In the job of Director of Coaching for South Carolina Youth Soccer I am privileged and honored to be able to travel to every nook and cranny of South Carolina. The experience of meeting people that represent all walks of life is a blessing. I do my utmost to take away a lesson or a bit of information from each encounter. On these journeys I tend to ask a lot of questions to gauge the pulse of the local soccer scene. Answers vary from the simple to the complex and from the general to the detailed. One reoccurring thread over the past 2 years is how to gain more exposure for our players on the national level. I know we have players worthy of our US Soccer Youth National Teams. Truthfully at least six players in the past decade have represented South Carolina Youth Soccer in one of the various US Soccer Youth National Team pools. We have recently made some very positive strides in providing our players the opportunity to get in front of a US Soccer National Team Coach and a US Soccer National Team Scout.
US Soccer along with South Carolina Youth Soccer and hosting club West Metro Soccer Club held a US Soccer Market Training Center (USSMTC) for 26 of the top boys in the 1999 and 2000 year age groups. The USSMTC was held in West Columbia on Monday, June 3 from 6:30pm – 8:30pm and featured players from across South Carolina. Players must be invited by US Soccer to attend this event. What is a Market Training Center? Without getting into too much detail, a Market Training Center is when US Soccer targets a specific geographical area and a specific gender and age group to evaluate and see if any of the players are ready to be a part of the US Soccer Youth National Teams programs. In this instance Juan Carlos Michia, the assistant coach for the U14 Men’s National Team ran the training along with assistance from goalkeeper coach John Murphy and myself. Coach Murphy is the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at Anderson University and a valued member of the SCYS Boys ODP staff.
The training and activities that the players participated in comes directly from the curriculum used for the most recent U14 National Team training camp. The activities were all very simple and focused on basic technique and simple tactics while playing at speed and under pressure. Coach Michia made the players aware from the start that he was in Columbia, South Carolina to find players for the US Soccer U14s Men’s National Team program. Talk about setting the tone! You could see the players’ expressions turn from this is “pretty cool to HOLY COW!” and they thought trying out for their club team was stressful!
What followed was some very hurried, uptight and awkward play from all in attendance. After a short time, we were able to get the players to settle down. Eventually, the play improved to a good level. The evening opened with a warm up of dynamic movement and technique followed by some passing activities. Later we went into some possession type activities and finished the evening off by playing three 15 minute full size matches.
At the end, a total of five players were identified and have been placed into US Soccer’s national player data base for future tracking and possible invitations to National Training Centers. Coach Michia was impressed and he would like to have a USSMTC in South Carolina every 3-4 months. The more training centers we can hold the more comfortable our players will become in taking part and will better our chances of having South Carolina players selected for the youth national teams.
As the Director of Coaching, I took from this event, that as a state, we are still a bit behind in terms of overall player development. Our clubs need to continue to improve the quality of training that is being offered to the players from the recreational to the challenge level. Our Club leadership needs to fight the urge to always place the “best coaches” with older teams and players. These coaches should be working with our younger players and setting standards of excellence for them to achieve technically, tactically, physically and psychosocially. This is how coaches can have a positive impact on all levels of play across the state, the region and the nation. In the meantime, SCYS will continue to try and bring the US Soccer Market Training Centers back to South Carolina. We will do our part to continue to promote the players of South Carolina. SCYS asks that coaches play your part and develop players that are worthy of being recognized at the national level.
Please feel free to email me with comments, questions or suggestions for the blog. Gvallee@scysa.org
It’s the most wonderful time of the year for the competitive soccer players and their families across the state. What time would that be? Its tryout time of course! Billboards appear all over the state luring you to try out for one Club or another. Fliers and mailers are sent to you full of promises of playing fields anew with the best coaching and training you’ve ever had. Recruiting is in full swing from parents, coaches and players alike trying to piece together the next super team to dominate the state regardless of age group. We are here to provide you some simple yet often over looked guidelines/suggestions to the few people that actually read this blog.
Let’s deal with some of the realities. First, all teams will eventually break up. The group of players that have been together since U6 and have only lost 2 games in the past 6 years will eventually mutate into a different team all together. This change is more heartbreaking for the parents than the players. Usually with a little counseling and a hug the parents can move on and survive the trauma.
