Why wouldn’t it fly with American parents? I believe, that if I were to start a club, that this would be the only way to properly run a club. In the United States, we currently have very little standards for our soccer clubs other than that the families must have enough money in the bank for the check to clear. We don’t have a system currently in place where a player must graduate from one level to the next. This isn’t grade school, where a player actually has to perform to move on. Yet we pass kids onto the next age group just because of their chronological age and not their soccer age.
Imagine the development path where all competition was in house and everything was about the player and the ball. Imagine a club where a player must be in the youth academy for three years before making it to a team. Would parents trust the process? Or would they abandon ship to another club where they were given a roster spot on a team that travels all over the country for tournaments and competition?
In the United States everything is sped up in terms of player development. This is in large part due to the fact that the primary goal of youth soccer players and parents is to play in college. Playing soccer in college is a great accomplishment, but it shouldn’t be the end game. Why? Studies have shown that a soccer player reaches their prime from the ages of 24-27. Most college soccer careers are over by the age of 22 or 23 and they don’t have a realistic pathway to continue their careers with professional teams, especially not in the United States when it comes to the womens side.
The fact that college soccer is the primary goal for most athletes is what ruins a players development. Players are thrown into national competitions by the age of twelve and thirteen where they are expected to play a brand of soccer tactically that they are incapable of playing technically. The players often times never learned the confidence on the ball necessary to play at a world class level, yet they are expected to have the same game awareness and decision making as a world class player that is ten to fifteen years older than them. Chalk that one up to the coaches. Where coaches will spend hours studying the training sessions of Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp and install that into their next weeks training, with their U12 team. It doesn’t add up. Again, we are expecting the game to look like a Champions League game from our twelve and thirteen year olds.
So again, why couldn’t we be more patient when it comes to player development? Why couldn’t the players have to go through a rigorous training program before entering competition? Is it FOMO (fear of missing out)? Fear of falling behind? Fear that if you don’t get in the club early enough that you’ll never make it? The reality is, none of those fears exist in the realities of youth soccer at the highest level. If you were to go around looking at the top twenty girls U17 ECNL & Development Academy teams in the country, or the top twenty boys U18 Development Academy teams, you’d find that less than a quarter of those rosters feature players that were in that same club when they were nine or ten years old. A previous DA club that I coached for recently posted that there were only four players that went cradle to grave with the team (U9-U18). Which means, players come later. Players that wait to go to the big clubs until the ages of thirteen to sixteen, are better off. Now knowing this, would you be more patient? Would you not care about that “big” U11 tournament coming up?
If your organization, club, or league, proposed that you must go through a two or three year training period with a technical coach from the club, before playing in a league or traveling to a tournament, would you sign up? Has anyone ever seen this type of development before? The closest thing I’ve seen to it was a club in Michigan, where they formed teams at six years old and would play them in the U8 or U9 brackets. They would clearly get demolished, but the parents saw the plan. The following year when the players were seven years old, they competed, but still lost nearly all of their games by wide margins. By the third year, when they were playing their appropriate age groups, they were steamrolling everyone. This wouldn’t have happened if the players and parents didn’t understand the reasoning. Could this be the right way to do things? As the great developer of soccer talent in the world Tom Byer always says, “Soccer Starts At Home.” Which means we must get players to start playing at a younger age. That doesn’t mean in leagues. That doesn’t mean in tournaments. If I were to ask parents, would you be willing to sacrifice games for the first two or three years of your soccer players career, would you do it? I’d love to hear the answers and thoughts on this. Email me at PlayMakerTraining13@gmail.com