Will changing to calendar year help US Soccer?
It's the development structure that matters.
This year U.S. Soccer will begin to transition on two key factors to encourage further youth development. The first change will be the nationwide adoption of Small-Sided Games and the second will be a shift from school-year to calendar year for the age grouping of teams.
"With these initiatives, we’re more likely to have players better prepared down the road," said Tab Ramos, U.S. Youth Technical Director and U-20 Men’s National Team head coach. "With small-sided standards, what we're trying to do is to help players develop by putting them in an environment where they are constantly involved in the play, and our changes in birth-year registration will make age groups easier to understand, while aligning our calendar with the international calendar."
It's great that U.S. Soccer are making moves regarding soccer development. Practice90 would like U.S. Soccer to be more assertive on a more important topic - A DEVELOPMENT PLAN! Stop putting all of your attention on the 'Elite' players. You created the age change to coincide with international soccer. How many youngsters in the USA will get to this level?
U.S Soccer has a curriculum on development that is posted on their website. How many clubs know about this? How many club board members or Technical Directors know that this document exists but refuse to implement it into their club? Forget banning heading or changing to the yearly calendar. This is the biggest problem with soccer in the USA. Nobody follows a structure. The majority of clubs in the USA have coaching staff that run teams 'their own way'. How many parent groups have got the coach fired? Why does this happen? Is the Technical Director not aware of problems between the coaching staff or the parent group? Not many Technical Directors mentor their coaching staff. Imagine if our school teachers taught this way? It would be like a child going from 1st grade to 5th grade and then back to 2nd grade. The coaching staff are not on the same page. One coach may be advancing the group and then they are passed to a coach who is not as knowledgeable as the last coach and the group takes a step backwards. All clubs in the USA post on their websites that they have a plan. Have you ever seen that plan? Do the coaches of your club get told about the plan?
We are not failing at the international level because we have an August 1 cutoff date…We are failing because we are not developing our players at grass roots level. P90 travelled to a few clubs and we have yet to see a club that implements a plan on developing a soccer player. We offered these clubs free advice and a chance to use our own P90 blueprint. All the clubs refused!
The overwhelming majority of players in USA are not elite, despite what their team name or website says. 20 percent of all U.S. 6-year-olds play soccer, but by age 12 that is down to 13 percent. This is because they are given poor service. Think of it this way; It does not really matter whether you change the age or not. If a club does not have a development structure in place, then the players are the ones who suffer and the club does not progress. We are now seeing organizations voice it's concerns about the changes to the calendar year by posting statements to it's members, we are seeing websites that have petitions that you can sign that are against these changes. Stirring the pot is not going to help matters. This is another reason why soccer in the USA is broken. Different governing bodies who are ran on ego's and not ethics. Practice90 has reached out to U.S. Soccer about 12 times. We have told them we will travel the country implementing their development plan. We got one response...."We are not currently looking for staff members to educate our clubs. We utilize a group of technical advisors in major markets." We have been around soccer in the USA for a long time and we have never met anyone who has made contact with these 'Technical advisors'. Why are U.S. Soccer not looking for staff to educate soccer clubs?
Why can't the U.S. Soccer Federation implement a plan? If club Technical Directors are willing to follow the plan and teach their coaching staff then those clubs should be an approved US Soccer development club. It should not be given the recognition until they follow the rules of U.S. Soccer. With ECNL for girls and USDA for boys it seems like some states are jumpimg ahead of themselves. Trying to get one over on another club by aquiring these options for your players. Has anyone ever took a step back and asked, "Is this the best thing for our club?" In some Technical Directors eyes, this is what defines them. This is how they stroke their egos. It's all about the winning! Winning does matter. But there is a way to go about being successful. Developing and winning can be achieved if done properly. There is a lack of variety in our practice sessions and this leads to the player feeling incompetent which leads to the player dropping out of soccer. Youth soccer in the U.S. is by far too competitive and this is no doubt a big contributing factor in holding back development in America. It is causing more drop-outs from the game than in any other country, as its structure is not child-like. Children are forced to play like adults. Their vital needs are not respected at all (This can also be said about baseball and football).
The Beautiful Game is not just about winning. It is about using soccer as an important tool to form the character of a young person, and transmit important life skills to develop future citizens of the USA. This unfortunately doesn’t happen when young people are forced to play a kind of soccer for which they are not yet ready. They are forced to play in an environment that instills win at all cost. We need to coach performance and not results. We see it all the time at the soccer fields. A team wins and parents and coach's are happy. The team loses and hese people are upset. But how did the players perform? Did they give it their best effort? Was the other team just too good on the day?
Our mission for the last 5 years has been to create a model of development which will give all young players the chance to reach their full potential in the game of soccer, whatever that may be. We have created a model that will not only give each child a chance to develop optimally, but one that is also fair to everyone so that no talent goes to waste and everyone involved in the game has a positive contribution to make. Every player, whether it's Ronaldo or Messi has at one point been involved in grass roots soccer. We do not want to discount this part of development and just jump to elite level. We have to build from the foundation up.
The P90 blueprint and the U. S. Soccer development plan helps coaches understand what is needed when it comes to developing a soccer player. The challenge for U.S. Soccer is to get coaches out of their old habits and become a 'Modern Coach'. If U.S. Soccer implements a plan and rewards the soccer clubs that follow their plan then this will benefit soccer in the USA. Each club that follows the plan will have the U.S. Soccer logo on the sleeve of their game / practice shirt stating they are a U.S. Soccer ' Foundation club'. U.S. Soccer needs to be in touch more with grass roots soccer as well as 'Elite' soccer. This is an easy fix. The hard part is to get the staff who have the enthusiasm and knowledge to teach the development plan to the clubs technical directors and then monitor all those clubs that have agreed to the plan. P90 believes it can be done. Do not expect the USMNT to get anywhere near a World Cup final with the current plan. It's time for more actions instead of words.