why no one really says the perfect dribble….. lol, just came up with that….
One more thing, the truth is a player must be able to keep the ball to be able to pass the ball…… I believe that says a lot……. and points towards competent ball handlers as a priority as well.
No I agree with you KG have to be able to keep the ball to pass. Obviously there is the literal/recognition problem the younger they are.
Tim, you are right the 1 vs 1 was a mess and quite frankly it has been. When was the last game you remember when you didn’t cringe in virtually all those situations?
Robo passer is better than kick and run, but hopefully we can ID/develop a few in the US that are brilliant with the ball as well.
To say something about a group of players at 8-10, when I have’nt seen them in action is ofcourse hard.
But in general, 8 year old kids don’t got the skill to execute such a series of passes. 10 year olds can (obviously) in general execute such a task better than 8 year olds.
8 year olds should (again, in general) still develop ballcontrol and passes. 9 year olds should start playing according to the principles, and 10 year olds should in a larger degree be instructed in how to play according to the principles.
When I hear what that coach was saying (he should dribble as much as possible), I get chills up my spine.
If he constantly dribbles for a FEW YEARS (oh lord!), how and when is he supposed to learn the principles?
He will be taught to do something that won’t help him later on (if you isolate the 1 vs 1 moment, it’s ok. But to give such instructions during play is beyond any reason. Note: isolating moments is not the way to teach the game, but to develop skills, that you will use with the principles as foundation.)
This case is a typical situation I’ve been trying to highlight.
If we ask us this: What does this kid need to be good at?
Dribble skills or understanding the game?
When the kids play a game, focus should always be to teach the game.
When kids practice isolated skills (shots, passes, dribbles etc), it’s ok to say that he should always do this or that, but not in play. It will develop a habit that he will not benefit from once he reach the upper teens. And then, we need to start teaching the “Soccer IQ” as kg labled it, which in my point of view are refered to as the “principles of football”.
And now we come back to what I’ve been preaching here for a while.
Kids develop at different rates. Just because a kid is fast, got excellent ball control etc, does NOT mean that he should be encurridged to do what he already knows. He should be tought things he need to develop.
The principles for attacking play goes (simple version) like this:
Do your team posess the ball?: yes/no
Do you posess the ball?: yes/no
Can you score? Yes/no
Are you facing the attacking direction?: yes/no
Can you pass the ball forward to someone who’s in a stronger position than you?: yes/no
Can you advance?: yes/no
* Attract opponent
* Beat your defender
Keep in mind, that every decition on the field must (according to the principles) lead to a maintained possession as the primary objective.
If a player decides to beat his opponent and as a result lose the ball, he’ve broken against the principles, and the opponents are given a chance to counterattack or worst case given a scoring opportunity.
It’s all about the decition-making. If a decition leads to loss of possession, the choice was wrong.
In other words, if this kid is encurridged to constantly dribble (note how far down dribble is according to the principles), and lose the ball 9/10 times, he’s effectively encurridged to brake the principles.
And that will in no way be to his advantage later in the learning process. If the kid is unlucky, he might never get rid of that bad habbit that he so successfully was encurridged to develop.
Because the game is so focused on the decition-making, coaches need to know how to deal with physical, coordinative or mental well developed kids.
And here’s a huge problem that coaches need to be aware of.
A kid that is ahead physically, coordinative or mental at such a degree that he never loses the ball when dribbling, effectively playing according to the principles to some extent – for now. But how do a coach teach such a kid what he’s doing wrong?
He freeze the play (or record the session for a 1 and 1 theoretical session where he freeze the video at certain situations, and from that start to help the kid to understand.), and ask the kid (i.e):
Why did you dribble (even if he did succeed)?
Kid: Ehh, I wanted to pass the defender. Coach: Ok, look at Joe, what would’ve happen if you made that 6 yard pass?
Kid: He would’ve been totally alone against the keeper.
Coach: good. So what do you do the next time?
Kid: I pass.
Coach: exactly! Good!
Now, keep on playing.
To constantly instruct and practice the principles when playing a game on practice is always number one.
If the drill is isolated, the instructions can be different. But a isolated drill is there to do exactly that – isolate.
An on-going game can never be isolated.
Teach the game when playing it.
I will try to clarify the situation slightly Dennis.
It was a coaching session 3 vs 3 small sided game. The assistant coach was stopping play giving various recommendations. The head coach did not ever instruct the young player to dribble, he just told the assistant coach not to instruct him to pass. When play resumed he did pass some, but mainly dribbled and was quite successful in offensive and defensive 1 v 1,2,3 situations against the much older kids.
Funny thing is he was on the small side even for his age. Not the typical big, fast athletic boy playing up.
I just wanted to clarify that the coach wasn’t instructing him to always dribble and it didn’t sound like he planned to. It just sounded like he wanted to allow him the creative freedom and not program him to pass.
Hopefully that helped…
Jake: Oh, ok.
That was a relief.. 🙂
If so, it was a good decition by the coach to tell his assistant to not tell the kid what to do.
But I wonder why the coach wanted the kid to dribble in the first place.
Cause even if he is good at it, once he reach the senior level, dribble like there was no defenders, succeeding every time just won’t happen.
He need to learn other aspects of the game. But if he was only 8, I would’nt be that worried though.. But in a year or two, the practice sessions should be with the principles in mind.
“The only tactic I teach is that when a teammate has the ball, the rest of the team get behind the teammate. This is basic fundametal tactics that can be used in the big game.”
The basic fundamental tactics when playing 4 v 4 is:
2. Depth (attacking)
in that order.
I do understand what you’re trying to say though.
If the ballholder have his mates behind him, a loss of posessionis’nt that woundrable.
But to me, that seems like a tactic for result, rather than a way to education and development.
We WANT the kids to dribble – lose the ball – get chanses against – lose a game. Cause they will learn by doing wrong. That’s how humans learn.
And in senior football, you don’t need players behind to you execute a dribble. Cause if you’re doing it according to the principles, the posession is already secured (if the decition to dribble is correct), and the team mates can focus on the next step while the dribble is beeing executed to give options to the ballholder in the next step rather than acting like security.
But again, 8 year olds won’t be able (in most cases) to adhere to “the principles of football” etc since they are 100% focused on just keeping the body and ball under control.
But to say “everybody behind the ballholder” to 8 year olds might make the transition from that type of play to playing according to the principles a bigger hurdle than it needs to be.
I’d say it’s pretty much harmless in that age to give such instructions, but it won’t make the tranisition to learn proper football easier.
I’m not criticizing you. I’m just trying to debate. 🙂
pg 19 says
If what I did was to win games (results as I believe you’re defining it), I would be trying to joystick my players that are 4, 5 and 6 years old into playing position and passing, like every coach I know (both pro and novice). There is nothing more tiresome than listening to a coach on the sideline YELLING at his players and telling them to pass, to spread out, to be on the left/right side of the field, etc; when the only thing their teams succeed in doing is bunch around the ball. All I know is after a couple of games, I don’t have say much.
To clarify, I do this simply to hyper accelerate the foundation learning of ball handling skills and it worked better than anything I’ve ever seen any other coach do and it has been replicated. Winning games, I could careless, but its hard to ignore when we win all of them by significant margins. To play total football, you have to have skill with the ball and you have to have the composure to deal with pressure and the confidence to free yourself from a bind.
Imagine what you’re able to do with a player who is 6 or 7 that has the ability to dribble and shoot with either foot, has their head up when taking on defenders, and has the skill and confidence to beat defenders in 1v1, v2, v3 situations? Can that player be taught total football or is he lost because he’s past his prime of 4 and 5, or 14 and 15, or 24 and 25?
pg 19 says
For our club, we play 3v3 for U6’s and 4v4 for U8’s. No goal keepers. For the teams I have coached, I teach no passing at all. It works against most child development models I know and often you end up constantly having to “joystick” players to stay at certain positions which I don’t think is natural or productive or fun (for the coach or kids). As somone once said, coaching at this age is like herding cats.
Instead, I only focus on dribbling (changes of direction, vision, change of speed) using all surfaces of the foot. The only tactic I teach is that when a teammate has the ball, the rest of the team get behind the teammate. This is basic fundametal tactics that can be used in the big game. You dribble when you have safety behind the ball. If the ball is dispossessed, the rest of the team presses to rewin it, and provide back up once won.
This is self teaching with very little instruction in games. Often the biggest challenge is getting parents not to encourage “boot the ball” or “go go go” to their kids or “pass”. Instead I just encourage the kid to keep dribbling and for almost every kids I’ve coached at those ages, they have dominated in terms fo dribbling. The tactic I do ensures possession is primarily my teams and fundamentally it works with little input from me and translates to the big game. By doing this in games, it becomes more 1v3 (or v4 in U8’s) compared to 1v5 or 1v7 as teammates sometimes (often) try to take the ball away from each other. Clearing a path leads to more success and mroe team playing as a team.
The last thing is if your team scores too much, what to do as you can’t simply “play possession”. Often I will tell my kids that they have to dribble through the center circle first before trying to score which puts them centally of the field and is more challengings. For the really good players I tell them to shoot negative after they’ve scored a few goals (just missing the goal wide). However, those players often are encouraged to play up at U9 and U10’s where passing is started.
From my personal experience, my teams have always dominated as they are forced to build their dribbling skills and apply it in game situations, not just in training. From those of you that I have shared this information with, the feedback is overwhelmingly that this works and more importantly does what everyone in the country preaches in player development, that we need more skilled players. With the right foundation and comfort with the ball, teaching the players how to play “total football” by the time they are 7 or 8 is much easier.
Hope that helps.
We just moved from Texas and that was the structure there. Now we have 5 vs 5 with no goalie for U6 and U8 is 8 vs 8 with goalie.
I prefer your structure, more space and touches.
pg 19 says
Interesting note. I’ve used the no pass in games even for my high school teams when we’ve needed a quick reminder of how skillful we are so we calm down under pressure. Often the players find themselves “much” better than they thought and easily handle 1v1’s which often becomes 1v’2’s and 1v’3’s as the opponent struggles to win the ball. Think of the tactical implications this creates against the opponent. What is interesting about this is possession based soccer, even when there is no passing, still dictates how the opponent has to play against you. Control the opponent you control the game and often the outcome.
Ok, for the most part I find myself thinking WTF, when reading the last few post here, so if a player is 8 we should not teach them to possess the ball as a team, if they are 10 we can start that, I say soccer age dictates, but even from the begining we can teach possession and the gold standard! My u8’s have quality ball skills and will continue to work on having better ball skills, but why would we not keep the ball as a team? Yes we can teach dribbling at the right time in a game, but how about teaching the gold standard!!!!!!
Great post. I struggled to understand the difference for a long time because every time I’d try to emulate something I saw being done in a pro academy, I’d hear conflicting information from USSF/NSCAA coaching courses and ‘more experienced’ coaches. So I’d attempt to reconcile the two until I realized that they were completely separate. I struggled through a lot of confusion until I figured out that, as Gary notes, 99+% are geared toward developing recreational players, no matter how much they may tout everything from coaches’ qualifications to players that have played at some professional level.
In my opinion, too many coaches/organizations are able to be fat and happy just pumping out mediocre players and winning tournaments. The one or two exceptions that reach a high level are then held as ‘proof’ that their concept works. We need more coaches and organizations who aspire to produce quality professionals and that distinguish themselves from the masses the way FC Barcelona USA is doing now. You guys serve as a great inspiration to me and surely to tons of others out there as well.
Gary Kleiban says
Thank you Matt.
You’re not alone in struggling, I’ve been and continue to be right there with you.
There’s always this feeling of ‘something not being quite right’, and it takes years and years of dedication / exploration / education / introspection to start putting your finger on things.
I believe this is the result of years of indoctrination (aka brainwashing) to be average. To never TRULY dare to think you’re anything else, or can ever become anything else. It’s incredible how much we work to crush and demonize those who dare.
I think the football garden podcast with Brent Goulet touched on this discussion very well. He coached in the lower levels in the Bundesliga.
Just listen to him almost seeth at what he sees at the youth club level. “They think they know, but they have no Idea.”
Gary Kleiban says
Jacques at the footballgarden is one of the few people whose work I can recommend.
Th.is is the post where i finally understand what you are trying to say about culture and soccer here. I agree 100 percent what you, matt and jason have said. It suddenly became clear why so much of what us youth soccer and us soccer tell coaches never sat well with me in my situation as a coach
Gary Kleiban says
I hope I can continue getting better at communicating, and connecting with people who care, REALLY CARE.
There’s much work to be done.
terry malloy says
I really honed in on the “cutting players” aspect of youth soccer. When I was very young we had a lot of choose-up games. If you weren’t good you probably didn’t get picked. Nobody complained, because you wanted to fit in with the crowd, and the crowd said suck it up and deal with it. Also, mommy and daddy weren’t there to complain. Then, mommy and daddy become part of the mix and kids forgot how to “deal with it.” Why is getting cut from a soccer team not OK, when everyone accepts that someone who screeches on a flute will not get chosen for the school band?
Because often kids are cut from soccer teams when they shouldn’t be. That’s the problem when you have poor coaches or ‘parent’ coaches running the show. I agree kids have to learn to ‘deal with it’ but it’s hard to explain to a quality soccer kid that they didn’t make it because they aren’t part of the ‘inner circle’ or because you don’t fit some ‘English stereotype’ soccer player.
They’re better off not being on that team then. Why would they want to be there?
Because there aren’t a lot of other alternative options out there. If you’re a Xavi type of player but aren’t physical you might not make a team.
Travis Trask says
Let me first write that I have developed an Adult Onset love of the game and have sons that are U10 and U12 players. Like most folks of my generation, I played until the age of 12, when I was forced to choose between soccer and another, more “American” sport. Soccer then faded into the background for the next 20 years. Despite my best efforts to coach/push my boys into the sport I played in college, they fell in love with soccer. After drowning my tears for a couple of years, I finally decided to embrace soccer and have spent the last three years educating myself on the sport. Beyond talking with a few excellent coaches and watching the game itself, there’s been no better tool than your Blog and the comments it elicits. The entry that I keep coming back to is from 8/24/09 “What is an Elite Player? My boys have read that over and over and it’s probably as susinct a description for player development as exists today. Thank you.
Of course I grew with an Amercanized view of sport, but can you explain a little more why diving is not a professional problem that filters down to the youth game?
Diving isn’t a problem anymore than holding or a late hit is in the NFL. It’s part of the game.
Sometimes you get fouled in the box and a PK isn’t called… sometimes you barely get nudged off balanced and go down and you do get the PK. Sometimes you fall in order to avoid being injured. There’s a lot of reason to “dive”. Sure it’s easy to look at hyper slow motion replays and think falls are obvious or ridiculous, but diving keeps most strikers from getting their legs broken. Imagine if there were no roughing the passer rule in the NFL.
Diving is a problem. Avoiding a poor tackle is not (which is oddly what you consider as diving). Diving=falling down in the box when no one touched you or after minimal contact to draw a penalty. Comparing it to the NFL is ludicrous.
Gary Kleiban says
Thank you Travis!
I hope to continue instigating you with ideas.
Addressing the “diving” topic is massive and needs to be done right. I’m tabling it for a later date.
I think this video could shed some light about diving in the game:-
Dr Loco says
Great video, thanks for sharing.
Dr Loco says
Suarez dive admission ‘unacceptable’.
Gary, Again I think this is a great post, and you have brought up some great discussion points.
I think that something that we all need to recognize here is also context. You are speaking from the context you deal with. I have do admit that I don’t know your context well enough, I can see through videos and the research that I have done that you do an excellent job developing players at the U11-U13 levels, and am very impressed with your methods, but am only making assumptions here on where your club fits in.
It would seem to me that you are speaking from the context of a youth club that has been able to develop and create a very professional environment that players obviously want to play for, and you are obviously able to recruit the best players, which only helps to build and create a porfessional environment. I think we need to be honest that clubs like yours are only really 1% of all clubs, there are MLS clubs with youth programs that certainly aren’t in this 1%.
We need to be honest with ourselves about what our club is and if we are actually in the 1%. Too many of us aren’t there but think we can develop that and think we can turn our club into that 1%. It is great to have this ambition but when we focus on this ambition we are only holding soccer back in our country. If more clubs at all levels could understand where they fit on the supply chain to the Professional clubs, we would be producing better players. ALL North American Clubs (including MLS and all others), are simply a part of the supply chain for top clubs. We all need to recognize when it is time to pass players off to the next club on the supply chain. We should all be constantly trying to get our players opportunities at the next level, for some clubs they will be trying to get their players into the system that Gary has at FC Barcelona USA for a club like Gary’s they are going to be trying to push their players to European Professional clubs at the time when they are ready.
I am just asking that as we all read, and want to take the information here and help to produce the next generation of great North American players we don’t go out there and try to do it on our own. We need to figure out what we are and where we fit into the chain, once we know that we need to focus on being the best we can possibly be at developing players to our maximum capacity and passing them on to the next level in the chain.
Hint, if you are coaching at an amateur club, are not paid full time or at least very well part time, and only have a few years of coaching experience – You are low on the supply chain. This isn’t a knock against you as a coach, there are loads of very high quality coaches low on the supply chain, and they are a key part of developing the next generation of players. But you need to remember that by not recognizing your place on the supply chain is going to negatively impact the development of the game and the development of the players you deal with and interact with.
* Know the limits of you and your club, do outstanding work with in those limits, and pass off the best players to the next step int he supply chain.
Gary Kleiban says
We should be very careful NEVER to confuse the work of 1 coach with the work of a club.
Apparently, if you aren’t fortunate enough to live in Southern California….you’re screwed.
What about the 1%ers that may exist in Iowa, Mississippi…Louisiana and East Texas?
for that matter, how do these players know if they even are 1%ers? Because if 99% of clubs and coaches are doing it wrong (which I do believe) then how does the true cream rise to the top?
What you mention to me is one of the major problems. If you don’t live in an area where there is a relatively large base to recruit from, or you are not able to bring players into your environment from a certain distance, numbers will dictate that it is very difficult to do what Gary is suggesting in his Recreational v Professional discussion. With either a large population base or a truly professional environment, you can attract the best to play with the best and increase your chances of producing professionals regularly. If you are one of the majority of clubs who isn’t in this privileged position, you can still have a professional environment, but you will have some significant challenges to overcome, and it will take some serious time, so start working on it. But until you really do reach the 1% of clubs, just be realistic about who and what you are. Understand where you fit into your players getting professional contracts.
Having worked in environments where there is a often a population base of less than 100,000 or 200,000 people living in an 80 mile radius, I watched 6-8 players progress to some level of Professional soccer, and international competition, obviously this is a small number, but the biggest challenge is understanding when the right time to move them on from the club, and what club environment to get them involved in. This always requires relocation. The players who make the move successfully are the ones who make it. Many try to make the transition, and it breaks down at all sorts of levels, but the ones who want it the most are able to be successful.
In each and every case moving the player on was very difficult for the club as a whole, because each and every time the club wants to see themselves as being able to continue the player’s development. But the simple fact is for the most part in those sized populations there aren’t the number of players willing to make the same commitment to providing the professional environment.
The challenge is mostly in having a ready supply of players ready to make the commitment it takes to stay in a professional environment. This is why you need a large population base so you can continually phase players out of your environment and continue to bring in new players with the ability, attitude and work ethic to keep the standard and environment professional.
Gary, I think your comparison of learning soccer with learning to play an instrument is appropriate on a couple of levels. If your kid chooses to play an instrument, not even with the goal of playing professionally, to get the most out of it they are going to need a qualified teacher. I would not pretend I can teach my kid to play the violin. I know something about music, but I have never played the violin. It is sadly common to find people who know nothing about soccer who get into coaching positions, and then stay in them to give their kid a leg up at the expense of other kids on the team. They are doing nothing for the sport. We have experienced coaches who have the best intentions but are terrible and waste everyone’s time, and we have also experienced coaches who are downright dysfunctional and damaging to the kids on the team and to the sport, yet they continue because no one speaks up, there is no oversight, and there are not enough truly qualified people to make the committment to coach at this lower level. And clueless parents like us do not know any better till we figure out how bad it really is. I have no problem with players earning their playing time as they get older. However, the decisions about who plays, etc., are often mired in politics rather than who the best players are at these lower levels. Even if we vote with our feet, there are always other kids who want to play and will put up with the BS for a while till they figure it out. My husband stopped coaching our kids when they turned 8 because he figured he did not know enough about the game to offer something to kids on a team as they got older, and then we turned our kids over to jackasses who would not admit that they have a lot to learn. It has been very frustrating as observant parents trying to learn about our kids’ favorite sport. We are now being more circumspect and selective about looking at potential playing opportunities for our kids.
The other thing about the violin analogy that is apt (more than the sculptor analogy you used on an earlier post) is the fact that the soccer team has to work together, like an orchestra. You cannot favor a couple of violin players and expect something great. We have seen a lot of selfishness by coaches, players, parents, and it is not helpful. The play and the outcomes are always worse when a few players are favored over the whole team working together. There are coaches who cannot see this, favor a couple of big fast kids who are not necessarily the most promising players, and hurt their team’s longterm development. My kid is not going to be on a National team, but he loves to play the game and wants go as far as he can with it and play as much as he can. But it is very difficult to find a mentor who knows something about the game, will keep his best interests in mind, and help guide him.
Anyway, I know you are focussed on the professional level, but every level of soccer would benefit from coaching with a more professional outlook.
While we are on the topic of creating professional footballers of the highest quality. Everyone might want to tune-in and watch the upcoming special on 60 Minutes about La Masia. Sunday, Jan. 6 at 7:00 p.m. ET/PT.
Gary, enjoyed reading your blog post, So many similarities to the game in the UK. In my opinion ultimately neither the recreational mindset or the professional mindset as a coach is wrong. What is wrong is using either mindset with the wrong group of players.
Surely It would be just as remiss of a coach to use a Pro mindset with a group of players who are never going to be anything more than grassroots players as it would be for a coach to use a recreational mindset to try and inspire a group of players who have the potential to be the minority to sign a pro contract.
Gary Kleiban says
Thank you Andy.
As always, we must be cautious.
“Surely It would be just as remiss of a coach to use a Pro mindset with a group of players who are never going to be anything more than grassroots players as it would be for a coach to use a recreational mindset to try and inspire a group of players who have the potential to be the minority to sign a pro contract.”
I think the argument is only symmetric – as you state – if you are talking about truly, truly, truly, truly, TRULY, recreational soccer. As in what traditionally comes to mind when we say the word ‘rec’. If that’s what you’re saying, then I’d agree.
Once you start positioning yourself as ‘competitive’ or some kind of ‘academy’, and start dropping the “development” buzzword, you’re in different territory.
If you say you develop players, you have a responsibility to define what you mean.
Once you say something common like:
“I want to develop players to their potential” …
… it doesn’t matter if they’re never going to be a pro.
You’ve made a promise. How are you going to keep that promise? With the ‘recreational mentality’? There’s lots of decisions one must now make on how to execute this ‘development’.
For example, your roster is comprised of varying skill levels. Who should you cater to?
In addition to right mindset, we need coaches with more experience than 4-years at college or an “E” license they picked up on a free weekend. I know of precious few coaches in SoCal who played in Europe, Mexico, or South America at any level that matters.
For coaches who didn’t have the talent, we need seasoned ones who coached overseas. Coaches who understand the professional mentality and have the credentials (either playing and/or as a player) to make a difference.
This harkens back to Gary’s post “How Much Time Does US Soccer Need”? We need 2 or 3 more generations! Time for players and promising young coaches to head overseas and build breadth and depth of international experience. This very issue was touched on recently on this forum (forget which post) and Goal.com had similar piece.
We need coaches and players who have tasted the passion of Jogo Bonito, the technical genius of Tiki Taka, the discipline of German and Netherlands. Use the best from other more mature soccer nations and use what is best for USA system. Right now we’ve been making do with naïve, homegrown, sometimes xenophobic soccer minds who were raised on touchdowns and homeruns.
