Commentary

Even Bayern Munich doesn't have a magic formula for youth development

By Mike Woitalla
@MikeWoitalla

It seems like only yesterday that Bayern Munich was hailed for its ability to produce stars from its youth ranks. In fact, it’s been seven years since a Bayern academy player broke into the first team and remained in it.

David Alaba made the first-team jump during the 2011-12 season after joining Bayern’s youth program in 2008. Alaba was already 16 when he left his native Austria for Säbener Strasse. He is the most recent Bayern academy success story.

Before Alaba’s breakthough, Bayern could boast a remarkable run of producing talent. 2014 World Cup winners Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm, Thomas Mueller, Toni Kroos and Matts Hummels came out of the Bayern academy.

Kroos joined Bayern at age 16 and Schweinsteiger at 14. Hummels was only 6, Mueller 10 and Lahm 11. Mueller’s 2009 debut was the most recent breakthrough among that quintet.

In the meanwhile, other once highly touted Bayern youth players have moved on, like 1995-born Julian Green, now with VfB Stuttgart. Green was a part of Bayern Munich’s squad when it toured the USA in the summer of 2014 and played against the MLS All-Stars. Also in that Bayern squad were academy players Gianluca Gaudino (1996-born), Lucas Scholl (1996), Michael Eberwein (1996) and Leopold Zingerle (1994). All have since left Bayern.

Bayern Munich enters the 2017-18 Bundesliga season as five-time defending champion. Only one Bayern academy product is seen as having a chance to get playing time. Marco Friedl, a 19-year-old Austrian left back who joined Bayern at 15, is slated as a backup to Alaba in the wake of an injury to Juan Bernat.

For this season, Bayern Munich spent $47 million to acquire 22-year-old French midfielder Corentin Tolisso from Lyon and $22 million for 21-year-old German central defender Niklas Süle from Hoffenheim.

The youth drought in Bavaria is similar to what’s happened at Barcelona, which famously fielded 11 academy grads in a 2012 win over Levante, but has since seen the pipeline from La Masia dry up.

For its part, Bayern has responded emphatically to improve its academy. This month, it opened a $78 million academy complex, the 74-acre FC Bayern Campus, which it has dubbed “the conveyor belt of talent.” It includes 35 apartments for players and eight fields.

“The results of our work in the last few years haven’t been so good,” said Bayern president Uli Hoeness. “Since David Alaba, no other player has come close to making the pro team.”

Bayern has shaken up its youth coaching ranks and put Hermann Gerland, most recently assistant to first team coach Carlo Ancelotti, in charge of the academy.

"If you have something as great as this [facility], then you should be able to dig out a player for the first team every three years," Hoeness said. "We have to measure our success with how the situation is in five years. We couldn't allow the next five years of youth work to be the same as the last five."

The money spent to acquire Tolisso and Süle is close to what Bayern spent to build FC Bayern Campus. So it can recoup the construction costs if it spawns players of that talent.

But will a fancy campus enable Bayern to produce more players like Mueller, Lahm and Co., who came out of its youth program when it had more modest facilities? That probably depends mostly on how much talent the players bring with them when they arrive.

48 comments about "Even Bayern Munich doesn't have a magic formula for youth development ".
  1. frank schoon, August 2, 2017 at 9:54 a.m.

    Bayern or rather German soccer, like English soccer has never been known for having a great youth development program like at Ajax of Amsterdam(This is why I think that the development of US soccer has been hurt by the emphasis of German and English influence and as far as I'm concerned we need to build a wall to keep the German and English coaches away from our US youth developmental program). The reason for that is that Holland can't compete with the big money of German, Spanish, English, Italian soccer. Ajax was forced to rely on developing their youth, unlike these other countries just mentioned, to compete. It also forced the dutch/ Ajax to play a thinking, and a technical game, not a fighting/physical game, employing very advanced tactical concepts brought about by Cruyff and Michels. So many of these tactical concepts today are now copied by other countries, such as Spain , Portugal, Germany, etc... In order to develop a youth program, it has to follow a concept,within a certain frame work of organization that aids the development of the youth. That framework has to be followed strictly which Spain and Germany and so many other countries don't for they have the money to buy players and thus aren't forced to strictly adhere to a developmental program and principles. The Ajax youth went downhill in the early 90's when Cruyff left to go coach in Spain and thus no-one was left in charge to really oversee the Ajax youth program. Similarly the Ajax youth program went downhill in the mid 70's when Cruyff left to go to play in Spain. This is why it is so important to have someone at all time oversee the youth developmental in all of its phases.
    The Ajax youth development went downhill in the 90's because of two youth directors, Van Gaal and Co Adriaanse. The problem was both were former school teachers who tend to be pedantic in following structural concepts leaving no room for creativity, even though they both had a playing background. They both were good professional coaches but not developers. You need creative people in youth development. Cruyff stated that you need a balance approach of structure and creativity. In the street soccer days great technical players without structure were produced which was now missing in the Ajax youth program. That phase of creativity was missing, and the Ajax youth stepped right into structure which is not good for their technical development. NEXT POST

  2. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, August 2, 2017 at 2:01 p.m.

