Rush's Tim Schulz: USSF should play even greater role

Interview by Mike Woitalla

In a new Youth Soccer Insider series, we're asking the leaders of U.S. youth clubs to address key issues on the state of American youth soccer. Tim Schulz is the president and CEO of Rush Soccer, which has affiliate clubs in more than 20 states, representing 34,000 youth players. Schulz has coached at the Colorado Rush for more than 16 years and in 2005-06 served as U.S. U-20 women's national team coach. He is also a USSF national coaching instructor.

SOCCER AMERICA: Perhaps the most common complaint about the American youth game is its high cost. Will playing soccer continue to become more expensive or is any relief on the horizon?

The expense is getting bigger. As opposed to Europe, in the United States, the better you are, the more you pay. In Europe, the better you are, the less you pay.

SOCCER AMERICA: What is your club doing to reduce or minimize costs?

It’s important that a club provides many programs at many levels of play. The top players should be able to choose that they want to travel a lot. And the medium-level players should be able to choose that they want to stay in state and play in local tournaments. And the recreational player should be able to say "I just want to play in my local league." The program should allow a player and family to make a choice within their family if she wants to push further for a more elite type program.

Do we offset the cost? It’s foolish to say we give scholarships internally if money comes from within the club because all we’re doing is taking money from one family and giving it to another. You’re just shifting the dollars around.

The only way we can offset these costs is with grants and sponsorships. Then even with that, unless it’s earmarked for the elite athlete, we’re taking money away from the medium athlete and the developmental player.

It is an on-going problem. It is a challenge. But I think free enterprise allows us to stay competitive. For instance, if my neighboring club keeps the cost lower and the product stays the same, our players will leave and go somewhere else. So there is monitoring going on.

SOCCER AMERICA: The Super Y-league, U.S. Club Soccer and the U.S. Development Academy have joined U.S. Youth Soccer in the youth arena over the last decade. Has the increase in options for youth clubs benefited America's young players?

Absolutely not. I think this is one case where free enterprise does not apply. I believe in one federation almost dictating how we should operate and function.

It has confused the membership. I’m supposed to be an expert in this field and I’m confused.

SOCCER AMERICA: Should the U.S. Soccer Federation create a Development Academy on the girls as it did for the boys in 2007?

Yes, indeed. Not exactly the mirror image of the boys side but a very similar version.

SOCCER AMERICA: Have you seen significant improvements in youth coaching?

I think there’s a slow growth, a slow progress, a slow maturation buildup taking place.

Players who have gone through the college system and have played pro -- they have a natural background in the game -- and they’re getting into coaching side.

What’s unique about the United States is I think we’re very advanced in psychology, management, physical fitness, rehab -- so those things can transfer right over into soccer. Now we really need to learn the nuances of the game. The technical side and the tactical side.

The coaching has improved.

SOCCER AMERICA: If you had a magic wand, how would you use it to improve youth soccer in America?

I would have the [U.S. Soccer] Federation hire technical directors who oversee each and every single branch of our organization and allow him and her the power and authority to create a better infrastructure within U.S. soccer.

SOCCER AMERICA: How is that different than the Federation’s recent hiring of Claudio Reyna, April Heinrichs and Jill Ellis?

You just named three of them, [but] there's too many factions to oversee. There need to be more and they should be the be-all and end-all.

(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

11 comments about "Rush's Tim Schulz: USSF should play even greater role".
  1. Al Micucci, February 8, 2011 at 2:57 p.m.

    I could not agree more with Tim Schulz. USSF needs to grab the bull by the horns and get this country organized. How did they let all of these different organizations come about? In my opinion, money. We have so many people out there purpoting to be "experts". I don't deny anyone the right to earn a living but we don't even have an organized system of recognizing coaching credentials. the State associations are a mess. The inmates run the asylum. There is no strong leadership nationally nor locally. Until there is, if we become successful it will be because of luck, not plannning. I don't even want to get started with the whole gender equality thing. Which is the most successful National team in this country?

  2. Amos Annan, February 8, 2011 at 3:12 p.m.

    Disagree... better to have competing systems in this country. More choice, not less.

    Tim Schulz is part of the problem promoting the "Rush" club instead of what youth players really need.

    Too much emphasis on coaches and clubs, instead of playing games.

    There is little youth coaching in other countries, yet the produce better players (ratio).

    The difference: they play every day growing up. American kids only play at practice.

  3. K Hakim, February 8, 2011 at 4:09 p.m.

    The NSCAA have an opportunity to address this every year at their convention. Every level is represented there and every State TD and Admin person attends. So why don't they have a national forum on how to reform their leagues, tournaments, clubs, etc..for the good of the game and the good of the kids?

    You know why, money.

    How about long term grassroots funding using their sponsors and vendors to create programs and facilities?

    How about free coaching for disadvantaged kids year round instead of single day clinics once a year?

    How about forcing all US Soccer sanctioned tournaments to play one game a day, instead of multiple game days?

    How about demanding all high school seasons be played in the Fall to have a national schedule in line with the college soccer schedule?

    How about forcing all State Cup and ODP (state run programs) to be done in Spring and Summer, and not affect Fall and Winter?

    How about MLS being an August thru May season (with Winter break) to coincide with the rest of the world and give players a summer break? Maybe top players might come here and play then.

    How about no travel permitted beyond their state boundaries for any youth team until 11v11 age is reached (U13)? Now that's a revolution that will save money and force clubs to do a better technical job with their players.

    How about US Soccer national staff stating what they want to see at the elite level in a player?

    Why can't they tell youth coaches, look, in order for our country to produce the next Messi, Ronaldo, or Robinho, we need our kids to dribble...all the time. Never take it out of them.

    In order to produce a Xavi, Gerrard, or Zidane, we need our central mids to be able play with both feet and hit any range with any part of their feet.

    In order to produce, the next Dani Alves, Ashley Cole or Roberto Carlos, we need fullbacks who can dribble as well as tackle, to shoot as well as cross a ball.

    In order to produce free thinking players who are creative, you need to stop barking orders at kids, and just sit and observe them play and give them feedback after wards. But let the game be theirs, not yours.

    How about clubs providing weekly play days where kids of all ages can use the fields to just play their own mixed games, without adult coaching. Supervision sure, but keep the adults out of the game?

    How about clubs teaching parents that the youth game is not about winning trophies and points, but having fun with the ball, letting kids express themselves (not parents on the sidelines), and players developing individual skills before they enter the 11v11 game. So all the mini soccer should be focused on the individual.

    Until there are people at the top of the game that are willing to be bold, we are stuck with the old. That means another 20 million youth players that will never have the chance to become world class unless they leave this country.

  4. Steven Erickson, February 8, 2011 at 4:53 p.m.

    Money is the ONLY driver of this sport as well any other sport. If the kid's parents don't have the cash then playing will be relegated to the recreational offerings or the park. Greed is the player in the United States and wealth is the uniform.

  5. Chad Mcnichol, February 8, 2011 at 11:10 p.m.


    I hear and understand the factors that previous comments have mentioned: Money and greed and frauds posing as experts to make money, and lack of focus on the inner cities. These are valid points, but I think the most significant problem is larger and perhaps a little more obvious....a near total lack of a healthy soccer culture, exacerbated by parental expectations that sports be competition-oriented as the primary means of player development.

    Money can't be the only factor...inner-city ghetto kids develop great basketball skills. Little kids in Africa without running water in their homes have wonderful skill from very young ages compared to most US kids. This is because they have the necessary culture, based on free play, with players developing a passion and personal ownership of the sport. Those players spend their formative years developing flair (technical skill and creativity), and do not get into team development until much later. There is some of this culture for soccer in large inner cities, but that population is dwarfed by the number of players in the outlying areas, and yes, the horrible "affluent" suburbs we love to hate, featuring the soccer moms and helicopter parents who want their kids to be involved in 5 activities at once.

    Up to now, elite player development has been based on the erroneous notion that elite players can be identified early, then pulled away to be brought up with other elite players in elite programs. This thinking has been a total failure, mostly because, in the words of Arsene Wenger, those who think they can identify elite players before age 16 are either liars or cheats.

    The best that soccer in the US could possibly do is to have the largest possible base of the population with a strong passion for free play, which is nothing like the sterile facade played on rec soccer fields on Saturdays. The creme of this solid base naturally then rises to the top. Raise the talent level of the base, thereby raising the general level of talent from which the elite players come. No genius central plan, no complicated curriculum or top-flight academy.

  6. Chad Mcnichol, February 8, 2011 at 11:11 p.m.


    So we can mock the soccer mom culture all we want and seek to distance ourselves from it, but we must capture those numbers to take full advantage of our country's population in building the base level.

    Bottom line is that the overwhelming majority of the USSF efforts should be directed at revolutionizing the culture of recreational soccer. It could never look exactly analogous to inner-city basketball, but the USSF can aim to give as much of the game back to the kids as possible in the context of an adult-organized environment. For example, mandating small-sided games as defined by US Youth Soccer. Helping rec clubs set up free-play festivals to get away from competitive tournaments at early ages. Intense coach mentoring of lowly parent volunteer rec coaches direct from big-name experts, to get away from the thinking that winning = successful coaching and to equip coaches to be able to understand the concepts behind long-term player development.

    The metrics are even simpler: You will know we are getting it right when the kids, in their own playtime, are playing more soccer on their driveways or amongst friends. Or when local populations demand that their park districts construct "soccer courts" alongside basketball courts and skate parks. Both the popularity and the level of play of the MLS will also then increase as a matter of course.

    If we cannot get to that point, we simply cannot get soccer to the level all of us are dreaming about in these discussions.

  7. Brad Hallier, February 8, 2011 at 11:58 p.m.

    It really is too bad that money drives youth soccer here. I know of a few poorer Hispanic communities that produce excellent soccer players. Yet, they'll never get a chance to show their stuff to this country, even though many of them are more skilled than many players in this country who will at least get a look.

  8. K Hakim, February 9, 2011 at 4:54 a.m.

    I'd like to add another variable to the equation and that is the phrase beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I believe America has produced "world class" youth players these past 20 years. The problem has been the next level above the youth game. I have seen so many technically great and physically quick players down the years. But rarely all on one team. I have seen American players compete with the best of Europe in youth soccer and demolish the European players. But find later that the European players moved on to the pro game and the American move to the college game. There is the first issue in the progress of a 17-18 year old in the US. College soccer takes away the opportunity for that player to become great because while around the world teenagers are learning from playing with and against the adult elite year round, in America the same level players are still playing youth soccer at the U23 level and only for 3 months with a little extra practice in Spring. As for the eye of the beholder, that remains a massive problem. While I may like to see players play like Messi, Ronaldo, Sneijder and Tevez, and look for those traits in youth players, someone selecting for an ODP team, college team, MLS team or US national team, not having the same frame of reference for skillful soccer in every position on the field, may prefer the Michael Bradleys, Brian McBrides and Jeff Agoos's of this world. Totally different soccer, not very entertaining and certainly not creative enough to nurture world class players. This is a massive country for soccer but at the top levels of the game, very narrow minded in the selection of players for the next level. There is no reason why America should not have world class players wanted by clubs around the world, but the system is run by people who don't have the eye, and as I said before, they don't have the boldness to do something revolutionary in this country.

  9. S Hendricks, February 9, 2011 at 8:22 p.m.

    I agree with A Hakim and T Shultz. It is unfortunately all about the money. One of the best articles that I've read on the topic is, "Does the US Youth soccer system and England's differ greatly?"

    "The English academies see their youth program as an investment for the future. In contrast, American youth soccer is regarded as a revenue producer, a profit center. The day will have to come when the MLS clubs will take over the development of our elite players and do it along a similar philosophy to the English academies. Until that happens, our youth clubs should monitor the behavior of our coaches and educate the parents to ensure that our players are protected from trophy hunting mentality, burnout,and a misplaced emphasis on winning at younger ages. We must follow the English example and do a better job of protecting the players’ safety, while promoting the technical and creative aspects of the game over team building. "

    Most parents do not understand how the youth soccer programs work or how one club differs from the other, much less understand how the competing organizations conduct their business at the expense of the players appropriately or otherwise. With some as non-profits, it is incredibly difficult for volunteers to uniformly distribute information to generate enough support to fix the kinds of things that are wrong with the system.

    That is not to say that it is impossible. It will require commitment, collaboration, making good things better, and replacing the parts and practices that are being done poorly. This takes leadership that can embrace input from diverse sources instead of relying on intellectual inbreeding within systems that work as money machines but do not serve the players and potential players that can not afford to play under the present system.

  10. Chad Mcnichol, February 13, 2011 at 4:32 p.m.

    All very interesting, thought-provoking input. Thanks to everyone for your comments.

  11. B Arsenal, March 23, 2011 at 1:56 p.m.

    I agree with Brad Hallier. Not enough opportunities for inner city kids.

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications