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A strong case for high school soccer from Laura Kerrigan: 'Let's not have turf wars'
by Mike Woitalla, December 8th, 2016 4:43PM
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TAGS:  youth, youth boys, youth girls, youth soccer

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By Mike Woitalla

In our continued coverage of the debate over clubs that don’t want their players taking part in high school ball, a position supported by U.S. Soccer for its boys and girls Development Academy leagues, we hear from Laura Kerrigan, who coaches the girls and boys teams at North Carolina’s Cary High School, where she also teaches social studies.

Kerrigan is also the NSCAA State Technical Director for North Carolina, a member of the NSCAA Academy Senior Staff, and the 2012 recipient of the NSCAA Mike Berticelli Excellence in Coaching Education award. She previously served as head coach of the North Carolina State women’s team for more than a decade.

We had these four questions for Laura Kerrigan:

What criticism of high school soccer do you find particularly objectionable?

That the level of coaching is below that of club and it is not beneficial to a player to play high school soccer. There are many high school coaches today, especially in my area of North Carolina, who are very strong coaches.


Laura Kerrigan

I my case, I obtained a USSF "A" coaching license, as well as teach courses for the NSCAA. My focus is on development of players and the overall educational experience of playing the sport of soccer. My emphasis is more on developing the character and abilities of players, rather than on winning, a philosophy that is emphasized in the high school where I teach (Cary High School).

There are many club coaches who have a similar philosophy, but I am alarmed by how many club coaches are more focused on winning and touting which of their former players are playing Division I soccer, than on the developmental benefits of playing a sport.

What are some attributes of high school soccer compared to club ball?

There seems to be a lack of concern with some club coaches about academic performance and overall character development of players. Certainly, the club level is a higher level of skill than high school soccer, but many players in club are not put in leadership roles, and many languish on the touchlines during games because better players are getting most of the playing time.

In high school, these players take on more responsibility and many of them become strong leaders on and off the field. Moreover, they build a sense of identity and self-worth that is lacking in many club structures, which seem more and more to be centered around the club and coaches, rather than the players.

Many high school coaches are teachers, trained in educational psychology and pedagogy, and deal with all types of kids and situations every hour of the working day. Many club coaches are former players who have never taken a course in education. Coaching is teaching and the best soccer coaches understand this. They also understand that we are constantly learning and take advantage of opportunities to strengthen their coaching skills.

Also, high school coaches are paid exceedingly poorly so no high school coach I know is in it for the money, I can guarantee you that, at least in North Carolina. Many club coaches make quite a bit of money off player fees and tout their winning percentages and top players in obtaining raises.

Moreover, the diversity you find in high school soccer far outweighs the diversity in club. Take a look at the racial mix of players in club tournaments and then that on a high school soccer field. They are vastly different. There is a great mix of races and cultures on my high school teams -- English is certainly not the only language spoken in training.

The outrageous fees that clubs charge kids has made club soccer a country-club type sport in many areas of the country. If you want kids to learn how to accept and interact with people from all backgrounds, you have a better chance of that in high school than in club.

Are there any criticisms of high school soccer from U.S. Soccer and club soccer that you believe are legitimate -- and if so are there solutions to the issues they cite?

Yes, two major ones. First, there are too many games in a high school season. Two games a week is more than enough. There are some coaches who schedule three games in a week or due to weather make-ups, teams end up playing three games in certain weeks.

This is too much. It takes away from training time and also can lead to injuries. There should be at least one week at the end of the season put aside for make-up games and a rule that no team can play more than two games in a week. If games can't be made up without going to three games in a week, then so be it -- the game will not be made up. It is not the end of the world.

Second, some high school associations prohibit kids from playing any club ball during a high school season. This needs to end.

There can be a peaceful co-existence of high school and club, because they both serve important purposes.

Several of my players over the years have successfully played both club and high school. However, for it to work for the players, the high school and club coaches both must be flexible. There has to be an open line of communication with the player about how much soccer they are playing each week.

Overuse injuries can and have resulted when players feel pressured by either their high school or club coaches, and many times both or their parents, to play in multiple sessions per day or not take off days when necessary to rest and recover.

What is the problem if a kid misses some high school practices if they are training with their club team or if they miss a club practice to play in a high school game?

Really, all coaches need to take a step back and do what is best for the player, and I mean the overall player's development; athletic, academic and psychological.

Have you encountered situations where a player at your high school thought she might be better off forgoing the high school season?

