Saturday, February 13, 2010

US Soccer Development Academy - Changing the Face of US Soccer

The US Soccer Federation changed the face of youth soccer in our country when they created the US Soccer Development Academy.

Many (including myself) will tell you that it has changed youth soccer in our country for the better, although there are still some critics, too.

3 FOUR 3 referenced the good, the bad, and the ugly of the Development Academy-

The Academy is a step in the right direction. There is a laundry list of things that are correct – many of which have been mentioned within the soccer community.

The Good

* A unified national league.
* Virtually year-round.
* Extra day of training.
* Level competition.
* MLS teams involved.
* Better logistics for scouts.
* Phasing out of high-school.
* Abolishing crazy tournament schedules.
* Training is taken more seriously.
* … and other things

The Bad (but fixable with time)

* Pay-to-play persists which filters out a HUGE number of talent from the pool.
* Club interests are not aligned with “development”. There’s no incentive to “develop” a player.
* No clear accountability metric(s) that are aligned with “development”.
* … and other things

The Ugly

The ugly, and unrecognized, monster which will keep the spirit of the Academy from fulfilling it’s promise is coaching. First, let’s be clear what development at the U-16 & U-18 level is all about – Soccer IQ.

It’s not about improving technique. If by U-16 a player does not have great quality on the ball, there’s nothing a coach can do. It’s up to the individual to spend hours upon hours, 7 days a week to catch up to his peers. It’s also not about the list of good things above. Those things only provide an improved infrastructure.

Developing a player at this age is all about programming his computer. Tactical structure, positional roles, correct decision-making, and vision. These are the things that develop you, and this is where 9 out of 10 coaches in this country fall flat on their face! This is the nationwide crisis at all levels.

If the coaches themselves don’t have a developed Soccer IQ, how are they supposed to give proper instruction? And of the small minority who might actually have it, they also need to be a capable teacher/trainer to transmit whatever understanding they have.

Without the right teachers, you will never get developed players.

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