The major problem with player development in US Soccer

 

THE US SOCCER MODEL IS BROKEN. AS THE FOCUSE IS ON IMMEDIATE GAINS WHEN IT COMES TO YOUTH SOCCER, INSTEAD OF ACTUALLY TAKING THE TIME TO INVEST IN EACH PLAYER FOR THE LONG-TERM.

 

 

Soccer has exploded in popularity in the states, even making its way down south to regions dominated by the more American variety of football. Part of the increasing popularity is no doubt due to the intrinsic simplicity of the sport.

Some mention that soccer is played often but not taken very seriously at the youth level, but this counteracts the fact that soccer parents across the nation are investing thousands of dollars each year for their kids to play at the top level. They spend more money on their children’s soccer experience than any other country in the world. Yet, this is not translating into effective soccer players feeding into a thriving professional league and national team.

The top development-focused clubs would be able to hire better coaches, improve their facilities, and enhance their entire organization. Soccer isn’t meant to be played harder. It has to be played smarter. And coaches in American youth soccer have no idea how to coach the finer points of technical skills. Smooth touches and correct positioning are ignored because the coaches lack the required knowledge to teach them.

The countries emphasis on winning is extremely damaging to player development at a young age. Instead of encouraging teams to pass the ball around, taking risks to beat defenders, and pushing the limits of their abilities everyday, coaches resort to preaching “kick and run” (kicking the ball upfield and chasing it down, relying on the other team to make a mistake).

A pass to keep possession increases the chances of a mistake being made by the passer and the receiver of the ball, since a teammate is a much smaller target than “up-the-field”. Taking on an opponent with a new skill move or testing out a new creative deceptive touch also increases the chances of a mistake being made. These mistakes can lead to giving up goals and losing matches, which in turn leads to frustration and uncertainty in a team that doesn’t understand and live by long-term player development.

The “kick and run” style of play significantly reduces the contact that each player gets with the ball while benefitting players that are, at the time, more physically developed. While it may help win games at the youth level, it does not stand a chance at the professional level.

The alternative to “kick and run” is possession and total football – the kind of game that you see Barcelona and Germany beautifully master on the pitch. This playing style requires specific skills that must be developed at a young age.

Clubs should start focusing on the long-term development of players into well-rounded, savvy, technical, and effective footballers and nurturing the proper habits and skills that will benefit them later in their careers. Registration costs would go down and scholarships would go up allowing lower-income players to participate. The level of soccer in the US would rise as the next generation of players start playing professionally

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