We have a long way to go but on right track. Forums like 3Four3 help push us along our winding journey. It loosens the grip of inertia and foolishness of the US Soccer white place types who aren’t in touch. We need folks with passion and smarts like the Kleibans to take charge. Kick ass and take names!
Gary Kleiban says
Hi Armando and thank you!
Lots of things I’m gonna have to expand on – at some point – regarding your post.
* Foreign experiences help, but it still doesn’t mean one can execute any of it.
* The world will be completely unrecognizable from todays in 2 or 3 generations. I think we fail to understand what’s possible RIGHT NOW.
Dr Loco says
I can’t wait 2-3 generations. Don’t think I’ll live that long. What are solutions that would work now? I’ve known for about 2 years that 99% of competitive youth soccer teams are just glorified rec teams.
How does a coach move forward recognizing that we are mainly coaching players/parents with a recreational mentality?
Gary Kleiban says
Depends what your objectives as a coach are.
You must crystalize the answer(s) to the following question:
Why am I doing this?
That’s the first step.
Answering that is not easy because being honest with yourself is not easy. Sometimes it’s damn near impossible as it requires a deliberate and sustained process of discovery. Hell, there’s an entire industry established around ‘helping’ people answer that question, and therapists make a killing!
Whatever answer you ultimately come up with is perfectly fine. So long as you aren’t bullshitting yourself or others.
Dr Loco says
“Why am I doing this?”
Been thinking about it for a long, long time. It seems I got sucked in and can’t get out. In retrospect I don’t care so much about mediocre players/parents or 99% of all this shit. I honestly tell the parents that their kids are crap but if they want to stay I can help them improve otherwise go find something else they’re good at like piano or reading.
Gary Kleiban says
Not good enough!
I don’t see a crystal clear objective / objectives.
And if you do have one, it’s been sounding like you’re not getting the results you want. So that means something is wrong.
Dr Loco says
Yes something is very wrong. I can’t achieve what I want so I either have to redefine my objectives or stop. Thanks for the therapy session. Now for some drinks!
Dr. Loco, to me it sounds like you are very bitter towards a lot of people, even the people that you are trying to help (the players and families of your team you are coaching). If you are bitter about your experiences don’t use it to just be bitter and angry at everyone, use it as motivation instead to be on a mission to teach the game to the kids on your team, and give them opportunities that you think you should have gotten and never did. No parent or kid wants to hear that their crap, that can’t be very motivating to get better, telling a kid he has to improve or work on things is one thing, but calling your own player crap comes across like they are a lost cause that you couldn’t care less about.
Dr Loco says
I do give my players tough love. Perhaps I should change and be nicer to them. I guess I am bitter cuz I am just a rec coach.
I truly like this post! This is exactly where I was going in “Who Developed Him” post where I stated that development is (or should be) based on desired trajectory. For what end, for what purpose. I like your response to that. ALL competitive clubs should have stated desire to produce / develop professional level players. Not High School or college. The latter two or too low a level. That is the problem of 99.99% of US Youth Clubs. I checked the website of several USDA clubs. None stated mission is to develop professional players. Every one mentioned college. Most of the mission statements sounded like mamby pamby, PR crap for soccer moms. Total rubbish! Again, Gary . . . your post is dead on.
Gary Kleiban says
Stating clear and ambitious objectives Kana, that’s what it’s all about.
Problem is doing that is scary. Doing that introduces accountability.
And who wants that, when you don’t have to?
Who wants to push the limits of what they can do?
Who dares to dream BIG, and actually go after it with the enthusiasm of a child?
So I have a question then. Based on this post. Do you think that kids only attending developmental academies or well known soccer clubs should be invited exclusively to national camps? Do you think this mindset currently takes place and works its way into the US soccer developmental system?
Gary Kleiban says
Q) “Do you think that kids only attending developmental academies or well known soccer clubs should be invited exclusively to national camps?”
A) Absolutely not.
Q) Do you think this mindset currently takes place and works its way into the US soccer developmental system?
A) What mindset?
We are putting the carpet before the horse.
While a change of attitude regarding what is recreational and what is developmental is fundamental to move the sport forward, I think that the biggest challenge we face is the absence of a real structured setting conducive to a professional developmental path in this country. Whereas the current US state of soccer (including the MLS) clearly does not reflect the global community, many of the contributors to this blog have provided a variety of international perspectives that might be part of the solution. In addition, we need to recognize those Development Academies/MLS academies currently committed to developing players from their first teams; and support them as a staring point for any reforms toward professional camps.
Many National Governing Bodies of other sports in the US have being more successful at drawing the line between professional bound players and recreational players; and have been far more successful at the world stage in those sports with American athletes. I think we could learn a lot from thos NGBs when structuring truly competitive leagues. What I mean is having leagues that are managed by a NGB in specific regions. These regions would have to limit the number of teams in each division (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc), and have a system where 2 or 3 of lowest performing teams would go down to the immediate lower division; and the top 2 or 3 teams in the lower divisions could move up to the immediate higher division. I know some people are going to say they do this in their state, but it is not the same thing. What we need is the best players competing against the best players in each region where the goal is not just winning their league, but to keep as many age groups as possible in the top divisions (for each age group).
In this scenario, MLS academy teams would compete with only the top development academies in their region. And, due to the limited number of teams allowed in the region, all the top players in each region would migrate to those teams, This would allow MLS teams to identify and recruit quality players from other teams to further develop them for the future. This is what other countries mean by development over winning; it’s meaningful competition wherein winning serves as an identifier for the best development academies.
The endless amounts of tournaments in the US are meaningless because there is no real ranking. I know, I know, some of you go to some “important tourneys” or ” the biggest tourneys” blah, blah, blah… but what exactly are you getting out of them? and who are you actually beating? a bunch of wealthy kids that can afford the trip across country to compete or truly the best teams out there?
I think US Club Soccer is the only adhoc league that resembles an approximation of what I’m talking about, but it is not enough.
SO HOW COULD THIS WORK: Easy. recognize that there is a place for recreational soccer and developmental soccer to exists side by side. Recreational players could attend the soccer schools of these teams and help pay for the cost of the elite players playing in the competitive leagues. They can participate in recreational tournaments and leagues. This would allow teams to identify any up and coming player to be added to their competition teams. More importantly, This would give autonomy to the clubs when choosing players for their top teams since they won’t have to recruit kids based on income.
THE BIGGEST OBSTACLE: While this might be ideal for the athletes, it would not be beneficial 99% of the clubs currently making a whole lot of money with their a-h teams and tournaments. This would require the NGB to clearly state that only players competing in a sanctioned NGB league would be eligible for national and regional teams (of course, youth players competing internationally would also qualify). YES. if you want top players, you cannot be inclusive; you have to discriminate between the best and the not good enough.
Lastly, the teaching of values through sports is very important. You cannot get t the top without perseverance, hard work, and other values important for any profession. Even with a well structured program, the lifespam of the kids that’d make it to pro is short; their life as a former pro is much longer. They need those values to get ahead in life after they retire too.
This is a topic much to complex to address in this format, but I hope I made point 🙂
Thank you, edfoot. I have been waiting for someone to inject the notion of proper values into the conversation. In the long run, character is essential to sustaining performance at a high level. And that, unfortunately, is what almost all our prestigious, high-profile clubs in the us lack. This seems to me to be due to a lack of integrity. Perhaps it is too hard to publish rule of behavior and to enforce them when you so many mommies and daddies waving so many dollars in front of you.
In principle, there is nothing wrong with being paid to dedicate yuorself to coaching soccer players, but you should strive to have some principles, and show some integrity. Otherwise you are just another hack. The coaches that i have respect for here in socal are usually accused of being “arrogant” or an “asshole”. Of course, not all assholes are good coaches, but give me a mourinho lite over one of these local coaches any day.
Gary Kleiban says
“teaching of values through sports is very important. You cannot get to the top without perseverance, hard work, and other values important for any profession.”
I agree with you!!!
However, the main issue I see with this topic is two-fold:
1) When one says ‘values’, many times that can be a function of culture.
2) How much of this is infused in the discussion. As I’ve said before, many times it is used as an instrument of deflection and rationalization. Muddy the waters, and we never have to face a singular topic head on.
* How about we assume coaches aren’t raising menaces to society or ruining their future outside of soccer, and keep trying to talk about the details of the game itself?
Value systems certainly have their place, and genuine consideration for that is important.
I’m absolutely not saying this applies to you, but let’s be careful not to give people a smokescreen to hide behind. Because that is precisely what people do – hide.
“Value systems certainly have their place, and genuine consideration for that is important.
I’m absolutely not saying this applies to you, but let’s be careful not to give people a smokescreen to hide behind. Because that is precisely what people do – hide.”
I think the first step is defining what we mean by values. I know people misuse the term to, as you stated, create a “smoke screen” to sell a faulty, and often very expensive, service.
This doesn’t happen in soccer only. Many other sports have cleverly sell “values” as an equivalent to recreational training (great benefit, blah, blah, blah). The big difference is that in those sports they DO draw the line between their regular kids and the elite kids; and only the top level kids play at the top levels. and, everyone is fine with that; parents and players. Not everyone is cut up to be elite and they understand.
At the same time, the elite kids do receive the appropriate emotional training to deal with the pressure to continuously work to be the best at the top level; and that’s what I mean by values.
Gary Kleiban says
It certainly seems like the other American sports have a hard-line mentality – a more “professional mentality”.
But the soccer community continues with its ‘Hello Kitty’ culture.
… and then they wonder why soccer isn’t looked at as a “man’s sport”.
Dr Loco says
From my experiences no youth coaches nor most adults working with kids actually teach values. It is basically just lies and marketing. Our society in general lacks strong moral values. We primarily only care about the individual. The last remaining place to learn values is the church but even religion is struggling in the modern world.
Gary Kleiban says
People are the engine of creation.
Systems and infrastructure do not spontaneously appear.
People are the architects of systems, infrastructure, and regulations.
Unfortunately, La Masia is about the only Academy (and Barcelona itself) that has values as part of it’s belief system. In fact, players need to meet certain standards or they’re out or not selected. Sure La Masia can be selective, but they established that belief system as part of the footballing DNA from the outset. Back then, they couldn’t be as selective as today, but they stuck their to their beliefs.
Most clubs are cutthroat. Soccer is a business. Clubs turn a blind eye to ghetto trash if they can ripple the net. Like it or not, that is the reality.
Teaching “values” in USA can be troublesome. Lawsuits are a commodity. Coaches and clubs need to tread lightly. This is not an issue in most other countries as the ACLU isn’t sneaking around ready to pounce.
Futbol Loving Atheist says
Please don’t say this country just needs more Jesus in it’s soccer. There’s plenty. It’s actually very easy to teach good “values” without ever stepping into a church. Respect and sportsmanship are what I expect to be taught by coaches.
Any yes I know that many top players appear to be quite religious. I’m sure there’s some interesting psychological reasons for that.
Dr Loco says
“many top players appear to be quite religious” so why reject it so quickly?
I make my players kneel and pray before every game..ala chicharito. It tends to calm them down and focus for the competition.
I don’t want to veer off the original topic too much, but just to make it clear, what I mean by values (I had had to try to define it) would probably be: A set of principles that guides an athlete’s internal conduct such as:
a) self-assessing one’s level to either stay at the top of one’s game or move up to the higher level;
b) manage stress of competing at the elite level;
c) avoid distractions from outside forces (media, gold diggers, and so on);
d) self discipline in regards to diet, rest, etc.; and so on.
I’m not talking about being nice to the refs and coaches. Everyone needs to have minimum behavioral standards just to function. That’s not the job of a coach.
I think the big challenge in regards to values is that so many people involved with the sport don’t understand the meaning within the context of sport development and confuse it with teaching manners.
Anyway, I hope this makes sense.
Dr Loco says
“Everyone needs to have minimum behavioral standards just to function.” I think many kids in the US are lacking here. There are way too many dysfunctional, spoiled, soft children that grow up to be ‘adult’ babies — (pick a sport) mommies and daddies.
Gary Kleiban says
I’m with you.
This is what I would want and expect from a top tier coach. Instruction on how to be a disciplined athlete.
First off Gary, great post. I think with this post you pulled several threads from previous posts closer together and added an element of clarity and definition that was floating between the lines until now.
This is not the first thread that has had a lot of calls for more foreign coaches with professional playing experience. I am not sure that is the silver bullet. I look around and it appears to me that the problems we have in the USA were created in part by a bunch of foreign ex-pros who decided they wanted to make a living in the USA as soccer coaches. Every year I see new faces with foreign accents and a resume of foreign player and coaching experience showing up at youth clubs. I have yet to see any of them make any meaningful changes in at the club they work for or our system or culture.
The brightest spots I see are guys like the Kleibans and Caleb Porter. Take a look at Porters credentials http://goo.gl/h62Bp , one goal and 13 appearances on senior teams as a professional and a bunch of years coaching college.
Wolfgang — Agree we have large influx of foreign coaches. Many just collecting Benjamins! But let’s not flush away the baby with the bathwater. All else being equal, foreign coaches with dedication and experience of professional academies is far superior than domestic coaches who may have played in college (and by the way, many coaches in clubs only played community college . . . Palomar or USD San Marcos) or have only coached at one or two clubs with “D” or “E” license. This is far different than say someone like Bryan Wallace Wayne Harrison, John Napier, Daniel Musatti and maybe a dozen more with true international experience. It’s not debatable they have better experience which cannot be learned at XYZ Youth Club or at some CalSouth license program over a weekend.
“All else being equal” is a key. It is not all equal. Most of those coaches who come here from abroad a part of the problem. They come because they are looking to shortcut what Gary describes as the hard, long process of making it as a pro coach in Europe. They aren’t here to change the system and do it “right”. Even at the MLS level the foreign coaches have had almost no positive impact on how we do things in the USA.
We have got to fix some of the other deeper rooted problems such as the closed system before we can lure and then benefit from the true quality coaching that could come from coaches with real quality experience abroad both on the pitch and from the technical area. Until then we will continue to have grafters and grifters come to us from the four corners of the planet selling fish oil instead of quality soccer.
Agree Wolfgang, but still think the foreign coaches are better than 99% of homegrown ones.
I would have to disagree with that. Most I have seen are total fools and come here because they couldn’t make it in their home country.
Ok, Kevin . . your opinion and I respect it but I disagree. Guess we could be both right based on experiences. The American coaches I know are less tactically knowledgeable, but great at physical stuff. I also find American coaches less concerned with developing the mind, better thinking players. The worst non-American coaches I’ve came across tend to be English. Mexican, Central American and South American coaches I’ve come across are great. Understand the game.
Agree with most of this. My main point of disagreement is, as I have stated here prior many times, that any sort of “licensing” program here or elsewhere in the world matters one whit. I don’t think Bill Gates cared very much if he got that Harvard diploma when he dropped out to work on Microsoft.
There’s still too much focus on “coaching diplomas” and the only way around that, dealing with US Soccer and other entrenched political interests is simply to do it your own way, invite them/their teams to a “friendly” and kick the living shit out of them in front of all who are there.
That, and only that, is what’s going to get people’s attention.
You’re right Lothar but self-taught people aren’t the norm in soccer coaching or players making it to highest levels. It can happen in business, but next to impossible in pro sports. The license program in USA . . . well . . . IT SUCKS! This was talked about this in the interview Gary posted in another post with Bryan Wallace.
Coaching is a serious profession in rest of the world. That’s why it takes years and working your way up from unpaid assistant, equipment manager, translator, or many other jobs to learn the trade from bottom up. It’s difficult to become an Academy coach. Takes years of toil and bouncing around from club to club to build the CV.
Let’s face it, American society doesn’t think same way . . . maybe just at MLS level. Many take college coaching seriously, but it’s a cush job as Gary pointed out before.
Gary Kleiban says
In general, licenses means nothing to one’s capacity to develop the best players in the country. Licenses are yet another racket, and a remnant of the industrial age.
The main distinction between the ‘business world’ and the ‘soccer world’ is openness to the market.
As long as a system is closed, the racket will continue, and the percolation of quality to the top will be compromised.
Here’s an example why the MLS is recreational. My old college coach just got a job in the MLS they will be crap.
Please read this whole article:
And to piggy back about licenses
“Fran O’Leary. The Irish native, a longtime friend of Nelsen’s who most recently was head coach at Bowdoin College, has been appointed assistant coach and director of player recruitment. O’Leary, a veteran coach with the licenses to show for it, will lead the team in Nelsen’s absence.”
It’s a buddy system here in th US, about getting their buddies jobs, no idea about how to really create a quality product. I laughed when i saw this and couldn’t believe what Toronto was doing this
Oh and here’s more about their head coach and why they hired him:
“Ryan has better leadership qualities than any professional athlete than I have ever been around,” said Payne, who said Nelsen was his only managerial candidate.
He promised fans his team will match their intensity and passion on the field.
“They’ll never give up,” he said. “They’ll never die, they’ll never fall over for any team.”
I don’t know about Nelsen’s philosophy so i’ll hold judgement but it already sounds like he’s preparing for war and we know what kind of football that normally means…..
You only have to look at the product that Kevin Payne & company put on the field from 2006-2012 at DC United. 2005 was the last year that DC United played reasonably attractive soccer.
Sorry here’s more about their criteria for players they want:
The GM Kevin Payne for TFC:
“We’re looking for men, we’re looking for real character on this team,” he added. “We’re going to have a lot of young players too. We’re going to invest money in young players but we need to have the right people around to teach those young players what it takes to be successful.”
I’m sorry what does looking for men mean? character? what does that mean, another one is “honest”, i could go on and on, sorry im really throwed about how a pro club decides who and how they run a club
Ryan Nelsen is an old-school English center Half. He would fit in well at, say, Stoke City. Hope TFC fans like themselves some long balls and tough tackles. Also, if you have a kid who can throw the ball in really far, send him to the TFC academy. He will do great.
Seems somebody related to TFC didn’t like trying to play attractive football but missing the playoffs 5 yrs in a row – fans or owners I’m not sure.
Dr Loco says
Formation doesn’t mean anything if you don’t know how to play.
For all you who like foreign/international coaches:
Perhaps they just come to collect a paycheck.
I don’t know, they had a dutch international as HC, coming off a 3 year assistant coaching sting with Ajax academy. I’m guessing he had an idea of how to implement an attractive system. .Look at their 2010 roster compared to 2011 – a lot more stars and stripes in 2010, so they tried to get players that fit the system. But still, I’m thinking the best greek/belgian/ecuadorian/etc aren’t jumping at the chance to go play in Toronto. I think the TFC situation shines a lot of light on why US & Canadian soccer struggle. I also use it to temper my enthusiasm at Caleb Porter taking over in Portland. I’m just thankful it is Portland and not one of the higher profile teams, they at least seem to have some idea of the intangibles that go into supporting a club.
That’s a false choice, Laudraup at Swansea is way outperforming his budget with a nice style. The TFC people just didn’t have courage or knowledge to hire someone who could play good soccer. I think Nelsen will get them neither wins nor entertainment.
Wrong link but still pertinent, here’s what I thought was in the clipboard
–from wikipedia for Toronto FC-
On November 3, 2010, MLSE formally announced the hiring of former German international and coach Jürgen Klinsmann, and his California-based company, SoccerSolutions, to fix the club’s on-field product………Despite a strong finish to the season with only 2 losses in their last 12 games, TFC missed the MLS playoffs for the fifth straight year. TFC did however advance to the 2011–12 CONCACAF Champions League semifinals, becoming the first Canadian team to do so.
“People are the engine of creation..Systems and infrastructure do not spontaneously appear…People are the architects of systems, infrastructure, and regulations.”
That is correct and it is why I said the biggest obstacle to having a pro bound system in the U.S. are 99% of the clubs.
Club owners and people in general would have to come to terms with the fact that not everyone is cut up to be at the top level, and that money alone would not be enough to get them into the A team.
Like I said, US Club Soccer has made improvements in the US but it is not enough. The US Federation has to have enough courage to implement real leagues and make a point of saying that only the sanction leagues are truly competitive.
Someone had mentioned on a post that teams should aim to work toward being feeding teams to MLS teams and other top teams once their player graduate to the next level (domestically or internationally). I agree 1000% but most people ridicule people with that mind set. I have done it and many people ask me “why would you do that? your teams will be weaker next year once you loose those kids; keep them so YOU can win.”They think I’m nuts when I tell them it is not about the coach’s glory; if the kid can play at the next level in the US or abroad, he should leave.
Unfortunately “people are the architects of systems, infrastructure, and regulations,” and those people who profit so much from the status quo would go up in arms about any of the changes I propose. Look at all the people that complained about academy players skipping HS soccer. It made absolute sense to me, but so many people (mostly HS coaches and parents whose kids weren’t in DA teams) felt is was a disservice to the DA kids.
It never made sense to me why people would be against separating the top players from the rest. In the US many other global sports (and no American Football and baseball are not global sports) have the elite players compete in their own divisions and none of them compete in their HS team; there is no level.
I hate to sound pessimistic but I don’t think most people are ready to hear they aren’t at the level to compete in a more exclusive league that would promote real development and a path to professionalism. I guess all we can do for now is support those who are being more progressive and promote change one player at a time.
Gary Kleiban says
“… that teams should aim to work toward being feeding teams to MLS teams and other top teams once their player graduate to the next level (domestically or internationally).”
I’m gonna assume you meant “feeding players”.
Let me share my situation.
We are hard at work looking at and trying to get players to our international colleagues. The development trajectory of our best players would be much better off.
But, I can’t do the same domestically.
At this point, sending our kids to an MLS academy would be a travesty. The current training is pathetic and would negatively impact their development trajectory.
It would be like removing a kid from Harvard and sending them to a Junior College. No exaggeration.
I can’t justify it, especially at any point before U18.
I’m in a similar situation and that’s why I wish there would be a structure change.
Although I do think there are a few (very few) MLS academies that have inevested in hiring the apporpriate staff and management to put kids in a pro bound path.
Gary, couldn’t agree more with this one. I’m convinced that the bulk of the DA clubs are well…doing it wrong is the nicest way to put it.
About the only thing the DA can really offer is more ‘exposure’. With that said, with this country’s flawed and skewed view of what a quality player looks like…what is that player being ‘exposed’ to….more incompetence?
Simple question: If your club is fully funded, have you considered bringing players into residency? Looking beyond SoCal? Obviously there is a viable ROI with possible transfer fees?
Gary Kleiban says
I have a ton of ideas, plans, and business models.
Some in the infant stages, while others quite mature.
But we all have to remember Brian and I do not run ‘the club’. It is not ours in any way. Very important context to understand …
Dr Loco says
No offense Gary but what would happen to your team if you lost your coaching position?
Do you have a guaranteed contract or protection?
Would you create another team?
From my experiences players are the property of clubs although they tend to move at will.
Gary Kleiban says
Lots of things could and would happen. Way too much to go into here.
But the bottom line is this:
Our expertise, and professional mindset, goes with us.
Gary, this must be incredibly frustrating for you, Brian, and your players. Sending the players to MLS academies would have been the most natural next step in their development, except in this instance it’s a step down. Do you think that Portland’s hire of Caleb Porter might impact their academy and create better opportunities for some of your players?
Gary Kleiban says
“Do you think that Portland’s hire of Caleb Porter might impact their academy and create better opportunities for some of your players?”
I have no clue.
What I can tell you is this:
Unless the academy coaches they hire have an insatiable passion and expertise in “gold standard football” and the execution of its principles within the US Soccer landscape, there’s nothing Porter can do. The program will graduate the same crap as everyone else.
We complain ad nausea about youth soccer and bad coaching. So why keep going to same well? It’s going to take a few geneatoins of on the job training and coaches and players getting overseas experience to even come close to being on par with SA or Europe. We can help that learning curve by looking more outiside our borders (more int’l tournaments, etc as I posted above). And unless MLS and USSF seriously step up to the plate and make serious change, nothing will happen. And by the way, they aren’t doing a thing. The coaching curriculm is collecting dust! Can someone tell me what MLS or USSF is doing to truly make a bold move? Adding a 20th MLS club does nada. Why doesn’t MLS and USSF get pissed off and make a concerted effort and actively promote improvement of the current system? The silence is deafining.
