"motivation to succeed is far more powerful than simply being ‘dedicated’ to the sport"
I have been searching this week for something different to blog about, and this topic came to the forefront of my mind after my experiences this weekend at a big tournament. There are so many negative factors affecting our youth players , and I thought It would help myself if I would just share my opinions instead of bottling up the frustrations of what I've unfortunately witnessed recently.
There are many people that believe they have the answer to US Youth soccers' multitude of problems. But, yet we are still seeing massively evident holes in the grass roots system that are negatively effecting the development rate of our players.
I won't go crazy with the in-depth pinpointing of every negative trait I have seen, otherwise that defeats the purpose of the message I am trying to get across. I am just going to point out some of the glaring errors that I feel are seriously holding back the developmental phase of our youth club players.
This weekend I witnessed a warm-up in which I saw the coach pull all 13 of his players to the 18 yard box. He sent the lone goalkeeper to the goal, each player had a ball, and you can only guess what came next? Exactly.. "3...2...1. shoot". One by one..by one, each girl touched their bad forward into the box, and rifled shots at the helpless, and quite bemused goalkeeper. At first, I genuinely thought it was a joke, until they reloaded the balls for the fourth and final time. The keeper saved 1.. out of 12 during round 1 and none within the rest.. which one did the keeper save? the first one, of course.
I sat there and I just thought, there are seriously SO many other activities the team could've been doing, so why this? I still haven't come to the conclusion why. All i could think of (amongst other things) was - what a way to kill off your keepers confidence within minutes of the game starting? It is things that we see like this, and it makes you wonder, where is the functionality behind the activity? What is the purpose? What are we trying to achieve? Ultimately, what is your teams focus and direction?
Secondly, I can vouch for myself when I say I truly barely get involved with referees in our games, and I didn't this weekend, apart from when I simply had to.
The standard of it within the United States, (not just at youth level either) is really quite poor. Why do these referees show up to a major tournament without any knowledge of the indirect free-kick? Why don't they know if heading is allowed at the game they are officiating? How do they not know how long the half-length of the game is? Why don't they keep up with play? (I say this because its the majority, not the minority). As a qualified level 7 referee myself, I question what system US Soccer has in place for referee education at the lower levels? I wonder if the testing is too easy, or is the content knowledge just 'skimmed' over instead of truly detailed? Either way, I'd love to hear from someone who has recently took the testing in the states to share their experience and answers from the course.
I witnessed a goal get disallowed this weekend for a rule that was apparently known by a coach, but not by the center official. The aftermath reached the point where both coaches, and the 2 officials had their phones out at the side of the field, coming to a conclusion to the rule? Quite frankly, it's a little embarrassing for the spectators, and the kids certainly lose respect when they see that sort of unorganized chaos during the game.
Here we go... As a coach of players older than u10 at competitive level, I am sadly finding myself believing that I need to spend a full coaching week on teaching my players how to properly throw the ball in to play. I can honestly say, I can watch any game, right up to u15 level in US Youth soccer, and I can almost guarantee there will be at least 1 foul throw per game. In the u12 and below? Closer to a dozen! It actually reaches a point where the referee's don't call them because if they did, we'd be playing until the next day with all the stoppages.
We have our kids not throwing correctly, we have them lifting their feet, we have them running onto the field with the ball still in their hands. It's a small part of the big-picture within the game, but as coaches, we've got to start laying the foundations of fixing it.
Why is this such an issue? One of the most basic parts of the game, that can be effective if used properly, is becoming more and more of a nuisance and disruption to game-flow. Is this another potential issue that needs fixing at the game-introductory level? I would say 100% so. We must begin including skills like the throw-in into our recreation level soccer curriculums (if they weren't there already).
I could reel off another group of items on my list, but I'll wrap things up on this note. All of the above are controllable factors by us, the coaches, the officials, the people who are trying to make US Youth soccer respectable world-wide. We must try harder as a collective asset to US Youth soccer to try and create a level of play that is envied, and applauded. Our 4-8 year old coaches must be emphasizing the comforts of the ball, and the basic rules of the game. Our better coaches should be at the younger levels, so our standards can be raised, and what we teach can be concise. Our education system for our officials must be more rigorous, it just must. We can't beat about the bush, as there are simply so many complaints from college soccer, all the way to youth level regarding the knowledge of those who technically have 'the most control' of our beautiful game.