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