Sunday, April 24, 2011

USSF sets up plan for building future

From the Evansville Courier Press, April 24, 2011

The United States Soccer Federation has a firm handle on the future of soccer in our country, and it is by focusing on player development in the 5-year old to 12-year old age groups.

USSF officials, led by Youth Technical Director and former national team captain Claudio Reyna, unveiled a new curriculum for coaches of players ages 5-12 this week at the Nike International Headquarters in Beaverton, Ore. It deals with the focus, motivation and direction of the youth coaches at some of the top clubs in the world.

Mike Woitalla of Soccer America wrote about the "age-appropriate roadmap."

"The coaches were guiding the training," Reyna said. "They were not controlling. They weren't on top of the kids. They were not stopping the play for every mistake. None of them yelled. The only time they barked was when kids were screwing around. That's when they said, 'Hey, cut it out!' And boom, the intensity went back up."

It's important, Reyna says, to avoid the temptation to focus on mistakes.

"When you first start coaching young players, you see so many things, because, yes, they make mistakes, and if you see a lot of mistakes you want to correct a lot of mistakes. But these coaches were really letting the kids learn the game."

Reyna was struck by the humility of the youth coaches at the pro clubs.

"Very humble. Devoted to their jobs. I got to speak to so many coaches and it was almost when I asked them things they were embarrassed to talk about it. They'd say things like, 'We're a part of something else. The kids are students. We're their teachers. We have to do this job, then we pass them on to the next coach and he does his job, and I get the next group in.'

"It was very, very powerful to see these guys who were working behind the scenes. They don't get any credit, no one knows who they are, and for me they were fantastic coaches."

During games, Reyna observed that "at the best places the youth coaches are sitting down. And if they get up to give instructions, they sit right back down.

"When the game is going on, all the coaches should just sit down. I think if you ask any player at the youth level, if the coach is on the sidelines standing, it brings tension. You can sense it."

Coaches at the foreign pro clubs Reyna observed are judged by how many players end up reaching the highest level. And that's what Reyna says should be the measure for American youth coaches.

"For me, it's irrelevant if coaches win state cups, regional cups, national cups," he says. "We get a lot of resumes — I don't mean people shouldn't put that in their resumes — but how many trophies they have in their cabinet isn't important to me. It's about the kids, it's not about you. We care about how many players you develop rather than how many trophies you win.

"What is the plan you have? What is your style of play? What's your philosophy? What do you teach them? What do you do with your staff? If you don't address that, then what are you doing? Going from week-to-week trying to win games?"

Key components of this curriculum included:

Style & Principles of Play, concept and coaching guidelines, age group organization, and planning and training;

Concepts & Coaching Guidelines, philosophies, content, an organization;

Age Group organization- age, appropriate training and practice plans;

Planning and training, structure of sessions.

I was glad to see that there is a focus on taking risks, knowing that soccer is an error-prone sport. It is important that players (and parents) understand that mistakes are part of the game and learning process.

The entire curriculum can be downloaded on the US Soccer website at

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