    Germany has won more than just about any country on Earth. I'd love to copy that. Clearly, they are doing something right.

  3. Bob Ashpole replied, August 2, 2017 at 6:19 p.m.

    Frank, I would think we would be lucky to bring in some of the German FA coaches who are identifying and training teens at the regional centers. I don't think the problem is theory. How to develop players is not a secret and hasn't changed in at least 30 years. The key is mixing motivated players with knowledgeable and experienced coaches dedicated to player development.

  4. frank schoon replied, August 2, 2017 at 8 p.m.

    Bob, Germany now has improved their style of play for they decided to follow the dutch style of play and thinking about a decade ago. So yes ,I agree, about your German FA coaches but don't forget this process is still very new for Germans as compared to the dutch who have following their style since the 60's. This new way of thinking in developing players has to become part of the German soccer culture. Just look at Bayern and what has happened to their youth program all of sudden...what happened? I would say give the FA German coaches another decade before I can really judge their developmental improvements.

  5. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, August 3, 2017 at 9:27 a.m.

    Oh really? Winning the world cup isn't enough to judge their "progress"? Give me a break. Dutch coaches may have more a vaunted developmental "history" but history is all it is at this point. The current Dutch generation is not very good.

  6. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, August 3, 2017 at 12:20 p.m.

    What facts? All he said was Germany is bad at developing players yet they are probably the most successful national team of all time and certainly the most successful in the last 40 years or so. I'd love for the US to be as "bad" as they are at developing players.

  7. frank schoon, August 2, 2017 at 10:04 a.m.

    Cruyff a few years ago before he died initiated 'the revolution' in youth development at Ajax. It was nothing new for it he instituted the same youth development program that Ajax followed 50 years ago. It certainly had nothing to do with building fancy accommodations.Ajax employs former greats like Dennis Bergkamp,
    and so many other greats teaching the youth at all levels. Today ,there is so much talk about US developmental academies, which ,to me is all talk and no substance. There is developing and there is developing which Ajax has been known for but the US is nowhere near that.
    Until I see players like a Pirlo , a Valderrama, Schweinsteiger, Henri, and other greats approached by the USSF and asked to be involved in teaching/developing US players, the US developmental program is just whistling in the wind.

  8. Joe Goss, August 2, 2017 at 10:19 a.m.

    Julian Green already made his Bundesliga debut. He played 5 games for Hamburg back in 2014. He never played a 1.BL game for BM though.

  9. Kent James, August 2, 2017 at 10:25 a.m.

    It raises the underlying question of are great players born that way or created by their club? While development can have an impact, it's probably easier to stifle talent than develop it. Even the great development academies are recruiting kids from far and wide (Argentina is a long way from Barcelona). I think the lack of steady production of first team players just demonstrates how difficult that is, especially when every club is engaged in the same race. It's probably more realistic for less wealthy clubs to develop their own talent, since at rich clubs like Bayern, the homegrown talent has to compete with the best players money can buy from around the world.

  10. frank schoon replied, August 2, 2017 at 10:41 a.m.

    KENT, the development program is for the mediocre players to become better players. There will always be great players and talent.

  11. frank schoon replied, August 2, 2017 at 11:55 a.m.

    H, good point you made...I have little understanding of the inner working of the MLS's DA's, have no idea this was going on...

  12. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, August 2, 2017 at 2:02 p.m.

    Looks like Kumar is back with his usual anti-DA agenda.

  13. Brian McLindsay replied, August 3, 2017 at 5:27 p.m.

    HS- There seems to be an incorrect player turnover rate at most academies. Many high level studies have shown that no individual has the capacity to identify top pro level talent at a young age (prepubescent). A few very experienced scouts have a better catch rate than most, but no one is consistent in identifying the top talent at early ages. Since the top talent isn't unidentifiable early on, how is it we don't see a high and likely increasing player turnover in every age bracket within the DA programs? I tend to agree with Frank, that some players just seem to have a natural capacity for the game, but it appears early physical and skills development of some players obscures true talent from being seen by even the most discerning talent seekers.

