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Pros should compensate youth clubs (Q&A Lorne Donaldson, Real Colorado, Part 2)
by Mike Woitalla, March 15th, 2012 8:15PM

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TAGS:  development academy, youth boys, youth girls

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Interview by Mike Woitalla

Lorne Donaldson is the Executive Director of Coaching of Real Colorado, which has nearly 5,000 players and competes in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy and ENCL. In the second part of our interview we spoke about youth soccer's high costs, how his club evaluates coaches, and the field-size problem.

(Read Part 1 HERE.)


SOCCER AMERICA: You mentioned that traditional youth clubs in the Development Academy must compete with MLS teams that don’t charge the players. And that high costs in general remain a major problem in youth soccer. Do you see any solutions?

LORNE DONALDSON:
One thing that’s frustrating is when a youth club produces a player for a pro club, it doesn’t receive a dime. We’ve got a kid trying out in Europe and if he signs we don’t get anything. In other countries, clubs get compensated.

Nobody’s addressing it. They just, “Well, it’s a labor law issue.”

But if I have a player for nine years and he leaves for an MLS club, they could make a donation for scholarships. That’s legal! We’re a 501(c). The MLS club could say, “Here’s 5 grand,” or whatever. “Hopefully you can use to it find more players.”

We would use that money to get more inner-city kids.

SA: Why is it important to bring inner-city kids into the fold?

LORNE DONALDSON:
The players who tend to be exceptional are the ones who are hungry day-in and day-out. I think it’s the same in football and basketball. The players who come from a background of need tend to be a lot hungrier. We need more of those kids who are very, very hungry and need a way out.

When we become more inclusive, we are more likely to produce more exceptional players. We produce a ton more good players than in the 1980s and 1990s. I’ve seen some very, very good young players in the younger generation coming through. But the exceptional players -- we’re still not producing enough of those. …

SA: How does your club pay for its scholarships?

LORNE DONALDSON:
We try our best never to turn away players because they can’t afford it, no matter if they're recreational or Academy players. We have people who from the kindness of their heart give us scholarship money. Usually getting scholarship money is from a private donor.

SA: If income from pro clubs isn't on the horizon, what are other solutions?

LORNE DONALDSON:
I don’t see why the big company supporting soccer doesn’t take a club and say, “Here’s X amount of money, go out and get kids from the inner city.” And they would hold us accountable. …

Trying to develop them in the inner city is very, very difficult because they don’t face that competition in their environment -- sometimes their diet is not right -- and you have to get them kind of away from that so you can get them proper training. ... We’re in the suburb. They have to get transportation. They can’t afford it.

SA: What are some qualities your club looks for in its coaches?

LORNE DONALDSON:
First and foremost is they have to be able to relate to the parents and the kids.  A lot of coaches might say, “Well I’m not going to talk to the parents because they don’t do that in Europe.” This is not Europe. Here this is a parent-driven business.

They have to be smart enough to relate to the parents and the kids.

I also look at education. If my coaches are telling our players to go to college, they have to be guys who have done it before, at least been there. Not everyone, but coaches with a little college background know the experience and can actually say, "I have done it." That helps out a lot.

Obviously, coaches have to know the game and know the stages of development.

SA: And oft-cited detriment to player development is an overemphasis on results at the younger ages. …

LORNE DONALDSON:
I always say there’s a very fine line between winning and development. You’re developing players but if your records aren't good, players feel discouraged and they’re going to switch teams.

We put in a lot programs with an emphasis on development over results, but when you try to do that and people pack up and leave. Good thing we’re a big club.

They tend to come back. They’ll leave us at 10, 11 because they’re not winning. They come back at 14 and they can’t make the team anymore. And it happens a lot. ...

Clubs will recruit just like colleges coaches, sitting in their living room making a pitch to parents of a 10-, 11-year-old.

SA: One thing I see a lot that does not seem conducive to player development is having young teams play on huge fields. ...

LORNE DONALDSON:
I agree. I think 11v11 can be fine, but the problem in this country is little kids playing 11v11 on fields 120 yards long.

Even if we don’t make the numbers smaller, shrink the field. I’ve watched games where it takes them five minutes to get to the other end.

We should mandate field sizes appropriate for the age level. I’ve tried to get our state to do it, but they say, “Lorne, everybody doesn’t have a complex to do that.”

I say, just mark the field size. You have portable goals, move them in, mark the field size. Spray the lines for the box. It’s the easiest thing.



13 comments
  1. Tyler Dennis
    commented on: March 16, 2012 at 1:26 a.m.
    Lorne, Here is a quick fix for the issue of not getting money for the development of your players. Write a training contract with a parent, no kid labor law issues. The contract stipulates that the parent owes you $X,XXX dollars if the kids goes to a European club. However, if the kid doesn't go to a European club, then the training cost is forgiven. Make the contract for the age of the player + a certain number of years to get them past an age that European play is determined (21?). I'm sure the essence of this could be worked out with a decently creative attorney.

  1. John Smith
    commented on: March 16, 2012 at 10:41 a.m.
    This strictly focuses on inner city but what about the rural areas as well. Clint Dempsey had to drive at least a couple hours to find a quality program and look what he is doing. Also the opportunities presented help keep kids hungry. If the opportunity to achieve is limited they will find something else.

  1. Michael Tesla
    commented on: March 16, 2012 at 10:53 a.m.
    Are the Academies going to compensate the High Schools?

  1. Bill Anderson
    commented on: March 16, 2012 at 11:13 a.m.
    Lorne Donaldson quotes "One thing that’s frustrating is when a youth club produces a player for a pro club, it doesn’t receive a dime. We’ve got a kid trying out in Europe and if he signs we don’t get anything. In other countries, clubs get compensated." You can't have it both ways, charge $2,000 a head for 5,000 players (99% will NEVER go pro) or focus on the 1% that have potential, sign them to a contract, pay all their expenses. In other countries the clubs are compensated because they pay all the freight. You can't have it both ways.

  1. David Flanagan
    commented on: March 16, 2012 at 12:43 p.m.
    Interesting comments, too bad this coach fails to recognize that the Colorado Youth Soccer recognizes and uses small sided play for the younger age groups. It is the Academy and US Club who places emphasis on 11 V 11 at every age group> How about offering compensation to the club the player and his parents signs to play with when they start out, or the club the player was with when the Academy clubs recruit them away from. People need to see the MLS and their teams will cherry pick the best talent, they will get these players under contract and be compensated should the player move to another club. Not tady or tomorrow but soon enough. We all need to admit this is a business once a player moves past the grass roots level.

  1. jeff tackett
    commented on: March 16, 2012 at 1:10 p.m.
    His point draws interest because Klinsmen just came out and said he cant understand why kids have to pay for club....well, in europe the pro teams pay to hire qualified coaches to make these u10-u17 professionals...club coaches here dont have that luxury so kids pay for that service...europe has town and city teams that the youth play as recreation to get better (as klinsmen explains) so do we, howerever our volunteer rec coaches have no clue about soccer, european parents do....its all they see and play...would be similar when volunteer parents coach baseball...they have a pretty good concept of fundamentals and can get the kids on the right track...not here, God bless them but they usually have no clue. So if you want the youth to develop in the right way, take over the youth as tgey have begun to do, pay these coaches and let the kids play for free...big bridge to cross however someone still needs to fix the huge hole to be able to link the two sides. Big, big job andcan s

  1. Bart Schultz
    commented on: March 16, 2012 at 2:24 p.m.
    Since kids and parents are still looking to College as an option for continuing to play after High School, than maybe College Soccer programst could step in and provide some support. Whether it is coaching or financial, they stand to benefit from a better pool of players to recruit from. There are a lot more Universities, Colleges and Junior Colleges with soccer programs than there are professional teams in the US. They are not involved at all in the youth soccer experience but still are a goal for many players.

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: March 16, 2012 at 4:10 p.m.
    What would be an average fee for a contract with a parent if the player in fact goes pro? Would thus be legal?

  1. David Flanagan
    commented on: March 16, 2012 at 10:21 p.m.
    The US Youth Soccer ODP Program has been driven by college coaches, they have made up the bulk of ODP staffs in all regions. They are engaged with the youth on a local level as well. It may not be the head coach but the assistant coaches do work with clubs and rec programs in a number of cities in the Midwest. Sorry Bart but the college coaches are involved in many, many local programs.

  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: March 18, 2012 at 2:34 p.m.
    To D. Flanagan: I find your statement that US Youth Soccer ODP have "been driven by the college coaches..." somewhat astonishing simply and because of NCAA rules and regulations - only and unless it is an NAIA college coach involved. As for ACs doing the work, it still does NOT excuse them as they also represent the college/university that employs them and to even harbor any thought that colleges ought to "step in and provide some support..." (what kind? monetary? field space?) is a very high pie in the sky 'cause any institution that receives any federal funds will NOT jeopardize their status; besides, can you just see them also providing "some support" for Pop Warner football, little league play, or summer basketball camps? Lastly that pro clubs (MLS) ought to compensate youth clubs, that'd be fine if in fact and deed it would make joining an academy team affordable across the board to anyone and everyone not withstanding ethnicity, location (urban vs suburban) inner city outer city, etc. Then again, this is just another high pie in the sky wishful thinking!

  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: March 19, 2012 at 12:42 a.m.
    "They tend to come back. They’ll leave us at 10, 11 because they’re not winning. They come back at 14 and they can’t make the team anymore. And it happens a lot." We train the kids how to play the game, but what we really need to do is do a better job training the parents. They are the decision-makers, but usually know nothing about the game.

  1. Jill Francis
    commented on: March 19, 2012 at 8:07 p.m.
    Some of the comments made by Coach Lorne are right on however, as a soccer mom and knowing Real so well. No, Real Coaches do not like to talk to parents at all at any level. Ask any parent currently at REAL.

  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: March 20, 2012 at 1:58 p.m.
    R2D: Thanks, your comment is right on the oney! The other night a friend and were discussing some of the reasons we have "retired" from coaching youth club soccer - at least U11 - U16, and that is that parents are the culprits, even those who are soccer "knowledgeable" that really and actually spoil it for everyone else. Our experiences that total at the very least 30+ years soured us on the process because parents tend to see their child a the next club, college, pro star worthy of "Messi-like" abilities and un-adulturated adoration. Lastly, we hope that this changes as the development of our sport grows.


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