By Mike Woitalla
HIGH SCHOOL VS. CLUB. One of the most unfortunate aspects of American youth soccer is forcing kids to choose between club soccer and high school ball. For sure, in many cases it’s not an either-or, but the pressure on the very elite players, especially those in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, to skip school ball continues to increase.
The Washington Post’s Paul Tenorio did an excellent job reporting on the dilemma in a recent article headlined, “Is it best to play in high school, or on an academy team?”
Tony Lepore, director of scouting for U.S. youth national teams and a technical adviser for the Development Academy, says, “In top footballing nations, school soccer is not where the top players play and develop. That’s how this has evolved and how this shift has continued. ... We’ve given the choice to the clubs. It’s not a mandate yet, but we totally get why they’re choosing that and that’s why we’re supporting it.”
Taylor Twellman, one of the most prolific goalscorers in MLS history, played multiple high school sports and says: “There’s no denying if you play U.S. Development Academy, the coaching, fields, players surrounding you is going to be better, but is that ultimately the goal of life? I don’t know if that trade-off is worth it, but I understand U.S. Soccer’s best opportunity is to get the area’s best players together to train together. I understand that argument, but what is the sacrifice?”
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FAIR PLAY OR NOT? VIDEO of a goal in an Arkansas high school game has gotten more than 2 million views since posted on YouTube earlier this month. No doubt many found it amusing – two Bryant High School players faking a collision during a free kick to catch Conway High's defenders off guard – but I found it unsportsmanlike at best.
Considering that the defenders may have stopped out of concern for what could have been injured players, should the referee have disallowed the goal? I asked a pair of officiating experts.
“It's a valid goal,” says New York ref Randy Vogt, the author of "Preventive Officiating." “While you could consider a bit of deception is involved, nothing circumventing the rules to warrant a caution.”
Stanley Lover, a longtime international referee instructor and author of "Official Soccer Rules Illustrated," says, “In my view, the referee was right [in allowing the goal], but I hope he reported the incident to the appropriate authority to examine the video and question the coach.
“If proved as deliberate, I would expect a severe disciplinary sanction against the coach for the relatively unknown charge of ‘bringing the game into disrepute.’”
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WHAT A BICYCLE KICK! The video I enjoyed more is that of 13-year-old Kenner Galeas of Virginia's U-14 Civitans Bengals. Shot by team manager Jeanette Ortiz-Osorio, it got nearly 2 million views within week. Also remarkable is Galeas' low-key celebration while accepting congrats from his thrilled teammates. Watch it HERE.
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FROM THE FIELD. I'm used to seeing own goals celebrated by the benefitting team. So this was a first for me: In a U-12 girls game in Concord, Calif., the goalkeeper deflects two shots and then a defender accidentally kicks the ball into her own goal. There’s absolutely no reaction from the attacking team. Not one cheer. They’re frozen, until the referee urges them to move back to their own half for the kickoff. It’s as if they didn’t think it should count.
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... Kyle Joseph Hoffman, former president of the Healdsburg (Calif.) Youth Soccer League, pleaded no contest to stealing league funds. He’ll be sentenced to nine months in jail, but may receive less time if he makes “substantial” restitution payments. Hoffman was accused of taking more than $53,000 by writing checks to himself from the league's bank account, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. ...
... Georgia United -- a combination of Atlanta area clubs North Atlanta SA, Norcross SA, United Futbol Academy and AFC Lightning – will enter the U.S. Soccer Development Academy in the 2011-12 season. They join the Vancouver Whitecaps as next season's newcomers. ...
... The New York Times’ Jere Longman visited Barcelona’s famed La Masia, the youth program that spawned many of its current stars, such as Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi. “During the week, they rise at 6:45 a.m., eat breakfast and leave for regular school in the city at 7:30. They attend classes from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., return to La Masia to eat, rest and attend mandatory study groups. Training is held from 7 to 8:45 p.m., followed by dinner and some free time. Lights out for the younger players is 10:30 p.m., 11 for older players." Read more HERE.
... Fifteen years ago then Houston Mayor Bob Lanier started an inner-city sports program out of which grew the very successful Houstonians FC. Now budget woes in the country’s fourth largest city threaten cuts to the parks and recreation department's soccer program at Milby Park in southeast Houston -- a heavily Latino community -- that caters to 5,000 youngsters in the fall. "Very sad,” said Jaime Villegas, the program’s organizer, told KHOU 11 News. “Because the kids are the ones losing."
... Alex Kos has created an online soccer rules test for children, parents, coaches and would-be refs HERE.
(Mike Woitalla, the executive editor of Soccer America, coaches youth soccer for East Bay United in Oakland, Calif. His youth soccer articles are archived at YouthSoccerFun.com.)