  14. frank schoon replied, August 3, 2017 at 6:13 p.m.

    Brian, You wouldn't believe how much talent goes through the Ajax Academy. It is one thing to have talent it is another to have the mental toughness to survive and become a pro at the end. Therefore a less talented kid can make the pros in the end and not necessarily a better talented one. There are so many stories about kids like that when they were young and were so good but didn't make it.

  15. Brian McLindsay replied, August 3, 2017 at 6:37 p.m.

    Frank- I was really commenting on the low turnover that is generally seen in the U.S. where we now have DA programs at U12. Historically once a player is put into the DA program, they are not removed for lack of development (no pay-to-play coach wants to have a conversation with a paying parent and tell them their BB/DD is out for lack of progression). I believe the MLS team DA's work more like Ajax and you see more movement.

  16. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, August 4, 2017 at 12:39 p.m.

    LOL...actually he didn't say anything like that. Next you'll be claiming he said kids should only play in the street until age 18 which is how you thought everyone in Brazil developed until I informed you otherwise.

  17. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, August 4, 2017 at 4:37 p.m.

    That's not true. You named numerous Brazilian players who you claims only played in the street until they were 16 or older and I showed that every one of them had been at clubs from the time they were very young. And how is there absolutely zero possibility of scouting at age 14? It's an inexact science for sure but it's not pointless. The ideal system has to allow for those who miss out at younger ages to join DA if they are good enough when older.

  18. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, August 4, 2017 at 4:37 p.m.

    You realize that in Brazil clubs scout players much much younger than 12-14 right? And according to you they do everything right.

  19. K Hakim, August 2, 2017 at 1:09 p.m.

    Articles like this are so laughable. Not because of the content but because so many people don't get that big pro clubs are not in the business of developing youth players but rather winning trophies. Their youth teams ate team centric not player centric. So youth players lack the creativity to become great with the ball. So unless they sign the next "Messi" at 15 most of these clubs do not nurture a top player from their academy. Ajax had one good generation in the late 80s that made Ajax first team successful. They have not had a generation since and yet they convinced the world that their academy and methods are among the best. Fake news. Same with Barcelona and Dortmund, etc. However there are clubs that are honing top players on a regular basis. Monaco are the prime example. From the likes of Djorkaeff, Thuram, Henry, Trezeguet, Petit and Adebayor to Mbappe, Mendy, Bakayoko, Lemar and Silva. Maybe they don't develop them from pre puberty thru puberty to adulthood but they do have an eye for young talent and give them an opportunity to play and improve to a top level. The issue in America is sadly much greater. We have over 10 million youth playing the game, more than any country in the world (bar China), with the most expensive youth coaches in the world, with some of the best resources in the world and teams that travel more than any billionaire club in the world. But where are America's world level players? The problem is simple. PAY TO PLAY and the team centric culture of soccer here. In 50 years I have never seen a world class player who paid to play the game. So such an environment does not work. Secondly the ego and politics of too many coaches and clubs is to win as many youth games as possible by traveling hours and hours for more athletic competition than to spend those same hours locally honing skills and creativity in their players. They are so focused on winning next weekend's league or tournament game then they are in improving the first touch and footwork of their weakest players. They depend solely on the athletic abilities of their best players so puberty wins at youth soccer until puberty matches up. Then skill must take over and sadly for too many that is too late. This program, at futsalamericafc.com has got it right. They hone individual skills year round and put their players in multiple environments to challenge their skills with no focus on the score. It is all about every player being better with the ball. If the rest of the country could do what these Futsal America players can do with the ball, we finally may see not only this nation's first world class player but a world class American team. We have seen everything else done in this country and fail, with super leagues and national tournaments, so why not go back to street and beach soccer and futsal and get the individual skills back before we put super youth teams together that achieve nothing for the nation. Just a thought lol

  20. frank schoon, August 2, 2017 at 2:45 p.m.