Why do players leave such a team? Maybe the player isn’t being challenged anymore and is ready for a higher level. It could be that they are looking for a new coach, different club and environment or they don’t want to play anymore. The player could also be unhappy and think the grass is greener across town. Regardless of the reason, we simply ask that parents remember that your player should be at the center of the decision making process. It is always helpful to ask the player directly what their desires and concerns are before making any decisions. The player is the one that will need to deal with any changes.
Some things to consider during try outs:
• What is the philosophy of the club and more importantly do they actually stick to it or abandon it at the first sight of medals and trophies?
• How many teams are in the age group that your player is trying out for?
• How many players are rostered per team?
• What level of competition do the teams play?
• What is the licensing level of the coach?
• Is the coach actually successful at developing players and making them better?
o Side note here, player development should never stop, no matter what the level!
• How many nights a week does the team train and do they offer specialized training?
• How many games will the team play per season and is it conducive to player development?
• How much travel is involved?
• What is the cost of the club per season including uniforms and team fees?
There are thousands of variations to the questions above and others that are not even listed. Be sure to do your homework on the organization, the coach and the team before starting this process. Remember that a wonderful and sometimes drastically different picture is often painted during this time of the year. It is only later that you find out how quickly that picture fades away once the deposits are put down. Please keep things in perspective as to what the player wants and make the best decision possible based off of that. Good luck!
Please feel free to email me with comments, questions or suggestions for the blog. Gvallee@scysa.org.
PARENTS! YOUR KIDS ARE WATCHING! This sign is posted on the fence outside of a little league baseball field somewhere in our great country. The Federal Government should require that this sign or a sign like it be posted on, around, in front of, behind, on top of every athletic field that our young children play on. We wonder why some of our children have behavior issues, poor attitudes or are un-coachable. If you can stomach it then go and spend a weekend watching the parents at a youth athletic event. You will find the answers you are searching for.
This past weekend, April 13 – 14 South Carolina Youth Soccer, along with hosting club Sumter Soccer Club, conducted a very successful Palmetto Academy Cup and Kohl’s Recreational Cup Tournament which included over 100 teams from across the state. The tournament is solely for our U9 through U12 age groups. As the Director of Coaching for South Carolina, my primary purpose at this event is to hand out the awards to the age group champions and finalists. Are there Champions in these age groups? This question will be explored in a future blog along with other youth soccer issues.
While waiting to pass out the awards to the young conquering heroes, I get to walk around, anonymously, and watch our young aspiring players. These children are doing something that they enjoy and that is playing the game of soccer. Unfortunately, what usually catches my eye is not the technical speed in which a player manipulates the ball or the eye of the needle pass that is received in full stride or the thunderous shot that bulges the back of the net. Don’t get me wrong those are all present and all plant a gleaming smile on my face. What caught my eye is the behavior or lack thereof from the parents that are watching. PARENTS! YOUR KIDS ARE WATCHING!
Now before you get too upset, I understand that the majority of parents are not like this and you are to be commended for your unwavering support and positive enthusiasm. My favorite is the mom or dad that heads and kicks the ball with own child prior to the game. Unfortunately there are always one or two malcontents on the sideline that just crush the atmosphere. Yes I understand that we all get caught up in the emotion of the moment and that we only want the very best for our children.
An example of the emotion that is transmitted to those young soccer players on that 65 x 55 yard patch of grass was one father kicking his portable chair no fewer than 5 times during the 1st half of a U9 game. A second example were two parents at a U10 game giving a volunteer field marshal from Sumter Soccer Club an earful about the terrible officiating that was taking place. Several parents during a U9 game were yelling at the opposing coach that her players were too rough and were touching their players too much. Last time I checked soccer is a contact sport. My favorite complaint was about the terrible field conditions that the players were forced to play on during a U9 game which did not allow the ball to bounce off the ground at all. Coincidently, this was the best U9 game that I have watched in a very long time. The players adapted well and were very skillful in their use of the ball and should have been commended for that. I think the parents weren’t able to comprehend that an actual game of soccer was taking place in front of them as the ball stayed on the ground and was used intelligently by these young players. The parents were confused, perplexed even as they were not able to yell “BOOT IT” as much as they usually did. It is disappointing for the parents, they were too busy complaining about the field, something out of their control, that they missed their children overcoming some adversity.