Dr Loco says
” Why doesn’t MLS and USSF get pissed off and make a concerted effort…” because change is death for some.
Who is more “professional”,, a WWE wrestler or a greco-roman olympic champion?
An MLS franchise or an European 4th division team playing to stay up in the last match of the season vs the next village rival?
Jim Froehlich says
As usual a great article, Gary! I am a regular reader but not a participant since I find the level of discourse is so high as to be quite intimidating for an old amateur!! KEEP IT UP. That said, I do have a question/request: as a business manager/executive for nearly 30 years, I found an old consultant’s recommendation to be quite valuable in improving performance — find and recognize people doing things right! With that in mind I would love to see your list (probably short) of coaches/teams/clubs (domestic and international) that are “doing things right”. Not just youth development, but also improvement in style of play. Thanks
Gary Kleiban says
Thank you Jim.
Divulging a short list of coaches (less than 5 in all southern cali) immediately exposes who I think is junk. Probably not the best thing to do, at least not at this point.
Although I will say this: Most coaches in my inner circle are aware that I think they don’t know wtf they’re doing.
Anyways, the best I can do for now is try to slowly educate people. That way they might at least have a rough compass.
For list of coaches, their names have been mentioned on this site, so I feel comfortable saying Bryan Wallace (UFC), Gary Kleiban (FC Barca USA) and Wayne Harrison (Surf) are great coaches.
I went with my brother this week to watch my nephew trying out last night at a SoCal USDA Club (U15). While many players were of good quality, something like half-dozen were a joke. Could have made a video with a laugh track and silly blooper music. Players not turning their head to look before receiving a pass, packs of kids chasing the ball like Golden Retrievers, receiving passes on wrong foot or not turning up field, poor first touch. I wondered to myself “who coached these kids at U10 – U14”?
I also saw a few kids who have been on the team for several years, but are recreational level players. In speaking to some of parents I am acquainted with, these kids are hangers on who never get playing time and just want to be on a team. Something is wrong with this picture, but I’ve seen it before and a problem in pay to play system.
The best U14 and U15 teams I know have great coaches and develop players properly. There is no checklist of what a player should be able to do or comprehend by XX age, but well coached teams check all the boxes. Not measurable, but you know it when you see it. These are the coaches who are not impressed with size or speed. They are impressed with technique, tactical understanding, calmness, discipline, quickness of thought.
Dr Loco says
“There is no checklist of what a player should be able to do or comprehend by XX age,”
There should be and it should be measurable otherwise the player is not on track.
Dr Loco says
Gary do competing coaches just hate you or admire you? both?
Gary Kleiban says
Only they know that.
Dr Loco says
There should be a long list of coaches/teams/clubs to avoid. There job is to get off the shit list.
I think way too much generalization about what is successful player development is being thrown out there. There are very few clubs world wide that you could consider to be cable of developing players properly and even within that group you could argue that much of the development is done for them by simply scouting for the best talent in the world.
Salary is a form of investment in the form of player personnel. Limiting salaries because of problems in other clubs is typical government all size fits all mentality. Clubs that fail become high profile, but most clubs operate without salary caps.
MLS has pushed for 20-teams, which is capital expansion of infrastructure and is a form of investment. However, payoff is marginal if the product (players and quality of play) is inferior. In all sports, winning titles and having star players is what puts butts in seats.
Comparing salary caps in USA to Europe is apples to oranges. Closed system versus international sport. Franchise model versus free market. Pyramid system versus flat college to MLS system.
That said, precious few clubs can afford to pay mega bucks. But despite Real Madird or Man City or PSG big spending, they got the deep pockets. So who cares?
Agree with argument that MLS can and needs to do more and not have some stupid salary cap and follow NFL like blind fools. Instead of worrying about salary cap, MLS needs to worry about salary basement / floor. Players making $40K or less. Even decent experienced pros making less than $100K. There needs to be some allowance by MLS for salaries on high end to sell tickets, jerseys and garner interest. But their minimum wage is shambolic! Never going to improve the product with meager wages.
Dr Loco says
“Never going to improve the product with meager wages.”
Why do you need to get paid to play and coach well? Are players deliberately playing like shit because of money? Sound like spoiled brats.
Lets take a look at some of the numbers. Minimum salary for a player under the age of 25 in the MLS is $33,750. So after putting in the work to become one of the top 600 soccer players in North America (assumes 20 MLS teams fielding only US and Canadian players) my earning potential is $33,750 per year. Compare that to the minimum salary in the NHL which is $500,000. That hurts. But what really hurts is when you compare it against any decent high school student who spends two years at a community college and gets his associates degree in computer engineering and then gets a job working in a wafer fab as a fab technician making $35,000 per year. Now what was the benefit of becoming an elite soccer player in North America? And by the way if he gets UNLUCKY and is drafted to a big market team that $33,750 is not even a living wage for a family of 3. That leaves him feeding his family with food stamps. Now that is the kind of success I aspire too.
Smart soccer players in the USA don’t go pro, they go amateur. They get a job with real earning potential and spend their weekends playing quality soccer in top amateur leagues in their city.
Dr Loco says
There are no excuses for playing like shit under 30 years of age. Who do they have to support? Most people don’t have kids until their late 30s by then your sporting career is ending.
If you were a smart, elite player in North America you would leave the US to play.
If I had a choice between playing or a boring wafer fab tech I would play. Real players think about playing not working to raise a family and playing amateur ball in the suburbs.
Gary Kleiban says
“Why do you need to get paid to play and coach well? Are players deliberately playing like shit because of money? Sound like spoiled brats.”
Money may serve to facilitate focussing on the game.
For instance a coach who makes pennies might need to supplement his income with another job. Hence focus diminished and his product suffers.
I think the less anxieties one has to deal with outside their profession/art, the better.
Dr Loco says
So I guess coaching for the passion of the game is a myth.
What excuses do DOCs and college coaches have? They seem to have comfortable and secure high paying jobs ($100K+).
I think coaches should prove themselves for a year before getting paid.
Gary Kleiban says
No. Of course passion exists.
But ‘passion’ is yet another word like ‘development’ that’s loosely tossed around.
I’m simply saying that not having to worry about money can facilitate the best execution of your passion.
Please don’t get this twisted. This is not the same as saying: If one gets a good income, they’ll be at their best.
pg 19 says
I’m a bit with Doc on this one.
A domestic MLS player is likely someone that played competitive youth soccer (Select, ODP, DA) and went on to play Div I soccer in college. Factor in the swing that this player (parents) paid $5-$7k per year to play competitive youth soccer to paying near nothing in college with a substantial amount of their tuition taken care of through scholarship. A $33k annual salary is more than most college grads will see starting out with a four year degree and said player enters the work force with a substantially less debt load in student loans. In addition, he comes out with real work related experience, something most of his peers do not have in the field of study they majored in. If all things fail, said player still has a degree to fall back upon (assuming he kept up academically) and maybe can become one of the high paying youth soccer coaches (sarcasm) that this country, we’ve identified, so desperately needs.
When demand for soccer in the US increases, the pay will increase. Currently, the fans of soccer in the US are primarily folks that have either played it or been involved in it. It’s very rare that a soccer fan in the US is someone that just simply started watching it. Until those fans are captured, we’re selling our product to those that already are sold on it. The fan base has grown, but it’s nowhere near what it was in the 70’s during NASL’s heyday when salaries and fan attendance eclipsed any other sport in the US. That system imploded and it has taken twice as long to restart a professional soccer league in the US than the one previously had existed. We’re nearing 20 years with the new league and to date have captured very few “fans” of soccer. The growth in fanship is almost entirely those that became enthusiasts because of their involvement with it.
To me the biggest difference in the US and elsewhere is our fan base, what it is comprised of and supported. That is an element that will grow with time, as long as there is a domestic league in place. Another implosion will set the US back like it did in the early 80’s. From that point of time, I remember the number of youth teams in my small town dropped to less than a third within a couple of years. Those that continued to be involved in soccer, diehards like me, carried soccer through the dark ages that everyone here seems to have forgotten or were too young to even know. Don’t settle for anything subpar, but don’t under value the work that has gone on and progress made. It is forward progress to which you latch on and ratchet up. The salary cap will protect the league based on the lessons learned; the prior failure will not be repeated. When the fanship supports bloated salaries, it will no longer be an issue.
Quite frankly, salaries are not an issue when it comes to differentiating rec from pro-level development. Those that become true world “elites” do so because they are passionate and love what they do and also happen to be good at what they are doing. Take the big paycheck away, would they still try to do what they do or would they go on to something else?
The discussion of salaries simply pisses me off. Soccer has made me poorer from a financial sense. I don’t get paid to coach club, yet I invest heavily in my education (courses, licenses, books, videos, cable subscription, and match tickets) as well as travel, club dues for my kids, equipment, uniforms, etc. Those of you that get paid to coach and that’s all you do, I envy you. However, not getting paid has not prevented me from wanting to pursue my passion. If anything, it was just an obstacle I have learned to overcome.
kudos to you sir! keep it up and enjoy the game. It is people like you that I appreciate the most.
Dr Loco says
Here is an example of a Recreational Academy:
Pay attention to these buzz words:
holistic, enjoyment, safety, respecting, distinctive, fulfill, potential,
elite, professional, expertise, pro-active, best, optimal
Player Centered * Coach Driven * Administration, Sports Science, Parent Supported*
Our paramount concern is the holistic development, welfare, enjoyment and safety of our players. The player is the center of our universe and we make soccer decisions in their best interest. By respecting players as individuals with their distinctive needs and talents we will help all players fulfill their full potential.
Red Star sets itself apart from other Academies by the fact that the coaches drive the soccer operations. All technical decisions are made by, or delegated by; the elite coaching staff assembled. Each and every decision, from the smallest adjustment during practice, to player selection/player movement is done by the professional staff of coaches. Our technical staff is comprised of full-time professionals who have the expertise, time, and pro-active attitude to provide the best player development environment possible.
Scientific research has concluded that it takes eight to twelve years of training for a player/athlete to reach elite levels. This is called the ten year rule or 10,000 hour rule, which translates to slightly more than three hours practice daily for ten years. Unfortunately, parents and coaches in many sports still approach training with an attitude best characterized as “peaking by Friday”, where a short term approach is taken to training and performance with an over emphasis on immediate results. We now know that a long-term commitment to practice and training is required to produce elite players/athletes in all sports. There is no short cut to athletic preparation. As an Academy we stay current in the latest sport science developments and best practices used across the world to ensure optimal player development.
With regard to MLS salaries, I believe the new league minimum is 40K. And I believe I read it will increase to 46K next year. GA contracts for (presumably) the top underclassmen are usually much, much higher.
That said, it’s like I told my son, getting paid to play a game you love, and the experience that goes with it, sure beats the shit out of working construction. Or to most sitting in a cubicle crunching numbers.
The vast majority of professional players globally are not making 7 figure salaries. But why should that dissuade or discourage anyone from pursuing the game at the highest level possible?
After all, 99.99999% of people will never make 7 figure yearly incomes…regardless of profession/vocation they choose.
looking at the “odds of success” just becomes a copout. A convenient excuse to not make the investment of time and work.
It’s a serious cultural issue. A real problem in our modern society…”embracing mediocrity”.
Dr Loco says
Don’t think about the money. It will come.
USA is a fairly closed system at the youth level. Primarily top level teams ever play international teams or travel abroad for tournaments. Soccer is an international sport (unlike NFL).
I had the privilege of studying in Sevilla for two semesters and then travelling around Europe for over a year after graduation. During that time, I watched countless games in England, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Italy.
As a closed youth system, USA players are seldom if ever exposed to different coaching and playing styles. For example, my first MLS game struck me as very fast, very athletic, but short on technique, skill or tactics. I was impressed with player physicality, not ball movement. In Europe (especially Spain and to lesser extent, Germany) the game was slower in terms of athleticism, but movement of the ball and tactics were truly welcoming to the eye.
What I’m getting at here is in USA we either need more coaches from foreign destinations, domestic coaches to go overseas and get experience, clubs to participate in more international tournaments, domestic tournaments to invite international teams/clubs, or domestic players to somehow go overseas and train or get exposure to better coaching.
Relying solely on homegrown coaching is like sticking our collective head in the ground. Soccer is an international sport. It’s not NFL where a handful of teams can monopolize and be resistant to outside pressures. They reward mediocrity and punish success (the draft).
Soccer is international, and if USA (to include MLS) is going to improve, we need to not be xenophobic. We need to recognize and accept that other countries, other leagues are vastly more mature than we. We can’t let stubborn American pride or hard-headiness prevent us from adapting lessons learned from others.
As I recall Gary Kleiban saying on interview for Football Garden, he travelled overseas and learned from the best. While we can produce good coaches and good players through the domestic only model, it has its limitations. We are not the center of the soccer universe. We are a upstart wayward outpost. The mother ship is Europe and the prince is South America. It’s in our best interest to look outward to them.
I can tell that many on this form are limited to rec soccer within their city. No offense, but tha tis not even close! American youth clubs and coaches need to broaden their experiences, travel overseas, and open their eyes. It’s a big world out there and we don’t know squat sitting in our 4-bedroom suburban SoCal home.
Dr Loco says
“I can tell that many on this form are limited to rec soccer within their city. ”
That’s all there is. We don’t need foreign coaches to raise the level of the average player. Making your recreational player from shit to average would be a huge step in the right direction.
Besides the Kleibans coaches such as PG19, Kephren, NOVA Mike, John Pranjic are making a huge impact. (Any legit coaches feel free to add your name on the list).
When you play teams after the game instead of lying to the opposing coach tell them they play ‘shit’ soccer. If you don’t know how to do something well don’t do it all and step aside.
We don’t know what we don’t know. And worse thing is to be naïve or self-centered enough to not welcome or want outside ideas. USA is still in elementary school level for soccer while Europe and South America are grad school / PhD. level. Totally agree more clubs, teams, players, coaches need exposure to other footballing experiences, different mentalities, different levels of passion and professionalism.
Europe and South America are fortunate to be made up of numerous footballing nations within 2-4 hours of one another. Easily accessible and relatively inexpensive by train, auto or air. This fuels knowledge sharing, frequent competition amongst each other, the rivalries, the decades of experience. Europe and South America are literally hotbeds of football with the passion, culture, tradition to go with it. We are isolated in USA. To our detriment. Our isolation / distance from Europe and South America (and I’d say unwillingness) hurts us.
We are fairly equal up to about U16, but drop off from there. I wish D1 college teams would play in international tournaments or somehow compete with international teams of similar age or even join forces with NPSL, USL and other lower tier leagues in USA. Why not play teams from Mexico or Central America or Caribbean? Maybe dumb ideas but I’m trying to think outside the box to affect positive change. Of course NCCA doesn’t want any of this, but one of best things that could happen. I wish more youth clubs would do this, but difficult to pay for all this. I wonder why MLS Academies or some of the rich USDA Clubs don’t do more foreign tournaments?
Great stuff Jhun! I never thought about it, but your observation is dead on. We are indeed isolated.
As someone who has travelled extensively in Europe and a somewhat in South America, the impact of their “closeness” and concentration of soccer is palatable. Europe and SA have dozens of clubs and stadiums of every size in every city and teams playing in different levels (league pyramid). Cross the border to a neighboring country and same experience. Kids can watch a handful of live matches each week from various levels of teams within short commute or walking distance. Same true in Great Britain. Think of intangible benefits when kids (players) grow up in this environment. Think of the competitive nature of coaching and players to be the best. This is something completely lost on coaches and players who have never experienced it. Think of college football in Texas or southern states and multiply that by 10. Then imagine each state having multiple professional teams playing in different leagues with rivalries going back several decades or even a century or more. That is Europe and South America.
USA is vastly different. I live in San Diego and MLS is nowhere to be found. Just youth soccer and a hell of a lot of AYSO. Best I can do is go to Xolos games every now and then to watch good soccer. No way in hell am I driving 2-hours to watch Galaxy or Chivas.
Dr Loco says
“We are isolated in USA. To our detriment.” This is all BS. England is a perfect example. They invented the game and still suck.
Grow a pair like these boys! No respect on the field.
We need MLS players with attitude and swagger. I don’t personally like Mayweather but we need asses like him playing the game.
You completely miss the point Dr. Loco. Has nothing to do with “sucking”. More to do with exposure and environment. You can walk a mule to water but can’t make it drink. Just becasue a plyer is at La Masia doesn’t mean he will be Messi or Xavi or if he goes to Oxford he will be Isaac Newton. Has to to with environment and expsosure. More of a chance to develop top players in Europe and South American atmosphere (culture) than in USA. Isn’t this much of what has been discussed on this forum? Are you now saying cultur and environement aren’t important?
And are we now saying swagger (old fashioned rughy style English football) is what’s missing USA ingredient to yout development? I’m confused Dr. Loco.
Our distance (isolation) from Europe and South America at youth soccer level hurts our development. Great footballers are a product of their environment (culture and tradition). Not that we would be any better if USA was smack in middle of Europe or SA. But if we were, the proximity would give us more chance to produce better players because of surrounding environment. SoCal is best soccer environment in USA and California has produced far, far more MLS and National Team players than any state . . . by a landslide. Same logic holds for being in Europe and SA. And since when did England suck? Underachievers, yes. They’re a perennial Top 15 FIFA ranking team and have produced some of best players. And if England sucks, what about USA and the 175+ other footballing countries who are not of their caliber?
Cactus Taíno says
If football origins are in Europe, specifically in England, that means at some point there was no football in South America. If South America is as far, or even farther from Europe as it is North America, then at some point it was also isolated from football. And back then there was no internet, no fast planes, no TV, no computers, and none of the technology we have today. So how come you have two places isolated from football, but in one it develops faster than the other? So yes, isolation may play a part, but now a days, with all the technology and resources that are available, I don’t think isolation is to blame. OK, maybe a small percentage, but there are certainly much bigger issues to address first, for example, how the game is perceived in the US, not only by those who are involved in the game, but also by the population at large (sort of the topic of this post), to which you need to add that it is competing with other sports for attention and recognition (american football, baseball, basketball and I will even include hockey, among others, ’cause you could even include swimming, gymnastics, track & field).
So in short, 1) how can we change the perception the general population in the USA has about football, and 2) how can football make new fans and a get a bigger slice of the sports landscape pie in the country.
We could look to Brazil where futsal is played like Basketball here, with outdoor futsal courts everywhere. In US, 10,000 hours of basketball is no problem. If circumstances don’t allow you to be on a basketball team you can still play as much as you want at a high level on the playground. We have the most young players in the world and that is what we need to leverage.
Can a player become world class without a significant time spent playing on their own? In US it is unusual for a youngster to even play soccer without an adult involved. Foreign Coaches, Acadamies, ODP, Overseas tours are high cost solutions that close the game more.
Investing in making Soccer more accessible will pay off with better play and better players. Futsal will teach the game so players will learn on their own how to play the right way.
Dr Loco says
I like futsal but that’s is not the complete solution.
This is a huge problem.
“In US it is unusual for a youngster to even play soccer without an adult involved.”
It’s not only in soccer but all sports like baseball, basketball, football. Kids in the U.S. are stagnant, stationary, and just sitting around not active. Child obesity is a major problem. Kids in other countries are “hungry” literally. Stop overfeeding kids and kick them out of the house so they can play.
Ask kids what they do in PE? Not much of anything.
My son says his PE teacher tries to teach soccer… but is clueless. He’s good technically and has said the coach has actually tried to teach him bad technique. At least at 8 he already knows better.
He plays a lot of pick up games during recess and at a local turf field near his school. The competition isn’t much, but he gets lots of touches and works on his 1v1 moves in these situations. He gets super frustrated though. Most of the kids are so behind him technically that he gets pissed off.
Dr Loco says
1) how can we change the perception the general population in the USA has about football
Produce consistent quality players.
2) how can football make new fans and a get a bigger slice of the sports landscape pie in the country.
Win consistently against quality international teams.
I just checked the rosters for a bunch of the MLS teams and I wouldn’t say California is the ‘hotbed’ of US soccer. Especially when you consider the population.
Although not historical (but stats hold true), see following link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_current_American_soccer_players_by_US_state
I know I’ve seen similiar info but can’t locate it as we speak.
Population CA 38mil, 110 players. MD, NJ, PA, VA have less total combined population and is at about 90 players.
And England does suck. Look at the EPL. Only 20% of the players are even English.
Ok Mog, England sucks if you say so. From http://spiritofmirko.com/2012/05/22/foreign-players-premier-league-20112012/ “Of the 522 players that played in the Premier League 212 of them were Englishmen.”
That’s more than 40%. If you go to http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/7417746.stm, you’ll see the percentages fluxuates yearly.
And irrespective of the numbers, I’m not sure England sucks. But you’re free to believe that.
And you can see from this link: http://spiritofmirko.com/2011/08/01/analysis-of-player-nationalities-at-premier-league-clubs-20102011/
that EPL is really an international league. This is not news. Everyone knows this. As an international league, it’s difficult to get in. Best of best.
At last check, England is #6 in FIFA Rankings (yes, they are not perfect rankings). But even is skewed, any country ranked in Top 10 is certainly not in “suck” category.
FIFA Rankings are garbage, as proven by England’s ranking. When was the last time England reached the semis? As my English friend said, England needs to invent another sport so they can be good at it for a year or two then suck at it once the rest of the world figures out how to play it.
Ugh, two of my replies are below, not sure how that happened. You’ll also note that 80% or more of the ‘active English players’ on these EPL teams are all defenders with a couple of defensive mids. Man U is one of the few teams that fields English players throughout and has a high % of starting English players. But then it’s been said they know how to develop players. The rest of the EPL teams in the top 10, not so much.
I’m with you Kana, The Championship is packed with english players, and it’s a competitive, good league. One they get promoted and flush with TV money they bring in international players because the can afford it. The BPL is the most popular league and has the most cash. Of course players all over the world want to play there.
Also, Arsenal have many starting players that are English, many they polished in their reserve team and academy. They try to do it the way other countries do, but it’s less effective because of how clubs can just purchase talent in the top flight.
Barcelona appreciated the work they did… see Song and Cesc.
Walcott was the only English player for Arsenal that started more than 50% of the games last season. Gibbs started 15 (and was a sub in another so he didn’t even play in half the games). Oxlade-Chamberlain was the next up with a whopping 6 starts.
Dr Loco says
swagger (old fashioned rughy style English football)??? Now I’m confused.
99.9999% of our kids don’t have this! No need to go overseas to find it.
Dr Loco says
Force 99+% of recreational players to play well. Let the professionals handle the rest.
Again, these guys are implementing and talking less (PG19, Kephren, NOVA Mike, John Pranjic ).
Dr Loco says
Quality Pro Player Development or Recreation? People don’t know the Difference.
According to Floyd Mayweather to be elite you need God-given talent, money, and parents who ‘forced’ you!
I was just reading some of Horst Wein’s material. Its really different than yours-I think. Could you explain where your approaches differ and why? Do you consider him more recreational?
Rossi NJ says
A relevant article on Joe Gyau of Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga. His path is not for everyone, but then again that might help answer which “camp of development” you are really in. Lots of good nuggets here:
Moravek Soccer School says
This is a good article about a great family!
It’s not about development as much as it is about culture. 95% of the kids that play soccer in this country only play it when it’s organized as mentioned by another poster. Kids in other countries play it every single day for multiple hours. That’s where they get to the 10,000 hour mark. Kids here? Not going to happen except for a select few and they may not have the raw talent or intelligence to become an elite player.