    K , I agree with you on the american player development being team oriented rather individual oriented. True, in the past 50 years the US has not developed one decent world star considering the great quantity of players, our economic capabilities and wealth. Yes, definitely there needs to be a great emphasis on street soccer type of games to enhance American player development for they aren't getting it from the coaches. You're wrong however about Ajax for they can only survive on youth development for they lack the financial resources to compete and therefore always produced great individualists. I'm surprised that you completely missed the greatest Ajax generation of the 70's headed by Cruyff which was so much better than the 80's Ajax generation. A couple of other things you missed is that Messi signed with Barcelona around the age of 10 not 15. The french players you mention like Trezeguet, Pires, Djorkaef, Thuram were nothing special. Pires was just a hard working midfielder, who carried the piano. Henri, likewise, who was out of his league playing for Barcelona and played much better in England when he played with Bergkamp who fed him at Arsenal. The only real great players France has produced in the past 30 years is Zidane, Platini and David Ginola . France somehow produces more midfielders with quality than attackers. They had Dominique Rocheteau ,Didier Six, but Just Fontaine was the only great goal scorer they ever produced.

  21. K Hakim, August 2, 2017 at 3:08 p.m.

    Frank I'm going to agree to disagree with you about Ajax and France

    Ajax sold the world on their youth development on that 80s generation not the 70s one. The 70s was about their total football not how they developed youth. I was there in the 80s so I saw how Bergkamp Roy Kliuiverr Seedorf Davids Reizeiger Overmars et al developed and so if you follow the same TIPS programming today you won't develop another generation like that. No team system does. After all what great player has Ajax developed this millennium? In fact the only great Dutch player period has been Robben

    Since 2000 where Rijkaards team was near perfect Holland have been abysmal to watch especially when they reached the WC Final in 2010

    As for France to disparage Henry and talk down on players who not only won both World Cup and Euros but also Champions Leagues is quite a statement that I'm afraid does not hold water.

    OK we can agree that World Class players like Cruyff Maradona Pele Best Messi Ronaldo Zidane are not club made but the point of the article is how a club like Bayern are not even developing for their club where yes Ajax is. But top players? No

    I would hope clubs at least focused more on the world class skills of the best players and instill the encouragement to try them in games as programs
    like Futsal America street soccer et al do but USDA ECNL ODP etc don't and thus fail the country.

  22. frank schoon replied, August 2, 2017 at 4:48 p.m.

    K, Did you read my previous comment above which explains what happened to the Ajax youth program? Obviously you are little younger than I am but Ajax made its name in the 70's because they won 3 European Cups with great players ,besides Cruyff. Then the '74 world cup came about where the Dutch National team again showed the world total soccer. Because of this success the Dutch world wide created a great interest their soccer. Total soccer came to its fruition with Dutch National team of '74 WC, not so much with Ajax.Both teams were filled with Ajax players. The point is that Ajax became the flagship for dutch soccer for they produced so many great players and therefore other countries wanted to find out why a small country like Holland has produces such good players, mostly from Ajax. So it began in the 70's when countries began to take in interest in Ajax developmental program. In the late 70's their developmental program when downhill and it took Cruyff to come back in the early 80's to develop the new Ajax stars of the late 80's. It was in the early 90's it went downhill again due to Van Gaal with TIPS. It wasn't TIPS but the quality of the youth directors that Cruyff blamed for ruining the Ajax youth development for the next 20 years.
    I have been unhappy with Dutch soccer and Ajax. Cruyff at least before he died tried to make the proper changes in the Ajax youth development and this will take a few years. Dutch soccer as a whole has gone down in quality and it showed at the WC'14 for all though they finished 3rd ,it was the worse team ever...total garbage.

  23. Bob Ashpole replied, August 2, 2017 at 6:29 p.m.

    I was thinking the same thing Frank--that he is too young to remember Ajax of the late 60s and 70s. I think that the Ajax experience proves that it is the quality of the trainers that makes the difference, not the name of the club or who is the club president.

  24. frank schoon replied, August 2, 2017 at 7:37 p.m.

    Bob, that is true, he is a few years younger than us, LOL. Obviously, Ajax quality of trainers made a difference, not the president. But what is so important throughout the years of Ajax since it became famous was its conforming to a certain CULTURE which is so different from Feyenoord or PSV. Ajax believed in playing soccer that pleases the public. It had to be entertaining, therefore very technical with lots of flair. As a result no 4-4-2 counter attacking soccer, no defensive soccer style soccer but attacking soccer. Ajax looks for certain types of players that fits their style of soccer. Ajax fans won't accept a win if it they play lousy, for entertainment is on the top of their list. The Ajax youth are basically very technically . Ajax doesn't look for size of the players and athletic speed, but ball dexterity and street savviness. Bergkamp as a youth would never have gone anywhere if he was living in Germany. In sum the development of the Ajax youth has to fit in the ajax CULTURE . In the world of soccer a team who buys an Ajax players knows what kind of player they are getting. This is perhaps another aspect that the average American fan doesn't understand in the development of their youth, for no MLS club has a culture or style they follow. So there is so much more in volved than just developing of a youth.....

  25. Bob Ashpole replied, August 2, 2017 at 11:24 p.m.

    One of the drawbacks of MLS is the parity and ceiling on player payroll. The teams are so focused on meeting the payroll ceiling each year that having a consistent vision from year to year is tough. Often they are forced to make large changes in personnel over the off season. Some of the clubs in Europe have 100 years of history behind them. MLS has a ways to go yet.

  26. frank schoon replied, August 3, 2017 at 9:31 a.m.

    Bob, I don't know about all that for once a club establishes a certain culture and style of play like Ajax has done than the money will not have such an effect on the development of the players...

  27. beautiful game, August 2, 2017 at 3:17 p.m.

    Top youth development clubs go through good times and bad times. Finding a potential jewel and having it shine on a consistent basis means that the player has the athletic skills and high soccer IQ meshed with a huge passion to succeed.
    IMHO, the first things a youth coach needs to look at is the comfort on the ball with pressure, instinctive decision making, and execution.

  28. Bob Ashpole replied, August 2, 2017 at 6:32 p.m.

    Actually at the youngest ages, mentality is what matters, particularly dedication and respect for authority. Without those qualities, the rest won't prosper.

  29. Brian McLindsay replied, August 3, 2017 at 6:30 p.m.

    I agree with most of what is said with a little twist, some of the highest game IQ players don't find themselves under a lot of pressure very often because they find spaces to receive the ball. Additionally those are the same players that some would consider lazy as they are not running like a gazelle because they are correctly positioned and won't be chasing balls or players that have gotten behind them. Look at one of the highest game IQ players currently, Messi, who is often derided for how little he runs (usually only the goalie will run less, but that's a close call some times).

  30. frank schoon replied, August 3, 2017 at 6:56 p.m.

    Brian , the trick is to run less and instead let the ball do the running. That is a style that is the most efficient to play. Barcelona has nothing but very technical players, ball handlers, which means the players make the ball move fast instead of making yourself run fast, for there is nothing faster than the ball movement. This is why in Holland they say the amount of sweat you produce has nothing to do by how well you've played. You don't want Messi to run a lot with his little legs for you want him to save his energy to be employed at the right moment. Cruyff stated that the more you employ running the dumber you are as a player.... It is all about the first step on the opponent, besides the first few meters of space are between your ears

  31. K Hakim, August 2, 2017 at 10:02 p.m.

    Frank, actually, the 74 World Cup is the first one I remember seeing as a kid and the Dutch were one of the teams that caught my eye. But we are talking about how a club tries to present its culture and methods to rest of the world as a guaranteed system to produce top players and Ajax have tried to market that from the 80s team not the 70s one. I saw Ajax drop and rise in the 80s, get surpassed by PSV before regaining their mantle with the class of 95. I have argued with all my Dutch friends that team was made from one generation of inner city Dutch, Surinam and Antilles players that came together in the youth teams and became a European success. Similar to Beckham, Scholes, Giggs, Butt etc at Man U, and Fowler, McManaman, Redknapp, McAteer and co at Liverpool. A few clubs simply had a generation that made them play quality football and win. But none of these or other clubs were able to produce another generation like them. That is because soccer is not an exact science. Everything starts with the individual and how he grows with the ball and develops a passion to train and work harder than most and see his skills grow among greater peers before finally emerging post puberty above them and then being recognized to play at a big club. The issue in America is that youth coaches believe in trends because they never developed a player pre puberty to adulthood and thus only focus on short term results. This is the basis of America's failure as a culture to produce players that can reach the top level of the game consistently.

  32. frank schoon, August 2, 2017 at 11:23 p.m.

    K, The 70's team was not marketed as a way to play soccer for other teams, that is an impossibility for you have to deal with cultures of other countries for example Italy. Italy ruled the roost in soccer from the mid sixties employing the defensive playing style of Catenaccio. It was Ajax in the early 70's that introduced the world with a new style of soccer to beat Catenaccio and it wasn't total soccer for that came to fruition a few years later. The success of Ajax completely changed the philosophy of the training methods to a more physical, less technical and more up tempo game everywhere in Europe, for all coaches wanted to copy the Dutch success, which in a sense has hurt the technical development of the game to this day. It was in the late mid 70's after Michels, Cruyff, Neeskens and Keizer left the Ajax team that Ajax went downhill until Cruyff came back in '82 to play and coach
    Ajax again which resulted in bringing Ajax back to a team of respectability , something they hadn't had for 10 years. In the early 80's Cruyff criticized not only the Ajax style of play but also their youth development. As a result he made Ajax play and follow the recipe used by the famous Ajax team of the early '70's and also made the youth development follow the 70's recipe in how Cruyff developed as a youth. It was those youth players who later
    made up the famous Ajax squad of the early 90's. So those players of the Surinam heritage , although born in Holland were trained by youth development methods of the early 70's under Cruyff. So it was not a generational thing but the return to the training methods and developing methods of the early 70's of which are again employed today by Ajax following the Cruyff revolution of the past 5years.
    Yes, Ajax lost their mantle to PSV temporarily because PSV bought Ajax players like Ronald Koeman, Kieft, Vanenburg, Lerby, Wouters and tried to sign Rykaard . You mentioned the Surinam players but they were other stars Bergkamp, Van Basten, Jonk, Wouters, De Boer brothers, Overmars , Winter as well. It wasn't just a generational thing of Surinam players. In sum it was the Ajax style of play ,the developmental youth program and the Ajax philosophy of the game as represented by Cruyff and Michels of the early 70's that made these players of the mid 80's and early 90's good. TIPS had nothing to do with it and only effected the youth development of the mid 90's on, until the Cruyffian revolution
    You mentioned American youth coaches believe in trends, that is a world wide sickness. All coaches follow trends from pros down to youth , everywhere. Short term results have also become disease everywhere in soccer due to big money, not just in America. America's failure is more directly due to lack of real expertise not brought in to help develop the players..

  33. Bob Ashpole replied, August 3, 2017 at 1:11 a.m.

    H Savage; In Holland kids playing in the street came first, before Ajax was even really a truly professional club and successful. I don't think a solution is that simple. We had Mia Hamm, Michelle Akers and Claudio Renya, Tab Ramos and Brian McBride for the last generation. This generation we have had several forwards as well as LLoyd and Rapinoe on the women's side and Donovan and Dempsey on the men's side. If we included backs and keepers, I could name some more players. (Tim Howard's performance at the last cup finals ranked in the top 5. His game against Belgium was legendary.) I don't see how anyone could have been more well known, man or woman, than Mia Hamm, unless it was Brandi Chastain for her 1999 celebration.

  34. frank schoon replied, August 3, 2017 at 10:07 a.m.

    Bob, H, you guys are both right. Street soccer was the perfect training grounds to develop the soccer player, so aptly stated by Cruyff and Michels. I do believe the USSF has done absolutely zero in that department to foster a street soccer culture for they would rather have it controlled and delegated by the various DA programs. Cruyff and Michells stated that so many facets of the game and development can't be covered in their trainings sessions at club level but only in street level. Michels realized he was blessed by the number of stars who learned their game in the streets. Michelle just added some discipline,structure, team wise and tactical wise to form the great Ajax team of the early 70's. In other words he had players that had the 'Tools". The problem what is lacking in the development of youth soccer is the lack of real expertise to bring the game a level upwards in the developmental department. As I've stated before ,where is the USSF as far as bringing in top level retired players( I don't mean MLS quality) from Europe or South America to teach the high level details of the game. This is what the Ajax youth receive from their former stars. We have the money, why aren't we bringing in this expertise. This is what is missing in our player development and this is what the street soccer youth were receiving when joining a club. Cruyff stated that in the old days the youth at club level level were guided( note,not coached)by the best player on the team. This is not happening for now the National Association got their fingers in the pie and stated that only coaches with a licenses can train the youth. This is why Cruyff doesn't want licensed coaches training the kids for they are too theoretical, too caught up in their pedantic, garbage. For example a licensed coach would tell the kids, "don't do this ,don''t do that, do it this way, for that is not how soccer is played". This is so far from how street soccer kids learned the game .And having a good player guide them is much more like what these kids learned in playing street soccer. Cruyff stated at Ajax he would dribble and dribble and take on players and his coach Jany van der Veen would allow him to do that for Jany was himself a player. Can you imagine today what a licensed coach would do to a kid like that.
    Cruyff learned when to get rid of the ball before getting kicked and that done in a way by letting him play against older and faster players. In other words he learned on his own when to get rid of the ball without worrying he about being yelled at or punished for dribbling too much...This is why today the kids look so sterile on the ball due to the control of these licensed coaches who don't understand development has to have an extreme element too learn...

  35. frank schoon, August 3, 2017 at 10:34 a.m.

    H, good points....

