If you want to get closer to excellence you must eliminate the following from your vocabulary:
- Target [forward]
- [I, You, They, He, She, We] Deserve it
These are the words of the status quo. They make you focus on the superficial, excuse you from responsibility, and brainwash you into the philosophy of mediocrity.
Chances are the more one says these things, or uses these terms in their thinking, the further away they are from the gold standard.
Don’t take this post lightly. This is practical advice to help you with two things:
- Start understanding the philosophy behind the global gold standard.
- Start discovering things in players, teams, and coaches, you have never seen before.
Making a serious attempt at eliminating the aforementioned, can force you to see things differently – to see what the best of the best in the sport see.
It’s really amazing how much you hear these terms; more a knee jerk reaction among coaches who think its the appropriate lingo to use after a bad miss (I hate “unlucky”; he was unlucky cause the kid didn’t demonstrate correct technique or game awareness to make the right play?). I think many coaches use these terms b/c they think it’s what they are “supposed” to say based on their observation of other coaches.
That “unlucky” one always irks me. Player takes a shot, and hits the post is called Unlucky. No Motherflower, the posts are there for a reason. Your job is to no hit the posts.
Here is another word for you: CRASS. Those were words from a naive person
The reasoning behind eliminating the words Unlucky, Obviously, and Deserve is rather self-explanatory.
Gary, can you explain your reasoning behind eliminating “Pace” and “Target [forward].” I’m not exactly sure how these words are necessarily detrimental to a coach’s/player’s mindset.
Chad Poniewasz says
Many coaches focus solely on physical attributes like “Pace”, rather than technical ability. In my opinion, many coaches find it easier to choose a player for their “pace” because they think it will override technical skill and minimize real coaching. As we know, “pace’ cannot really be coached, it is a natural-born gift. Technical skill on the other can be coached and developed, which I think is the point here. Many coaches do not know how to coach the technical parts of the game.
Big Al says
Speed or “pace” as you refer to it in this context is a skill. When taught correctly it can be learned and improved just like “technical skill” in soccer, playing the piano, writing, etc.
Chad Poniewasz says
I trained for speed when I was playing and I was still the slowest guy on my team. However, my technical skills were unmatched. When I was able to trap, control, and pass, the others were just able to run fast. So when I passed to them, they were able to out-pace the defenders to the ball, but they couldn’t dribble, trap, or pass it. So what is the point of having pace? Just an observation and an example. I do understand your point.
Coach Joe says
I believe that you should clarify your statement in that we coaches use the term “pace” to communicate pace of the ball. When passing to feet, pace is extremely important. In training I teach my players to play to feet at high pace in order to help increase the speed of play.
Unlucky is the key in my mind. The model for play is creating chances (or half chances), if the chance doesn’t come off, “unlucky”. Pace enters as a distinct way to improve “luck” along with size and power. It goes directly at the hatred of Spain, who control the game through skill and intelligence. The roll the dice approach to the game permeates the English-American approach and feeds the mediocre approach to the game. These almost random chances define the entertainment value of the game for far too many, producing an opposition to the controlled intelligent game we should be focused on.
The blind cross is the archetype of this, “put it in the mixer”. Here another one I hate, “early” or how to give your opponent the ball. Of course a dose of pace and luck might earn you a half-chance, and enough half-chances, a win. This, unfortunately is the core of what defines American soccer
Does pace solely function in this context to improve luck? Is having the attribute of pace contrary to the attributes of having skill and intelligence when playing?
I understand depending on or over-emphasizing speed in coaching and in play is detrimental, case in point: you develop wingers and fullbacks who race down the touchline and can’t trap or otherwise control a ball that comes to them. Or, you (unintentionally) foster strikers who burst forward, sometimes even prematurely, and then can’t track back fast enough and as a result isolate themselves from the play. But I think that pace *is* a great asset for players when they are able to manipulate it to their advantage. Enter the emphases on ball control in higher tempo situations & _when_ to change pace to compliment any speed training regimen a coach intends on implementing.
I recall reading a conversation on here a while back about slowing down the play, which has been grossly overlooked in the US. While slowing down the play in order to maintain possession is wise, in certain instances complimenting a slowing of play with a sudden burst of pace helps to catch defenses off-guard. Having players with the ability to sprint faster than their opposition is also beneficial when your team finds themselves in the position to go on the counter-attack. The thing is not to avoid some speed training but to make it clear in the context of a game where a player’s top speed should not be used.
I recognize that there is a knee-jerk reaction towards pace being the enemy when the style of US Soccer has long been bedded in the “kick and run” ideology but I worry that completely voiding pace/speed from the conversation is purposefully neglecting a tactic meant to diversify play. Just because there is a school of thought emphasizing controlled, intelligent play does not mean you should ignore the potential benefits when properly utilizing a player’s pace. I think the true culprit is a “pure speed” methodology rather than “smart speed”.
Pace is great when combined with other attributes, but it shouldn’t be an excuse for not developing skill and intelligence. Too often it is. To put it differently, we shouldn’t allow a player’s pace to stunt their growth in skill or intelligence. It should be an additional attribute. So I agree that pace is good, but only as long as its combined with other attributes. Take Barça it’s a combination of skill/intelligence (xavi, iniesta, messi, fabregas) with pace (Alves, Villa, Pedro). The guys with pace aren’t bad skill wise either.
How about “arrogance”, believing that just because you call yourself elite and you pay a lot of money for that title, automatically makes you a great player.
Gary, I would like to see all of these words used in a sentence.
One word that is sadly missing from the US Soccer world is subtlety. Others that would be good to add, variance, dynamic, brilliance, rhythm. I sure the rest of us can come up with other words we should start using and some additional words we should purge from our soccer vocabulary.
LOl I can’t imagine my college coach ever using word rhythm
El Memo says
I would add “little hesitation moves” from an offensive standpoint, “pause” and “misdirection.”
Oh and I almost forgot add nuance.
John Pranjic says
Had an awesome time listening to an opposing coach give his pregame talk as they warmed up next to us. I’m pretty sure he had no idea we would be facing each other in just a few minutes (or maybe he was just being cocky and talking very loudly to intimidate me/us?). He used the word pace and “hit a new level” (referring to speed) repeatedly to his girls. I took that info, went to my team, and told them exactly what to expect. Expect their back line to prep the ball, look up, and play it over our outside backs to their wingers running at full speed. Sure enough… they did exactly that. Wasn’t a problem for us at all. Each time it didn’t work out, he yelled something referring to pace and would make subs for his outside players often.
Same question as Graham, though. Eliminating the word target has me a bit confused. Are you referring to teams who use a stagnant #9 that just gets balls played into them over and over and over again- therefore making them a target for other players? Unlike teams such as Spain/Barca who have constant interchanging and any player can end up in any attacking spot at just about any given moment?
I think you might have it. Like in a 4-5-1 where the forward is big lumbering player with little technical ability and is used a target for balls played over the top in the box.
I have coached other sports but I am new to soccer and I have heard “unlucky” used exclusively in Soccer and figured it to be the equivalent of “good effort”. Kind of a PCA response that is meant as an encouragement. But I never understood the use of “pace”. Is it just another word for fast? As in: has good pace = fast?
Yeah, it usually means they want speed and a hail mary pass to the forwards. If they manage to trap the ball they might get off a shot. Not a lot of skill involved. Usually means they’re not playing the ball on the ground or they might have a quick winger who can get a cross in. Emphasizing pace over possession.
Six years ago when I got my first boy involved with club soccer I assumed that the kids with pace were the best players. After seeing many games over the years it became clear that just because you are fast doesn’t mean that you are going to have an impact on the game. But, there is no reason that a kid with pace can’t be just as skilled as anybody else. And, obviously 🙂 that’s a great combination. Seems to me that Messi is extremely athletic as well as the whole Barcelona team. I think we need to be catious about trading one dogma for another here. I watched the u11 barcelona usa video. Those kids have plenty of pace.
Arsenal Fan says
Shawn I was just thinking the same thing, can’t think of some of the best players in the world being as effective without pace, speed, or whatever they are calling it here. Ronald and Messi quckly come to mind…
Gary Kleiban says
This is not changing one dogma for another.
This is homework for people to begin seeing some of the complexities and critical subtleties in the game.
Most everyone thinks they know that already, but it’s not true.
Most everyone hasn’t a clue what’s going on under the hood.
Part of the reason, is the lexicon everyone has been brainwashed with. Those 5 words are so engrained, so automatic, that it’s become like checking your smartphone 20 times per minute. It distracts and prevents you from seeing everything else.
John Pranjic says
Definitely agree with the unlucky 🙂
I think it’s the English soccer connotation that you have to break free from with pace and target. Hearing/reading “pace”, all the examples that pop to mind are in the British press. East Bromfordshire bought a pacey winger, Hodgson could put in X for Y would give them some pace. Never, put in Z for Y so they could string 5 passes together. Spanish, Italians, Germans could have players with many fine attributes, of which speed/quickness was listed somewhere down the list, in their home press I doubt they’re summed up as “pacey”. It’s almost always a winger too. google “target” “forward”. For spain, italy, germany, the phrase pops up as “Gomez, forward, is the target of several teams this transfer window”. Only in the british press does it become “ian bollockscart, 6’8″ target forward is expected to help the wanderers lack of goal scoring…”. it implies a rough, fightball style of play.
Another all time favorite: the “over hit” pass…code for kick it hard and chase it
Just notice how many devoted “possession” gurus, then demand that their players “over hit it” as default…
Dr Loco says
“5 Simple Words Stagnating Your Soccer Development”
I don’t have this problem since I speak spanish to my players whether they understand it or not. 🙂
6. If the ball is anywhere in your own half and the coach yells “clear it!”
El Memo says
That is the first thing coaches teach their goalies – which hurts the defenders develoment.
El Memo says
Or, worse “When in doubt, kick it out.”
1. USSF (No vision, philosophy, leadership, not acting as catalyst for improvement)
2. MLS (They can do a lot more to champion youth soccer development)
3. Size & Power / Kick and chase soccer
4. ODP (Identifying wrong players (see #3 above))
5. Lack of vision / philosophy (inertia, rigor mortis, paralysis, status quo)
What I would rather here from a coach rather than PACE is TEMPO… I had a coach explain to my son that he makes good decisions and has good speed. That he needs to up his tempo.. make decisions quicker and use “pace” to get past a defender using footwork. It was pure skills training, so he wasn’t talking about run and gun. Luckily I’ve never heard his club coach use any of the 5.
I would also like to see the use of CREATIVITY and MOVEMENT. I see to often players rigidly sitcking to lanes on the field… left, right and middle. Yes that may be their “position” but young players need to know it’s important to fill the gaps and move to where no one else is… more overlapping and pulling defenders out of position, all needs to be taught much earlier. It’s Futbol not FOOSBALL.
Another one I hear all the time thats like nails on a chalk board, “send it!”
Gary Kleiban says
Guys, this post was not meant for us to point the finger at others.
You already know what general coaches, parents, supporters, etc … say. That stuff is obvious.
Rather this was meant as an exercise for YOU.
Homework for YOU.
While YOU’RE watching a game, coaching a game, talking to others, writing a post, commenting, and so on … YOU should try not using these words.
When they pop into YOUR head, YOU should eschew them, and focus on something else.
It’s not an easy thing to do.
But if YOU force YOURSELF and do it for a very long time, far deeper truths of the game will start revealing themselves to YOU.
Will do. I’ve already started checking myself, as a parent, on the sideline. That in itself has been eye opening.
You caught me red-handed. Had a tough set of games at a tournament today (with two teams) and found myself using a few of these out of habit. I actually started feeling self conscious about how often I said “unlucky” during one particularly tough stretch……and I had NO IDEA you were writing this post.
Why was I saying it? I was deflecting player attention from their own shortcomings. Making excuses for them (and a pretty poor excuse at that).
So here I am already evaluating my own coaching lingo and then I read this. Reality check. I need to be better. And it starts tomorrow.
How about suggestions for five words we should be saying and hearing instead. Maybe that’s already in the works.
Coach J says
My Assistant Coach always says “unlucky” and I never understand it. In my mind it’s, “That wasn’t unlucky….that was a lack of skill!”. I guess he is nicier than I am….
NOVA Mike says
Great post. I told my son a while back that any time he hears a coach tell him “unlucky”, the coach really means “poor technique”, but he’s trying to be nice. Yet, it so pervasive that I find myself doing the same thing. This post serves as a timely reminder for me to banish that particular word forever.
Rewinding last night’s training session in my mind gives an idea of what I think Gary had in mind. I remember one particular time I said “unlucky” when a player’s one-touch finish went wide right and he was visibly disappointed. If I hadn’t reflexively said “unlucky” (to make him feel better), I would have had to stop and think a little bit about what I could say to help him not make the same mistake again. I would have pointed out that the ball went exactly where his plant foot was facing, because with his plant foot facing that direction it was very difficult to get his hips around, and the reason for all of that was he was standing flat footed when the ball came to him, facing the direction of the pass, and that if he had been on his toes and kept his feet moving he would have had a better chance of adjusting his body, getting his plant foot and hips facing the goal, and ultimately getting his shot on target. Another words, if I hadn’t been so mentally lazy and just focused on getting him to feel better, I would have been forced to teach and help him actually get better.
Definitely needed this wake-up call – to keep me “on my toes”. Thanks Gary.
How about “ambitious”. I usually hear this when a player takes a shot from way outside their range. I think is making the kids feel better for poor decision making.
I am guilty of using the word “send it”, and now i started to realize that I sound like a crazy parent.
I however refuse to use “unlucky”,”Boot it”, and the best one of all time from one of my assistants at one time. “Big Boot” anytime the ball was near a defending player.
Chad Poniewasz says
I am guilty of using “unlucky” while playing in games but never use it when coaching. And when I do say it, i say it with a British accent because when I was a kid, I went to a British soccer camp and t they said it a lot. It has always been a joke with me and my dad to say “unlucky”. The other 4 words I never use.
Troy Mulford says
These are all British /English slang words because they speak in code in context to the game and criticm. You have to read into what they say which is a pain in the ass. They usually never say what they mean or truly want to say, I don’t know why?
Then they like to complain and are bitter you didn’t understand what they wanted. This is apart of their culture, from soccer to just interacting with them.
I understand how this got into US Soccer, the English influence, but Americans are much more direct to each other in conversations. It shouldn’t be apart of US soccer.
