By Mike Woitalla
Tom Sermanni, a 58-year-old Scotsman who has coached Australia's women for 11 years, was named U.S. women’s national team coach on Tuesday.
On Wednesday he addressed the media and touched on what role he may play with the USA youth national teams, and fielded questions about youth coaching and youth development.
“I would be hoping to be in close contact with (U.S. Soccer Women’s Technical Director) April (Heinrichs) and with (U.S. Soccer Women’s Development Director) Jill (Ellis) in relation to chatting about youth development,” Sermanni said. “How much involvement they want me to have in it is probably up to them because that’s where their expertise is far greater than mine.
“As a national team coach, I’m a great believer in coaches running their own teams and coaches taking their own responsibilities in terms of sorting out what they want to do.
Earlier this year, the USA won the U-20 World Cup under Steve Swanson. The U.S. U-17s, under coach Albertin Montoya, were eliminated in the first round of the U-17 World Cup despite going undefeated in group play and conceding only one goal.
“What I would like to be able to do is to be available for coaches at the Under-20 and Under-17 level, and anybody that is attached to youth development, to throw my two bones worth in, for want of a better term,” Sermanni said. “Certainly, I don’t think it’s my position to come in and try to dictate how the younger teams play. I certainly think, as a national coach, I’d want to have some communications and to be around the youth teams and be visible in that regard and to be involved in that way. As I said, we have people who are doing those jobs and I don’t want to step on their toes.”
Asked about his impressions of the U.S. youth soccer landscape, Sermanni said:
“Because of the vastness of the country and the number of programs and club teams that are here, just getting a handle on all the things that happen, getting together a consistent development plan is very difficult and very challenging. The upside in America is that you have a great variety and vast numbers to work with.”
As for youth coaching, Sermanni said:
“I think technical development is the key. Technical development of youth players has to take priority over physical development. That doesn’t mean physical development gets completely ignored, but when I speak to younger players and coaches, that’s one of my key phrases.
“Coaches usually say to younger players they have to train harder. What I believe is younger players need to practice better, practice as well as they can and practice on improving how they play.
“By that, what I mean is how well they can dribble, how well they can pass, how good the touch is, how good their understanding of the game is. Rather than look at the training practices from a physical aspect, I think in youth development, looking at your training practices from a technical aspect and improving how you can actually play the game is most critical and will continue to go that way.
“In the next generation of players, I think physical differences between teams will eventually be null and void and therefore the technical differences and the ability to play and understand the game will become much more critical focus.”