  36. Forever Blue, August 3, 2017 at 12:55 p.m.

    My view is a little different. I have dealt with US kids trying to break into European clubs and aside from the politics the biggest setback is not that the kids aren't skilled enough. It is is that they lack an understanding and vision of the flow of the game. They are not smart players. This is because our technical training generally involve personal trainers 1-on-1 or with cones. We develop a lot of tricksters and not players. Kids don't develop their skill through non supervised pickup games anymore so they lack an instinct for the game. This is what Pulisic gained from playing at Dortmund not his skill. And this is still our biggest gap.

  37. frank schoon replied, August 3, 2017 at 1:44 p.m.

    Blue, very good, so true.

  38. stewart hayes replied, August 3, 2017 at 6:36 p.m.

    Interesting comment. How much does our ball centered, fast footwork, what move to use mentality get in the way of just reading and playing the game moment to moment? One reason Messi is so fun to watch is that he is so good at unbalancing the defender and taking and making the most what the defender gives him. You don't learn that by dribbling to a cone.

  39. frank schoon, August 3, 2017 at 7:10 p.m.

    Stewart, good points. Street soccer players never grew up with cones. Their game consisted of working on their skill versus an opponent in all facets of the game...Technique needs to learned under conditions that require to be able to read the defender's actions contra your movements with the ball....

  40. K Hakim, August 3, 2017 at 7:46 p.m.

    Frank I am not disputing your history lesson on Cruyff but rather how Ajax sold their training system to the world.

    In any case, I have enjoyed many cultures of football and so I do not believe any one culture is the key. I don't believe any one environment is key or any one type of training. The Chinese taught us 4000 years ago that with every Ying there is a Yang and that simply means balance.

    We must give kids a balance of attacking and defending, dribbling and passing but let them make the decisions and experiment with the ball for them to develop the nuances that make a top player.

    This is where the PAY TO PLAY culture fails. Adults want to justify their pay checks, their status, their ranking, their methods, their egos thru kids and thus don't allow kids to express themselves with the ball unless they are the biggest and fastest among the team.

    For me a coach is not a coach because he can work with good players and help them win games, but rather when he can take a weak athlete and make him good player thru good nurturing of his skills over time.

    We waste so much time in youth development worried about competitions and rankings and what parents say, etc, that we lose sight of what the kids need. A place to play and an opportunity to discover.

    We control kids and their families by fear and fake news. They won't get a scholarship in college if they don't play for this team or club or league. They won't be pro unless they play at this school or club. They won't make their HS team unless they do this work out etc.

    Fear mongering and false information is what drives the pay to play culture.

    America is the only country in the world where you see so many kids pay to play as a common daily culture. I have never seen a world class player pay to become a pro.

    In the Women's game it is different because America is run by such culture that college soccer drives the players to pro thanks to the Mia Hamm generation. But in other countries women's college soccer is not tied to pro or adult level soccer so only the clubs can spawn players. Many females get better by playing with boys or men such as in Brazil where no girls leagues exist. Futsal is the environment for honing skill across the nation.

    In America, futsal is a gimmick, just a Winter sport where teams play to keep winning. So every game is just pass and shoot with no thought to create space and try things with the ball. You don't become a better player because your team wins futsal or outdoor games. You only get better by what you do with the ball and how you move off the ball. So player centric development is what all academies must focus on if they want skilled players to come from their programs.

    Cones are used to provide repetition for improving technique but technique does not become skill until it solves problems under the pressure of a game/defenders. This is why game results don't matter at youth level, only how you play.

  41. frank schoon replied, August 3, 2017 at 8:20 p.m.

    K,agree on your points. Cones, though, were not necessary when I grew up playing in the street soccer days in Amsterdam, for technique was learned right away via playing against a direct opponent and not some an inanimate object . In this manner the youth learned, right away what the defender might do to counter your move with the ball. In other words, your playing IQ began to increase because you are thinking about options, then. As a result great one on one players were spawned which you don't see today.

  42. beautiful game, August 3, 2017 at 7:59 p.m.

    Wrong B.A., Giuseppe Rossi did it...his passion for soccer far exceeded the monetary goal.

  43. Bob Ashpole replied, August 4, 2017 at 6:06 a.m.

    IW, you are not following the discussion. I said that kids in the US motivated to get rich don't play soccer. (Everyone knows other US sports pay many times what soccer does.) So you are supporting my point with your Rossi comment about his playing soccer primarily out of love of the game.

  44. Bob Ashpole replied, August 4, 2017 at 11:14 p.m.

    If it is not related to poverty as a motivator, then I just don't get your "humble beginnings" reference. What does "humble beginnings" have to do with motivating children? The biggest motivator I have found is a ball. Give a kid a ball to play with and watch the smiles come. There is something innately wonderful in kicking a ball.

  45. frank schoon replied, August 5, 2017 at 12:48 p.m.

    H, is this what it boils down to for kids to pick up a sport in the US by being familiar with the background, trials and tribulations of the stars when they were young. This is such BS bordering more on media marketing , to sell a sport. As far as I'm concerned kids pick up a sport because they like playing it. My love for soccer was in no way influenced by some big star's child resume of how he overcame his adversities. This is such sickening American BS so promulgated by these stupid tv sport announcers, of which you'll never hear with European commentators who just stick to the facts. I almost puke whenever I hear these Olympic sports announcers talk about the individual contestants. It is similar to when watching college basketball, and listen to maudlin, sickening personal, grieving stories, accompanied by violin music in the background of the players and at the end of the game you no have no idea what his major or study is.....

  46. frank schoon, August 5, 2017 at 2:36 p.m.

    H, I'm older than Cruyff by a couple of years. Do you think Brazilian kids who can barely afford a pair of shoes go out and buy a book on Neymar, or Pele or are interested in Pele's or Neymar's childhood tribulations. These kids love the game and see their stars play like I did and by going out and play in the streets doing moves and watching older and better players perform their tricks in the street, learn and copy the latest moves and try it out on others and enjoy in the success of it. These kids aren't the least bit interested other than watching their stars perform on tv and hoping perhaps they can play pro. They are not interested in the childhood stars tribulations, but how they handle a ball.
    Although in my days it wasn't wearing the team jerseys but wearing the scarf of club you play for, in my case Ajax, for that was a status symbol.

  47. frank schoon, August 6, 2017 at 9:24 a.m.

    H, Of course kids look up to their stars and identify with them. I remember in the street soccer days, nothing was ever, ever mentioned or talked about the economic plight of a star and how he made it. That is total baloney! Just look at Western Europe , the trendsetter in soccer since World War 2 ,everyone was basically of the same economic class, where there is such a huge ,huge middle class of which I was one. There was never any discussions of the economic adversities, and tribulations of their heroes. All we talked about was how good he played in the game or the moves he did in a game. One of our heroes in those days was Stanley Matthews of England, whom we called the 'magician'. You think in our discussions the economic plight ever came up about Matthews. All the kids wanted to do is to play like Matthews . Kids have no clue nor concern about anything else than how their stars played. You think Garrincha,or Pele, were inspired playing soccer in order that they can make big money , by having seeing a poor kid make it big in those days. Of course not, there was no big money, other than lots of love for the game and watching their heroes play. There was never any discussions among kids in Holland over Cruyff's economic plight or tribulations as a kid, and that he lost he father at a young age blah ,blah,blah. Of course not. Kids wanted to emulate his moves and look and play like him. Cruyff, Best, and all the European stars when they were kids played because they loved the game. Soccer has always been a game for the masses and not the upper class, that is nothing new.
    Only in America do you find this stupid narrative discussed due the media using Madison Ave. techniques to work on the emotions of the viewer to sell a sport.Having been brought up in Europe after WW2, where the middle class was hurting, war casualties, you name it, of which everyone was in the same boat , economically and psychologically, you would think kids would talk about their favorite soccer heroes in terms of the suffering he went through and still made it, Yeah, Right!!...Oh, man if only American TV was there at the time after WW2, can you imagine the tear jerking narrative and background violin music they would come with. This garbage does not fit the European mentality for everyone suffered after the WW2 and therefore there no excuses extenuating circumstances were ever mentioned.

  48. frank schoon, August 6, 2017 at 9:43 a.m.

    H,The fact that you bring up Bradley and that he was brought up in a structured environment, and hearing him speak and that he identifies with the upper class,
    tells me you are so caught up in this class garbage. I remember a high school teacher, who obviously showed a lot of white guilt and class guilt, that is not seen in Europe, actually was stupid enough explain that blacks as a whole were faster runners due to their economic plight forcing them to steal their food when they were young. It has been 60years since the civil rights act was passed and we still talk about the much overused narrative of poor blacks kids making it big in basketball. We tend to forget that the black middle class has grown by leaps and bounds and the rich, well to do black kids make it in basketball today too like a Grant Hill, who at one gave soccer clinics too and others who don't have a poor black kid as a role model to follow. In sum we need to understand that kids choose to play a game because they like it or love it but don't quit all of sudden due to lack of future financial earnings . I've been involved youth soccer in America since the early '70s but I've yet to hear discussions among them about their future earnings in soccer..

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