Our Biggest Struggle

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Lifelong player and student of the beautiful game in Germany, England, and USA. Volunteer futsal coach and USSF referee.

8 thoughts on “Our Biggest Struggle

  1. Yes, agree fully. It’s actually too depressing to apply this to youth soccer for all the reasons you are familiar with. Here’s the concrete application: Without blowing up Zelalem too much, he is exactly the type of player (but maybe it’s not him, we can’t know for 5 more years) we’re talking about–can dribble, good on the ball, calm, patient. This is excellent for a possession-oriented team like Arsenal or Barca where you need someone to hold possession, recycle, send through balls. But will Klinsmann use him over some bigger, sturdier midfielder like Bradley, when we’re more of a counterattacking side? With a #10, you have to direct your attack through him, you have to care about possession, you have to want to camp in the attacking 3rd against teams parking the bus, and still succeed. The USMNT is ill-equipped now to do that. Change is coming, with smaller, more skilled players in the funnel (Pulisic, Hyndman et al). Will JK be able to transition? Has a country been able to do that without a handful of world class players to support that transition?

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    • I agree with you. There is only so much a coach can do with a given player pool. It starts at the youth development level and can take a decade or more to bear fruit. Pulisic is true world-class talent from what I can see. Let’s hope he keeps developing.

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  2. I agree with your statement that the root cause is lack of understanding on soccer.
    However, I don’t think a person has to understand soccer fully to know the right way to teach a kid.
    I would phrase it as lack of interest in soccer.

    I grew up in Asian culture where playing sports was highly discouraged if you are a good student.
    So I never had chance to play nor to watch game because it was considered as waste of time.

    It all started when I decided to use soccer teach my son (will be 10 this year) life lessons, learning to focus, hard work ethic and playing with other kids. Then I was hooked, and kept learning/researching.

    Previous post was my conclusion.

    How do we change the culture? I think it will take time and lots of luck.

    1. concussion issue in football will cause many parents to shift from playing football to something else.
    Soccer will benefit getting more kids. but it will take a long time before having impact, if any.

    2. we need one superstar that can ignite interest in soccer. For me, it was my son making me interested in soccer.
    But for entire nation of Korea, it was Park Ji Sung. Just one person who made into the premier league inspired everyone.
    The culture that looked down upon professional sports players is almost gone now (over 30 year period).

    We need someone like Jordan, Curry and Messi (more relatable version).

    Practically in the Bayarea, I think like-minded parents and coaches need to get together somehow.
    Create a club where coaches can develop kids instead of trying to win all the time.

    If parents and coaches stick together and eventually produce top quality U16 and above teams, it could change the course.
    It’s going to be very difficult though.

    If somehow my son becomes top tier player because of this new club (far from it currently), do I really want to stay or do I want to move him to a club with DA so that he gets recruiting exposure? It’s a hard call to make as a parent.

    For now, I think everyone is looking out for themselves.

    Clubs will fill the top team with scholarship players that can win games, ignorant parents will happily brag about winning State Cup (5th tier bracket) and coaches will train kids to win games. Parents who understand the game will break bank to survive in this env by doing extra training.

    Luckily, I found a coach who makes living (or trying to make living) by providing technical training and small sided games only.
    I see enough kids and parents attending his sessions, but compare to club training on the next field, it’s way to small.

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  3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Daniel. I agree with you. I am wondering if we can change what parents look for though – if parents recognize the importance of development over winning then they will select coaches and clubs that do it right even if it costs money. The root cause is a fundamental lack of understanding of soccer and what it means to play well.

    Coaches and clubs are held hostage to this because they need to make a living from coaching. Some coaches and clubs do this intentionally, of course, to milk naive parents – these coaches and clubs don’t care about true longer-term player development. But I don’t think those are the majority – it’s just that they are stuck between making a living this week, this month, this year and player development that might not show results many years down the road. And if too many parents are ignorant then what is a coach to do…

    Also, I wrote a couple of posts on the lack of street soccer culture and its impact on player development: http://sfbayareasoccerdad.com/2015/11/06/the-massive-impact-of-a-weak-soccer-culture-and-low-population-density/ and http://sfbayareasoccerdad.com/2015/11/16/lets-do-soccer-a-massive-favor/.

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  4. With the pay to play model, I don’t think we can fundamentally change how kids are trained in the club env. The clubs need to win in order to attract more players so that other things are paid for.

    Also in US, we don’t typically allow unsupervised outside play time so there is no street soccer culture. I don’t see this changing anytime soon. As a parent new to soccer culture, it seems to me the only way is to invest even more in training outside the club env.

    For those who see the current limitations will have private/semi-private training which cost even more to play. Also, you need coaches who are willing to focus on technical training without worrying about the team winning and still make enough for living.

    I say odds are stacked against US producing our own #10.

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  5. Great article – and so true, at least form my perspective…here is what i have seen:
    1. Coach at U8 wants to win
    2. Coach puts best players in all the time – no bench time, and no/minimal discipline
    3. Kid is not allowed to be creative and make mistakes. Instead he becomes fully aware that the outcome of every game hinges mostly on his play. This is at the age of 8/9!
    4. Feeling pressure to succeed, and win and not let his teammates and the parents on the sideline down, the kid plays hard but repetitive soccer, with no risk taking or creativity.
    5. The team wins – a lot. But the kids growth as a soccer player is stunted.

    That kid then gets to 11v11 and struggles with the basics of seeing the field, accurate passing, moving to space, etc. His or her development has probably been delayed by 2-3 years, if not forever, due to the pressure to “perform” and win.

    Outcome…as you point out, a general dearth of elite level soccer players, #10 or otherwise!

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