Dr Loco says
“It’s not about development as much as it is about culture. ”
Been learning and studying the content in 3four3 for a while now. My views and ideas have definitely been influenced by everyone. I know I am a youth coach trying to develop competitive players that have a recreational mentality. My goals are not to create professional players. It’s just to make them play attractive soccer. It’s not so important that they dominate against strong, physical jungle ball players.
I cannot change players’ culture, environment, practice habits, attitude, character, personality, etc. I can only train them better and smarter to achieve my goals as a coach and mentor. Ultimately the players I work with will be much better off. Elite players must go to elite coaches. I’ll just work with the 99%. Perhaps in the future I will stop being just a recreational coach.
The deep cultural roots and significance/importance of football in Europe and South America is unimaginable to most Americans. No concept and not worth the debate. Reading these posts about how England sucks and not accepting that Europe and South America are vastly more experienced is simply a joke and speaks to mentality that helps keep USA down as a footballing power. As an Englishman, I take offense to “suck” moniker but agree England could and should do a lot better, but still a top football nation in terms of talent. I don’t blame BPL’s foreign contingent for lack of recent success in WC. Only one country can win WC. Not winning doesn’t mean we are awful. If we [England] suck, what does that say about you yanks? USA has +320M people and vast resources, yet can’t compete with small nations like Uruguay, Portugal, Netherlands, or even England (50 million people). I highly recommend more Americans spend time in Europe or South American to appreciate the differences. Especially coaches and club directors. Blazing a path to WC glory is something American ingenuity alone cannot conquer. Part of that success will need to look externally and mature footballing culture far more than its current state.
BPL is not the cause for England being poor at the national level. It’s large contingent of foreign players is just a result of England being unable to produce a large quantity of quality players at the midfield and striker position. Check the top 10 teams last year in the EPL. The amount of English strikers and midfielders that routinely started is abysmal. And I wouldn’t look at USAs ineptitude as a soccer/football country as a cause for it being ok. Kids in pretty much every other country play footie all the time. Here? Doesn’t happen unless you’re in some minority ethnic group that has a culture which places footie as the #1 sport in the household/area. People in the US don’t come home and play soccer. They come home and play catch with a baseball, throw a football around or play hoops (or sit in front of a TV playing COD). That’s why the US isn’t dominant in soccer. We can’t generate enough kids that hit that 10,000 hour mark.
Dr Loco says
Non-English managers is a huge problem for England. It is not healthy for a league to be run by foreigners.
“It’s a sad fact but the English Premier League has never been won by a manager from England.”
Something is very wrong with England and the US!
“What is wrong with British youth?”
The US is just as bad as the UK.
We don’t know how RAISE children and we don’t know how to TRAIN them either. It’s the same thing!!!
C’mon now, let’s be realistic and keep it to starters, not the occasional bench player that gets a couple of minutes. Your follow up post just proves my point, it’s an international league.
I did some quick checks (easily found on Internet). Somewhere around 45% of MLS is foreign players. Is that why MLS and USA sucks? Or is issue deeper than that? Or is in-country talent so bad they need to look externally? Could it be the free market chooses best talent? What would MLS, EPL, Bundes Liga, Serie A, or EPL look like if they had say 20% or less foreign players? No, bad thought! I like my these leagues the way it is thank you! I don’t want some NFL type closed system.
For comparison, Bundes Liga has about 45%, Serie A 50% foreign players and both do quite well in World Cup. We can deduce from this that America and England’s WC problems are likely caused by different factors outside of their respective domestic leagues. That is not to say the high number of foreign born players in their domestic league is not a contributing factor. I’d say it is a secondary or tertiary factor. I think the primary problem may be youth development. Underlying reasons are different, but same primary problem. America’s problem is its relative immaturity with football and England is its stoicism (i.e., refusal to change because of long history and entrenched beliefs).
Spain was stoic, but changed. Brazil is becoming stale and needs revitalizing. Mexico is in the midst of a rebirth. Each country has its own footballing life cycle. Nothing is permanent. Spain will one day become stale. The inevitable rise and fall.
From Goal.com relative to this discussion:
If a recent report is to be believed, then Juan Agudelo is on his way to Scotland giant Celtic F.C., maybe as soon as this week. Apparently, Agudelo also believes the rumor by retweeting the Sky Sports news.
This is a good move for U.S. Soccer, right? Maybe, as the move will likely boost Agudelo’s chances of
However, for Major League Soccer, this continues a disturbing trend. Last year, the league was praised for not overspending on aging talent like Nicolas Anelka and Michael Ballack to focus on younger stars – especially promising American players. The only issue is, surveying the current talent base of MLS, there are very few young Americans in the pipeline who are as marketable as Agudelo.
Sure, when Brek Shea is healthy and motivated, he comes close. But after that, MLS is severely lacking on elite American prospects especially on the attacking front. In a league that is practically ignored on English-language television despite having contracts with two major networks, ESPN and NBC, the fact that a few MLS clubs don’t feature American stars at all could explain some of the poor rating numbers.
While some claim that MLS falls victim to much more popular leagues in the English Premier League, La Liga and Serie A, that doesn’t tell the entire story. A colleague from another publication once asked why Americans can watch both NCAA and NFL football and not MLS along with European leagues. It is true that MLS lacks the history of its counterparts from the old continent but that isn’t the sole reason why the league is struggling on the TV front.
Look at the league’s top statistical categories from last season. Aside from Chris Pontius, there are no Americans younger than 25 among the league’s top-10 scorers. There are none in the top 10 for assists. Yes, soccer isn’t all about stats, but the casual fan needs a point of reference, and statistics are the common denominator across all sports. One of the major reasons that people tune into college football is to watch future NFL players. To see young elite local stars dominate before trying their hand in the pros. MLS needs to get to that stage.
It is great that league is able to recruit promising young players from all over CONCACAF and South America, but in order to create the ardent support that will prompt more TV viewing, the league needs a local edge at its forefront. In a conversation last year with Harvard business professor Stephen Greyser, a renowned sports economist, he mentioned that the paucity of American stars in MLS is a big problem for the league.
“The league has to focus on the idea of American stars. It’s been problematic for the league so far,” he explained to Goal.com.
The key to this argument isn’t that Agudelo shouldn’t try his luck in Europe.
One of the unique and special aspects of soccer is the ability to prove one’s talent in other leagues and cultures. The problem is letting him go without having any marketable young Americans as an replacement. MLS should emulate its competing league south of the border. Liga MX rarely lets go of young Mexican stars before there are suitable homegrown replacements.
Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez’s 10 million pound move to Manchester United is a perfect example. At 23 years old, Chicharito was a still young, up-and-coming talent when he was sold to the Red Devils, but to Chivas Guadalajara, he was essentially expendable.
The Goats already had Marco Fabian waiting in the wings, and when he inevitably gets sold, then Carlos Fierro and Erick Torres will likely replace him. Due to that factor, Chivas didn’t see Chicharito’s move as a poaching of talent but rather a complement to the team’s successful youth academy. It is very likely that Chicharito would have been much more expensive if Chivas didn’t have talent to replace him.
What will be even more concerning about Agudelo’s move, if it goes through, is the fact that Landon Donovan could be retiring this year or next. He isn’t a spring chicken anymore at 30, but he remains as the only viable marketable American star in MLS. Being talented and media savvy is what makes Donovan such an invaluable commodity to MLS. Agudelo could have helped bridge that gap even if he stayed in the league for just another two or three seasons.
The prestige and money that European teams can offer will always be enticing for young American players. Still, there are circumstances where MLS does have the advantage. The Scottish Premier League is arguably below MLS in terms of competition and according to a source, Agudelo would have been more inclined to stay if he received a Designated Player deal similar to Brek Shea. According to the same source, both the New York Red Bulls and Chivas USA were reluctant to offer a DP contract to the unproven then teenager. With a year left on his contract, Agudelo has a strong negiotating position to leave MLS for a cheaper transfer fee.
Hopefully, in the future MLS will raise its salary cap and restrictions on DP deals. With only three DP contracts permitted to each team, it was a prudent decision for both Chivas and New York to not give Agudelo a hefty contract. Yet, if say each team had five or seven DP contracts at its disposal, then retaining the young striker wouldn’t have been as much of a gamble. That will be key in enticing young Americans to stay. It might be difficult to retain a player if say Manchester United is interested, but the league shouldn’t be losing young players to leagues outside of Europe’s top five leagues (England, Spain, Italy, France and Germany).
MLS will likely be successful in recruiting in global stars Frank Lampard and Kaka in the future, but as proven with David Beckham, any major interest in both players will likely be short-term. It is great for the league that it is able to recruit marketable stars but it is a road that has already been traveled.
What MLS needs next is figure out a way to make it more attractive for young homegrown players to stay. To stop selling the likes of Agudelo without ready made replacements and to not allow talented prospects like Liverpool youth product and U.S. youth international Marc Pelosi to slip through the cracks. Imagine seeing a league with many young talented American players facing off against the global stars that it can now attract.
Thanks for sharing this article.
While the article pointed at several interesting items, it appears to me that the writer lacks an understanding of football as a world sport and it measures the MLS success/challenges using the NFL as metric; which is one of the big problemns in the first place.
” the fact that a few MLS clubs don’t feature American stars at all could explain some of the poor rating numbers.” Wrong. Educated football fans appreciate quality football. That’s why they turn to the EPL, LFP, Bundesliga and others. Those leagues have one thing in common; they do not restrict themselves to champion national heroes. Their footprint is worldwide, thus their human resources is diverse.
“One of the major reasons that people tune into college football is to watch future NFL players. To see young elite local stars dominate before trying their hand in the pros. MLS needs to get to that stage. ” Not quite the solution. College soccer as a defacto second division in the US is not the solution; is part of the problem. There is no way an educated fan base would take the time to watch College soccer on TV when they can watch the Liga Adelante (LFP 2nd division) or FA 2nd division teams. Moreover, in soccer, you have players as young as 15 or 16 alreading going pro (perhaps not as starters but playing on loan in smaller teams, or in 2nd divison teams to get more time and to allow people to get to know them). Perhaps a better solution (or part there of) is championing the up and coming 16 years olds going pro in the MLS (regardless of their country of origing so long as they ae homegrown).
“In a conversation last year with Harvard business professor Stephen Greyser, a renowned sports economist, he mentioned that the paucity of American stars in MLS is a big problem for the league.” How so? then, how do you explain the abundance of international players in all the top leagues in the world? One is is clear, there is an educated fan base in the use that appreciates and tunes to soccer every weekend. If not, Gol TV, Fox sports, and so on would not exists. The problem is quality. That’s why countries like Quatar and China are investing in international players too; to get more global respects for their leagues.
” The Scottish Premier League is arguably below MLS in terms of competition and according to a source, Agudelo would have been more inclined to stay if he received a Designated Player…New York Red Bulls and Chivas USA were reluctant to offer a DP contract to the unproven then teenager.” Money talks. It is important to understand that players have a very short life spand as pros and they need to take advantage of that.
“What MLS needs next is figure out a way to make it more attractive for young homegrown players to stay.” True and a good place to start, is marketing all the up and coming 16 year olds getting MLS contracts. If the DA can produce a handfull of top young players that can eventually go overseas, the MLS will become more relevant at the world stage.
“Pro Player Development” is part of this post’s title. Can we have “pro player development” at youth levels if coaches don’t have that playing or coaching experience? Forget Europe or SA, just plain ole vanilla MLS experience is good. Youth players in Europe and SA do IN FACT receive training / development from coaches who played professional and/or have high level coaching experience and qualification. Compare that to many clubs (even USDA) where coaches played low level and don’t have impressive coaching credentials.
So I ask “can pro player development happen if those teaching aren’t of similar quality?”
Gary Kleiban says
Playing and coaching are two different animals.
Look at Mourinhio; one of the greatest coaches in the world. Never played as a pro.
Look at Maradona; The best player in history (after Messi). Not the best coach.
Gary, completely agree with this sentiment, however, there is a reason that when you look at Ajax’s requirements for their youth coaches one of the qualities is past professional playing experience. Having been a professional player by no means guarantees success as a coach, but it without a doubt is a tremendous advantage and with rare exceptions I do not believe a coach can reach the elite level without having played a significant level.
Everyone always points to Mourinho as an example of a coach who did not play at a high level. Mourinho played in the Portuguese 2nd division for Sesimbre and was brought up in the Belenenses academy. In his own words, “I’m an intelligent person. I knew I was not going to go any higher. The second division was my level. ” That’s a pretty significant level.
Wenger is the other example. Wenger played for RC Strasbourg from 1978-1981 making 11 appearances during which Strasbourg was in Ligue 1 and Ligue 2.
What neither of them did was have prolonged, pronounced careers as players but both made it to a particularly high level as players.
Can it be done without a high level of playing experience? Yes, of course, but very rarely. The only one I can think of is Andres Villas Boas.
Dr Loco says
At the highest level, professional players need professional coaches with experience and credibility. Playing pro gives you credibility.
At the youth level you just need knowledgeable coaches. That’s 99+% of us.
99+% of us are certainly not knowledgeable coaches (at least not in the US) that much is abundantly clear. And one of the qualities that Ajax looks for in their youth coaches is past professional playing experience. Not an absolute requirement but a quality they do want.
Dr Loco says
Meant to say 99+% of our coaches are working with recreational players so it really doesn’t mean much to have past professional playing experience. Being knowledgeable is only a plus for the rec players.
Sacchi, Bielsa, Otto Gloria, Zeman, Roy Hodgson, Lillo, Queiroz, Juan Ignacio Martinez, Brendan Rodgers, Autuori, Lazaroni, Mano Menezes, Jesualdo Ferreira, Vitor Pereira, Peseiro, Houllier, Cramer, Erickson, Grant, Beenhakker, Lopez Caro, Caparros…pop to mind
Bielsa played for Newell’s Old Boys, Sacchi played for Bellaria a professional club in the third tier of Italy, Hodgson played at Crystal Palace, Brendan Rogers played for Reading before injury cut his time short, Menezes played for Internacional and Juventude in Brazil…I won’t look up the rest but I’d be willing the vast majority played at a fairly high level
“Can it be done without a high level of playing experience? Yes, of course, but very rarely. The only one I can think of is Andres Villas Boas.”
Arrigo Sacchi wasn’t too shabby for a shoe salesman. Never played pro.
Dr Loco says
So I ask “can pro player development happen if those teaching aren’t of similar quality?”
Yes, you just need quality instruction at the appropriate levels similar to the educational system. No need for a PhD teaching Kinder.
American football has done much in 20+ years since 1990 WC, but has a very long way to go. The problem isn’t youth development and coaching as many expound on this forum.
College Soccer: College is for higher education; not developing quality pro players. It’s woefully poor at developing pro level players. From clock counting down, to endless subs, to timeouts, and playing style that looks nothing like MLS or best leagues in Europe. A three month season for 18 – 22 year olds is a true travesty. An injustice. Then when they graduate, after years of development since U5 or U8, there nothing out there to catch them. It’s all over! No soccer pyramid playing at lower leagues to develop their craft.
Coaching: Need better qualified coaches. Preferably with overseas experience. They need to be rounded and worldly just like players. USA’s licensing program needs to improve. Programs are too short. UEFA has a very good program and USSF needs to consider borrowing from it.
USSF: Every footballing powerhouse has a strong, active, forward looking Federation. Germany has maybe the best youth system (could argue Spain or Netherlands). It’s Federation studied Spain’s success and adopted much of what they learned. This can’t happen in USA system where MLS is not doing enough and USSF blows hot air. For any meaningful progress, the Federation MUST be actively involved leading the charge. Sunil Gulati is shambolic, but we don’t care enough about soccer in USA to give a damn.
Soccer Pyramid: Europe and South America have levels of leagues. Hundreds of clubs. Players who want to be professional have the right environment. From as young as 12, they are scouted. Top players move on to bigger clubs. It goes this way until they make first team on a top level league. No so in USA. For example, a promising player in San Diego has not options. A USDA club or two, but that’s it. No MLS team. Not second or third level club to develop and nurture him. Give him right learning atmosphere surrounded by quality coaching. All he can look forward to is college soccer.
You can find much information on how Germany, Mexico, Spain, Italy improved youth soccer development. Key point: they looked externally, had the right leadership to champion change, and they had right visionary soccer minds at all levels to make it happen. Here is a good piece on what Gemany did:
UEFA Study Visit – Germany 2010
Joachim Low’s Germany side won plaudits from across the game for their impressive performance at last year’s World Cup. Playing a brand of football based on intelligent use of possession, clever movement and incisive counter-attacking play, Germany shed many of the stereotypes with which their playing style has been traditionally associated. Many of the key performers in this side were young players promoted from their 2009 U21 European Championship winning side.
To learn more about the changes that have taken place in German football, delegations from the English, French and Spanish Football Associations recently visited Cologne in Germany, for an Elite Young Player Development seminar hosted by the German Football Association (DFB). The three-day visit, part of UEFA’s study visit scheme, allowed the exchange of best practice ideas between these prestigious football nations and an opportunity for the DFB to outline the restructure of their coaching and talent identification programme.
Study visit content:
– Overview and analysis of DFB talent identification programme
– Seminar series on the rationale, history and success of DFB’s Youth Development Programme.
– 1 day visit to Cologne FC of the Bundesliga for a review of their Youth Development Programme
German football: background and context
Following poor performances at the World Cup in 1998 and the European Championships two years later, German football was, as the DFB describe: “at an all time low”. With the age of the European Championship squad standing at thirty-one and few signs of a promising generation to take their place- only one player in the Euro 2000 squad was aged Under 21 -it was agreed that a review and restructure of the elite youth development programme was imperative to ensure future success.
Proposal for change
The review process concluded that ‘increased opportunity’ for all young German players irrespective of their background, geographical location or educational arrangements was necessary. Recruitment had to be nationwide; and the talent net had to be cast much wider than the, already exhausted, areas in close proximity to the professional clubs. The DFB professed that at that time the recruitment system was something akin to a “lottery”, with professional clubs running their Academy systems as individual entities.
The proposal amounted to a daunting task; one which was dependant on the DFB, the Professional clubs and amateur (grassroots) game working closely together. Clear leadership was required. Cautious of the potential bureaucracy the proposals may trigger- in particular the issues of finance and staffing – the DFB simply established and implemented a new youth development structure, meaning that the clubs had to conform.
In addition, it was also agreed that the DFB’s vision and philosophy – detailing how the game should be played – was to be communicated to all those involved in Young Player Development.
The approach adopted by the DFB was structured around four pillars:
– DFB Support Bases
– DFB Regional Centres
– Elite School Programme
– Professional Club Academy programme
In 2001, the DFB introduced 120 support bases to increase opportunities for scouting and coaching young players in the amateur game. In 2002, following the success of the first batch of support bases, this number increased to approximately 360.
– The Support Base coaching programme focuses on players in the U11-U14 age-groups, with one session per age-group provided each week.
– Each base is staffed with 2 or 3 UEFA B qualified trainers along with a regional organiser/coach. The coaches who work part-time, earn approximately 300 Euro per month.
– Each base supports approximately 40-60 clubs, with DFB coaches providing CPD for clubs in their region.
There are vast resources, lessons learned from across dozens of footballing countries. USA’s collective head is in the hole, no leadership. Just inertia. If USA continues to flounder, it is it’s own self inflicted fault.
“Proposal for change
The review process concluded that ‘increased opportunity’ for all young German players irrespective of their background, geographical location or educational arrangements was necessary. ”
Basically, read this as “Quit being so incredibly racist and allow Turkish-Germans (and certain special others on the team)”. Even more to the point, let Mesut Ozil play for us or risk losing to Turkey in the 2012 Euro. Turkey almost beat Germany in Euro 2008 with several Turkish-Germans leading the way; i.e. Altintop. Turks make up 5% of German population so the timing was right for this proposal for change.
Remember, no American-Germans, of which many are sons of American servicemen and are distinctly non-German looking, are playing for Germany though some may be good enough, i.e. Chandler and Williams.
Their situation is kind of different. I don’t see racism at the USMNT level preventing us from glory… maybe at the grassroots level as I’ve stated here before. We in US like to keep our soccer boards free of those pesky “foreigners” who take soccer too seriously.
Just a disgrace that there is racism at any level in such great societies, but maybe like in Germany as average citizens become enamored with Turk-German footballers and may be kinder to their “guest worker” neighbors on a daily basis, maybe soccer can lead the way in US to more racial/ethnic tolerance. Every culture has something to offer. Many are damn good soccer players.
I think this is my last post (sorry for clogging up this forum with my ramblings). One last thought. MLS, college soccer and USSF need to come together. Decide on college soccer’s role. Either become a true farm league for MLS (and National Team pool) by expanding season (year round like USDA Academies) or MLS and USSF look to PDL, NPSL or other lower tier league. The current college to pro model will not take US soccer to the next level. Not the way it is currently constructed. Maybe MLS and USSF need to partner more with USDA clubs. They become default farm leagues and leave college to their own purposes (which is developing engineers, doctors, etc.; not pro ballers).
The idea of local Centers of Excellence has been around for years (all we got is IMG), but just hot air. MLS and USSF (and even college) can come together and help fund these. Even the local federations such as CalSouth can do this, but someone needs to take the horse by the reins. Individually, it’s too difficult logistically and financially to do alone. But together true change can come.
The inertia by MLS, USSF, local federations (i.e, CalShouth / ODP), NSCAA (college soccer) tells us 1) they are stovepipe organizations 2) lack vision 3) don’t have deep passion for the game (I know I ramble, but I love my football and the passion, but no power to make change).
Anyway, it was fun posting. You won’t hear from me again on this forum as I’ve said my peace.
Dr Loco says
“MLS, college soccer… need to come together”
Definitely. College soccer needs to become attractive before MLS is to become successful.
Fans need a quality product on the college fields so they can continue watching it at the pro-level just like NFL. We need continuity in style of play and fans. It starts from the bottom and continues to the top. Look at Barcelona for a detailed example. The solution is clear only fools would try to reinvent the wheel.
“In the NFL, college tactics emerging”
“college football is taking over the NFL.”
“The Forty Niners were trying to do what college teams are doing right now. And college trumped pro tactics.”
I know this is very off-topic, but I posted the paragraphs below in another thread that was about 9 months old and getting no traffic. So I wanted to post it here and hear your all’s thoughts about my idea to improve soccer marketing in America. Thanks.
“I’ll tell you the solution to marketing soccer in America… The key is marketing soccer to PARENTS. Question: What do most parents want? Well, since they/we all are inherently selfish and often view their kids in a better light than reality, they want their kids to succeed at the highest levels of their sport (doesn’t matter if it’s soccer, basketball, football, tennis, whatever). The fact of the matter is this: most sports in America have very specific genetic requirements to play at the highest level (ex: basketball – must be over 6’4″, football – must be able to bench press a small car or be insanely fast, tennis – usually over 6′) There are some exceptions, but that’s just it…they are exceptions to the rule. So 99.9% of kids are ruled out of ever reaching elite status in basketball/football simply because of their genes.
But here’s the good news… elite soccer players come in all shapes and sizes (Yes, I’ll give you that they must be great athletes to reach elite status, but compare that to basketball/football where you have to be a great athlete AND a genetic freak).
So parents want their kids to have a chance to reach the highest levels of their sport. That’s not even possible for 99.9% of kids in basketball/football, but it’s possible for maybe 2-3% of kids in soccer. That’s a big difference. Just get parents to realize this and they will naturally push their kids towards soccer at a young age and away from basketball and football (probably the biggest competition for athletes in the US). More kids playing will lead to more $ in the system, more fans for local/professional teams, more $ for advertising/investment, etc.
In my opinion, this is the solution to marketing soccer in America.”
Dr Loco says
Parents already know this. Soccer is the largest youth sport in the US.
Jacques Pelham says
I think you make several interesting insights regarding physical criteria but allow me to disagree with your central premise regarding “marketing” of the game.
There are 10s of millions of youth players in this country. Exponentially more in terms of raw numbers than our “peer” countries in terms of professional soccer infrastructure like Japan and Australia. A significant fraction of these parents pay a hefty annual sum of money to fund their children’s soccer dues and fees. This “pay-to-play” structure has traditionally been the means for youth players to ascend to college and the professional level. Youth coaching in the U.S. can be extremely lucrative for those many coaches throughout the country that are able to establish a market for their services.
There are also millions of supremely talented players who cannot afford to pay to play and are often overlooked or unseen. Many of these players are of latino heritage and located in urban areas lacking “big clubs.” Obviously the development academy is changing this landscape but it’s still lacking.
The point is, it’s not a marketing or framing problem we face in the U.S. It isn’t the players or parents lack of incentive recognition that’s preventing MLS from producing a financially successful product. The raw material in terms of players and audience is there to make division 1 professional soccer one of the best/most watched leagues in the world. I think what most of the folks on this site would tell you based on experience is that the big issues that need to be fixed are upstream from the youth scene rather than at the entry level. Parental education rather than marketing is probably the main tool to chip away at those issues.
Dr Loco says
Very eloquent. However I don’t believe it.
“There are also millions of supremely talented players who cannot afford to pay to play and are often overlooked or unseen.”
I see loads of bad talent from players of all backgrounds. Honestly most American kids are very similar in personality, character, upbringing. They seem likes clones with different color. Not much in terms of drive and motivation to be a top athlete. I believe youth sports is diluted with a recreational mentality. It’s doesn’t matter how much marketing or education parents get. Their soft, spoiled children are not the correct raw material to make world class players.
We are a Recreational Society.
The biggest issue to fix is to make top U10,U11,U12,U13,U14,U15,U16,U17,U18 youth teams, top college teams, and continue to MLS. It’s a simple progression and continuity of talent with playing style. You cannot have a world class pro league/national team if your kids suck!
I live about 2 hours from Fort Lauderdale and the past couple years have gone to the combine for one of the days, but this year I decided to save my time and money from the total junk and guaranteed frustration that is the MLS Combine. I thought I would watch it streaming instead which they decided not to do this year. Given the fact that all over the television at the NFL combine there are thousands of people every year watching guys run in a straight line for 40 yards, or jump straight up in the air, but not enough people are willing to watch the next group of professional soccer players actually play soccer for free online. This says a lot about the crap soccer culture that this country has. Another comparison is that the college football senior bowl every year is on ESPN. Aside from that, since there was no streaming, I watched the highlights which go figure were about 30 seconds from each game that consisted of nothing but goals and shots on goal and managed to tell me absolutely nothing about the quality of play or any single player in the entire combine. My next move was to watch the individual highlights MLS put up of the combine participants. If you’re looking for a good laugh, you guys have to watch these, it’s hilarious!! Random wonder strikes, and guys aimlessly booting long free kicks, etc. it’s an absolute disgrace that these are the things that are being shown before a draft, just another indicator of the lack of sophistication this country has in soccer. “He score goal, me like goals, he good”.
Yeah, good question. How can we have quality pro development if coaches and clubs doing the development are at some distant lower level in terms of experience (coaching and/or playing), commitment and dedication to actually develop players who at 18 who are on right trajectory for pro? A bigger problem is college (maybe except handful of schools like Akron, UCSB, UCLA) is not producing players of MLS caliber. “Youth development” doesn’t stop at U18 Club Academy. It continues on through college. Players are still developing up to about 22-years old. It’s doesn’t magically stop at 18.
College is more about winning, getting nationally ranked. It’s not about development and preparation for MLS or Europe. THIS IS A HUGE PROBLEM! USA is close to or on par with Europe and SA up to about 16, then big drop off. By the age of 22, most European and SA kids have 4-6 years on a reserve side playing weekly and training daily over the year against high competition. 4 years of college playing 3-months and against teams like Western Oregon State has no comparison. A gap as large as the Atlantic Ocean that separates us. As Mourinho once said (loosely quoted) “England develops players to win. Portugal and Spain develop players to understand how to play the game.”
Well said MIkey!
We can improve youth soccer all we want. What happens when they go to college? Is college on par with Europe or SA at developing pro quality players? How long should we settle with a “no” answer? 5-years, a generation, longer? Why is USSF being so patient? Wouldn’t it be nice to have them lay out a plan like Spain, Netherlands, Germany and then go do it?
Even if all of youth soccer adopted a common playing style, it would be in vain if college doesn’t improve. If a closed system like NFL, college would be just fine. But soccer is international. The measuring stick is Europe and SA.
Germany had a bottom-up approach, but it worked because they have a reserve teams and a soccer pyramid. Same for just about every country except one. Guess who?
This continuum (common playing style, philosophy, player access to facilities and coaching resources, long-term development model) is how countries like Spain, Mexico and Germany turned the corner. College soccer is part of the youth development equation. It sits at the end of the development continuum before entering a professional career. It can be part of solution (an enabler or catalyst) or get out of the way and stop being a hindrance (a diversion, obstruction to quality pro development).
Until college soccer (or some viable alternative) can provide 4-6 years of the invaluable, high level competition and ongoing year-round development between the ages of 18 -22 (like reserve sides in England, Europe or SA), I firmly believe we will make marginal improvement. Any improvement plan has to include youth clubs, USDA, USSF, and MLS.
The ages of 18 – 22, is the last development stage before turning pro. This is why college (or lower league such as PDL) is so vitally important. 3-months of soccer does not compare to Europe or SA where players go year round, practice daily and play high level competition and superior coaching. By 22, most Euro and SA kids looking to go pro have 4-6 years of experience that college comes nowhere close to replicating. Years of full-time on the job training versus part-time summer help.
Akron maybe the only college side that even comes close to the right model. But still can’t replicate the year-round training and high-level competition and grooming for first team play that occurs in England, Europe and SA. The current construction of college soccer and its relation with MLS has to fundamentally change. It cannot operate as it has and then listen to Sunil Gulati or Klinsmann say they expect USA to compete with top footballing nations (which is exactly what they said when Klinsy was appointed and Claudio Reyna reiterated when he rolled out coaching curriculm). Something has to give. Again, nothing wrong with college soccer, but if USA wants to compete against rest of the world, I see now way college does that . . . unless its revamped or replaced.
College soccer will go way of buggy whip in next 10-15 years. It’s already went from about 7 rounds to only 2 rounds for Super Draft. USDA clubs is where best players go. Why go to college if you want to be a pro baller? College could be useful for MLS, but not with a 3-month schedule. But MLS Acadamies are too few and non MLS USDA clubs need to be affiliated somehow with MLS to funnel those players into the league. But MLS needs a strong reserve league. Leagues like USL and PDL need to get involved and be that second tier working with USDA clubs. I think something like this will evolve (or hope so). It will be death nail in college soccer. And NCAA / NSCAA to bureaucratic to change. The whole Super Draft is MLS trying to be “American”. MLS may be played in USA, but they need to think globally if the league is going to be viable counterpart to Europe or South America. And yes, the years between 18 – 22 are critical.
College soccer may or may not be the kiss of death developmentally. I can certainly agree that it isn’t an ideal developmental venue.
Regardless of the idiotic NCAA restrictions/rules, there are players that train year round. And it isn’t just Akron. Now, the quality of the training may not be the best. it may not even be adequate. Just as in the youth game though, the players have to be self motivated enough to fill the training gap.
Factoring in 3 1/2 months of fall training/competition. Two to 3 month sin the spring. And 3 months of PDL/NPSL training and competition, those players are getting 10 months of soccer.
Is it the same thing as being in a single, more structured environment? Hell no!
Bottom line is I don’t see college soccer becoming a nonfactor unless the MLS and even the lower league clubs come together and form a national, year round U20 and U23, integrated league/system.
Hopefully college soccer will reform. That’s the most likely scenario. The MLS and the lower leagues just aren’t going to make the investment. Not right now.
Hopefully in the interim we will see more and more American players get opportunities to complete their footballing education overseas.
Meh. All of us 99 percenters are the ones paving the way for your precious elites. My kid is 12. He’s in a great, professional, disciplined program. He’s a talented young man and I love to watch him play. If he works very hard for the next six years, he’ll get recruited to a good college team. He might even get a scholarship. But he’s never, ever going to play at a level high enough to get him into the MLS or any other league as a career. He’s just not good enough. We recognize that. There are two kids in our club who I think have a pretty good chance of making it “all the way.”
Now, how on earth are they ever going to make it to that level if the club doesn’t also have 200 other kids who play at my son’s level, to pay for the coaches and fill out their team rosters? To create teams against whom those kids will scrimmage and other regional superstars’ teams will compete against? Who do you think makes up the audience of excited little boys and girls at MLS games, buying jerseys and attending summer skills camps?
I think it’s disingenuous and unproductive to completely dismiss 99% of the people who make up a sport as “the problem.” I think my son’s coach has an obligation to give him his time, attention, and yes, money’s worth, despite the fact that his ultimate goal is not to play as a professional player. And he does. That’s why we play for him.
I don’t think a coach has any obligation to act as a therapist or substitute parent. I think they have an obligation to give their time, energy and resources to all of their athletes, regardless of whether they may or may not ever have a professional career. Besides, at this age, some kids are late bloomers. I’ve seen coaches shoot themselves in the foot by cutting kids who just need some more time, attention, and growing up.
I think you’re missing the point. When every club is essentially a recreational club and there’s no desire to create professionals it does the players who do want to be professionals a disservice.
This is a big country and the output of global players could potentially be higher, yes the 99% who pay to play will never play at that level. but when clubs they pretend to try or don’t do what it takes to create top class players… it’s all a huge waste.
It’s big deal… yes the elites are precious, and they’re being screwed.
Well, I have no idea how people do it in your area, but that’s certainly not a problem around here. Kids start out in rec league. The ones who are talented and interested continue to travel teams. The ones who are the cream of that crop end up leaving and going to Premier teams. The ones who truly excel there end up on Development teams. Nobody’s being held back by incompetence or the thousands of children who just play for the love of the sport.
My kid trains during the year with a club that is passionate about developing individual players and creating skill foundations, and in the summer with Caleb Porter’s team (well, now it’s Embick’s team). There is absolutely nothing holding back kids who have the talent and drive to go all the way. There is nothing to be gained from criticizing and demonizing the children who can’t or don’t want to make a professional career out of soccer, or the dedicated coaches who exert their time to help those kids.
Dr Loco says
“Nobody’s being held back by incompetence”
“There is absolutely nothing holding back kids who have the talent and drive to go all the way.”
These are strong words. Just show the proof of development.
It’s bad. Real bad.
Curious. What club?
Our current club is Canton United, which is a recent offshoot of its sister club, Cleveland United.
I know Gary approves (at least in theory) of one of the coaches, as explained here:
Have they turned out a pro player? Well, no, but it has only been around for a couple of years. But the coaching staff is solid, every detail (down to the specific uniform they are required to wear at each practice) is geared toward creating a cohesive, professional environment in which the kids can reach the highest level of success.
Gary Kleiban says
The main points this article was trying to touch I recapped under the headline “Key Takeaways”.
The intention is that we all start to understand the status quo better. Because we do not!
I’m not completely dismissing the contributions of the 99%, as you suggest.
What I did suggest, however, is when people who are of a recreational mindset dominate the discussions and policies regarding how those of a professional mindset should operate … that’s a very big problem.
Fair enough. Clearly I misunderstood. That’s never been a problem for me, but as I mentioned before, my kid isn’t one who’s going to end up playing for Barcelona. And maybe I’m biased, but I think that the education he’s gotten is absolutely 100% top notch. Other than general issues with ignorant parents, I’ve never experienced the problems you describe. Maybe we’re just very lucky to have a great club. Or maybe I’m too naive to realize how bad it is 🙂
Curious Larry says
I think we are all a bit confused! Maybe, just maybe, .., you will discover that you were in the Pro Camp all this time since today 😉
Julie, I have no reason to doubt your claims concerning your club. You should consider yourself very lucky. because the opposite is true where I live. Our local soccer landscape is seriously infected with the ‘rec’ mentality.
My son has essentially had to ‘develop’ himself. Thankfully he has a solid foundation of technique, brains and at least knows what proper football looks like.
And yes, I’ve pushed. (How else can he close the gap?) I have always tried to put him in environments where he isn’t the dominant player. Training up with teams 4 years older. Playing up 2 age groups. Playing pickup with Euro/SA expats on weekends starting at 11 years old. Adult hispanic leagues, etc. We’ve had to get ‘creative’ to say the least.
I don’t believe any truly elite player will emerge from the USA without being pushed. Even the most gifted, motivated players here fall prey to the peer pressures and distractions. My belief is they will thank you later for being a football talent rather than a video game whiz!
At what age did you start playing your son up? My son is playing up one division and competes well, but has more difficulty scoring goals. There have been coaches who recommend he play at his own age to experience more success.
Any tips or comments (from anyone) are much appreciated. I want to build that solid foundation that you speak of, but find the rec mentality seemingly delaying skill development.
Playing up is only valid if you are playing up with better quality players. My son could play up in most leagues and excel but he faces better competition in his age group playing against the best teams in region.
I can also vouch that success=confidence=better development potential. If you can balance that with playing against good competition you should be fine.
In the end, what your son or daughter does on their OWN TIME is going to far outweigh whatever they do in a club that practices twice a week for 1.5 hours a shot. Don’t even count games if they are only getting 20 touches (possessions).
Thanks for the response. He is getting out a couple times a week on his own just practicing fancy volleys, receiving with head/chest then finishing.
I do think I will play him at his own age for the short spring season.
My son is fortunate to play for a club that is able to provide him with opportunities to play and train at different levels all throughout the year. I think he gets a lot out of playing/training “up” but I also think he benefits from being a very dominant player at his own age group. Honestly, I would hate to have to choose between the two because I see great benefit from both. Maybe one of the best benefits of playing and training with more than one team is simply the sheer amount of time he gets with the ball. If forced to choose, I think I would choose to have him play up.
Great points, Mog. Especially the self training. However, in most cases, playing up an age group is almost always better. There’s a huge difference in a good u12 team vs a higher ranked u11. Now maybe at U16+ the differences are negligible.
One of the few positives is that the local club offers 3 training sessions per week. So, he was getting 4 team sessions a week. Plus technical work on the off days. No question though. if they aren’t on the ball (in a meaningful way) at least 5-6 days a week at 10/11…they are way behind.
My point was that simply playing up does not always equal better competition. In our area the top ‘travel teams’ routinely play up and beat up on U12 ‘A level’ teams that play on Saturday, simply because the better competition is on Sunday. You have to consider other factors like playing time, skill level of the different teams, coaching philosophy, number of practice sessions. Those are all things that are more important than ‘playing up’. Just trying to bring context to it all. There was a kid who’s dad was all about ‘playing up’. Well, he couldn’t hang with our boys. He wasn’t fast enough, smart enough or big enough to compete. But he did great at his own age group and was the top goal scorer for their team. To me, playing up is more about the physical state of your child. You’re right, at U16+ the differences are negligible and that’s probably because the physicality of it has leveled off.
So if you’re finding that your kid is just blowing past people because he is faster and stronger then perhaps playing up is a good thing.
“To me, playing up is more about the physical state of your child…So if you’re finding that your kid is just blowing past people because he is faster and stronger then perhaps playing up is a good thing.”
I COMPLETELY agree. This is the measure. The fact is that a kid that can “blow past people” is going to develop some bad habits that can be detrimental to skill acquisition. If at age 9-13 you can answer all the questions the game asks of you with speed, you are going to ignore the care and feeding of your skill development.
ON THE OTHER HAND…I think that a physically dominant player does benefit from getting some play in a context in which he can “blow past people.” The benefits are along the lines of confidence, the willingness to try creative things, and stoking the fire of long-term big dreams. However, you’ve got to mix that in with regular doses of playing against competition that can hand your ass to you athletically.
Yes, you don’t want to play an athletically gifted (or more likely faster maturing kid) up so high that he struggles. But you’re right, he should be able to play with confidence and have fun. But if he’s just running by people and isn’t forced to pass the ball then you’re doing it wrong. 🙂 It’s sad because there is one kid that I know who is just a freak of nature athletically, but his father has kept him at his age group when he should be playing 2 years up physically. As a result, he hasn’t improved on the ball at all.
good point. I wonder if Vincent Kompany was always physically dominant? Did he play up multiple age groups?
Or say, Tiago Silva? Maldini? When during their footballing education was it determined that they were destined to become defenders?
“Competition” and its importance is relative. The US has plenty of structured leagues, national competitions, etc. Even promotion/relegation.
So, why aren’t we churning out more elite footballers?
NTX has one of the most ‘competitive’ league structures in the country. if it was all about competition, we’d be seeing the players emerge.
Elsewhere, especially below U15, the academy coaches don’t give a shit about results. The ‘result’ to them centers around quality of individual play and executing the tactical plan/style of play.
The difference has to be the talent id along with the DAILY training environment.
Here, we assume the best players play on the top (DA) teams. And that is a dangerous assumption. And don’t forget ‘matters of circumstance’….like finances and geography. Now, elsewhere by and large the academies are probably getting 99% of the actual ‘top’ players.
Therefore, in the states, how can we correctly assume the very best, and more importantly, the ones with the most potential are gravitating to these reputedly elite teams? We can’t.
There are several players on my son’s U16 team (an indy team at that) that have been actively recruited by Dallas-based DA programs. But because of money, geography and other logistical factors they have stayed put.
So, the problem works its way all the way up the soccer ladder in this country…even to the NT level. I’m not saying that most of the YNT players aren’t exceptional. But I will contend they are not getting all of them.
Jake, he played on a U9 academy team that played U10 teams. At u10 he played U11. And so on. At U13, he was rostered on a U14 team and trained/guest played with the U17’s. he’s a u15 now and is rostered on a very competitive U16 side. Not quite Development Academy level…but close.
My suggestion is to let him play for the best team he can in his own age group. And supplement that with training/playing opportunities with older/better teams. More importantly is to try to find the right training environment. A good coach that teaches building from the back and emphasizes technique.
beyond that, I would make sure that he is being challenged to his limits and that he remains passionate about the game…always wants to improve.
It sounds like I’m somewhat on the right track. He did play as a guest player for four games on a team two age groups ahead and he trains once a week in an “academy” with good competition and boys up to four years older than he is.
I guess I have some frustration at having to be “creative” as you said to find the right environment(s).
Thanks for the response.
The right environment doesn’t exist for the majority of players in the US. That’s probably why this blog exists…
To me it’s all about cultural differences. And that is up to the families and kids to decide to change. It’s not going to be something fast and it’s not going to happen with just coaching. The kids, bottom line, have to start playing the game every day in some capacity. When we see that we will see US soccer where it could be.
Dr Loco says
It’s not just the kids playing everyday. The kids need to feel the game in the way they move with and without the ball. It’s a question of identity. Most kids are just clones.
Bingo. This is an important point that is destined to be overlooked. Not here, necessarily, but out there, for sure.
In this shoot-from-the-hip culture, we don’t take time properly to process concepts, internalize, and interpret them. We are quick to “talk the talk” and sell ourselves (and our children), instead of just doing. That is why we are really, really good at breeding clones.
I see it every day.
All kids are clones within their culture. The problem is our clones play 2 to 3 times a week for maybe an hour or 2 while kids from other countries play 7 times a week for maybe 2 or 3 hours. The amount of soccer players we generate that reach the 10,000 hour is much, much, much lower than any other country which is why we blow at soccer. The vast majority of our kids don’t come home and run to the park and play 3 hours of soccer. Yet that is exactly what happens in other countries.
Dr Loco says
“The amount of soccer players we generate that reach the 10,000 hour is much, much, much lower than any other country which is why we blow at soccer.”
That’s not the primary reason. The vast majority of kids are not good because their family environment is not good for soccer development or any other sport.
Most of the top MLS players have put in the 10K hours and they still can’t compete on the world stage. It’s more a question of quality instruction to create unique individuals not mass producing clones.
I don’t think people think the players are the problem, but rather the environment in which they are learning and how it is mislabeled as a professional path.
When comparing teams in the US vs kids in other countries, specifically Spain, I think kids have a better chance to get ahead in the sport because teams, including small and amateur teams aim towards a professional path. For example, in Spain, there are many teams that are currently considered amature teams but at some point they were pro teams. This is determined by their ability to produce a first team that can play in the Liga (LFP 1st div.), Liga Adelante (LFP 2nd division). The significant difference is that amateur teams (including what people might call semi-pro teams playing in division 2b) aim to become professionals. An essential part of their business plan is having a strong formative football base (or what we call development academy teams). These ornaizations produce high performing teams that compete in one league in each region (Catalonia, Madrid, Euskadi, etc.), sanctioned by one Regional governing body and the Spanish Federation.
Everyone knows only 1% of ALL those talented kids have a shot at becoming pro. Nevertheless, the level at which they are playing is very much professional bound, with the appropriate coaching system, facilities, and staff. This is why “neighborhood teams” like Levante (Valencia) and Rayo Vallecano (Madrid) can get to play at the highest level in the best league in the world (LFP). And, why even smaller teams like Sabadell (Barcelona) and Mirandes (Basc Country) can go from being amateur/semi-pro teams to play in the LFP; and teams like Nastic de Tarragona (Catalonia) is able to keep their hopes up to get to the LFP in the future (however distant). The benefit of this system is that all the kids in these teams have equal footing when competing against the bigger and more established teams in the LFP at the youth level; and are able, and have produced elite players.
That doesn’t occur in the U.S.
There are a lot of “club teams” and “academies” whose business model is simple to grow profits and and get more teams. They call themselves competitive clubs but they are simply expensive rec teams. They are there to entertain people in leagues whose results mean nothing. Moreover, nowhere in their business plan is an initiative towards becoming semi-pro or pro teams. It’s all about improving their margins. Don’t get me wrong, teams in Spain what to make money too, but their financial initiatives are related to their growing their club to be able to become pro.
The only thing teams in the US try to offer to parents is a college scholarship; the wholly grail” of American soccer moms -when it fact it should be the consolation price,-
The challenge in a rec bound system like the one we have in the US is that players have less of a chance to becoming pro. Any team in the world depends greatly on the 99% of the players that won’t make it. Nevertheless, without a pro bound system, it is impossible to even know how many probable players fall through the cracks because no one in their circle can appropriately identify them, and develop them (even when parents are dropping $1K-$3K a year on their soccer education).
While initiatives like the development academies are a step towards improvement, there is lots to be done.
Great topic. As long as there still exists the – pay – to – play scenario there will be some form of the recreation mentality.
There is a lot of kudos tossed towards Caleb Porter. I don’t think he is as good as people think. He might become a hell of good coach someday but right now he is being compared to college coaches and I don’t think that is a good enough yard stick to measure. He obviously got a rude awakening during the olympic qualifiers.
Dr Loco says
“Recreational Mentality in Soccer Has to Change”
Look at last night’s #1 pick in MLS. He’s big and strong, but doesn’t have good footwork and not skillful. Louisville played 20-games from August – October, to include soccer powerhouses like Army (uhrah!). And this stellar resume gets him into MLS first round. WTF! No wonder many in Europe see us as a third tier soccer country.
There are probably many players who didn’t get the chance but were faster, more skillful, better footwork. Trying to select future MLS stars via a combine is stupidity. Same stupid crap youth clubs do. Have 1, 2 or 3 tryouts and they pick players. Totally inefficient. Takes lots of scouting and having player join practice and scrimmages over months to see true potential. And college further limits pool via SAT and GPA. What does that have to do with developing pro quality players? It’s a stereotype, but the better players probably aren’t getting “A” in Trigonometry. USDA / MLS academies have better model.
I also would be curious to know how many hours a day/week players who “made it” spent training on their own. I would guess players like Messi, Falcao, Villa, Donovan, Lampard (new LA Galaxy signing) spent countless hours.
To ensure proper trajectory for High School grads to be prepared for a professional career, we can condense most important things to:
Focus on technical skills, tactical understanding, and quickness of thought
High level competition
Dedication to training on your own
Positive parental support
Above is grass roots level. USSF’s role is critical, but at much higher level.