Let me tell you a story about a student-athlete who played for my high school team several years back. During her junior year, the local club pressured kids at her level (she went on to play Division I soccer in college) to not play high school soccer. Players and their parents were pressured by threatening them with poor recommendations to college coaches if they didn't comply.

So she didn't play on the high school team. Well, not officially, at least, which means she didn't play in any games. That kid was cleared to play through the high school and was on our official roster, by her request.

She came to just about every practice and every game, including away games on the bus, but did not play in the games so as not to violate her club's request. Why did she do all this? Because being on the high school team was part of her identity.

Her teammates were her friends in school and out. She also knew that I would stay on her about academics and other school situations, and wanted that.

Clubs coaches and administrators sometimes don't understand that -- all the essential extras outside of "skill level" that high school soccer brings to the table. Thankfully, the club scraped its rule ("request") the following year, but I have heard rumors of it coming back. I sincerely hope they do not do so, for the sake of the players.

Really folks, let's not have turf wars over players. Let's look at what is best for the players' overall educational and developmental experience. Isn't that what coaching is really supposed to be about?



49 comments
  1. Jim Martineau
    commented on: December 8, 2016 at 5:43 p.m.
    I completely agree with the ridiculous nature of turf wars, whether they be between clubs, clubs and high schools, or now ECNL and US Soccer. There is little to be gained and much to be lost. To that point, I think we are better served by focusing on what we should expect from our children's soccer coaches, at both levels then figuring out we get there (you hit the nail on the head with EDUCATION). Interesting note, while many of the stereotypes of both club and high school coaches exist for a reason, I have been much more pleased with my kid's club coaches than their high school coaches when it comes to how they were developed as people. Perhaps the exception, but there is hope. :)
  1. uffe gustafsson
    commented on: December 8, 2016 at 5:58 p.m.
    Great article mike. She have so many good points on why HS is so important to women's soccer. The social and community aspect is not to be dismissed, for many girls this is very important part of HS experience and would translate to college soccer. As well the educational part of HS. The ones who play HS soccer have better grades and it also make players that struggles with grades to do better or they can't play. Correct me if I'm wrong but the very few that decides not to play HS because of club or US academy are so few that in the big picture it really don't matter. They call it academy team but is it really just another label to charge higher fees. Seem we get a new label every other year for the A team. We seem to be so hanged up on new labels for our teams, think I call it bragging rights for the parents and that's all it is. I agree stop fighting for the players and start to work together and let them have fun playing both club and HS. You would get a player that is happy playing the sport, not making them choose on something they don't want to make choice on. Parents need to put a foot down and say no to the turf war. Loud and clear to us soccer and club coaches that insists on such choices.
  1. Mauro Nobre
    commented on: December 8, 2016 at 7:14 p.m.
    I disagree with the article. Let's look at some of coach Laura Kerrigan's arguments. She states that not all HS coaches are poor soccer coaches. But no one argues that. The argument is that a large number of HS coaches are not as good coaches as club coaches. She does not deny that. She correctly calls out HS athletic associations who prohibits players from playing club soccer during HS season. But it is even worse - some HS athletic associations legislate what HS players can or cannot do during their club seasons (such as the so-called "six man rule"). This is outrageous. Kerrigan states that many club coaches are not concerned with character development and that in club teams players don't have opportunities to develop leadership skills. Well, the game of soccer teaches character and life skills, including leadership, even if the coaches don't lose any sleep over it. And frankly, coaches should focus on teaching the game, not on preaching ideology. The notion that if soccer coaches don't focus on character development these kids will become horrible persons is ridiculous, and if true it would make us question what happens to the millions of kids who do not play soccer. By this logic soccer should be mandatory. It is wonderful that some HS coaches are qualified teachers, but do they know how to teach soccer? That is an entirely different question. Kerrigan trots out the ridiculous criticism that club coaches "are in it for the money". Well, do you hear people support amateur doctors because real doctors are in it for the money? We live in a capitalist system in which professions are remunerated. The club soccer system employs full time and part time coaches. In order to do what they do they have to make money, just as in every other profession. Do we question the integrity of any other profession because they get a salary for doing what they do? HS coaches need to drop this prejudicial argument, unless they are all willing to coach HS soccer as strictly volunteers. Kerrigan ends with the argument that HS soccer provides players with a sense of identity. Well, it does that simply because it exists. But club soccer does the same, and it would do that just fine if HS soccer did not exist at all. It is a silly argument to say that ONLY HS soccer can fill this function. The most telling thing about this interview is the argument that Kerrigan did not address - that HS teams are made up of wildly disparate levels of ability, whereas club soccer groups players with similar levels of ability, and this is vastly superior for player development. Secondly, she does not mention the culture, or vision of the game in the HS soccer system, which is not optimal. It is a physical, direct kind of game that is detrimental to development and contrary to how the game is best played.
  1. Bob Ashpole
    commented on: December 9, 2016 at 2:32 a.m.
    Ron, there are about 4 million registered youth players in the US and almost 800,000 high school soccer players for about 6500 Div 1 scholarships, less than 1% of the number of high school players who also have to compete against club players too for those scholarships. You should rethink your yardstick of good coaching. The competition is even steeper because there is another 8 million unregistered youth players.
  1. Bob Ashpole
    commented on: December 9, 2016 at 2:58 a.m.
    Mauro, I disagree with most of what you said. I will, however, comment on only one matter. Having a group players of like skills is an advantage for developing a team. Having a mixed group is better for developing players and either way for elite players at that age the coach should be individualizing the training plans, so it is not more efficient to group players in similar talent groups. That is merely a practice to facilitate team competitions.
  1. Bob Ashpole
    commented on: December 9, 2016 at 10:37 a.m.
    Ron, the positive side of your premise (coaches that produce the best elite senior players are good coaches) is not a problem in my mind. The problem I have is with applying the reverse (coaches that do not produce the best elite players are not good coaches).
  1. Kent James
    commented on: December 9, 2016 at 11:16 a.m.
    Ron, like Bob, I disagree with most of what you said. First, Kerrigan did not say HS was better than club, but rather that HS should also be an option for club players. And Bob is on point about having players who are all at similar levels of development being good for a team (and makes practices easier to run), but not as much for individual development. Club players who play supporting roles at their clubs can play a different role (usually a more prominent one) with their HS team. Also, they can be more creative when they play for a weaker team, because the consequences of failure are usually reduced. Finally, Kerrigan's point about money making club soccer a 'country club' sport (open only to the wealthy) is a serious issue, and HS soccer helps address that (though it's obviously not enough).
  1. Bob Ashpole
    commented on: December 9, 2016 at 3:49 p.m.
    I don't see any value to me in ranking development teams or youth clubs. Everyone does it, including Soccer America and NSCAA. I can understand why competitions are necessary to develop junior players, but I don't see the point of national championships which are more expensive in terms of time and money than local or regional competitions and only provide additional bragging rights to a few teams.
  1. Bob Ashpole
    commented on: December 9, 2016 at 4:25 p.m.
    Ron imo ranking merely encourages clubs to poach the best players from other clubs.
  1. uffe gustafsson
    commented on: December 8, 2016 at 7:17 p.m.
    I bet if that girls parents had stood up and told the coach that she will play HS or we would move to a different club that will let her play HS, then it would been be a different story. Think parents don't want to rock the boat even though they know it's wrong, and have their daughter be penilized with play time. But sometimes you need as a parent to tell coach/ club that we are not going with what you want and she will play HS like it or not.
  1. uffe gustafsson
    commented on: December 8, 2016 at 7:27 p.m.
    Mauro not sure where u play HS. But Bay Area as in SF the coaches and games are as good or better then club soccer. So I believe she is on point on many issues. But this is a big country and Ofcourse you see lesser HS teams as well club teams and good coaches as welll bad coaches. I seen my share of really bad club coaches over the years both referring and coaching. But most HScoaches been really good that I encountered more so then club coaches.
  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: December 8, 2016 at 9:29 p.m.
    Come on uffe, SF is not uniformly good. On the girls public high school side there is only 1 team that is passable and that's not due to good coaching, it's because all the club girls go to that one school. That leaves 15 girls teams that are bad. Bad as in, can barely field a team, can barely string together 3 passes. On the boys side there are 15 teams and 2 are decent. This doesn't include the private schools--the WCAL is much better, but that's because they pull from the suburbs and the density of club players is higher. I think WCAL coaching is OK, but they are benefiting from all the club players. BTW, I do not think SF club coaching is all that great either. 8 out of 10 coaches are just collecting a paycheck.
  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: December 8, 2016 at 9:37 p.m.
    here is the girls champions the past 20 years: https://www.dropbox.com/s/7wuy2koyi6oh6ka/soccer-girlschampions.pdf?dl=0 ....... and the boys:https://www.dropbox.com/s/nt4l0ljsaa0iay5/soccer-boyschampions.pdf?dl=0
  1. Kevin Sims
    commented on: December 8, 2016 at 8:55 p.m.
    Spot on analysis Laura. Thank you. One of my least favorite situations for as long as I can remember occurs when adults are pulling kids in opposite or multiple directions. All considerations must first consider what is best for the child ... socially, athletically, mentally, physically, emotionally, and long-term. As Hank Steinbrecher would exhort, "Get the kid right!"
  1. uffe gustafsson
    commented on: December 8, 2016 at 10:48 p.m.
    Sorry R2 dad I was not pointing out SF but Bay Area as in east bay and South Bay. And north bay as well. I didn't mean to be specific since all the people on this site comes from the whole country. My bad. But you tell me if the HS soccer in east bay is not not top notch soccer and coaches incl. I say look at the top schools and you see some of the best soccer you can see.
  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: December 9, 2016 at 12:53 a.m.
    Yes, I see that outside of SF. Though I wonder why NorCal is not as well-represented in U team player pools, given the talent I see on the boys side.
  1. Joe Vargas
    commented on: December 8, 2016 at 11:50 p.m.
    Someone just sent me this email and this hits the nerve. I have coached for 16+ years from youth Rec. Then club soccer. Now I am on the other side coaching highschool. When I was on the club side what ticked me off was that most teams dropped players when better ones came along. There is no devolping of players. The focus is money and winning games and promising parents that there kids will get collage free ride. The fact is any coach can win games with a team with all naturally gifted players . Also what I have seen is that these players do not develop either. There are many players that they do not have good skills and need work. And I know many coaches out there correcting bad habits, working with players to be a complete player. Club is no help to soccer players they are just a filter to find gifted players. Club is in business or making money That is all . The difference between us academies and other countries is that , overseas they are called development academies.
  1. Paul Roby
    commented on: December 9, 2016 at 1:53 a.m.
    Here they are called Development Academies too but it seems that they prefer to develop the biggest, fastest players so they can develop more wins for the resumés.
  1. Bob Ashpole
    commented on: December 9, 2016 at 3:11 a.m.
    Joe makes an excellent point. Many clubs improve their teams by replacing players instead of improving the players. You will see the turnover of players at professional clubs too like Ajax and Barca, but they are focused on developing youth players for the first team and not on winning youth matches.
  1. Fire Paul Gardner Now
    commented on: December 9, 2016 at 9:37 a.m.
    Most HS coaches do not have anywhere near the qualifications of Ms. Kerrigan. If they did, maybe my view would be different. From my own experience, my girls (who currently play in college) played club soccer for twelve years but also played HS ball. The level of coaching at club level was mixed in my opinion but it was always better than the coaches they played for in HS. Truly elite young players should not be wasting time in HS ball - it is detrimental. In my state at least, 3-4 games a week was the norm and by the end of each HS season, the players were burned out physically and mentally.
  1. Bob Ashpole
    commented on: December 9, 2016 at 10:42 a.m.
    Most club coaches don't have her qualifications either.
  1. Bob Ashpole
    commented on: December 9, 2016 at 10:53 a.m.
    Actually the match to training ratio is more sensitive than what you say. If only playing 2 full matches a week, players will be exhausted and the risk of injury significantly increased after only 4 matches. The problem is avoided by reducing the frequency of matches and periodically resting players. This is a major problem with the Olympics format of many games in few days with limited rosters. The tournament becomes a grind fest instead of a test of good football.
  1. Fire Paul Gardner Now
    commented on: December 9, 2016 at 1:39 p.m.
    That's a fair point Bob, most club coaches don't have A licenses. I agree that even two games a week is too many if that pace continues for any amount of time.
  1. Kent James
    commented on: December 9, 2016 at 11:44 a.m.
    Kerrigan (and Woitolla) have done an excellent job in addressing the issue. The crux of the matter is should youth soccer be as competitive as possible, with players always subject to "what have you done for me lately" selection process, or should players be given time to develop at their own pace. As others have pointed out, many club teams get better by dropping their weak players and picking up stronger ones (instead of developing what they have). And if you have all the strong players, usually you have a pretty strong team, almost regardless of the coaching (though bad coaching can certainly hurt). High schools can't do this; they have to work with what they have. Of course, the closer you get to the pros, coaching becomes more about player selection and management than it does development, but in youth soccer, development should be the priority. One thing that might force that would be to put geographic restrictions on where clubs can get players; if the USSF created a ratio of elite clubs to registered players (not sure the right ratio, but the DA level selection would be at the top), and then forced players to join teams in their districts (giving them a choice of a few teams to pick from, so if they were unhappy they would have options). Or even give each club a specific area from which to draw, and say that 75% of their roster must come from that district (and let players go where they want). Then those elite clubs would have an incentive to work with other less elite clubs in their districts to develop players, knowing they couldn't recruit them from elsewhere.
  1. Quarterback TD
    commented on: December 9, 2016 at 12:05 p.m.
    We need to put things in perspective when taking out of context.. there is zero evidence that DA are better than HS coaches.. it only seems that way because the DA have the cream of the crop of players so a DA coach sitting in the bench and doing absolutely nothing will still look better but is he/she actually better ? No and chances are they are worst from what I have seen..my take is we need to take this to court, Board of Education or county where these Academies operate and put the case against external organizations influencing students activities-- what next no tackle football, no basketball ??
  1. Fire Paul Gardner Now
    commented on: December 9, 2016 at 1:41 p.m.
    In my state there are zero requirements for someone to be a HS coach. Often it's just a teacher looking to earn a few extra bucks. In some cases, that teacher has never played soccer in her life or taken a coaching course. There's no guarantee a DA coach will be good but you won't get someone with that little experience in DA.
  1. Rankin S
    commented on: December 9, 2016 at 1:49 p.m.
    Quarterback TD- Maybe US Soccer could financially support High School Soccer, then scout the players and analyze the results to compare with the pay to play system. They would be supporting the Hispanic players who are playing in inner city High Schools and Charter schools this way. There is a model already in place for developing these HS athletes - High School Football and Basketball.
  1. Bob Ashpole
    commented on: December 9, 2016 at 2:54 p.m.
    FPGN the problem with your view is that teachers either have or are working towards a masters of education. A masters in education is far superior to taking a weekend to attend a soccer coaching course. If the teacher is a physical education teacher, the teacher is far better qualified to coach than someone that has played soccer and attended a license course. This is especially true at the younger ages and in the strength and conditioning areas.
  1. Kent James
    commented on: December 9, 2016 at 3:15 p.m.
    You raise an interesting point; is it more important to know soccer or know teaching? Obviously, good coaches have both, but if you have to choose...I'd say a little more of the latter for the younger ages, with gradually more of the former as they grow older. I took the youth national license course a number of years ago (really excellent course by Sam Snow) and it changed the way I looked at coaching; at the younger levels it's very important to match soccer activities with their level of (childhood) development.
  1. Bob Ashpole
    commented on: December 9, 2016 at 4:23 p.m.
    Choosing between soccer experience and teaching experience is as you implied a false dilemma. I think it is important that a coach be an athlete, but soccer specific knowledge is really not needed at the earliest ages. I will skip to High School since that is what the article is about. At the high school level, a knowledge of soccer is important, but you don't get soccer knowledge from taking USSF licensing courses. They test coaching knowledge. In my view it boils down to simply that coaching is teaching. I never played organized youth soccer, strictly playground soccer. (I had played about 200 organized matches by the time I first coached youth soccer.) I used my HS football and basketball coaches and their sessions as models for coaching youth soccer. I just had to adjust to make the training appropriate for U-Littles. A HS football and basketball coach's tactical knowledge is going to directly applicable to soccer. Their knowledge of the physical and mental aspects is also portable. So the only weakness is knowledge of soccer specific technical skills. If you have some well-skilled players, a high school coach doesn't need to be able to perform those skills to coach them.
  1. uffe gustafsson
    commented on: December 9, 2016 at 10:38 p.m.
    R2 dad Let me throw this to you. Could it that so cal have these very big and national recognition clubs that are scouted all the time and nor cal don't really have such recognized clubs and many girls never have national scouts looking closely at the their teams/clubs. Maybe that's why you don't see nor cal players on the U national teams.
  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: December 11, 2016 at 2:32 p.m.
    I think so, Uffe. The exception I think was MVLA had a coach that was also doing a GU team, so there were a few more NorCal girls a couple years back.
  1. aaron dutch
    commented on: December 10, 2016 at 8:21 a.m.
    the real issue is the state of development & coaching in high school is not good at all as an overall assessment. If you benchmark the volume metric skills, technical & tactical development of a 4 year basketball player with that of a 4 year soccer player. The basketball player would have done 5-10x the individual drills, ball work, touches, tactical drills, "small sided" work etc.. This is the heart of the issue there is not a real national high school coaching quality standard to leverage the 1000-1500 hours a 4 year soccer player gets in development while in high school. For 1000 hours of basketball for a novice 9th grader by the end of 12th grade that player would have far more advanced skills then the same soccer player with 1000+ hours of coached time. Thats the gap to me. If the quality of development improves then the game improves. Until coaches are held to a much higher standard then high school & youth, rec much of club is huge waste of 10-15 years & 10,000 hours of time. which could be used to be much better at almost anything else.
  1. David Israel
    commented on: December 10, 2016 at 8:46 p.m.
    Its worse than that. The high school practices are not slight positive or even neutral. They are flat actually reducing club players skills. High schools are not hiring the wonderful coaches painted by the author of this article. Someone shows up to collect a pay check and the only interest they show in the players is whether or not they attend the 5 day a week no touch practices.
  1. aaron dutch
    commented on: December 11, 2016 at 10:38 a.m.
    David, I was trying to be nice :) you are correct.
  1. aaron dutch
    commented on: December 11, 2016 at 11:44 a.m.
    another great article about what could be taught in high school, improving football IQ builds a real student-athlete. If football IQ & decision making, where understood by the coaches, players as a program over the 4 years then this would lead to a huge growth in how football is used as a tool to develop young people in the U.S..... https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2016/dec/04/barcelona-andres-iniesta-scope-embrace-brain-game-real-madrid
  1. Allan Lindh
    commented on: December 11, 2016 at 1:50 p.m.
    Ms Kerrigan is spot on. It's about the kids, stupid. All this yammering about who get's better faster, who wins, etc is just HS. High school is about growing up, soccer is about growing up. And worrying about what mix of club and high school is better for the US National teams -- gimme a break. The USMNT will get better when: 1. Parents and siblings have 5 yr olds in the back yard/street/park every day kicking a ball, and 2. When soccer's overall profile in this country grows so that soccer is getting a larger share of the best athletes. Until that day it's just idle chatter.
  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: December 11, 2016 at 2:49 p.m.
    Allan, I see #1 already, but only in our primary hispanic neighborhood. There is a small artificial turf pitch in the Mission called Garfield Square. Every day there are teams practicing, adult pick-up games, dusk til dawn. Even during practices and games, there are kids playing together in the corners, small families playing together on the sidelines--it's a very tight fit but it is the most-used field in San Francisco. All that Revolution! stuff Cony has been talking about--you can see what that looks like. Why is it there? The turf park is centrally located in a big city, not off in the boonies. it's open, accessible, near where soccer-playing families live. They've re-done Mission Playground as well, and that is similarly small and used constantly. There is even a tiny artificial turf specifically for U8s at Mission Rec Center.
  1. Fly Bynyte
    commented on: December 13, 2016 at 12:17 a.m.
    If hockey is has any relation to soccer, then what you say about 'street' soccer being the key is not true. What if kids play street soccer and have coaches who never played soccer in H.S.? The U.S.A hockey program was turned around by systematic re-engineering of coach licensing. There-by increasing the number of licensed coaches and the quality of the training they performed to achieve those licenses. This same re-engineering of licensing is one of the keys to improving soccer outcomes in the U.S.A if it's played in H.S. or at club level.
  1. Scott Snyder
    commented on: December 12, 2016 at 8:36 a.m.
    I think one of the main problems is that many approach this issue with a broad brush. I live in the metro Atlanta area, where I teach middle school, coach high school and coach club. From my anecdotal coaching experiences of the past 20 years (HS, club, ODP, college ga), I have seen good and bad coaches in all areas. The biggest thing that parents should be doing is looking at the character of the coach, which no group has a monopoly on. I would also put in one plug for HS as it is a uniquely American experience. I have had exchange students in my years of teaching and they always made a point of stating how much they enjoyed playing high school sports in America. I am hopeful that we all can work to find a better middle ground here, as most of us truly do care about the children.
  1. James Madison
    commented on: December 12, 2016 at 9:02 p.m.
    In part the interest in youth players is to develop college, professional and even NT players.l In part it is or should be to develop individuals with a lifelong passion for or at least interest in playing, watching and otherwise enjoying the sport. In part it is or should be just developing individuals---the game is better than any other at helping individuals learn to make decisions and take responsibility for dealing with the consequences of decisions. The way to accommodate these interests is cease arguing that any way is "the" way and allow each path to flourish in its own way and for its own purposes.
  1. Fly Bynyte
    commented on: December 13, 2016 at 12:42 a.m.
    A soccer coach, be it High School, or Club, needs to know the game and know how to teach it to players assigned to his or her team. Parents need to be able to assess whether their child's coach(es) is(are) qualified. Then they can choose HS, Club or both for their kid or kiddos. Today, there are pockets of excellence in youth soccer around the nation. They can be in one, the other or both of your local H.S. or club(or neither). You need to find one for you child. This is not an easy ask today as there is no shortage of weak offerings at HS's and Clubs.
  1. barry politi
    commented on: December 13, 2016 at 9:59 a.m.
