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 HERE.
“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 YouthSoccerFun.com.)