U.S. coaching education must be unique (Q&A with NSCAA's Ian Barker, Part 2)

Interview by Mike Woitalla

Ian Barker
became Director of Coaching of the 30,000-member National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) in February. A longtime ODP coach, he served as Minnesota Youth Soccer Association Director of Coaching (1997-2007) and spent more than two decades coaching college ball. In Part 2 of our interview we asked Barker about coaching education in America and for advice on navigating the youth soccer landscape.

SOCCER AMERICA: Is NSCAA coaching education designed to create an American style of soccer that is entertaining and successful?

IAN BARKER: Overall I would answer yes. The NSCAA, and other U.S. coaching programs, offer very solid practical ideas to teach both entertaining and attractive soccer. I also think they allow for different approaches and consider how to be effective in different environments where one’s advantages are greater or lesser.

I think the U.S. coaching education community is forward thinking and relevant. I think a good U.S. youth coach would stand out in many cases in another country.

When you consider the size of the U.S. and the diversity of our playing and coaching groups many of our challenges and successes are things many foreign associations try to learn from.

SA: Coaching education in the USA has historically been heavily northern-Eurocentric. Have you seen it evolve as significantly as should – considering the diversity of the U.S. population (eg: the huge pool of Latino players) and the fact that the most successful soccer has been coming from southern Europe and South America?

IAN BARKER: If the language skills of our leaders in coach education are/were primarily English then it is somewhat understandable the influences have been English, German and Dutch. That is not a situation that is good enough to rely on.

In the case of Spanish soccer the numbers of coaches taking education courses is the envy of much of Europe so not only do we need to understand the content of a Spanish UEFA award, but also how they were able to suggest value in education to coaches.

Confronting an ignorance of the practices of Latin America is something that improves all the time as exchanges of ideas and content take place. In the end the U.S. coaching education structure needs to be unique to the truly unique challenges facing the U.S. coaching population. Embracing our real positives, including facilities, sport science, growing media interest and developing a blended approach to education that is not exclusive in nature is something I think is happening.

SA: What advice would you give to parents navigating the youth soccer landscape for their children?

IAN BARKER: Sometimes less is best. Seek advice from a number of sources, but always make your decision based on what is right for you and your child. If your child has a passion for soccer that they are allowed to develop at an early age then the quality of the formal programming is not as important because enthusiasm and talent will likely get the player where they want to be. Of course stronger teammates and stronger opponents aid development, as well as better coaching etc., but if the child is not committed then I think parents can waste time and money where it could be better spent.

SA: How much of a problem is the cost of youth soccer in the USA and do you see it becoming less or more of a problem?

IAN BARKER: I believe the quality of youth soccer in the country would be greatly and positively impacted if more children had access to the programming available. There can be little doubt we need more effort in making grassroots-level programming accessible and managing the expense of time and money of the next developmental opportunity. We will be inevitably limited if we get more kids playing and then make it impossible for all but a few who can afford it or are sponsored to carry on.

Read Part 1 of the interview HERE. Look for Part 3 in Tuesday's YouthSoccerInsider in which Barker address tournament play and the U.S. Soccer Development Academy's impact on the youth game.

7 comments about "U.S. coaching education must be unique (Q&A with NSCAA's Ian Barker, Part 2)".
  1. Luis Arreola, October 15, 2012 at 11:05 a.m.

    As evidenced here there is nothing being done to find a way to lower costs or try to get everyone involved. If you don't play for an Academy club you have close to no chance at being scouted for anything in USA. This is purposely done to pronote Academy as the only way to go by Us soccer. Is this good overall for The players? I don't believe it is. Why not scout all over and put pressure on Academies to develop better talent? I gaurantee you would findfind better talent in Hispanic leagues than in Academies. Why? Because of style of play, passion, culture. Academies must be forced to account for Academy status. Not just given full credebility without proving it. Why not strictly rank these Academies by college and Pro players developed within the club taking into account years in the club, player to player ratio, etc., If you kept ranking Academies on wins then how do you expect to have development?

  2. nikki barratt, October 15, 2012 at 11:34 a.m.

    Yes - the pay to play model is terrible - at least now the MLS each have a low cost alternative, but only if you live close.... i literally moved to Cameroon in Central Africa because soccer is affordable here and my son can take public transportation....i do agree that it is about enthusiasm and talent, and should not be about who has the money to pay the coach for extra lessons!!!!!

  3. Richard Beal, October 15, 2012 at 1:11 p.m.

    Why do we get all these Brits?

  4. Alberto Mora, October 16, 2012 at 12:41 a.m.

    Mr. Barker is living in a World of Dreams when he claims that the NSCCA has the best coaching Education program, if a certified NSCCA coach out stands is for his/her lack knowledge, I wonder what foreign associations are trying to learn from NSCCA. The right way make good Coaches is the USSF and still they some short comings. The best experience is the Dutch, German, and Spanish schools in Europe also the Brazilian, Argentina and Uruguay in South America.

  5. Luis Arreola, October 16, 2012 at 3:31 p.m.

    Mexico must now be included as well

  6. Ian Barker, October 17, 2012 at 11:59 p.m.

    I respect that people are engaged. I am happy to connect.

    Richard...I am British, not easy too "apologize" for that. I do think we are at a place where we should think about soccer people and their ability and sincerity beyond country of birth.

    Ric...that we are embedded in English language delivery does not mean we can afford to stay there.

    Alberto....I did not mean to say that the NSCAA was best, not sure that was printed. I mean to say US coach education is pretty good, and that others are interested in how we try to deliver in such a big country and how we manage the "pay to play" and parent coach model. I think UEFA awards would be a very solid model for the future of coach education here.

    Please use my e-mail if you wish. Talking soccer is always time well spent.

  7. Luis Arreola, October 22, 2012 at 10:11 p.m.

    Ian, coaches with A licenses are many times not worth the E license. Big clubs hire the License and not really the coach. My opinion. Who is interested in how we try to deliver in " such a big country" and how we manage the pay to play ? I think if they are intersted it is to make easy money from parents without being accountable for # of developed players. Why would any country have any interest in our player development ? I think we should be looking into how other countries scout players in their countries and even our, like Mexico!!

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