I would add the phrase “send it”. This one just absolutely kills me. I coached against 3 different coaches this weekend and everyone of them used it more than 20 times each. I don’t believe I’ve ever used those words but rather have asked for my players to find another players feet or split the gap so X player can run onto it.
Obviously the target man was unlucky when he hit the post because his pace allowed him to beat the offside trap and he deserved to score.
Speed is wonderful but without technical ability (TA), you might as well tell the fast player to run into the wall as he wont get very far. Speed with TA is the goal i.e. brazilians…the problem with alot of coaches is that there training methods are too static when teaching TA. You need to incorporate teaching the skill with pace and urgency, and then teach it with opposition. You may not be able to teach a Technical player speed, but will have better success teaching a speedy player TA.
Back in October, I started to log how much time my son spends training, competing, attending camps, or learning from watching games.
He averages between 30 – 35-hours per month. He is 13 and I made some assumptions going back to when he started playing at 6. I’m getting about 3,000 hours total. At this rate, I’m projecting he will be about 23 – 25 before he hits 10,000. This was a huge eye opener for him. And he’s one of few kids I know who has the dedication to spend several hours each week practicing on his own.
So while lame coaching, dysfunctional clubs, and a lack of culture may affect a player’s development, maybe the biggest thing affecting it is we lack the true academy model.
La Masia and most academies around the world have a stated goal of players hitting 10,000 by the time they reach first team (18 – 21). Their kids are not made of special DNA or demi gods. What they do have is an environment where kids have to dedicate many hours per week progressing to that 10,000 benchmark. All USA kids, with exception of miniscule numbers at IMG, aren’t in an environment to even come close to 10,000. And most kids aren’t disciplined to do much on their own.
There’s nothing magical about 10,000. Rather it’s the time and effort and learning and development to get you there. In my estimation, a kid starting at 6 needs to average about 60 hours a month to get to 10,000 by 20-years old. In my son’s case, he needs to almost double his individual practice and keep that up for a few years to have fighting chance at 10,000 by the time he’s 20. That’s extremely difficult for younger kids (U13 and younger). And since most teams only practice 2x a week, 50 – 75% of getting to 10,000 rests squarely on individual player. That is unless he is in a structured environment like any European or South American academy. Most European and South American academies jam pack vast majority of 10,000 hours between ages of 12 – 16. We wait until USDA Academy and college is far cry from a proper academy preparing teens for pro career.
Would Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, C. Ronaldo, Robinho, Pato, Rooney . . . ever get to where they are if they were in an American system? NOT! They are products of their academy environment from a very young age.
So the takeaway is we can have the best coaches, best system, firm playing philosophy, and identification of most talented kids – but if they don’t push their level of dedication we likely end up with an end product slightly above average.
Clint Dempsey is 29, he’s now better then Donovan with no signs of letting down. I’ve watched him almost his entire career and he seems to be getting more and more skilled with the game as he’s gotten older…………………………imagine if Dempsey had the same opportunity to enroll in a youth academy and was playing professional at the age of 15/16 like the vast majority of his European/SA counter parts. Not talking primera division, talking lower leagues, what does Dempsey’s game look like today? Shit would would Donovan’s look like………………….ZERO of our players have been able to go through an academy.
The vast majority of SAs, Europeans are being paid and playing professionally by the age of 15. Not talking star players, but regular ones playing in all the lower developmental leagues.
Chad Poniewasz says
Totally agree with you about number of hours in relation to development. Where did you get your facts about La Masia? I’m eager to find sources that layout their practices in a more concise manner. Thanks.
I’m pretty sure I posted somethign about 10,000 and La Masia on the “American Soccer Community Hates Spain” blog. If not, let me know and I can provide other sources.
I truly belive this (not enough practice, progress towards 10K hours) is one of the top problems with USA soccer (I think the others are lack of playing style / philosophy and lack of centers of excellence to mimmic IMG across the USA).
We like to compare US to top footballing countries and complain about coaching. But the major difference is academy model. What we have in USA IS NOT Academy! USDA is glorified Premier level or ECNL. But not European or SA style academy.
I know kids who play in Mexican clubs and they practice 5x week. By U16, serious players in Mexico are leaps and bounds ahead in terms of experience. The more you practice, the more you learn. And the earlier an age you practice frequently and with good coaching folloiwng a playing philosophy, the more you master it by the time you are in late teens and early 20s.
Think abou it: if 99% of kids in USA are practicing 2 – 3x a week and not much else, there is a huge bubble of “average” players. Not because we lack DNA, but becasue our players aren’t getting enough practice to compete or comapre to counterparts in Europe and SA. And as evidenced in last 20-years, US soccer is growing and number of players increasing, but we’re still “average”. There is good stuff about this in another blog Gary posted about being average.
Dr Loco says
You really jacked this post!
“Not because we lack DNA, but becasue our players aren’t getting enough practice to compete or comapre to counterparts in Europe and SA. ”
MLS players did get 10K hours of training. The problem is that you need quality instruction along with the 10K hours. Otherwise after 10K hours, you become an expert average player.
Think about Larry Bird shooting 1000 free throws after practice, the Williams Sisters dad pushing the fuck out of them even thought the older sister is now a mental case, see Tiger Woods, see Roberto Carlos spending, what, 6 hours in a day just practicing free kicks……..
Interview with author of “Senda de Campeones” (“Path of Champions”), Marti Perarnau
” . . . players were chosen to be trained at La Masia based on three criteria: Players with very good
technique, who are able to understand the game (not just play, but also understand it) and speed of mind,” he said.
What that means is that, by the time a player is good enough to make it to the first team, he has practiced more than 10,000 hours — learning about positional play, practicing Rondos (“Piggy in the Middle”), learning about how not to lose the ball and great technique.
One system, many years of practice — the concept is ruthless and focused — but what emerges is not a robot but a player who have a great understanding of the game and whose minds click slightly faster on the pitch than most of the opposing team’s players because their system, their particular style of possession and quick passing, has become such a natural part of their thoughts and movements.”
Excerpt from above:
Let’s start with their life-paths [e.g,. Cruyff, Maradonna, Messi]. The American writer Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers: The Story of Success, popularised the “ten thousand hour-rule”. This is a notion from psychology, which says that to achieve expertise in any field you need at least 10,000 hours of practice. In his book Gladwell quotes the neurologist Daniel Levitin: “In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice-skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, this number comes up again and again.… No one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time.”
According to News of the World, the Elite Performance Plan was approved by chairmen at an end-of-season meeting, and paves the way for top English clubs to match and even surpass the so-called Barcelona model of training youngsters.
The current system, where the coaching of players is limited to 2,000 hours between the ages of 10 and 18 has been amended to allow players to be coached for up to 10,000 hours.
I’m trying to figure out my son could possibly reach 10,000 by 18. I can’t see him getting more than 8-10 hours a week before 12. I’de be all for him to have 4 practices a week, but I don’t think most clubs or even team mates families would commit to that much at U10. I guess I could hope he gets into a good system at 12. He does play pick up games at school recess, so he is getting some free play in. He’s 8 so I think that as he gets older he’ll want to practice on his own more. But it’s frustrating that there isn’t that many options locally. I don’t have the cash to supplement his club play more than getting him into the RDS program that the Red Bulls do in my area.
Chad Poniewasz says
Thank you Kana for the links. I learn so much from this site. My thoughts on this, It has taken Barca over 30 years to produce homegrown talent like Messi, Xavi, Iniesta. If clubs like ManUtd, ManCT ,etc, implement the same type of system, it will take years to catch up in quality. Furthermore, I think the real gauge of La Masia’s greatness will be in seeing how the next generation of Barca players turn out. If it churns out another ‘golden generation’ with players like Thiago, Deleufeu, Bartra, Muniesa, Djongou, etc, panning out, then I can see it as becoming something for the history books. If it fails to produce more world class players, which I highly doubt it will fail, then Xavi’s generation could be seen as a simple phenomenon of youth development. We shall see.
Chad Poniewasz says
Waaayyyy off topic, I know!
I am not an expert in US college system. The 10,000 hour discussion is interesting and has valid points. I don’t believe words are stagnating USA soccer. I think it’s the system and the resources applied to it.
I am an Economist by academic study but not a practicing professional. There is a classic economic theory of guns versus butter. If a country focuses more resources and attention on guns, they will become efficient at that and less so with butter production. As they become more and more efficient, economies of scale come to play. But they must remain competitive in case another country can be more efficient. I think this is the problem with US soccer.
In Europe players who desire a footballing career focus highly on that at expense of academics and seek entrance into academy. They become efficient and spent many hours perfecting their craft. The club feeder system to clubs like Sporting is based on this model and resources and attention at identifying players who will succeed in this paradigm. And students who want to pursue professional white collar careers pursue academia. The USA tries to be efficient at both but guns and butter theory says they can only be average in both if we are considering student athletes. There will be outliers, but mostly average. In Europe the system has been in place for decades and is market efficient and all clubs understands its needs.
In USA, the focus is about equal for football and academics. At junior and senior years, many promising players are highly focused on college and SAT at expense of football. The system is focused on getting players into academia and resources applied accordingly. As a result, players are not as efficient as Europe or South America.
I understand it may not be popular, but USA will have difficult time moving into top of world football unless this guns and butter equation is shifted more to football. I can see from reading various posts that people are passionate about this, but I think it’s the system and how resources are applied and how top players are rewarded. In Europe, top players are rewarded with contracts and opportunity. Top development feeder clubs are rewarded with financial incentives from larger clubs. In USA there is not a financial incentive for youth clubs to develop MLS players. I am not advocating either system. I am only pointing out differences.
Dr Loco says
“In the Netherlands, though, youth players may end up with less education than
their parents in order to pursue professional soccer careers”
I wanted to explain something some may not understand. In Europe, each country has several divisions of professional football.
I like to use analogy to explain myself, so forgive me. In auto industry, Mercedes-Benz has lower tier suppliers who understand the quality expectations and provide product to satisfy. In European football, each club that is part of the tiered system feed top clubs. They understand that. It’s the culture. European footballs market efficient in terms of talent identification. For example, a 12 year old boy in Spain may be small and not score goals, but if he has right playing characteristics, a lot of attention will be showed to him and “the system” will give him opportunity to develop and get to right club. The focus is on the future, not the present which is why scouts look at long term potential and not who is best at 14 because of size (I think this is referred to as man-child in USA). When a player makes it to first team, everyone is rewarded and happy. That is how it works. La Masia is different as it looks within.
In USA, recruiting is across youth clubs and moving to a top club does not mean the player will be developed better or gain more opportunity or be groomed for first team professional club like in Europe. Here they are recruited for better team to win tournaments, getting into USDA to increase chances to college. That is my observation of USA system. It is efficient in this respect. But this system is not efficient at identifying and developing players who are best at highest professional levels. There is a dichotomy in US soccer: those who desire a system leading to a professional career and those who want more ore equal emphasis on academics. This goes back to guns and butter. I think the host of this forum, Gary, may agree that like recruiting which serves two purposes, youth soccer needs to transform and serve different purposes. I will point out that in Europe, there is not the depth of youth soccer for the masses. Most adolescents will focus on academics or football, not both. I think the US system is good in this regard since it offers diversion from university but there needs to be recognition of an alternative market to fill professional footballing desire. It is the system (the root of the problem), not words (these are symptoms) that stagnate football development. We can remove the words but the problem will still remain.
I am sorry for long post, but wanted to get off my mind. I am a passionate lifelong footballer and cannot help myself.
England/Spain has over 120+ club teams, 5 or 6 leagues below the Premier/La Liga , plus some other possible residual paying leagues from what I can gather. That is a shit ton of opportunity/incentive for their home players and their lesser/minor leagues are their safety nets (career/$$$) while we have a very miniscule amount of college scholarships to offer as a safety net. I gather this is about the same all throughout Europe, SA as pertaining to their leagues/clubs? 5-8 leagues/country with over 120+ paying clubs?
Now imagine you being a parent of a talented player at the age of 12 and he sees that we have 16, count em, 16 MLS franchises with zero good youth academies, that safety net is a helluva lot smaller then that of SA, Mexico, Europe.
I’m not being defensive on what you’re saying I’m just pointing out some more facts between USA and Spain/Europe/SA and it all boils down to $$$$/opportunity in sport. We don’t even have a full 20 teams yet, 19 with Canadian teams, and we also are in the ludicrous USA style athletic system where a team can literally suck ass for 15 years straight with no incentive to get better and you’re still in the top division because of the monopoly that they’ve set up. (And you’re everyday average Joe Baseball fan has never even thought about how fucked up the American professional athletic system is)
Makes me sad to think about our American soccer/football problems from a parent perspective/fan/lover of the game. But it is nice to actually have a professional league here now and I take some solace in beating and or tieing $500/M rated national squads when our US team is rated at like $35/M.
Great insight Armando! Was at Surf Cup all weekend.
Eric Wynalda made interesting observation and comment during last night’s Madrid v. Santos friendly. He’s been working with Mexican clubs last few years. He said they are leaps and bounds ahead of USA in terms of youth development due to Academy system. It changed in last 5-years when Mexico made concerted effort to improve. He went on to say playing highly competitive Academy games in a professional environment far better than college (aah, duh!). Even the highly touted Caleb Porter crash landed in international try (lots of people drank the Kool-Aid). Playing Olympic qualifiers far different than playing Western Nevada State and trying to simultaneously trying to study for a math test on Tuesday. This touches on what Armando posted about.
Wynalda said problem in USA can be summed up in “players are more advanced than coaches in USA”. He didn’t elaborate but message seems clear. Our young generation is more exposed to international soccer while many of our coaches are old school who probably played AYSO or competitive soccer that was levels below where it is today. And we have so many English coaches in SoCal. Is that part of problem? Purveyors of English long-ball, size and power? The head of SoCal ODP is English and seems to think bigger is better. We need better and it ALWAYS starts at the top! Anyway, I digress . . . .
Even Warren Barton who was analyzing the match agreed and said English soccer isn’t as technical as rest of Europe and needs to change.
Coaching (or lack thereof) is something Gary has been harping about on this forum for years.
It’s great to have rivalries and competition that motivates you. USA v. Mexico is that. But right now Mexico is kicking our arse! Way to go Mexico U23 Olympic Team!!!
USSF, USDA, ODP needs to get its head out of its butt like Mexico did few years back and make some serious change! Too many heads deep into the crap and can’t pull out. We keep dreaming but still a nightmare.
Why is it so hard to look for kids with technical skill, tactical awareness, quickness of thought at youth level and develop them? Why do we keep going back to the size and power well? WTF!
Dr Loco says
Here is culture, unity, and pride for a common goal. No confusion.
Dr Loco says
I was in awe the way Mexico came back from being down 0:1. Those players have BALLS.
Technical skill??? At an NSCAA course I overheard a college coach say they don’t have time to work on technique. They focus on defense because it wins games.
Too many heads deep into the crap, exactly!
You should see all the stress and shit I’m going through. I am trying to wreak havoc on a club and organized playing league. They told me that they basically own the youth players and parents. Clubs/Leagues control everything and do not want you to exist without their crap. I’m surprised they haven’t put a hit on me. Scary!
No time to work on technique? They practice 4-5 times per week!!! I heard a college coach once say he is baffled by some college coaches that work on possession during the fall season (main season with conference tournament, ncaa, etc.).
Dr Loco says
Gary, feel free to set me straight. Unless you are getting quality coaching from a guru, coaching at the youth level is WAY overrated. Possession soccer teaches players everything they need to know on their own.
PARENTS STOP WASTING YOUR TIME AND MONEY ON POOR COACHING AND WEAK PLAYER DEVELOPMENT.
Gary Kleiban says
Well, it’s tough to ‘set people straight’ in the comments.
What I’ll usually do is use what people contribute here as inspiration for new posts.
For instance, I can’t really be precise if I responded to your latest comment above. No doubt there is truth to what you said. 99% of coaches are indeed donkeys, meaning they get F’s when using the 50-50 rule (maybe a few percent get D’s):
But I need to address the how, the why, and the nature of things not being so black and white. That requires a comprehensive education.
My 9 yr old son j(U10) ust started his pre-season training. I’ve voiced my concern to him that he needs to think about winning 1st balls, 50/50, and 2nd balls as preseason advances.
Do you view these as different than “speed” since I don’t want to be a donkey forever 🙂 ?
Congrats on Surf Cup.
Gary Kleiban says
Everything is important Larry.
It’s just that people don’t know what ‘everything’ is, let alone what’s more critical than what.
The frequency of the 5 words mentioned above demonstrates just how superficial and unsophisticated we are.
Lastly, the ‘donkey’ term is more directed to those who actually believe they know what they’re talking about. And yet their products are garbage.
It’s not really meant for coaches who understand they have lots to learn. We all have to start somewhere and grow.
Thanks for making me laugh with you line about putting a hit out in you. Too funny! I can see the soccer powers that be getting red faced with an upstart like Dr. Loco making waves, challenging the norm. I love it!
Dr Loco says
Soccer is bad for my health 🙂
Congrats to Barcelona USA Academy u10, u11 and u12 all of which won there age groups at Surf Cup this last weekend! That is quite a feat and a great confirmation of the validity of the information presented on this site.
I saw U14 – U16 games. Majority was kick and chase, bulldozing, physical soccer. I wish I watched youngers! I did see a handful of players in U14 – u16 ages I thought had phenomenal ball skills and moved to space beautifully. Sad thing is they were smaller palyers and I bet my 401K that non of them are ODP or National Team becasue they aren’t big enougn. Thanks FC Barcelona USA for showing coaching world how it’s done.
Brandon Elwood says
My Son was ODP state team top 18 at one point. Then the head coach and the assist head coach showed up and they went to a tourney. Son got 7 mins a game and nothing in the final. A kid that was big, snotty, and had a high profile club coach played center forward and lost the ball consistently. After that tourney I read a mission statement by PDP. “We would like to be clear, while there are some players who may be the best in their age group due to their size and athleticism, there are others who are smaller, and talented but may not be as effective at this time. We are very interested in those players who have talent and are motivated, but due to their size and physical immaturity are not necessarily as effective at this time as those larger and more physically mature players. Finally, we are looking for players with a feeling and a vision of the game, extremely well developed skills and a passion for playing their sport.”
That is the mission and they hold true to it. My Son is always…..always the smallest. Yet he is always in the top for quickness, ball control, and savvy play. Look for this program in you area. We will not be going back to ODP. We will stick with PDP and the MLS academy.
I’ve not read that but do know coaches told my son that. What you just posted in EXACTLY why USA is where it is. Mexico just proved differently. By limiting time of smaller, more skillful players, ODP prematurely hold back their development. College takes over and does same. The coaches, vision, philosophy of ODP is truly criminal, neglect, dereliction of duty to US soccer, players, and the country. Yes, I feel that strongly. And please remember, my son is ODP. We see bigger or stronger less technical kids get more opportunity and they can’t make it to MLS or Europe because of that.
I hope Mexico keeps kicking our butt. Brazil will wake up tomorrow and fire coach and get new players as Olympic commentators said. USA will wake up tomorrow and scour basketball courts and gridiron for next Messi.
Wow, I can’t believe ODP does this. But I’ve heard that and now see in writing. It’s largely known USA is most overfed but poor nutrition country (processed foods). It is also most over coached, under developed football country. ODP looks like one of main problems for more advanced level players being underdeveloped in favor of big kids.
The comment above also says ” . . . but due to their size and physical immaturity are not necessarily as effective at this time as those larger and more physically mature players.” No 14 or 15 year old is mature physically or mentally! But holding back smaller more talented kids just due to size is truly a crime indeed. I shake my head at ODP in disgust.
New to this forum. Some thoughts
1) I read your various blogs going back since you started. Very good stuff! How about a blog on Top 10 posts or ideas. Or maybe summarize various philosophies and share. You and fellow bloggers have posted lots of good stuff and it would be nice to see best of best in one place. A blueprint on how to change US Soccer.
2) The Women’s professional game sucks! Slow pace, poor ball skills, sorry goalkeeping, poor shots, terrible passing, and just plain boring!
3) Agree on what someone said about the system being the problem. In coaching profession, we have lots of English long-ball, kick and chase, size and power addicts who need therapy. The system won’t change unless we change those in charge.
4) Does FC Barcelona USA plan on forming some teams in San Diego? Please, pretty please!
5) I personally know several players and parents of players who are on ODP and think player identification is all wrong. My son is ODP and I think same. We just go for the exposure. My son is a good player, but admits to me there are others who are far more talented. The best player on our team in terms of ball skills, tactical awareness, quickness, smarts, and so on is about 5’6” (U15), but he is smallest kid. He is head and heels above the teammates who are ODP on is team. He has the characteristics to make it far and should move to Spain or somewhere his abilities will be appreciated. At 5’7” and 130 lbs soaking wet, the USA system would have killed Messi and Neymar’s career before they were U14.
Gary, Dr. Loco, Hincha – I think you are coaches and may be in the know, but what is USSF, USDA or ODP doing to change things or is it left to the club do make meaningful change as FC Barcelona USA are doing? I spent last few days reading many of the blogs on this forum and see La Masia and tiki-taka and choosing players based on certain characteristics was done without higher authority mandating it. Is that what needs to happen in USA? Is anyone in the college ranks working with USDA or youth clubs to improve level of play and quality of players going through pipeline? What about MLS? Or is the white collar leaders of these organizations just standing around talking about status quo and how good it is?
By the way, I love this site! Great posts. I wish the power brokers of US soccer would take it serious and look to improve things as Mexico figured out in last 5-years and Spain did in 1970s. I’m no coach, but I stay informed as best I can and it seems to me our power brokers got “it’s all good” Kool-Aid pumping through their veins.
Dr Loco says
I don’t think anyone is going anything. Stop drinking the kool-aid.
If you want something better you’ve got to do it yourself!
It seems USSF and ODP are a poor performing organization:
They aren’t learning from mistakes.
They make stupid decisions.
They don’t make intelligent choices.
They don’t look to improve.
They are complacent.
They are not learning from top competitors.
Good they are not a business or they would be bankrupt.
Interview with Barcelona La Masia Academy director from http://andagain.websitetoolbox.com/post/Barcelona%E2%80%99s-approach-to-youth-development-3507520
Alexanco provided me with details on how Barcelona ran its youth teams.
“We don’t demand that the youth teams win,” said Alexanco. “We demand that they play good soccer. We don’t use the word, ‘winning.'”
Not until after the players reach age 16 is there fitness training.
“That’s when we start to concentrate on the technical, tactical and physical requirements they need for the first team,” Alexanco said. “Before that age we mainly play soccer. Everything is with the ball. We work on skills and some tactics.”
The Barca program fields teams from age 10 up. The 10-year-olds – the Benjamins – practice four days a week, in 45-minute sessions, and play 7-v-7 games on the weekend. All of the older age groups play 11-v-11.
“They play the same system, in the 4-3-3 formation, used by first team,” says Alexanco. “The developmental teams have to reflect the personality of the first team. That also means playing attacking, attractive soccer. That’s what our fans demand and what we want to give them.”
Through age 17, Barcelona fields two teams at each age group. Each player plays at least 45 percent of the games.
Choosing the right players for its youth program is the key to its success. Barcelona does not hold tryouts. They don’t work, says Alexanco. Charged with finding the talent are the ojeadores, the scouts. The players they pick come in for trials before they are invited to join the cantera.
Barcelona employs 25 scouts throughout Spain, with at least one in each province. They convene twice a year at Barcelona, where the bosses reiterate the criteria and quality they’re seeking in players.
Barcelona also works with about 30 youth clubs throughout Catalonia, with the aim of finding players from the province it prides itself on representing, and it uses contacts throughout the world to find players.
“You have to have eyes everywhere,” Alexanco says. “You need to see the kids who are playing soccer on the playground.
“We’re looking for players who have technique and speed, and who look like players. And we’re looking for players who offer something different.”
I think the main point in above is: “Choosing the right players for its youth program is the key to its success.”
They choose smart, technically skilled, tactically intelligent, quick thinking players. Those players best fit into tiki-taka system.