PARENTS! YOUR KIDS ARE WATCHING! As parents we want to be proud of our children in their success on and off the soccer field. We also want to see how our children deal with failure both on and off the field as well. Athleticism, sportsmanship, diligence and compassion for others are a few of the character traits South Carolina Youth Soccer tries to instill in our players. Be sure to remember that during soccer games. Our children are watching us and learning. Let’s make sure that as adults and parents, our actions and emotions on the sidelines during THEIR soccer games make THEM proud.
Please feel free to email me with comments, questions or suggestions for the blog. Gvallee@scysa.org
The title says it all: Director of Coaching Education, Player and Club Development. This is the official title that South Carolina Youth Soccer has bestowed upon the full time position that I currently occupy. There are 54 other professionals that hold the same position across the United States. Each Director has a unique set of geographical, socio-economic and cultural circumstances to master. Although the states and soccer associations are different, we all share a common goal. That goal is to develop and educate young, old, new and experienced coaches, players, families and clubs on how to establish a solid foundation in the fundamental elements of our great game of soccer. This solid foundation will allow for the future success and the continued growth of soccer from the local, to the national and possible global level.
The 55 state soccer associations take our lead in coaching education from the United States Soccer Federation Coaching Education Department. US Soccer has implemented many new changes in the structure, content and delivery of the coaching courses that it offers. Each state association is responsible for delivering US Soccer’s E and D Coaching Licenses as well US Youth Soccer’s Youth Module. South Carolina Youth Soccer held 4 E courses and 3 D courses in January and February of 2013. We held 6 Youth Modules across the state during the same time. When it’s all said and done a total of 236 youth soccer coaches attended a coaching course in 6 weeks in our small state. That’s a phenomenal number. A number we hope continues to grow. As the number of educated coaches in our state grows so too does the possibility of our state developing quality players for the youth national teams and possibly the senior national teams.
Sticking with the Coaching Education theme a bit longer, US Soccer is in the midst of overhauling, upgrading and establishing new standards in their coaching licenses and coaching education department. From the bottom of the coaching education pyramid all the way to the tip US Soccer will be on par with the highest standards and qualities of the top countries in UEFA and in FIFA. Starting in the 2012 US Soccer introduced a new E license curriculum that we have been teaching and have had nothing but positive feedback from the candidates that come through and complete the course. The next course to get an overhaul is the D course. The new D course, which will be introduced in our summer course schedule promises to offer an opportunity for a longer learning period and more interaction with instructors over the length of the course. The length of the course stays the same, 36 hours of overall instruction. The new format will call for an added 8-12 hours of pre-course and during course work assignments. The course will take place over 2 weekends but instead of the weekends being back to back weekends now coaches will be required to wait a minimum of one season before taking the 2nd weekend of the course. During the time period between course weekends coaches will have assignments to complete and will have access to one of the SCYS Coaching Education staff coaches. Instead of the learning taking place over two weekends coaches now have an opportunity to extend that learning possibly over 3-4 months. We are very excited about the possibilities that this will provide the SCYS Coaching Education staff to interact with coaches across the state during an actual soccer season.
Coaching education is only a part of the job. Player development and club development are also a part of the job that I embrace and enjoy. I have learned that more often than not player and club development are often a bi-product of the coaching education courses that we offer throughout the year. We are working hard to make player and club development a priority across the state and offer these topics as standalone clinics or seminars for any club that is interested in either. We recently offered a free goalkeeper clinic which was hosted by Walterboro Soccer Club. The clinic was offered on a Thursday night this past month. I honestly wasn’t expecting much, I mean Walterboro isn’t exactly in the middle of the state. Much to my shock and astonishment 56 soccer players of all ages and abilities attended that free goalkeeper clinic. 56 players! On a Thursday night! We had players ranging from 6 – 16! Recreational players, club players, high school players and even some of our Olympic Development Program players attended the clinic. Players came from Charleston, Summerville, Lexington, Columbia, and even as far away as Sumter and Camden! What a turn out. Players left happy and left having learned something about a position many coaches know very little about. What does this mean for soccer in our state? On the grand scheme of things it means little. But as we all know these little things add up to big things. This shows us what our members want, need and enjoy. This gives us hope that through our efforts we can and will continue to grow the game of soccer at the grassroots level.
Please feel free to email me with comments, questions or suggestions for the blog. firstname.lastname@example.org.