Of above list, coaching and role of USSF is where we have most opportunity for improvement. What is USSF doing to find and develop quality players? Like the multiple training centers Germany implemented.
Clubs (DoCs and BoDs) can help by better coaching selection and continuing professional education. USSF can promote better licensing, programs, and training facilities. MLS can develop relations with nearby USDA clubs. Other USDA Clubs can partner with Mexican, South Americna or European pro clubs. They can even partner with USL or PDL clubs. Why are we accepting the status quo? Someone in the soccer power hierarchy needs to think outside the box.
This post is about Rec vs Pro mentality. From everything I see USA is Rec from top to bottom. Just because you get paid does not mean you have adopted the Pro mentality as Gary points out. That Rec mentality that even our MLS players take with them when they go abroad I think is one of the reasons so many of them struggle overseas or take so long to make a transition. The transition they are making is from Rec to Pro mentality.
As long as college remains an Amateur venture it will not provide anything more than Rec players. As much as we are all idealists here who think that passion is all the motivation needed. I am telling you now that the fastest way to get where we all want to go is by eliminating the Not For Profit approach and turning soccer in the USA into a For Profit business at all levels. Make that one change and all the other parts will start to fall into place. Short of that change and Rec will be all we ever are.
Cactus Taíno says
Ok, some of the posts mention the lack of a soccer pyramid in the US as one of the areas that need to be changed/improved in order to help with the development of quality/elite players and hopefully increase the fan base as well. I read not so long ago, maybe a year or two ago (can’t remember where exactly I read this), that US Soccer is divided in multiple tiers. Division 1 is the MLS, and then Division 2 is now the resurrected NASL, with Division 3 now being the USL Pro, and I believe there are even other tiers below these 3. I think this happened in the last year or two. So it seems there is some sort of pyramid, or at least a shadow of it.
But I agree it needs a lot more work, like having the promotion/relegation system among many other things. In recent years some teams from the NASL/USL made the jump to the MLS, so I think the promotion/relegation system is possible, but that is probably a separate discussion in itself.
Also the other day I read an article on goal.com about the possibility of MLS and USL Pro teams working out a partnership where MLS reserve players would be given an opportunity to play on USL Pro teams so they are not just sitting idle most of the season.
It seems that some steps are being taken to work out some of the issues mentioned through out this blog. Obviously a lot more work needs to happen to get to the level we would like to be at, but my question is, based on the changes and possible changes that have been occurring the last few years, do you think these changes have the potential to lead to the changes that are needed, so US Soccer becomes tuned in to how things are done in most other soccer places? Do you think these are steps in the right direction?
Besides knowing the difference between pro and rec development, do we have the coaches (experience, licensing, committment), tournaments, leagues, leadership (USSF, USDA, etc.), infrastructure to enable pro level development? If I had to give a grade, I’d give a C-.
Pro development requires a myriad of supporting people, systems, processes to maximize its impact.
Gary, I think a good post would be to hear your thoughts on the various facets that influence youth development, your overall grade, and where they need to improve.
USSF: C+. Needs to show more leadership and vision.
USDA: B. Only handful of years of existence. Will get better as the organization matures, but is slowly changing the landscape.
CalSouth: D. Their ODP proram needs a facelift, new leadership, new vision and philosophy.
MLS: C. Can do way more to promote the game and invest in player id and development.
Sunil Gulati: D. Not even worth the time to talk about.
Jurgen Klinsmann: Isn’t using his position to act as bully pulpit and catalyst for change. He seems to soft-spoken and from what I see isn’t actively looking to influence youth development other than one-liners to the media.
Gary Kleiban says
I will try to continue addressing this over time Armando.
What I can say is that so long as we have a closed system run as an aristocratic dictatorship, you can forget about pretty much everything. The foremost priority of this form of governance, is the preservation of this form of governance.
How strict do you think a young up-and-coming club’s standards of the measure of their growth should be in regards to the overall quality of players they accept into the club? For example, if a six year old club has seen the greatest growth of all Dallas area clubs, how should it measure it’s overall success of player development? I guess what I’m trying to ask is how can you be a profitable club in a difficult/ignorant environment such as North Texas, if you turn away 90% of your clients (players) because they suck and don’t have the passion to ever amount to shit as soccer players? Hope this question makes sense :/
I prefer to describe US Soccer as a scattered archipelago governed by local tribal chiefs under the guise of a collective State that is managed by a politburo. But aristocratic dictatorship works. I for one had high hopes for Klinsmann to be the champion to affect change like Germany did. Guess he drank the Kool-Aid Sunil prepared for him.
Wow. Your grades for USDA and MLS are better than I expected.
Jim Froehlich says
Totally agree regarding Klinsmann’s failure to use the “bully pulpit”. I had really expected him to be talking up the need for players with better foot and passing skills — like his comments on TV at the last WC. I certainly don’t want to overstate the potential effects of such comments but it would really be great for our MNT coach to launch a rousing cry for the development of more skilled players.
I never had any illusions of his ability to turn around US Soccer in one term but I am happy to see some of the “little things” being implemented like increased exposure of Latin players and the intention to carry the ball out of the back. IMHO that one step showed the total inadequacy of the entire US Soccer program by highlighting the complete lack of defenders who could pass quickly and intelligently and hold the ball securely.
BTW Gary — in my post of several weeks ago I was really looking for the names of some professional coaches that are trying to play the Barca way — like Brendan Rodgers and Brian Laudrup. It seems to me that they are slowly helping to revamp the style of the EPL.
I wonder what percentage of the people that have all the answers in this blog and the comments that follow are actually doing anything to help/solve…..besides watching Barca on TV and thinking that US soccer without any money at any one spot should be that good.
I am going to say zero.
While I don’t know the source of your frustration, we can probably all relate to some degree with feeling overwhelmed with the magnitude of the problems, and the lack of clear direction toward the solution. For me, all the contributor’s to this blog have helped me see the gap between where we are and where we should be, but the path between the two is still foggy for me. Very foggy. If you will take the time to read this blog (maybe “study” would be a better word), what you will find is a community of people who are passionate about the game and who profoundly want to the US become a legit world footballing power. Yes, there are a lot of prickly descriptions of what and who is wrong, and maybe a clear vision of what to do about it hasn’t yet emerged on a macro scale. However, I keep reading because just about every idea I had about how things should be done has been challenged. Sometimes it made me angry. But the process of the sometimes sharp discussion has produced a result, at least in my experience: I have changed my mind on more than a few things that I thought were rock solid cornerstones of my philosophy of how the game should be taught to our youth and ultimately played by our senior national teams. And this is really what this blog is really all about for me: it is helping develop my philosophy of the how the game should be played, and to a much lesser degree my methodology for teaching it (a little more help in the methodology area would be great, and Gary appears to be working toward rolling out a description of what has worked so well for the FC Barcelona USA Academy teams). But before there is much hope of successfully moving forward to effect change, I have come to understand that a process has to occur through which a critical mass of people have to get on the same page (or at in least the same chapter) regarding where we are now, what is wrong with it, where we should be headed, and why (and I think it’s really a philosophy/culture issue about which common ground needs to be found). If that doesn’t happen first, the seeds of change will not fall on ground fertile enough to accomplish any meaningful yield. So, for me the discussion that occurs here is “pregnant” with the change that we all want on a large scale. It’s just not time to deliver the baby yet. Stick around, I have a strong intuition that a lot of good could come from what has been started here.
Jason, this is a very good post. Sums up opinon of many I would guess (mine for sure). We need blogs like this for reasons you stated. I wateched the NSCAA Grassroots segment last night. It’s all rose colored glasses. Warrent Barton is the only one who came close to pointing out failures / problems to address. Too much chumminess, collegiate back slapping and not enough introspective, honest talk from organiations like NSCAA on where they need to improve. I know a coach who went there and he tells me it was much alogn the lines of what I say. More a feel good convention as opposed to serious discussion on ways to improve. People in power like the status quo. People like Gary and fellow bloggers on this site rock the boat, question things. Doesn’t mean we’re right, but the banter back and forth makes us think and reconsider as Jason points out.
I’ll go on to say this forum is the only serious public conduit for change. If anyone knows of a better site that this to discuss fundamental issues in soccer — please let us know.
I know I lambaste US Soccer quite often, but I have to admit things have improved since when I played. Things are getting better in last 5-years and think they will improve. However, if I look into the future (as most of us do on this forum), things need to change. As businesses and organizations grow in size and complexity and scope, the same policies, processes, and personnel must also change. It’s inevitable. From my vantage point, I’m not sure we in USA are changing fast enough, making best choices, laying proper foundatin for future success, or adopting best practices from elsewhere. This silence and lack of new ideas since about 2007 (USDA was last watershed change) makes people like me stir in my seat. This forum is an outlet. And hopefully it will have it’s marginal impac to push along that change and make powers that be sit up and listen.
This is not to say there is a “better” site, but I also read everything that SoccerPurist and Jacques Pelham write on their blogs, and listen to all of Jacques Pelham’s interviews on the Football Garden podcast.
One thing that I would add to this discussion is that revolution (if I can use that word instead of “change”) is what I think most who read and contribute to this blog want. If I remember my US and world history correctly from high school in the late 80’s, several different types of leadership are required in order to pull off a successful revolution. Every revolution that I remember studying started with leadership by “revolutionaries.” Revolution occurs only to the extent people are sufficiently agitated to demand it and history would indicate that the masses are generally made willing to make such demands by a small group of individuals who can articulate exactly why the change is required. Think Samuel Adams and Patrick Henry. These types of leaders seem to usually be abrasive, confrontational, passionate, and absolutely unbending in their strongly held views. They are the ones who stand up and tell us that if we are not outraged, it’s because we aren’t paying attention. So, what Gary and others are doing here is serving a very important formative purpose in the structure of change.
History would also teach us that we are also going to need more temperate “statesman/diplomat” type of leadership that can actually design the infrastructure or framework of change and have the savvy and relational skills necessary to work with the existing leadership to actually get stuff done from the top down (think…Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson). Wonder who that will be?
Bottom line is that Charles, and those like him who would level the same criticism, should recognize Gary and others for the necessary role they play. If nothing is accomplished here than simply agitating the masses to be motivated to demand change, much will have been accomplished. Of course, we know much more is being accomplished than that.
And another thing: I am grateful to those who are willing to stick their necks out. What Gary wrote in this blog entry indicates that he appreciates the fact that baggage comes with being a “revolutionary.” As I recall from history class, they tend to be the first to hang if the revolution fails. The analogy may be a bit of a stretch but I think this was at least partially what Gary meant in his final key takeaway when he said: “And finally, since FAR greater than 99% at all levels are in camp #1, whatever few camp #2 people exist have enormous pressure to conform and pander to camp #1 mentality (ie mediocrity).”
Not sure we need a revolution (sudden, rapid change, dismantling of old system or regime). We definitely need new leadership with a vision. To execute and champion the cause, we need a strong core of lower-tier leaders with thought leadership surrounding the USSF Chair (Gulati’s position), not “yes” men or people who are afraid to speak up and challenge the status quo. We have a good framework of youth soccer, leagues, federations. Just need the catalyst (someone with influence and respect from the soccer community) to kick it up to next stage of soccer growth in USA. It’s the people in charge, such as DoCs for major USDA youth clubs, head of local federations (e.g., CalSouth), representatives of MLS clubs, and key college coaches, and the media that can make this happen. Part of this change is coalition building (whoever that charismatic person is who has yet to step up).
I don’t see a radical revolution. It needs to be diplomatic (a chaotic radical change will be harmful and any kind of “revolution” will only happen if some radical revolutionary beats out Gulati in next election of USSF Chair . . . and guess what, it’s an oligarchy and difficult for a radical to come out of nowhere and get support . . . no different than FIFA). I for one wish someone like Klinsmann would be this person. He has the clout, charisma, and resume to be that champion. But he limits himself to talking points.
With so many hurdles to overcome, our best hope may be in clubs like FC Barcelona USA shaking the tree at its roots and hoping it spreads to upper branches . . . then powers that be won’t be able to hide behind the status quo. Only problem is this can take a long, long time. A top-down revolution is easier, but could be harmful. No easy choices.
It’s always easier to make change in small organizations. Soccer has grown leaps and bounds in last 10-years. Lots of stove-piped organizations, islands of responsibility, fiefdoms. Soccer will continue to grow in coming 5 – 10 years. At a national level, it’s vitally important someone steps up, acknowledges successes, identifies next steps, implements a plan, gets buy in from various stove-pipe organizations, and see to it that we smartly grow and mature to our next phase/level of soccer or it will be much more complex to fix 5, 10, 15 years from now.
Dr Loco says
“I don’t see a radical revolution.” We might need it anyways.
Chivas USA head coach José Luis Sánchez Solá – a.k.a. “El Chelís” is trying to make a Latino playing team. Perhaps he’s already pissed off the establishment.
I’m sure NFL, NBA, MLB went through a similar revolutionary change.
I don’t see a revolution either. Maybe rudderless wandering with Captain Sunil standing proudly at the USS Soccer helm claiming to see land but just some wayward log in an ocean.
Dr Loco says
“abrasive, confrontational, passionate, and absolutely unbending in their strongly held views.”
That’s why I have no friends and lots of angry adults. It’s been almost 5 years now and only a handful of adults have ever acknowledged that what we are doing as a team is on the correct path. Most coaches I see get angry at me after they lose and never bother to share ideas or understand why.
Change is difficult because it typically means the end of everything in the past and most are not ready. A revolution could be disastrous for the establishment.
Dr Loco says
The lackluster showing led to an outburst from the coach regarding the state of the American player.
“At this stage, in our country the kids are still boys,” he said following a 4-0 loss to Germany. “In other countries, they are already fighting for a spot in a professional team.”
Cabrera’s critics questioned his willingness to communicate and cooperate with the coaching community, including other parts of the USSF YNT setup. The age-appropriate qualities of his coaching methods and communication style were also sometimes disputed.
With the dismissal of Cabrera, the federation has now split with every youth national team head coach since Claudio Reyna accepted the position as Youth Technical Director in April, 2010.
Don’t know Wilmer Cabrera but sounds like many on 3four3.
Dr Loco says
2013 NSCAA Convention
“rub shoulders with your buddies”
“new in terms of equipment”
Sure sounds like we are on track to revolutionary changes.
Dr Loco says
Look at the players’ faces. See the difference? That is a noticeable change.
Curious what you say when Barca and their academy graduates in the first team say that academics is highly emphasized at La Masia. You have direct insight into this, is what they say true or is that just lip service?
Gary Kleiban says
Assuming this is directed to me …
I don’t say anything. There is nothing to say.
La Masia, like other academies, is a footballing institution first.
And having a residency program for players, where you can control almost every facet of their cradle to grave development (including academics), is likely the best solution.
seems like I remember that around half of barca’s B team were taking university level classes.
It can and should be done. That said, it is up to the individual player to pursue it.
The club isn’t in that business.
“The club isn’t in that business.” [i.e., going to college)
Makes good sense Hall97 when coupled with Gary’s comment about: “When any variable that is not strictly football related exists, and can influence who plays and who doesn’t, that is not optimum.”
Looks like Klinsmann is finally stepping up. We need this attitude at all levels:
Mike Slane: Klinsmann is getting serious
Klinsmann looks to humble his star players ahead of the U.S. team’s Hexagonal opener next month in Honduras.
Jan 24, 2013 4:03:00 AM
Jurgen Klinsmann was either in a really bad mood when he was recently interviewed by the Wall Street Journal or he is trying to send a strong message to all his U.S. national team players.
The coach took shots at the U.S. team’s quarterfinal appearance in the 2002 World Cup (“Just because you won a game in the World Cup in the knockout stage, you haven’t won anything”). He called out his star player (“[Clint Dempsey] hasn’t made s—. You play for Fulham? Yeah, so?”). And he questioned Landon Donovan’s future with the national squad (“The ultimate call is mine on whether he fits into my plans or doesn’t fit into my plans”).
For the first time since taking over for Bob Bradley 18 months ago, Klinsmann is no longer filling the role of the positive players’ coach that we have become used to seeing. Let’s just say he is now sounding less like Tony Dungy and more like Bobby Knight.
Thing may have just gotten real.
While Klinsmann has often spoken about how consistent playing time on the club level was more important than the team or league in which they play for (Klinsmann advised Terrance Boyd to play in Austria and Freddy Adu to move to Major League Soccer rather than remain in bigger European leagues), he changed his tone during January’s training camp in Carson, Calif. Klinsmann was pleased when Dempsey signed with Tottenham last summer, but now that’s not good enough.
Tottenham isn’t Barcelona, after all.
“Show me you can play for a Champions League team, and then you start on a Champions League team,” Klinsmann told the WSJ. “There is always another level. If you one day reach the highest level then you’ve got to confirm it, every year.”
At age 29, Dempsey may be running out of time to feature for a competitive Champions League team, but there is still hope. Spurs barely missed out on a Champions League spot last year and the club is currently sitting in fourth place in the Premier League, meaning that if the season were to end today they’d be all but a lock to play in Europe’s top competition.
Donovan, 30, on the other hand, had publicly contemplated retirement after last year’s MLS Cup. The LA Galaxy announced earlier this week that he will return to the club for another season. The good news for his national team career is that he’s playing steady minutes on a club level. The bad news is he’s playing for an MLS club with no move to Europe in sight. The even worse news is that he’s late for the Galaxy’s training camp in what LA coach Bruce Arena described as “an extended leave of absence.”
The new Klinsmann isn’t pleased by Donovan’s attitude. He told Donovan to stay home for this month’s camp and next month’s Hexagonal opener in Honduras. “It will be defined over the next year what his role with the national team is,” Klinsmann told the newspaper. “But the ultimate call is mine on whether he fits into my plans or doesn’t fit into my plans.”
The timing of Klinsmann’s criticism isn’t all too surprising. It was just over three months ago when the U.S. team lost to Jamaica and dropped to third in its World Cup qualifying group, causing many to question if the Americans even deserved a spot in the Hex. The stakes are much higher now, and his players should be humbled before their trip to Honduras on Feb. 6. The next 10 games decide if the United States qualifies for the World Cup.
Klinsmann says “there is a difference between arrogance and confidence.” He’s trying to keep his stars on earth, and rightfully so. What has the U.S. team won lately – or ever?
Sorry, article from http://www.goal.com/en-us/news/66/united-states/2013/01/24/3695296/mike-slane-klinsmann-is-getting-serious
Jim Froehlich says
I was also happy to see JK’s strong comments. It’s time that our coaches AND announcers start calling our players to account. Way too much “happy talk” whenever the MNT plays. As for Landon, I fully recognize his skill but for me he has never really matured as a professional. I sometimes wonder what he would have accomplished if he had Dempsey’s “balls”.
Dr Loco says
Gary, I’m curious. Why do international academy directors come to the US to help lowly recreational clubs that play ‘comp’ soccer? Do they seriously want to help soccer in the US? It seems that they have a hidden agenda…free players in an untapped market.
Daniel Musatti says
Great article and post comments!! I do share your vision, I just think that reinvent the wheel is too complicated, especially if the wheel system works fine worldwide. Soccer isn’t an American sport, it’s a world sport, therefore in order to achieve success in this case the system must follow the big leagues system. Moreover, US hasn’t figured yet it’s soccer potential as well as the business potential that soccer may bring for many communities around the country. Congrats again!!
You are spot on regarding business potential. NFL, NBA, MLB have had a never-ending procession of media darlings, superstars going back decades. MLS has only had Donovan and Beckham. Who next? The crowds at NBA wouldn’t be same if the likes of Durant, Kobe, LeBron weren’t playing. Players like these and in NFL and MLB are homegrown.
MLS has not / is not producing superstars (Donovan is closest thing, but on down side of career). Only media darlings in the likes of Becks. That is partially why I’m not a fan of salary caps. Until that dynamic changes, MLS is limited by on-field talent . . . which is limited by salary. On-field talent will bring viewers, media sponsorship and attention, butts in seats, and jersey sales. No secret as this is what top clubs in Europe do. Many MLS teams have similar attendance to Europe. The difference is often in sponsorships, jersey sales, and TV rights. Clubs also sponsored by businesses who want “free” advertising. We can do that with youth soccer. Just need someone to show us the way. By the way, good move for Surf joining forces with Soccer Loco.
Soccer is far and away the largest participatory sport in USA. The media and public at large will sit up and listen when MLS can field superstars and media darlings. Right now we get aging superstars, college players, and a variety of internationals who can’t cut it in Europe or their home country.
I hope you post more. I mostly read (and learn much), and this is my first post. Your Soccer Nation articles are great. We played against your U14 team in league play (we play out of LA and don’t see your team much). Your CM gave us trouble as he was always winning 50 / 50 balls. Your outside backs also troubled us (your left back is skillful, quick and offensive threat) and your right back very physical (for a small lad). Your center forward was relentless pressure on our defenders.
Just found this video on pep and his search for perfection good watch and also the site is amazing, replay of matches, documentaries etc….
I’ve been watching the SudAmericana Sub 20 tournament for the last few weeks. The players are all professional players either in their home country or in Europe on big teams like AC Milan, Inter, Madrid, Barca, Ajax, and so on.
The discussion about lack of quality opportunity at the 18-22 age in USA is valid and important. Even in a parallel universe, college does not compare. We can’t expect MLS or USMNT to improve. There has been lots of discussion on youth development in soccer world, but what about 18-22? We need baby steps, but I think we can chew gum and walk. The soccer community in USA has to, needs to address the issue that is college soccer. College soccer cannot be a sacred cow. The US model of college to pro doesn’t work for a world sport like soccer. It has to be reborn and help produce professional players. It has to be somewhere close to the professional experience players in the SudAmericana Sub20 tournament are exposed to. And right now our 18-22 year olds are leaps and bounds behind that.
This has probably been shared in another post. It’s a report on the youth academies in Europe.
Here is an espn blog on the next American Messi: http://soccernet.espn.go.com/blog/_/name/soccerusa/id/1055?cc=5901.
I must have missed the first. Pretty sad for Messi to be pictured with a couple of real stand up Americans.
rob azarcon says
“Bruce Arena nailed the problem back in 2006 when he wondered aloud what U.S. football would be like if the States was as big as a European country. If America was that small, we, too, could build a system that would leave no stone unturned. [Our nation’s] vastness means we don’t have that capacity yet.”
Pure BS. I’m so tired of this theory that there is some Magical Latino (no offense to our Latino brethren here) toiling away in some obscure Ethnic League in Oklahoma that’s the key for American soccer.
The problem does have something to do with the vastness of this country, but it’s not ONLY with the players but with the quality of coaching as well.
Quality Coaching Density. In places like Holland, Spain, Germany you can’t go very far without running into a coach that can provide high quality training. Here, in the US, great coaches are few and far between so talented players are rarely paired with talented coaches. Gary and Brian being notable exceptions.
And the US Media and fan base is so caught up with the Soccer Savior theory—that one guy will change our future in the sport. It’s not one guy. We need 22-25 players per generation to change our trajectory. Anyone catch USA-Canada last night? That was the best of the rest and that’s sad. We have no depth. We don’t have guys, like a Santi Cazorla, who can’t break into the first XI because of how good the other players are.
It’s not one thing that’s holding us back. It’s multiple things: coaching, players, environment, culture.
“Scouts from the Mexican Federation, Pachuca and Manchester City visit us far more than the U.S. national team scouts,” said Fullerton Rangers coach Obleda.
Lepore, who oversees a national scouting network consisting of nine technical advisers, disagrees. “We spend more time than people imagine at every age group in key markets. For proof, you only need to look at our under-14 national team squad. It is a true reflection of a diverse American society.”
Spoken like a true middle school guidance counselor.
Is it true we only have 9 national scouts??
In last night’s USMNT snoozer against a sorry Canada team, I heard no boos, no whistles of frustration. Our fans are neutered. No passion. In most countries, fans would jeer at crap USMNT put on. The media would be calling for heads. The expectations in Europe and South America are supremely high. We accept grading on a curve. I’m pissed, is anyone in USSF worried? Don’t give a darn. Lifetime jobs with no passion?
