Two vital reads today …

At SoccerWire, RSD podcast guest Charles Boehm chats with U.S. Soccer Director of Coaching Education Programs Frank Tschan and Manager of Coaching Education Dan Russell about coaching education and rondos.

One comment from Russell about the former, specifically whether the Federation can reach everyone:

It’s not just U.S. Soccer, it’s not just those within these walls, it’s coaching education reaching out to our state associations, reaching out to US Club, US Youth, United Soccer Coaches, to be a part of this program, this movement as we like to refer to it, to offer more grassroots education opportunities, get more people into the pathway and offer them opportunities to progress within the pathway.

The answer here seems obvious. If U.S. Soccer can’t reach everyone, then maybe it needs to give more respect to training programs from United Soccer Coaches and AYSO.

On the “war on rondos,” something Charlie has already addressed, Tschan gives an answer that’s far too long to quote. I’ll attempt to summarize and translate:

Holistic grassroots environment directional purpose

But he did not say “leverage our core competencies” or “monetize our assets,” at least.

To try a bit more seriously, it appears Tschan is saying pro coaches could maybe use things that grassroots coaches shouldn’t. And grassroots coaches need to listen up and do “reality-based” exercises that include going in a direction.

Objections:

  1. At the littlest level, we’re trying to get players to touch the ball. Period. For years, we’ve been taught games that just encourage kids to dribble — ideally with different surfaces of the feet, with changes of direction and with their heads up. That’s fine, at least to a point. And no one told us they all had to be dribbling in one direction.
  2. We did, though, stick with “one player, one ball” a bit too long, thinking little kids can never pass the ball. Then we’re surprised when we see a bunch of U12s who have no first touch and can’t receive the ball to save their lives. (How was your Memorial Day tournament?)
  3. Playing the ball backwards to an open teammate is “reality-based.” I doubt a lot of people watching U10 soccer in the USA think, “Gee, these kids really need to spend more effort passing the ball forward.”

It’s one thing to point out that you might not want to do rondos to the exclusion of everything else. You really don’t want to do anything to the exclusion of everything else. The U12s who can’t receive a pass also can’t shoot or play a long pass to switch the point of attack. If you spend the first six years of player development dribbling and juggling, you’ll have a bunch of kids who can dribble and juggle, but they can’t play soccer.

With that rant over, let’s switch to another problem that isn’t directly related but also demonstrates what can happen when youth soccer is in the hands of stubborn bureaucrats — the sobering overemphasis on academy recruitment in England. From When Saturday Comes:

The academy of a current Premier League club – renowned for bringing young “local” boys through their system – used [a loophole] to bring in players from distances of 120 miles away. This meant two-hour round trips just for training on school nights, four-hour round journeys for children for “home” matches and longer for away games.

Aside from the travelling involved, many young hopefuls don’t realise that academies only really pinpoint one or two players from each cohort that are likely to make the grade but they need a team of other players around them. As such, the attrition rate for academy players is eye-watering, with less than one per cent becoming professional players. …

[T]here are more serious consequences – a research study carried out by Teesside University in 2015 found that over half of the players released were suffering “psychological distress”. There have been stories of players committing suicide and others turning to drug dealing after being dropped from academies.

As with the rondos, perhaps letting kids see there’s more one direction to go isn’t a bad thing.

3 thoughts on “Stubborn arrogance, bureaucracy and youth soccer in the USA and England

  1. Before you even embark on a deeper meaning from Dan Russell’s opening quote regarding Grassroots maybe he should understand the US Soccer market. #1 State Associations’ is USYS (there are 55 of them). AYSO is a member of US Soccer as is SAY (Doug Wood ED) and USSSA (Craig Scriven, ED). Before anything getting into the habit of knowing your clients, who they are, respect them but identifying them.

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