Another curriculum! (US Youth Soccer's is worth a read)

By Mike Woitalla

For sure, there’s no shortage of advice out there for America's youth coaches. Books, manuals, DVDs, clinics and courses.

Among the many e-mails with the latest, greatest drills and training plans landing in my inbox is one from a British firm with the subject line, “Make your players all-round geniuses.”

I hadn’t thought of aiming that high, but maybe I’ll bite if there’s a money-back guarantee on those drills in case they don’t create FC Einstein.

A less sensationally marketed document, but free and definitely worth a read, has been unveiled by U.S. Youth Soccer, which has delivered its 117-page “Player Development Model.”

You’re thinking, Another curriculum!?

Right, it arrives eight months after the USSF unveiled its "U.S. Soccer Curriculum." But this one’s more similar in scope and is designed as a complement to the USSF’s excellent “Best Practices for Coaching Soccer in the United States,” which came out in 2005.

"U.S. Soccer Curriculum” is more of a blueprint for age-appropriate training regimes. The “Player Development Model” delves deeper into the coach-player relationship, warning repeatedly of overcoaching.

“It’s going to give them a bit more of the whys behind the curriculum,” says Sam Snow, Director of Coaching of U.S. Youth Soccer, which has under its umbrella 55 member State Associations and more than 5,500 clubs.

“The Federation’s curriculum has a lot of great things in it and things we don’t have in what we put out, such as lesson-plan samples, but we have those up on our Web site, so we decided not to put them into the Player Development Model.”

PDM covers U-6 through U-19 and touches on all the important issues coaches face at each age group -- eg: use of goalkeepers, rotating positions, field size, team size, training time and frequency. PDM, to its credit, also offers crucial advice on tournament play in a section titled, “Beware of Tournamentitis.” While pointing out the benefits of a reasonable amount of tournament participation, it warns:

"We believe that excessive play at competitive tournaments is detrimental to individual growth and development and can reduce long-term motivation.”

As far as coaching kids, Snow says that the Federation and U.S. Youth Soccer’s guidelines complement each other:

“They are good resources and hopefully they give coaches the idea that you need to go tweak it a little bit, make up your own things based on the particular group you have in front of you."


"US Youth Soccer Player Development Model" available for download HERE.

US Youth Soccer Coach Resource Center 

“U.S. Soccer Curriculum” is available for download HERE.

“Best Practices for Coaching Soccer in the United States”
available for download HERE.

(Mike Woitalla, the executive editor of Soccer America, coaches youth soccer for Bay Oaks/East Bay United SC in Oakland, Calif. He is the co-author, with Tim Mulqueen, of The Complete Soccer Goalkeeper
, and More Than Goals with Claudio Reyna. Woitalla's youth soccer articles are archived at

4 comments about "Another curriculum! (US Youth Soccer's is worth a read)".
  1. Jack Niner, February 8, 2012 at 8:30 p.m.

    "The most fundamental skill in soccer is individual mastery of the ball and the creativity that comes
    with it. This should be a priority in training and games, especially in the early years."

    It's amazing how many soccer coaches know little to nothing about this - yet it is the first pt of emphasis in the Player Dev Guideline. I think more important than guidelines and licenses, we should have physical skill exams for coaching rankings. Then folks would start to know who really knows what beforehand.

  2. Ryan Giggs, February 9, 2012 at 1:01 a.m.

    Another virtually useless curriculum. These are only good for those who can interpret and translate them into PRACTICAL MATERIAL (i.e. TRAINING PLANS). Can the vast majority of youth coaches do that? No. Will the vast majority even read 10% of something like this? No. What does every youth coach need and want to know? The answer is another question - What the heck do I actually do???

  3. Brad Partridge, February 9, 2012 at 10:54 a.m.

    You bring up a great point about our development process in the US. Unfortunately here is another misguided attempt to develop US players. Development comes from focusing on fundamentals. The most critical for soccer is the ability to control the ball. Yet in the first section of our new curriculum is the following; “avoiding over-dribbling”, PLAYER S-. 1, 2 or 3 touch maximum: Minimizing the number of touches improves the speed of play.
    2. Keep the game simple: Do not force situations, over-dribble or be careless with the ball.
    While I want to support the development process this is simply wrong and most likely the very opposite of what we should be telling our youth players. Call me crazy but here is what I have found works the best: U9 and under, encourage all players to dribble dribble and then dribble some more. Play 3 vs 3 games and tell every player to take someone on when they have the ball. If they lose it try and get it back and dribble again. U10 – U12 Games are 4 vs 4, players play all over the field emphasizing basic shape (height, width and depth) both defensively and offensively. Encourage constant movement without the ball to reestablish good shape. No fixed positions. Keep telling players to take a defender on when you have the ball. Pass only when you feel the need or can combine with a teammate to penetrate. U13 – U15 Games 8 vs 8 Players are introduced to the principles of play and how to execute them while maintaining good shape.
    Telling our youth players and coaches to “avoiding over-dribbling” and “minimizing the number of touches” is absurd.
    Brad Partridge, FC Florida

  4. Tyler Isaacson, February 9, 2012 at 1:49 p.m.

    100+ pages US Youth soccer curriculum
    100+ pages US Soccer curriculum

    Can these two organizations get on the same page? Why do we need two?
    A ton of hard work was put into this but unfortunately it will read by very few people. It's time to sit with these coaches and ask them what they could really use that would help them.

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