    This year the USSF elected to change the date of birth “cutoff” for the age category(s) for youth soccer in the USA. The change was made from August to January 1st. In other words, a change from the long accepted “School” schedule based age segregation to the “Calendar” based age segregation for purposes of creating age groups amongst youth players. The August date had been used for many, many years because it is much easier to categorize children by their grade, and because families and children want to play with their school peers and friends. The Federation (USSF) mandated that all teams across the entire nation institute their change. This 2016 mandate forced some 3.2 million youth soccer players across the country to leave their current team and be restructured. In other words, they demanded the dismantling of the entire country’s youth teams. This dissolved many relationships between children, coaches, parents and families, which in some cases were together for years. It also slowed the current soccer cohort development, and down struck the personal chemistry between former teammates. This change also created much confusion, frustration, and extra work; especially for coaches, even causing some to simply quit. As some of you know, youth soccer is rather chaotic, and has been plagued with problems for many years; however, this particular issue and its consequent changes were actually very unusual and unique. Why? Because of the vast numbers of children to teens that were negatively affected, and because the changes were forced by adults in power at the top of the Federation. Why would the USSF do this you ask? Many other adults and children have asked this question as well. The USA Soccer Federation is a small group of about 250 employees with about 30 coaches and executive leaders. These bureaucrats are self-serving, idiotic narcissists and I hold President Sunil Gulati personally responsible, but there are others as well. The USSFs National team players that the Federation controls (less than .03% of the US soccer population) play internationally at the pinnacle level. Having a calendar birth year might make it easer for USSF coaches, leadership and administration to identify rare elite players and compete overseas. It also aligns with the rest of the international community. The USA Soccer Federations National teams have never done very well (except for the women's team), and suffer from a long history of international mediocrity. The Federation believes that having a Calendar year will possibly allow them to more easily monitor and then choose elite level player and thus ultimately win on the international stage which is what they so deeply and pathologically crave. This is disturbing to many us that follow youth sports because it is also unprecedented in the demonstration of skewed priorities, and because it places stark emphasis on the already too much over-emphasized mentality of “winning is everything”.
  1. barry politi
    commented on: December 13, 2016 at 10 a.m.
    It also places the selfish Federation leadership’s desires ahead of the public and ahead of our children. Sadly, children did not have a voice in the matter whatsoever. That’s not the end of the story. There is more. The Federation has tried dearly to fool all of us into believing that there were other reasons and that their mandate is for the better. Examples of this are the claim that the change somehow does away with the “relative age” affect; but it does not. There will still be children that are the youngest in the group no matter what society does. The USSF has crafted a script from which they robotically answer calls and questions regarding their mandated change, published confusing and erroneous logic, as well as falsely claimed that they have consulted with other soccer organizations, and their own membership. The truth is the coaching directors of each organization (US Youth, NSCAA, AYSO, US Club, etc.) were NOT on the committee that made these changes. These organizations were simply forced to implement USSFs foolish decision. President Sunil Gulati and his minions have conducted no research on the matter. In fact, they also ignored petitions signed online by nearly 40,000 citizens to rescind their mandate. Little league baseball is an exemplary organization. Little League did their research before deciding to use September first as their date of birth “cutoff”. They also listened to the membership and noted that families wanted kids to play with there school peers and that they did not care about winning nearly as much as would be expected; nor did they care about the international norms or the results from international team games. The essential issues are not just an issue of the desire to play club soccer with your school classmates. In the United States, unlike anywhere else in the world, our schools and the NCAA have a solid organized system of soccer that overshadows club participation in that club soccer schedules revolve around school soccer schedules, and schools have vast numbers of children playing soccer. Almost all youth soccer players that continue soccer are going to end up playing in college (versus the national team, or pro teams). There is no other country in the world that has our excellent college soccer system where student athletes benefit from not just a huge fairly regulated athletic system, but from an education! The NCAA system is an important developmental piece for everyone except the very minuscule numbers at the very top. With the detrimental shift to the Birth Year Registration what happens to the thousands of college coaches sitting on the sidelines recruiting players? If they are recruiting from the sophomore class – they now need to watch 60% of one game and 40% of another game versus 95% of one game and 5% of another game. USSF has damaged HS and college and the recruiting process – by making it more difficult for college coaches to actively recruit players.
  1. barry politi
    commented on: December 13, 2016 at 10:02 a.m.
    ", club teams will be split almost in half during the transition years between middle school and high school; however, US Soccer doesn’t care about high school soccer. They wrote articles themed along the idea that high school is a distraction from their mission, and just a “social activity” which they have campaigned against for years. USSF further declared war on High School soccer a few years ago when they set up their Academy programs. USSF has even gone so far as to pass regulations that kids that play in their Academy system may not play in soccer in High School. There is evidence of more of this type of thinking and activity. Instead of launching initiatives to find players who can afford high school soccer but not club soccer, USSF is finding and funneling players into competing “national leagues” thru these “live in” Academies where only “the best” go to train. Instead of enabling coaches to get better education, USSF is ending waiver programs and making its licenses logistically difficult to obtain. Instead of de-emphasing the “win, win, win at all costs” mentality they have endorsed over-training, more traveling, and steeper competition. The notion that extreme and hard core youth competition will breed better players is shrouded on intuition, however; there exists no proof for this trend and in some cases the opposite has been the case. Nor is there any proof that then USSF academy system is better than the other systems. Instead of developing competition and expanding the NASL, the latest example comes as U.S. Soccer attempts to bone the NASL by redefining the parameters of a Division I soccer league. Instead of trying to keep the female and male player salaries near equal and promote a sense of harmony and national gender equality, USSF has faced legal suit(s) for wage discrimination etc. Instead of working with ECNL to improve an already good league, USSF figured it would be smarter to create their own new league to compete against ECNL. Instead of listening to parents who are wavering in their desire to sign their kids up for youth soccer, USSF is insisting on birth-year age groups that will reduce the likelihood of kids entering soccer and seeing familiar faces as they tentatively step onto a soccer field. Instead of being proactive with head trauma and “heading” the ball they faced another legal suit. Instead of assisting youth players that are playing overseas, the USSF has done little to influence FILA. As it stands now, some minors were not permitted to train overseas according FILA rules, and were forced to return to the USA to play. Last year several youth soccer groups issued a rare joint statement saying the Federation isn’t communicating at a time of great change, and U.S. Club Soccer’s Elite Clubs National League had a fruitless summit meeting with USSF officials. Indeed, USSF is tone deaf and could care less about the other 99.9% of players, children and families which is why we need change.
  1. MA Soccer
    commented on: December 15, 2016 at 1:45 p.m.
    USSF and their state organizations should work to improve the coaching (and refereeing) at high school level, it is part of their responsibilities! Instead they criticize , alienate and create turf wars. The sport needs more community acceptance and involvement, at a reasonable price. HS is one of the critcal platforms to achieve this goal. Is simply too big of a challenge (too long term/strategic) for the current management of USSF and the state organizations, we need massive change of personell.
  1. MA Soccer
    commented on: December 16, 2016 at 7:43 a.m.
    Well said Barry. I believe only way to change in long term is to go after their funding. Looking into a class action suit at state level that would sue the state USSF organization for restrictive policies when they take federal money and force fees to participate. If successful would change this policy overnight.
  1. blair gibney
    commented on: December 20, 2016 at 12:11 p.m.
    Reading this thread makes me happy I coach high school in a fully volunteer environment. I see the private schools in our area hiring coaches and giving scholarships to higher level players. Our system complements the club system rather than trying to compete with it. We play a short season and limit practice to tactics. With all players playing club at the same time I won't risk over playing them. I carry a large team so I can rotate players depending on club needs. The girls usually play a different position than for their club which they enjoy. Obviously high school soccer isn't treated as a huge deal here but as a chance to play with friends in a less stressful but still competitive environment. I think sports that are predominantly developed by club teams should step back a bit in high school and complement club play. Other sports are often developed by the school directly so what they do needs to be vastly different. I see soccer more like baseball rather than football and basketball
  1. James Winslow
    commented on: January 2, 2017 at 5:50 p.m.
    She has a lot of really great points. She also works in a very special and different place. Cary is not like the rest of NC or like much of the country. It is a soccer hotbed that is also much better off than the rest of the state. There are 3 major universities near by with strong programs. It's also the home of the former Carolina Railhawks now known as NCFC.

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