Dr Loco says
Like your passion.
Boo your team out of love! Does MLS/US Soccer have a pulse? It happens in MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL. Those soccer moms must be making us soft. Image if the entire stadium booed the MNT everytime. USSF and players would get their shit together quickly with all the media coverage.
I don’t know those soccer moms are pretty intense!
Dr Loco says
You think this coaching
can produce this???
What’s your point with these girl video’s? The second clip they played 8v8 on a gigantic field with no pressure, not very hard to execute. It looked more like a set play you might see at a 3v3 tournament, not very impressive. The first video is of a fat man coaching with a microphone. The first step to helping with this nations obesity problem is to require teachers, coaches, and trainers to lose some weight. I don’t want fat unhealthy coaches around my kids. Not sure what your point was with sharing these clips??? Play 8v8 with no pressure on gigantic fields? How does that help?
Dr Loco says
Doug Williamson PhD
NSCAA Assistant Director of Coaching Education
Some unknown HS coach…sorry 😉 It’s not a coincidence. It’s deliberate.
Who developed (or should I say “who didn’t develop him”) the USMNT second team that played last night? It wasn’t the gold standard. More like the zinc standard (a rust bucket). Who did player id? I didn’t see any pro quality development. It was largely a MLS representation. If last night’s game is a benchmark, USMNT fans are in for a sorry WC qualifier and likely group stage exit. Last night’s USMNT had no creativity, no vision, lines were often out of synch, no one played like they wanted it. We played like, well . . . we played like Americans! Products of youth soccer and college. There’s still a lot to be done and USSF should be in emergency meetings this morning asking WTF and what are we going to do about it?
Seems what you’re defining is both a mentality (a belief system) in personal standards and every variable that influences football success. If I’m close to understanding your definition, I would agree Barca (La Masia) and Germany are about as close as you get to footballing gold standard nirvana.
It’s easy for people to agree with that notion, however, 99% of soccer players don’t live it. Many at youth are too naïve, immature. And USA kids have far more distractions and cultural norms that steer them away from the gold standard. For example, lack of football culture, pick-up games, deep footballing traditions. And the adults who control footballing systems are themselves not living to this ideal. Everything I read about Barca, Germany, Spain speaks to their high level of dedication in practicing gold standard as you describe it.
I recall when my son was in middle school, he often played soccer at lunch with fellow competitive level players who attended same school. The teaches forced them to include others with lesser playing skills. Everyone has to be equal. They were even told to not show skill, don’t play to your best so others won’t feel bad. This is an absolutely true story and I know other parents have experienced same in our wonderful public schools. This mindset is very pervasive in USA (AYSO for example). Kids who want to dominate, be different don’t fit in to USA’s societal norms. Difficult to turn a switch when your daily school life is dominated by this kum-ba-ya mentality. Plays on psyche and we get neutered kids at 18. Wasn’t this way when I was their age. And anyone who thinks society does not affect soccer and player mentality, you are either naïve or refuse to see your nose to spite your face.
Dr Loco says
“Everyone has to be equal.” Right.
AYSO enforces equal playing time by dividing game into 4 quarters. Teams get -1 points for lopsided games.
Basketball games have a ‘no press’ rule, substitution rule, etc.
Baseball has equal playing time.
Rules are for adults!
Are Rules in Little League Baseball for the Good of the Kids or the Adults?
You are right about public schools and society. We are all products of our environment. I’ve been to other countries and kids playing pick-up soccer have a swagger, a tenacity, a creativity, a confidence street soccer breeds. Adolescent bravado is a missing ingredient we don’t get from club soccer. This is same what kids playing b-ball on the local courts all day long without adult supervision experience. Youth soccer in USA is too controlled, too supervised. It continues at school lunch / recess break as you describe (I’ve heard similar stories). AYSO promotes vanilla, everyone hug and be equal mentality. Even pay-to-play has a lot of 50/50 playing time rules. It’s not until they get to college where it’s survival of the fittest. By then it’s too late.
Yes, you’re right. We all need to listen to you. But we’re afraid to speak up, rock the boat. Thanks again Johnny!
Yes, I feel strongly about this stuff. Have to resort to talking to myself. Madmen can sometimes change the world. I’m following one of your rants Dr. Loco. You’re blunt and honest. Thanks for that!
Dr Loco says
Crazy7 you’re insane talking to yourself
carlo balistreri says
I see this website and have to comment. I live in USA off and on. Spend time mostly in Europe. This forum touches on issues in haphazard way. So I try to summarize.
Start with two boys. One born in USA and the other in Spain (but can be anywhere like Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Italy). Let’s call one Billy and one Jose.
Equal at birth. No! Jose is surrounded by large extended family of footballers. Dad, uncle, grandpa played. Probably local club. Deep passion and understanding. Born into football culture. Billy hopefully could, but that is exception, not the norm. Maybe only in Mexican-American culture as discussed already.
I have seen youth soccer enough in USA to say it is fairly same until about Sub 16. By that age, most Spanish boys like Jose are on a professional academy. The better they are, the higher the team in the football pyramid. In USA, Billy stays with his local club. If good enough, he goes to USDA academy. Jose maneuvers through very competitive youth professional academy. This means short contracts and being let go if not impacting or making results. It is understood by other boys in Spain that by Sub 16, they need to be on a pro academy side if they have realistic chance. Billy is hoping to get good grades and make college.
Billy heads off to college. Jose finishes school and if good enough is under contract at 16 or 18 (depending on country). Jose is being developed for one purpose: becoming a first team professional. Billy earning a university degree and hoping to become a professional in college environment.
By 21, Jose is either professional quality or he plays lower division. But he has about 4 – 6 years of professional quality experience. He can still get onto first team, but harder as he goes past 21. Billy is just getting his first taste of professional experience at 21 when graduating college.
Now recall Jose grew up in a footballing culture. He has layers of influence surrounding him. Decades of tradition. He also has layers of opportunity (football pyramid). In USA there is ODP, but they release players back to home team. In Spain, Jose has no ODP. He moves up to higher level professional side (instead of ODP) and he continues there and then up another level if he has the ability. Billy is limited to USDA club and college team. Jose has more chances. More opportunity.
It is true that players are a commodity in Spain and rest of world. But that is only way to churn out best talent we know of until proven differently by another system.
So Jose has more chance than Billy because of opportunity, culture, tradition, and a system that produces quality pro players. If USA is to improve, it must address these. Culture and tradition take time. Opportunity only comes when the system is in place to provide it. This USA can chance more easily. Culture, identity, tradition in football will take many long decades in USA but you are on good track.
carlo balistreri says
USA does not lack talent, it lacks opportunity and playing competitive after high school. Sub 20 is very important age. I read much about development but it is more than that. Players must hunger for it and their potential is up to them and not so much the coach. USA has large soccer population but at recreational level. Not to same passion as Europe where it is about developing professionals. USA soccer is for high school and college scholarship from what I am aware. It is not until college they think of professional career. In Spain, Jose is thinking professional at Sub 10.
Great points Carlo. ‘Billy’ faces tougher developmental challenges than ‘Jose’…due to infrastructure.
Personally, I don’t see American MLS (and especially lower division clubs) making the necessary investment in youth.
I think short term, perhaps the best solution for the US is to set up a system similar to France. (Clairefontaine) Set up regional residency programs and train players relentlessly on technique and tactics. I know the DA system was set up to replicate the U17 bradenton concept. But obviously that isn’t working as well as it should.
US Soccer, as the governing body needs to be more proactive. It is all for the greater good anyway. MLS still seems to be stuck in ‘mediocrity mode’. The lower division clubs are barely solvent…so can’t expect much from them.
College soccer needs to get it right or shut down. Don’t see much reform near term there either. Instead of focusing on retaining ‘NCAA eligibility’ (PDL, NPSL) perhaps the bigger and better youth clubs need to present fulltime, year round programs for 18-22 yr olds.
it remains a mystery to me why typical American parents feel that you can’t pursue higher education AND be on a professional track simultaneously.
“it remains a mystery to me why typical American parents feel that you can’t pursue higher education AND be on a professional track simultaneously”
Perhaps this is better answered by the parents of professional 1st team premier soccer players in SA and Europe. I’m not sure “higher education” means the same to all. Can’t believe messi was breaking down complex calculus and Trig problems until 2 in the morning. Hall97, the mystery to me is why typical american parents believe our kids can compete against kids who doing nothing but eat, breathe, bleed, and dream for the sport while we take 15 credit hours a semester and work on their plan b. Our international competition doesn’t have a plan B. American parents will never accept this as prudent or wise.
I think the education of professional footballers is one of the several “charitable” pursuits of Johan Cruyff. There is a facebook page for The Cruyff University but it appears to be in dutch. I am beginning to recognize that there are many paths to completing an adequate “higher education” that don’t require us to follow what most Americans have come to think of a “normal.” So, you can have a professional mindset AND have a plan B. Cruyff appears to believe in that as a worthy cause.
I got a friend who celebrared his doctor examination the other week.
He has been a proffessional player for 10 years and made 2 apperences for the Sweedish national team.
Ok, he’s not Messi, but he did play proffessional football, and was studying at a lower pace during his pro years.
A doctor education goes on for 6 years in Sweden, and he did it in 12.
So it does require a lot of time when playing proffessional football, but if you really want, studying and pro football is absolutely possible to combine., in Sweden at least.
Lets not confuse Professional soccer in sweeden to the Gold standard discussed on this site. Play in the american USL league making $1000 bucks a month and go to school as well. Sure, not saying that couldn’t be done. That guy has already given up on his pursuit of high level soccer and it’s now become a paid hobby. Good for him.
If you want to be a doctor than be a doctor but you CAN NOT be a high level soccer player and high level surgeon at the same time.
Ok, I see what you’re saying.
But I think you’re mistaken on what kind of level Sweden is at.
In our 2nd league, the average pay check is 6000$/month, and in our league, the average pay check is around 9000$.
The best players make somewhere around 45000$/month.
It’s not your typical “payed hobby”, I can assure you.
But yeah, it’s not close to the gold standard you’re discussing now, I agree.
I still know, from another friend who played for Blackburn that he also had time to study if he wanted to.
If you’re on about players such as Zlatan, Messi or Ronaldo, I agree. I don’t think it’s impossible though, but defenetly a tough combination.
But aiming to become a Messi or Ronaldo is foolish no matter which club or system you’re in imo, if you’re going to sacrifice your studies.
I do see what you’re on about, yes. So I’m not arguing that.
I’m arguing the words “can not”.
Actually you CAN get a doctorate degree and become a high level footballer:
In the ’80s Sócrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira, MD. And, Hugo Sanchez, Real Madrid player and Mex. Nat’l.
Socrates played in on of the best Brasilian national team (1982) and Sanchez played in the best team of the 20th century.
I certainly am not implying that an 18-20 year old can take 15-18 hrs of college courses each semester while playing for a pro team.
But taking say two courses and training/playing 15-20 hrs per week is certainly realistic.
I’ve thought about this long and hard. Many months. It comes down to game understanding. The team should understand what they are doing in possession, what the overall game plan is, what their strengths are, weaknesses of opponent. Build-up and movement and passing should be purposeful. I firmly believe 90% of soccer is from the neck up. In watching countless games over the years in SoCal at many age groups, one thing is clear, most (over 80%) of teams I have seen don’t understand, can’t grasp, or haven’t been taught proper tactical knowledge. Lack of creativity and vision is a problem. Even at U18 USDA Academy, I’ve not been impressed. I’ve seen some of those teams play jungle ball. Inability to receive / show with both feet. Don’t understand how to lose marker. Unaware of timing for deep lying runs. Random, senseless crosses to nowhere. Don’t understand difference of playing, passing, possession, movement in different thirds of pitch. Don’t understand use of diagonal passing in short spaces (lots of vertical passing going on). Dual-footed players rare. Attackers who cannot dribble at speed or even worse cannot dribble past 2nd gear and make a cut without losing possession. Kids at 15, 16, 17 who have poor shot taking technique. Don’t dribble with laces. Cannot use all parts of foot to control ball. The list goes on and on and on . . . .
Forget rec vs. pro mentality, what about all the crap coaching and continually pushing crap players through the system from coach to coach every year and not improving them, just collecting a paycheck. A huge problem in pay to play. Pro academy is straight forward and will move out players if they don’t progress. I personally know players at U14, U15 in USDA clubs who are total crap. WTF!
My son’s team is good example. Big, strong guy with little skill gets promoted to next higher age. I see the same crap all the time. So mad I want to stick my head out the window and scream I’m mad as hell and can’t take it any longer. Am I alone in this? Have a national pissed off parents day where we all scream same at same time. Too funny!
Gary (or anyone out there who can knowledgeably answer), I know we have lots of organizaitons in US soccer scene. But what do you think about someone creating a new program for elite players. Geared towards those who want to be pros, bypass college? Mission of organization is to #1 “to develop professional players.” There is a niche market for that. Clubs primarily want to develop players for college. ODP favors bigger stronger players and doesn’t retain talent on long-term basis (basically an All Star type setup). Id2 is also one off situation. USDA clubs are scattered across USA and only 19 or so MLS teams and not all have academy. So there is a vast untapped pool of players who can benefit from long-term association with an organization whose primary purpose is development of professional players.
Am I on track? I can envision a new organization that starts up with the stated pro development mission, then identifies players who fit playing characteristics. I think a regional focus would work good. Teams don’t need to be heavily immersed in local club scene. Their focus is developing players who meet certain criteria and want to be professional. So more time on development versus meaningless tournaments. Surround players with right coaching.
This is something USDA and MLS should do, but their reach is limited. In Europe, the soccer pyramid takes care of that. We don’t have that here. IMG only has one stinking academy. And USSF not implementing local centers of excellence like German model. USSF doesn’t seem to care. Any multi-millionaire businessmen who like soccer want to build a niche market? Develop players and try to earn money from selling to MLS and leagues around the world?
I wouldn’t be surprised if a club or two from europe started setting up academies to do just this. The MLS academy system is in its infancy. Nothing could stop a club from coming in and attracting the best players.
Humberto and Steve,
There is a program that has been recruiting players for Mexican Team Academies. I am still learning what they do so I cannot go as far as endorsing them. Nevertheless, it sound like an interesting project. They charge $0 for all of their services. With that said, for young players and their parents, it is important to keep in mind that in soccer if you are not paying for a procduct/service, you are the product. http://www.alianzadefutbol.com/site/elsueno.php
Also, there is a Spanish team looking at the possibility of extablishing an academy. I cannot tell you which one as we are just doing research for a place. This would not be a franchise (I know a lot of teams do this but it doesn’t help players); this would be a school with academy teams with a professional path. Currently the North East Coast looks like the place that makes more sense. Nevertheless, I would be interested in learning about other areas. It would have to be in an area where there is at least one USDA team.
I think the NE does make the most sense. There’s a huge number of players from a wide range of cultural backgrounds. With the proper scouting I think a club could find a wide range of player types, if they’re a recognizable name, players would flock to it.
Excellent idea Humberto! There is more than a niche market. It’s a canyon! USSF should be doing this. Imagine the soccer nirvana of selecting players based on characterstics (e.g., skil, tactical ability, speed of thought) rather than size or ability to pay $2K club fee. Imagine the best of the best making it through to U18 rather than pay to play where you can buy your spot. The reach of MLS and USDA too limited. ODP is a non-factor, totally irrelevant. Imagine if we had a similiar model to Germany and the talent that could come out of it. Wow!
Another option would be to reform college soccer. If colleges paid the players instead of giving them scholarships, the players could opt to pay for school (if they qualified) or concentrate on playing. THis would raise the level of the game and the schools would benefit since they can clain dveleopment compensation when they would sell the player to a pro team.
THis would make college soccer the defacto minor league for soccer in the U.S. And, since the colleges would need to generate money through tix sales, they would be more concerned about finding top level players instead of upper middle class kids that paid 2K a year to have access to a college coach instead of training to get his level higher
If USSF not willing to step up, we can help fill void of stunted soccer pyramid if EVERY USDA club sought a relation with a professional club from Europe, Mexico, South America. Or how about with NASL and PDL teams? For example, why doesn’t a club like Surf form a partnership with XYZ professional club in Europe? Surf is a huge club in SoCal but has no professional affiliation. That is a problem! I know clubs like West Ham United have partnerships with many USA clubs as do many other European clubs. But it is a crime, a dereliction of duty if USDA clubs don’t partner with professional clubs. Not in today’s day and age!
Great perspective on how “amateur” overall player development in US really is, even at so called top levels:
MLS Academies will get NO COMPENSATION if one of their players goes to another club.
That’s messed up, but that’s because they go to college. Why don’t teams sign players and then send them to a local college and pay for that?
Our development system is so immature (young) and doesn’t follow logic. I don’t even know where I would start to change it. Also, other leagues will get wise and start telling prospects, don’t sign again with MLS, we’d rather pay you more than pay the league.
MLS and USSF needs to get its act together. All the leagues of the “pyramid” do.
I get the feeling that the NASL approach is better. It doesn’t use a big brother approach, is slowly building it’s league, letting clubs come and go if they can’t financially hack it, or attract enough local support. I could see them competing much more against MLS in 10 years time.
Great article Nuno. Thanks for sharing. It pretty much highlights much of what’s discussed on this forum. The interesting thing is we and others (e.g., scouts in Mexico) know the problems, yet they continue to fester unresolved.
The article also makes me scratch my head at why someone like Omar Gonzales would want to make 10x less? Could it be we are spoiled Americans as someone (forget who) when they compared Donovan to Dempsey? Why the f*&k would any promising prospect want to play for MLS? Take a chance and go south, or across the pond. Anywhere but college and MLS.
Gary, I’m curious how we can move to a pro-centric development model. In USA we have a very parochial, matriarchal, patriarchal model. A nurturing school system and well intentioned parents volunteering or in paid staff and BoD positions in clubs influencing or making footballing decisions. As a suggestion, a good post from you is one that touches on the differences in how a typical competitive and professional club operates.
I’ll take first step.
The difference is in the details. Maybe biggest thing is to understand your mission: development of a professional type player (pro-centric development). From there everything should support that.
Level of commitment and professionalism, professional staff at all levels and responsibilities, improved/more frequent communication to player on specific development goals (long and short-term), proper id and release of players, quality over quantity in tournaments, 3x days training at minimum, must earn playing time (no 50/50 from about U14 on), attending practice is a must or affects playing time and team standing, minimum standards for coach license and experience and coaching method/philosophy, common playing style/system, adherence to playing style in games/tournaments, develop relations with professional clubs (domestic or international), primary focus on ball skills up to about U12 (a period of guided exploration balanced with mentoring by coach), incorporation of video review of game performance, more than one coach per team with different technical and/or tactical responsibilities, ideally team/club fees are free or low cost (need corporate sponsorships, partnerships with professional clubs).
Hopefully this topic gets tractoin as I think it’s one that we need to understand to make the transformatoin as a budding footballing nation.
Gary Kleiban says
I will certainly try to write on these things Kana.
If we look at a single club, I believe if the person(s) doing the hiring & firing of coaches (or any soccer-specific decisions) doesn’t have exceptional soccer capacity or vision, it won’t work.
I say this because the key to everything is in the people working at the club. And if the decision-maker(s) doesn’t have soccer chops, they won’t be able to identify what coaches are capacitated to do ‘gold standard’ work.
Of course there are loads of other requirements, but fail that first one and let’s just forget about everything else.
I’m home waiting to watch Barca v. Milan, so been posting today. Here’s one more related to this striing I’d like to get some responses on:
Myth: Coach will develop ball skills.
Fact: Coach expects players to develop ball skills on their own. Only so much coach can do in 2 or 3 90-minute sessions a week
Myth: Coach looks for technical ability in selecting team.
Fact: Coach has to accept who shows for practice. Don’t have dozens of kids vying for a spot. Most teams often “settle” for what they get to fill a roster.
Myth: Clubs developing players for professional level.
Fact: Clubs develop for college.
Myth: Size, power, speed not important.
Fact: Technical skill is foundation. Size, power, speed ARE IMPORTANT, but ONLY if a player can use to his advantage in certain situations . . . BUT he needs to have the skill and mental smarts to know how, where and when to use it to his advantage. If not, just a bull in a china shop.
“Myth: Coach looks for technical ability in selecting team.
Fact: Coach has to accept who shows for practice. Don’t have dozens of kids vying for a spot. Most teams often “settle” for what they get to fill a roster.”
100% agree. I think most of us have to admit we are rec coaches (vs. what Gary’s team has displayed and their commitment level). It pains me to say it, but its the sad truth. I’d love for my players to love the sport as much as I did growing up, but that’s just not the reality anymore with so many distractions. I’m trying to raise the bar for my age group and club, but its a slow process in a well-off community of kids who own every gadget they want and play 4 4 sports. What it comes down to now is, will a player A show up to practice enough? do I player A out-practice player B even if he has less talent? If so, I’ll take him so I can mold him.
Gary Kleiban says
Hone your art Rich. All facets of it!
The mindset comes first. If a coach wants to reach the pinnacle of his profession, he must first make that his undying objective.
I believe that is the moment he assumes responsibility for his past, present, and future. And that is the moment he can plan a trajectory for his art (ie rec -> pro). And do whatever it takes!
Most all of us start at the bottom.
We started with a U14 bronze team at one of the crappiest clubs you could imagine.
And I’ll repeat: It’s ok to be ‘rec’.
My beef is when ‘rec’ claims to be something else, and is dictating the future in environments that should be ‘pro’.
Gary: This might be a little long winded, but I wanted to take some time and explain what I started to do. I get inspiration from this blog.
I live in the mid atlantic in a county with a total population of 100,000. It’s geographically large, so the population density is very low. The nearest suburb, yes suburb, is 45 minutes away. I am 2 hours away from a major city. Soccer is probably the 8th most popular sport in the area behind hunting and bass fishing.
Soccer is dominated by local AYSO groups – each town has their own. There is one “travel” club in the county. It has a total of 5 teams. Teams usually disband so kids can play for their middle school and then highschool team. Training is usually for a total of 20 weeks a year. Some kids show up in jean shorts and american football jerseys – and play the part, too.
I thought I could come in and make sweeping changes. The reality is that it’s really hard. I took a different approach. Previosuly teams formed when a parent wanted to coach their kid and brought with them friends of their kid. If no parent, no team formed. Starting in the Fall of2013 I will oversee a newly formed U9 team. I know the kids are really young, but I wanted to get something going. I started this process last Summer (2012). Yes, my kid will play. Full discosure – he is a badass.
I started to go to every AYSO club to watch kids during the week and watch games on weekends. I watched an entire week of a local soccer camp over the Summer. I started to volunteer at schools to offer soccer training during the day (that’s my lunch time at work). I drove around to local parks/schools to see if anyone played. I helped launch a program for 5-8 year olds that is not affiliated with any AYSO club. I went to the larger clubs sometimes two hours away to see what they did. Most things were not good, but I got to learn that first hand. All in an attempt to find a small group of kids that I could work with.
Through a great find, I was able to get Adidas shorts for $3, socks for $1, and training shirts with a local sponsor. Kids will wear training kits every session.
This Winter I started to work twice a week with three selected kids. After 6 weeks I am up to 9 kids. Some of these kids I tried to get earlier, but the parents weren’t on board at the time. I thought if they could see what I was doing and what I was about that it would change. Through word of mouth and more persistence on my part the kids are now with me. I’d like to find 3 more kids. I think I got the top 5 or 6 kids from all the observing/scouting I did. These kids are coming from all over the county. I know these kids are young, but I wanted to start with something.
As for the training, I think I’m doing something special with these kids – really something that has never been done around here before. It’s hard and sometimes very frustrating. I have a lot to learn – I will never stop learning. I take everthing seriously and try to do it top notch.
