By Tim Bradbury, Director of Coaching Instruction, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
I teach lots of courses each year. I also speak and present at a good number of parent, club, league and convention meetings.
I would argue that in doing the above, I meet hundreds if not thousands of well-meaning adults involved in the game. People who seem to have the best interests of the youth game at heart. Certainly the groups I meet with can be considered important players in the arena of youth soccer development. I stress the “seem” because certain facts just don't add up.
At a rather large league meeting recently where there was heated debate conceding the new US Soccer initiatives on small sided games etc., I asked all present to write down all the things they had done in the last year to change the trend in youth soccer where 70% of our players leave the sport by 13 years of age. Not surprisingly, none present had done anything to impact this issue. I also asked in the same meeting how many present had done the US Soccer F (a two-hour online course) license or any other course in the last 12 months…again, the disturbing answer was zero.
The issue I struggled with being a simple chap who sees things as black and white is how do good people in charge of the game continue to do nothing to change it (even though they know it's broken).
I have also taught three E licenses in the last month. Each course was full of enthusiastic and well-meaning coaches who it seemed were eager to do the best for their players. In each of these courses after establishing that all are aware of the number of players leaving the game and the curse of the car ride home, I asked the group two simple questions
1. How many of you actively attempt to educate parents?
2. How many of you have downloaded and read player development curriculum from US Soccer or the US Youth Soccer Association in the last 12 months?
Disturbingly, the vast majority answer was no to both of the above. How can this be? How can the most motivated coaches fail to do major fundamental things to help their players?
The contradictions grow deeper and more disturbing when you present the new best practice guidelines presented by US Soccer in the E license (shown below) to coaches of teams
• 7v7 (6v6 plus GK’s)
• Rotate positions, including GK’s
• 2x25 minutes; free subs
• Size 4 ball
• Maximum of 20 games/year
• No league standings
• Practice: 90 minutes maximum
• 2-3 practices per 1 match
• Training and games that are free flowing
• An environment that is coach guided, not directed.
• Emphasis on technique, always related to a game context. (application)
• Player-centered environment at all times
• 9v9 (including GK’s)
• Size 4 ball
• Maximum of 30 games/year
• No tournaments in round-robin format
• No Regional, State Competition
• Practice: 90 minutes (3 x week)
• Problem solving games up to 7v7
• Focus on learning the principles of play
• Begin to integrate positional roles
• Cooperation in functional groups.
• Attacking and defending roles.
• Recognize numbers up, down and even and appropriate decision based on each scenario.
• Emphasis on skill as application of technique in a specific game context
How can we have best practice guidelines designed by experts in the game and youth development that the majority of our youth teams come absolutely nowhere near meeting? It is not enough to simply dismiss the documents as being unrealistic - they are not! They are founded as are the new initiatives on good ideas and sound teaching principles. How then can they all be ignored?
My parents taught me that you have to act , that you must take full responsibility for any role that you take on and do your very best to do the job to the best of your abilities, turning over every stone to get the job done.
We need at the start of the New Year to have all involved in the game renew their efforts and desire to do all they can. It is not enough to simply take the title, to become a “board member," “head coach," “DOC," “President of a Club," when you take on these roles, you also take on the full range of jobs and responsibilities that come with the title. I encourage you all to take on these roles with great pride and turn over every stone as you constantly search for ways to improve the knowledge you have to get the job that comes with the title done in the best possible way.