Reyna unveils new coaching curriculum

[YOUTH] The U.S. Soccer Federation has unveiled its new coaching curriculum for coaches of players ages 5-12. Youth Technical Director Claudio Reyna presented the "age-appropriate roadmap" to player development on Wednesday to youth soccer coaches and directors at the Nike International Headquarters in Beaverton, Ore. The curriculum is available for download on

Reyna, who captained the USA at two World Cups, said four key points of the curriculum are:

1. Development over winning.

“Our players are naturally competitive,” Reyna said. “We don’t need to ramp that up anymore. The whistle blows, our kids want to win. That’s one of our strengths and we're proud of it. But if we’re manipulating and thinking winning-over-development, we’re making a huge mistake. We’re short-cutting the development of players. ...

“Our aim is to produce skillful, creative, confident players.”

Reyna, who made several references to Barcelona’s famed youth program, quoted star playmaker Xavi: “Some youth academies worry about winning. We worry about education.”

2. Quality Training.

“Make every session a quality session, come prepared, don’t waste time,” Reyna said. “Keep players focused and active. … If you have 12 one-hour sessions in a month, and you waste 10 minutes each session, you can waste two sessions in a month.”

3. Age appropriate.

“Providing players with too much too soon leads to confusion and hurts development,” he said. “We don’t need coaches teaching 8-year-olds zonal defending or an offside trap, just like we don’t teach a second-grader calculus. Kids learn rapidly, but at different stages in their lives.”

4. Have fun and inspire your players.

“If we make it fun, we’re going to inspire them. Soccer is a great, fun game,” said Reyna. “Let’s make sure we create an environment so that our players want to come back to our training sessions and be part of the fun.”

(FURTHER READING: Members of the U.S. Soccer technical staff -- Dave Chesler, Tony Lepore, Jill Ellis and April Heinrichs -- discuss the curriculum HERE.)

5 comments about "Reyna unveils new coaching curriculum".
  1. Robert Kiernan, April 21, 2011 at 8:59 a.m.

    Well I realize this is aimed at coaches of rather young players, but I feel that one thing that has to be acknowledged is that it's not simply a matter of giving coaches a means of better organizing their sessions or making realistic assumptions of what a young player can actually absorb... but at this age the ability to perform the mechanical things like passing, like trapping, like various ways of shooting are often missing not just from the young players, but from the well meaning but hardly soccer skilled coaches as well. It's been my experience that while many of these coaches get involved with coaching because their son or daughter is in need of an adult to supervise and "coach" and many are very well meaning and eager, the telling fact is that not enough of these volunteer coaches have ever really played at a high level and so long as our coaches have trouble doing much of the things they are expected to be able to teach... well there is a tendency to rely on "book learning" much like there is a tendency to look for a "pill" to loose weight... it might help, but you still need to know about diet and exercise to do the latter and you really need to know a bit about how to manipulate a soccer ball to really successfully be able to teach a child how to dribble or chip a pass or a shot. This is not to disparage Reyna's curriculum, organization and being realistic about what a player can comprehend are very important, and getting caught up in being overly concerned about "results" as opposed to improvement is always a problem for some "Little League" parents and is not the best trait in a coach of young children, but when he speaks of coming prepared that needs to include being sufficiently competent to demonstrate the hows as well as the whys of the game and that means being able to demonstrate to and then properly correct a youngsters efforts. It's always a problem to find a balance between effort and result and it's no small wonder that so many of our better known players had access to a parent who knew the sport and helped pass on all sorts of things even informally at a very young age, think of say Marcello Balboa or Taylor Twellman and I can assure you that having an ex Professional around had a massive impact on both of them when they were barely out of diapers... this is starting to change as more and more parents have grown up with at least some contact with the game but it still is far from universal and that is just the way it often is. As an aside I'd recommend trying to use some of your older players if they are available as part time assistant coaches when working with younger kids, you can always use extra help and in the eyes of most seven or eight year olds a thirteen year old tends to be impressive and teaching others tends to make you think a bit about what you are doing yourself so it's not a bad thing to have a few of them around for they're own learning of the game. ...

  2. David V, April 21, 2011 at 9:44 a.m.

    Having lived in Europe and South America (a short time), these problems don't seem to be an issue in either location... so Reyna may have hit the nail on the head for US development

    these topics tackle some inherent problems such as 1) the coach who will do anything to win because the parents want nothing but wins (they don't understand it's not about going undefeated, etc., and they brag about the teams wins), so the paid coach of young players has the temptation to put winning above development -- you keep the parents happy and the coach keeps getting paid... unfortunately, the players get short changed and many of them fizzle out in a few years due to burn out and/or lack of development. The temptation becomes developing a team to win over developing players (some coaches at young ages resort to teaching their kids to pull jerseys, etc, etc). Beware the coach whose decisions are based on pleasing parents... (that's not to say that you don't consider families), but usually that's an indication of a coach trying to keep $ in his pocket (even though he may not appear that way). I applaud those who do it for the love of the game, and can earn a living at it.

