By Mike Woitalla
Jurgen Klinsmann, head coach of the USA since July of 2011, earlier this month was re-signed for another four years and Technical Director was added to his responsibilities. That, in USSF President Sunil Gulati's words, formalized Klinsmann’s previously informal role in influencing the direction of American player development.
In a USSoccer.com interview, Klinsmann addressed youth development issues.
On the style of play he’d like to see at the younger levels, Klinsmann said:
“We would love to see a consistent style of play over time that is defined by being more proactive and more possession-oriented.
“We want more confident players who have the technical abilities to play out of the back and to play out of difficult situations and really take the game to the opponent. We would like to improve the way we play against bigger nations by facing them eye to eye and having a 50/50 share of possession. We want to signal to them that we are here to play; we’re not just sitting back and hoping for a counter break. …
“That’s a lot of work obviously, and it also requires special talent. The key to all of this is the work that we do on the grassroots level through our Academies to develop our own players. To transition to a style of play that is more proactive and more dominant is a long-term project.”
U.S. U-20 coach Tab Ramos, who has also been assisting Klinsmann with the senior team, was named U.S. Soccer Youth Technical Director in November.
“The responsibility we gave Tab Ramos is really important because he’s the connector to all topics in the youth sector,” said Klinsmann. “He’s the connector to our youth coaches, Javier Perez with the U18s, Richie Williams with the U17s, Hugo Perez with the U15s, and Tony Lepore with the U14s. It’s important that he becomes like a think tank of topics where we need improvement.
“We need to get more messages out there. He’s becoming a very important messenger of many different things that we need to get out to the players, to the parents, to the coaches. Hopefully we can intensify this relationship and use it in a very productive way.”
In the year-end address, Klinsmann encouraged youth coaches to take advantage of coaching education opportunities. The U.S. Soccer coaching schools are headed by Dave Chesler, the Director of Coaching Development.
“I think the topic of Coaching Education unfortunately is often not recognized enough,” Klinsmann said. “Dave Chesler and his team of instructors are really building the foundation for the future of knowledge in our coaching education. That foundation will benefit everyone involved in the game based on the knowledge they spread to coaches in the licensing courses. His role is priceless. It’s so important and it’s something that we have to build on more and more.
“We have to have regular get-togethers with Dave and his team in order to always question if we are giving out the right information to coaches.
“What is the best way to communicate with kids? What are the main issues coaches have to think about? What additional information can we give coaches to pass on to the kids, to the parents, and to other coaches?
“I think it’s the highest priority for every coach to get his licenses upgraded, one step at a time but as quickly as possible, because it’s the highest sign of credibility. If you do not have your coaching license you do not have credibility. If parents send their boy or their girl to school, and the teacher doesn’t have the highest teaching license, they would question the school. They would probably change schools and take action right away. It’s the same with soccer.”