I’m in a rec world, but believe I’m doing it pro all the way. That’s my mindset and I will stick to that on this never ending journey.
Gary Kleiban says
Thank you for sharing man.
Very inspiring, great work. From reading here I’ve realized that the mindset comes before anything else. Can be teaching rec players but doing it as professionally as possible or teaching competitive players like it’s rec. Good luck with your venture.
Thank you for bringing up the myth of coach teaching technical skill. Several years ago my son was about U10. He played on same team as the son of a U18 USDA coach. He and I often talked as our boys were friends. I started to realize coaches didn’t spend as much time on ball skill as I had imageined. So I asked him. He told me coaches don’t in fact spend a lot of time on technical skills. Players need to do that on their own was his response. He also said technical skill with ball is probably most important, yet it’s the one thing coaches least involved with. It was an eye opener! A valuable lesson for anyone reading this.
He went on to say he needs to coach a team and can’t take much time for individual skill lessons other than drills in practice. That’s why practice centers around drills and game tactics, even at younger ages. Another valuable lesson for everyone. That discussion changed my outlook and I passed it along to my son. It’s paid off. He’s a very good player and wouldn’t be if it weren’t for ball skill. In fact, he is on slender side and has to rely on ball skill to be a starter. His skill frees him up to worry about other things as you say.
Side note, my son’s current coach already told the boys they are U14 and he is not here to teach them technical skills. They should have learned that before. He also said it’s up to them to improve and he is only there to guide them. There are several players he pointed out that didn’t know basic movement or understanding of tactics. Again, he said you should have learned this at U12. Not exact words, just paraphrase what my son told me.
His comments may sum up what the major problem is in USA youth soccer: lack of development at younger ages.
Arsenal Fan says
Don’t expect coaches to teach much technique at any age level, some will teach some and guide you kid on how to do it properly, If they even know!!!! Most kids that are skilled at the game are soccer crazy about the game. The club they play for is just fills ups 2 or 3 days of their week, the other days they are playing indoor, futsal, mexican leagues, etc., etc. If anyone thinks a coach can develop your childs skills, you are headed on the wrong path… I found this quote awhile back and it made abosolute sende…
“I don’t believe skill was, or ever will be, the result of coaches. It is a result of a love affair between the child and the ball.”
– Roy Keane
Suka Blanco says
This site is wonderful! Love the great insight. However, we can solve world hunger in a blog site, but meaningless if nothing comes of it. Is this blog meant to banter about ideas or actually affect change? Doing great job if the former; not much if the latter. Is anyone with influence reading this stuff? Do they care? Apathy, indifference, negligence, inertia, incompetence, and paralysis of thought leadership is in abundance with soccer powers in USA. Some simple questions. What has Sunil Gulati done to improve soccer? Your local club, coach, DoC or BoD? Have they made significant departure from the standard model in USA? Any club or coach moving to pro quality development? Who, where, when? All I see my son’s club do (USDA club) is create more paid coaching clinics, bring in more coaches with “D” and “E” license with community college experience, and continuing preference for early pubescent players. Again, I love this site, but I’m frustrated at the lack of progress and seemingly status quo clubs even with USDA environment. My vote is a waste, so I don’t vote. Likewise, I can talk and talk on this and other sites, but all for naught. People at the top are there for themselves and wont’ change unless their personal gain or influence or cushy high paid job is in jeopardy. Is Gulati a lifetime appointment like a Supreme Court Judge? WTF! A nerdy economics professor is our soccer savior. God save us all!
This philosophy is so different than the one I grew up in Argentina. I was in the River Plate system.
Leave it to Americans to robotize Futbol. American coaches coach the same way the coach their American football, baseball, basketball. Completely coach-directed, the obsession to “dial-up” plays…
Are you guys aware that the two countries which export the most players, Argentina and Brazil, have one big thing in common, between the age of 3-13 there is nearly non-existent coaching? Its all free play? What you guys refer to as “street soccer”? Sad to see so many talented American kids wasted
I was at UFC Friendliness this past weekend. All U14 teams. I didn’t see much in the way of teams playing with tactical smarts. Lots of high energy, physical, athletic play with little consideration for tactics. Some teams attempted to play properly, but often fell apart from poor passing choice, panic, lack of support off the ball. I must have watched about half dozen games. Each game eerily similar, same sort of technical and tactical mis-queues but of differing magnitudes.
Makes me wonder “what are we teaching, who are we teaching, do they have the capacity to play competitive soccer at highest levels”?
When teams won, they celebrated. Parents happy, coach says nothing. But I can look on as objective observer and shake my head. Should be more concern about winning sloppily, ugly football. Nothing approaching possession oriented play, smart offensive attack, disciplined tactical play.
I didn’t see jungle ball, but I did see lots of tactical naivety, technical inability, lack of mental discipline. I saw big kids trying to bulldoze their way to goal at the expense of a simple pass to streaking runner. I saw a few outside backs push up and make run into box, they never got a pass . . . teammates oblivious to the third-man run. Lots of shots from 30-yards instead of one or two more passes for higher probability shot in 18-yard box. Silly 20 or 30 yard passes when a simple short pass would work. Poor to no movement by supporting players to check-in or create triangles.
I expect more from U14. But maybe I expect too much? I don’t expect to see a La Masia U14 team, but something vaguely similar, seeing promise, some sort of tangible potential. But I don’t see it. I know for a fact coaches teach proper way, but often individual parts fail the whole in game situation. Key positions like center mid and holding mid were often lacking in basic tactical ability and lack of technique, thinking ahead lead to pressure and rugby scrum.
Armando, your post captures the essence of my disappointment with what I am seeing even at the highest levels of your soccer here. Your fourth paragraph is especially devastating. Your analysis could easily be a description of one of our games. Your specific points are all perceptive, but I especially like your calling out of tactically naive play. Tactically naivete: that is precious. It is such a huge issue that begins to be seen only when it is almost too late– at the U14-U16 levels. By this time, you are reaping what you have sown as a coach.
After reading your post, I got to thinking: why don’t more coaches use game video to break down these concepts and review them with the kids? Show them. Teach them. Engage them in discussion (“what were you thinking when you saw him make the run and put your head down and took on two guys and lost the ball instead? Is there anything else you might have considered instead?”). It would be time better spent than running sprints or doing line drills.
Armando: “I was at UFC Friendliness this past weekend. All U14 teams. I didn’t see much in the way of teams playing with tactical smarts. Lots of high energy, physical, athletic play with little consideration for tactics. Some teams attempted to play properly, but often fell apart from poor passing choice, panic, lack of support off the ball. I must have watched about half dozen games. Each game eerily similar, same sort of technical and tactical mis-queues but of differing magnitudes.”
I totally hear you on this one.
On the bright side, when it comes to 13 year olds, is that the brain does’nt start developing the ability to sample the enviroment until at around 12. So to see it well developed at 13-15 is probably not going to happen (in most cases).
Soccer is all about sampling the enviroment, and thru your findings, act correctly = Understanding of the game, and the abilty to act accordingly.
It’s a huge difference to know what the result of a bad choice is, compared to actually make the correct decission.
So every time they miss a pass when the margin was’nt enough, or lost the ball at a bad spot, they are learning.
They know that missing that pass, or loosing that ball is bad for the team, but the ability to make the proper decission will not show until later.
The difference in when kids develop this skill is very important to know when looking at soccer around these ages. A late born, late developed kid might not show improvements in the decission making area until 3-4 years (in extreme cases) later compared to a early born, early developed kid.
You know, like a kid know that crashing on his bike will hurt, still he tryes to ride without holding the steeringbar. This pattern can be seen all the way up to the mid 20’s (car crash statistics, insurance fees etc). And fact is that the ability to judge correct, and act in the correct way are’nt fully developed until we reach almost 40-45ish.
We can force the kids to make the correct, or more specific, appears to be the correct decission thru strict coaching, but that will not help them to actually understand why the correct decission need to be taken. The understanding is key here. We want the kids to understand why a decission should be made. Not be forced to make “proper” decissions.
This is why the results, tables, scoring sheets etc at ages below 17 are BS (imo). Cause the result can only be good if all players got the ability to decide and act correctly. This will leave the late developers out of soccer, and a huge chunk of the player pool is throwned away.
Cause just because development is early, does’nt mean it’s the better individual once all the kids development starts to level out at around 17-20.
Keep as many players as possible, as high up in the ages as possible – And keep on educating. The cream of the crop will rise at this age. Not before.
I’m not saying that the kids you saw was even coached correctly (how could I?), but even if they were, it can be hard to tell at such ages. That’s all I’m trying to point out here.
Just my 2 cents regarding the brains development towards proper decission making.
coorection: sample the enviroment shoud be: sample the inputs from your eyes and ears well enough to execute the correct decission.
Sorry for bad english.. 🙁
We often talk about possession. Young players often fail to understand movement off the ball is fundamental to possession. So too is technique, comfort with the ball, ability to play with head up and read game. So too is knowing different systems, styles of play and role/responsibility of all positions. Find a kid at U14 or U15 who are good at all of above, and you got yourself a promising future player.
Yet so many clubs turn a blind eye to these players. Especially at U16 and below when these types may be on small side. Maybe 7 out of 10 kids I know who have got call-up from CalSouth ODP or National Team ARE NOT in above category of promising total footballers (I know of a handful of SoCal players on U14 pool recently announced). Some choices are so far from wrong it’s sinful. A slap in the face of so many better rounded players who are overlooked. On my son’s team for instance, the player they called up to national team is complete jaw dropping to most parents. WTF! Kid with attitude, hard headed, over-dribble, non team player, slow, poor ball skills. Brutally honest but true.
Armando, do you coach? who for?
I sometimes visit this site. My nephews play in USA youth soccer. I have noticed many differences to my country in Spain and in Europe.
USA has more youth coaches than Europe. Quantity more than quality. Europe has fewer but better educated coaches. We also take profession seriously. Youth coaches in USA part-time job or no prospects or interest to move to professional level. Europe coaches move from club to club at different leagues. USA coaches limited to handful of clubs at same level, in same city. Closed view with limited experiences.
USA has large youth soccer footprint but limited exposure to professional level. In Europe, smaller footprint but larger exposure to professional level. USA mostly “recreational” while Europe generally football is generally professional club by age 14. Players go to different league level academy based on their ability.
USA parents pay. In Europe academy pays. European model more selective and have vested interest in player development.
USA has relatively young, small but growing football culture. Europe many decades and strong culture. Culture (tradition, beliefs) is backbone of European football.
Kids in Europe play football all the time. It’s part of the football culture. Not so much in USA.
Everyone understands football in Europe. It is a way of life. Parents and players understand dedication needed to become professional. Again, footballing culture. Many USA parents never played. Players not surrounded by football lifestyle and culture 24/7 from early age.
In Europe football stars are heros. As popular as Hollywod actors. They become role model for aspiring players.
In Europe, you find games everywhere almost daily to view in person. Always on television. USA getting better for television but no so much to watch many games in person. The league pyramid not deep enough.
European federations understand football deeply and have set up rules and process around it. USA still learning. This is part of soccer culture.
I hope this helps.
Do you have any respect for any of these clubs?
The following clubs have been accepted as part of the new U-13/14 program:
Los Angeles/San Diego Market (5 clubs):
Albion SC (San Diego, Calif.)
Central California Aztecs (Bakersfield, Calif.)
FC Golden State (Pasadena, Calif.)
Los Angeles Futbal Academy (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Santa Barbara Soccer Club (Santa Barbara, Calif.)
Curious Larry says
does this mean Barcelona USA U13/U14 academy team was declined entry?
Gary Kleiban says
Yes, status was denied.
There has been – and there still is – A LOT going on with respect to this topic.
I have not decided what, or how much, I’m going to disclose.
I’m curious what they based their denial of entry on. If they clearly lay it out. “Do X and you’ll be accepted into program.” I suspect you have to be fairly diplomatic if you intend to keep trying to get in.
So as I review the lists it looks like US soccer is quite intentional in trying to develop develop “hotspots” of youth soccer. I read an interview of Tab Ramos a few months back and he alluded to this too. So areas like NYC, NoCal, So Cal, Dallas Texas are the choices.
I suppose the theory is that if you build these tight regions of soccer, you limit travel for the elite players in these areas. You try to create these small subcultures of soccer. So what I guess you try to create is smaller areas like in Germany or Holland, or regions in Spain.
What do people think. Is this the intent?
Its also interesting when you look at the U-14 National team it is almost exclusively NY, SoCal and Dallas. Not one kid from Chicago or Detroit was good enough?
Perez, U-14 coach is from LA (originally El salvador)
Once again when you talk about Gladwell’s “Outliers”. Its about hours, quality training etc but opportunity is also an important aspect.
Are we limiting opportunity by setting this geography?
An elite soccer talent now is like an acting? You need to go to LA or New York to increase your opportunity??
ARSENAL FAN says
Neeskens, I think hot spots are developed over time based on the interest of the sport in particular areas of the country. I believe its impossible to intentionally create hot spots in areas were the game is not played eveywhere and at a high level. Im sure these areas you are talking about have a long history of soccer clubs.
Sure , I’m sure that there is a built insoccer population in these ares. Most of the areas have a large immigrant population. Its the old Jesse James saying: ” Jesse, Why do you rob banks” “because thats where the money is”
So US soccer has now decided to allocate resources in focused areas at the U-13/U-14 level in tehse areas. I guess with limited resources thats what you have to do…but why 5 in SoCal and none in Chicago ( when there are three U-15/U-16 acacdemies)
I’m curious what the research showed. Have these these areas of the country produced the highest number US players for MNT. If so, do we like that end product? is this a good thing?
Of course it becomes a self fulfilling prohphecy because with an academy at U-13/U-14 this should feed the older academies with stronger players.
The areas of the country without the U-13/U-14 academy, even if they have aU-15/U16 will not benefit from earlier development.
Maybe its just a starting point and they will build the numbers?
Arsenal Fan says
Seems like it’s just something similar to what many teams are playing already, which is the National Premier League for U13/U14’s. In our area they even allowed clubs without an academy to build teams so the traveling would be minimized. I don’t understand why chicago would not have one, maybe these academies deemed it unecessary? Really don’t know how its going to pan out, some academies are having a problem filling rosters of quality players, either because of cost or wanting to play high school ball, and some just feel that no develpment is going on….
Academies not filling??
Where are you located?
Folks are driving two hours to academy training 3-4 X week in midwest.
I know, we can discuss all day the limitations of the academy and what’s the big deal..etc but thats not my question
Arsenal Fan says
Maybe what I meant was filling with top players in the regions. Out here in California they still have not earned the respect to develop players. So no, there is not a craze of players jumping into academies, many are staying at thier clubs.
I used to be a coach. I have more desire to help my son, focus on him. I disagree with a parent coaching his own son, or a relative, or anyone else he is close to. Besides, I would have serious disagreements with most clubs. They have head up the ass. Aren’t teaching how to play properly. Too much focus on tournaments, State Cup, winning, trophies, making mommy happy at younger ages. Quite simply: youth soccer at young ages is a paid activity so mommy and daddy can be proud of little Jose, Jane, Johnny scoring goals and winning. I can’t work in that environement as a professional and someone who takes futbol seriously.
Pele famous quote something like: “I see a lot of kids playing soccer, but I don’t see soccer being played.”
FC Barceloa should have been accepted to 13/14 USDA. Criminal! .
Arsenal fan says
Armando, I did the same thing, I coached rec stuff for many years but realized that my son needed more attention to his development. I don’t coach him any longer, but try to put him in positions were he is developing his skill and knoweldge of the game. You are right about youth soccer, even qulaified coaches get drowned by this attitude of expectations from parents who have no knowldedge of the game. In Regards to FC Barcelona not getting in is a step in the wrong direction. What academies are trying to promote is this type of soccer but they have not been very succesful at it. We desperately need a club in our academy system to show us the way, the rest will have to follow.
Professional player development thinks in return of investment terms:
Rec or Comp?
I’m going to pose a problem in my neck of the woods with our comp program. I’ll lay out the details. It begins with a current group of u15 boys. Enough to field two teams. Something very unusual for our town. This comp program started back when they were u11. They made an A team and because they had so many players left over … they made a B team. Within three years the B team over took the A team. The A team was comprised of mostly kids that were multi sports athletes. Spending only a certain time of the year with the soccer ball. Both of these teams float around in the 60 and 70 and 80’s ranking in for our region. Every year after that first tryout they have held separate tryouts. So basically the boys choose what team they want to play for and tryout for that team and 95 percent of them make that team (as expected). This is still happening today even after the pool has depleted and they are barely able to make two teams. However for the past two years they have put together a spring team that is a mix of the two teams and they have gone to some very high level tourneys and competed very well. In one tourney they tied the 53 ranked team in the nation. Here is my problem and I would like to hear your opinions on this.
1. Is this a high rec team or a Comp team?
2. How can the boys truly be trying out and giving there best when they already know they are going to be on a team that they feel safe and secure in? Does this breakdown a comp mid set in the boys?
3. Both of these teams have at least two… sometimes three parents coaching. Which in my opinion is the main reason they are holding separate tryouts. Because the coaches (parents) are to afraid to find out what will happen with Johnny or if they will be able to coach Johnny. Is this right or wrong?
4….. Totally separate though… but I have a theory that most rec to comp coaches got there start coaching Johnny because he was the kids that would wonder off the field and pick daisy’s during practice. Any self respecting coach (rec or comp) would not waste time away from kids trying to work with the team on little Johnny who had to be drug out to practice and shoved out of the Van. Of course this is not all cases and I am sure some do it to improve there local program and because nobody else will.
Back on track. Lastly I have asked our director of coaching why they do not just hold a full tryout and pick the top kids for an A team and he always puts it back onto the coaches and there wants and desires. This is the problem with a volunteer DOC as well. No accountability. For the last few years our volunteer coaches have always made a snide jab at paid coaches and they absolutely slobber over themselves whenever they beat a team with a paid coach. I admire the volunteer/parent coaches.. but what becomes old is when they get stagnate and comfortable. It seems to me that parent and volunteer coaches grow stagnate and have a hard time making critical decision over the years that can affect a comp team. They refuse to make cuts when needed. They promote players to positions that they obviously are not capable of playing in. lastly they never rotate teams so the kids get the same coach for 10 years. It just festers and becomes a bad situation. Especially for the kids that are really trying to “up there game”. For the most part the volunteer/parent/rec- to- competative coach seem to be just happy with having a team so they can put on there soccer coach outfit and post there accomplishments on Facebook… or fulfill some need to hold there child’s hand through a team sport that is design to test a child’s fortitude and “self” esteem in a safe environment on there own.
6. In conclusion I have come to realize this… If you are going to call yourself a competitive team, then the kids have to compete every time they step on the pitch… STARTING WITH TRYOUTS! They have to compete for a position. And unfortunately the volunteer to comp programs have some serious issues. So maybe we need a 3 tier level of soccer. 1. Rec soccer 2. (You name it!) rec to comp. 3. Competitive soccer(PAID COACHES ONLY). I know that last one is going to really ignite some fires but bring it on… lets open it up. The saddest part of this saga is that the kids are the ones that are being dis serviced. The even sadder part is that they don’t even know it. But someday when they get older I have a feeling they are going to either look back have a grown ups moment or look back and say to themselves… why didn’t we just put a kick ass team together the best we could and try to go kick some ass?
I have no idea where to begin but it sounds like you need to move. Sometimes there is just no hope and you need to realize this before it’s too late, if it’s not already. You must understand not every boy or family plays the sport to someday play at a very high level. Beating a team ranked in the top whatever is what it is- not very important. Regarding the payment of coaches, this doesn’t really solve very much. Your situation is very common in this country but your son doesn’t have the time for you to fix it. You need to consider driving another hour if necessary. I’ve read clint Dempsey would drive 2 hours for better training. You need to consider this and stop wasting time trying to change an organization that finds nothing wrong with the way things are done. You will someday look back and say- Why didn’t I spend more time finding my son the best training instead of trying to rebuild something others didn’t know was broken. Good luck!
Thanks Tim. Your right about beating a high ranked team. My point was to say that this area did… have the ability to bring together a strong group that could challenge each other if coached well enough. Actually, for the past year and a half we have been driving consistently up to twice a week, sometimes 4 hours each way to subsidize this club’s lack of expertise. Its been tough but well worth it. Its still just very frustrating that we have to even do this … this day and age. I think the payment of coaches does solve this problem. As I pointed out. It eliminates major issues that can seriously damage a teams competative goals. It creates an unbiased atmosphere and they do have better training and usually a more plump soccer background. Not always but I would wager that the majority of the time… its true.
I would say it’s completely rec, most parents that volunteer for the wrong purposes, which is to secure a spot for their chidren. I was in the same situation many years back with my older daughter, team had like 10 volunteers. It went from Coach, assitant coach, all the way down to the haltime snack coordinator. It was a complete bureaucracy. Move him.
NoVa Mike says
What you describe is very common in so-called competitive soccer (“travel” soccer, in this neck of the woods). They are basically just good rec teams that moved up to the next level of competition. There is nothing remotely professional about the environment you describe.
I agree with just about everything you said except #4, to a degree. I don’t think most coaches start b/c their kid is a daisy picker. In my experience the majority start coaching b/c their kid is good and they don’t want to see his/her potential wasted by coach who doesn’t have a clue. That’s beside the point though. I do agree that it is better to have a professional unbiased coach or trainer, although sometimes there is a trade-off between doing so and providing opportunities beyond just the well-to-do. Training cost is the biggest expense in the “pay-to-play” system, which is what we have to live with at the moment.
There is a related point though, which Gary has mentioned before. I think the norm for many teams is that some kids are more in the rec mindset, some have more of the pro mindset, and some are in between. The important question is – who do you cater to? Whose needs and development take priority? In a completely professionally run system – where aprofessional coach reports only to a DOC and/or TD, and all the decisions relating to the team are made w/o parental control, it should be much more likely the system will be set up to produce top players, period. Those that don’t like it can find somewhere else to go. Clubs like that are few and far between, at best.
One way or another, most teams are controlled by a small core group of parents. Don’t be fooled simply by the fact that a team has a paid coach, because that doesn’t tell you the whole story. Find out who the team manager is. Find out if there are any parent-assistant coaches. Next look at their kids. What is their level? Rec or pro mindset? The answer to that question will go along way towards telling you which type of player gets catered to in that program.
Michael Murphy says
Quality post. You articulated in one article what I have felt for many years about where the difficulty lies … creating and maintaining a professional mindset and environment in how one engages the youth in the game.
The title of this article has it right! As I watch the WC, its sites like this that have the missing in action American youth development properly thought out from a philosophical and style of play perspective. While only a few articles focus on player id (“The Cream Isn’t Rising to the Top” and “What’s an Elite Player” come to mind). But in looking at the WC, the USA fails to produce quality like James Rodrigues, Cuadrado, Mueller, Mascherano. We also fail to produce a well-orchestrated team. Even something half as orchestrated as Germany and Argentina would do fine.
Instead we see folks like Zaredes on LA Galaxy. Just another big athletic specimen with no quality. The USMNT has “effort” but little quality. But we are soooo happy with effort. Makes me sad and a bit angry when I hear people feel so proud of the USMNT because they had “effort”. The best thing for USMNT in WC was to get zero points. Like Brazil in 2014 and what many other top countries experienced, we need failure to force change. If not, it’s status quo.
The youth pipeline to USMNT is producing a larger bench of more average players, but not quality. It’s been like that since 1990. The blame for this is squarely at youth level, ODP, college and the younger USMNT age groups. Yet these stove-piped domains continue on. The link to the article CJ posted made me sad. USA needs a cohesive plan like Germany and other countries have done.
The beauty of such a plan is that you end up with proper player id. They are singled out at young ages. They play on teams who follow same script all the way to the National Team. If you are big and strong and nothing else, that’s all you’ll ever be. Maybe when that day comes, the smaller more technically superior, tactically savvy, and thinking player will get his due. Until then, it’s the Wild West.