    2) I can't tell you how many times I've seen young or inexperienced coaches waste time (OK, we thank them for their volunteer service, but) young kids get board, and get this touches, etc.

    3) Yes, the game is much about passing at the older ages, but it's ridiculous to drill into a kid at 8, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass... how much development is that? They need touches on the ball. And spatial understanding doesn't come around til they are a bit older anyway.

    4) Kids need to be allowed to fail, make mistakes, try new ideas, not be afraid to fail...applaud their creative ideas, not stuff them into a box. Also, some coaches think it should all be fun at the expense of developing technical skills (they wouldn't say they do, but they do), others think they are really very learned as a coach and doing the technical things and forget about fun for a kid (by making games out of drills, not just finish training sessions with shooting or scrimmaging). it is a very rare thing to find a coach who has the mix of making it fun and teaching the technical skills... I've been around youth soccer for about 30 years and I'd say you get the mix only about 5% of the time or less. Just because a coach is paid doesn't mean he knows how to mix the two... usually that coach errs on the "no fun" side. More learning about a kid's psyche is needed.

  3. Mark Zimmerman, April 21, 2011 at 10:16 a.m.

    At first glance, I'd say Coach Reyna is headed in the right direction. The curriculum looks similar to the Dutch Vision - technically competent, attacking soccer that relies on brains as much as brawn. However, it appears there's still too much emphasis on the Physical aspect. In the section on Preparation, the comment is made that wasting 10 minutes of every practice because the coach is unorganized definitely adds up over time. I would say the same is true about Physical Exercises that don't include the ball. Before the High School ages, at the Club Level almost all players are athletic enough (agile, quick, etc.) to play well. (If not, then that player should work on those Physical aspects on their own time.) So if you spend your precious team training time working on Agility, Sprinting, etc. for 10-15 minutes of every practice, the coach is depriving his or her players, over the course of a season or year(s), of hours and hours of valuable time where they could actually be learning how to play soccer. My teams NEVER run without the ball involved and we are never short on fitness. Why? Because we are always busy playing soccer. As an added benefit, my players enjoy our practice sessions. Why? Because we are always doing soccer-like exercises, i.e., only those things that would happen in a game, or actually playing soccer in small-sided games. They end up working hard at practice because they enjoy playing the physically demanding game of soccer. And here's a shameless plug... if you want more info about this alternate (Dutch) approach, just google "Dutch Soccer Vision." As a proud American, I'm very glad to see these important first steps taken by someone as well-respected as Claudio Reyna. Keep it going, Claudio!

  4. Robert Kiernan, April 21, 2011 at 10:46 a.m.

    Well Tom I'd say that this is proposed for ages 5 to 12, and there is a massive difference in the attention span between a five year old and a twelve year old so like any sort of teaching you've got to be aware and realistic about just whom it is you are dealing with. But anyone who is going to pay for a "professional" coach for a bunch of five or six year olds or who would even consider paying attention to their "records" at that age is already a bit of an obsessive type in my humble opinion. I've actually had some arguments with some parents about why it makes no damned sense to play 11 v 11 at a very young age, they've insisted it's not "real" if it's a small sided match... you've certainly seen the beehive swarm matches and outside of maybe getting some aimless running in, there is so little contact with the ball that only the bigger and quicker kids EVER even get to touch the damned ball... and that is best way to get a child to loose interest in being out there at all. Much better to break them up into smaller groups and have multiple small sided "semi supervised" matches going on... but again that is where you need more adults to supervise, not even really coach much. Later when they're a bit older it's different, but if a five year old can concentrate on much of anything for a whole minute, well that is a rather unusual kid... but treating a twelve year old that way is a waste of time both his and yours, by then there should be some expectations of working with others and being able to concentrate a good deal longer than one minute. I've always found by this stage it's good to do a fair bit of "shadow" play with no other team at all just start and stop things and ASK THEM well what would they do and why? Then break them up and put some type of condition on teams and in the end give them some free scrimmaging and just let them play... but first you have to eat your veggies before you can have desert... but asking older players rather than always telling them gets them thinking and gives them some feeling that it's their game, and that there are many ways to do something, again there needs to be a balance and some structure but this really has almost always worked for me at this level... and a free scrimmage is a must, hell you have to remember even at this age they are NOT professionals and are doing this for fun not for a career move... now the parents on the other hand are often an entirely different story, ha ha ...

  5. David Huff, April 21, 2011 at 1:41 p.m.

    Looks like Claudio Reyna is inclined to import Barcelona's La Masia Academy youth development approach and curriculum here to the US, this bodes well for the future of US Soccer. Bravo!

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications