Commentary

How youth soccer has changed in the past four decades

By Randy Vogt

Having officiated my 10,000th game on August 8 gave me a chance to reflect on the many changes that have occurred on the American youth soccer landscape since I took up the whistle in 1978 and was a youth player in the 1970s. Here are some of them:

The Girls. Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Kristine Lilly and Brandi Chastain and now the current members of the U.S. women’s national team have been very good role models and their amazing success on the field has translated into millions of girls taking up soccer. When I started refereeing, girls teams were only 25% of the sport while now approximately half the players registered in youth soccer are girls. All while the number of players has increased exponentially.


Photo courtesy of U.S. Soccer.

The Teams. It was simpler back in the 1970s as we had intramural teams and travel teams and all the players were from the same school district. Then came travel team players switching teams that corresponded to the rise of free agency in the major American pro sports.

All these Premier youth clubs were founded, each thinking and marketing that they could build a better mousetrap, and seemingly every travel team now wants to call themselves premier. If “premier” means just the very best teams, the moniker is a farce. I refereed two undefeated teams in a premier league recently and both teams struggled to put four passes together.

The Money. I hear complaints all the time from parents as it costs a lot of money for many kids to play youth soccer. The increased money is for all the travel that some teams are now doing as well as going to coaching fees. It’s not going to increased ref fees, at least in New York where I live, as we have been receiving an inflationary raise every few years for the past four decades. Wouldn’t it be nice if coaches did the same with their fees?

The Players. Only with Latino kids did I ever see children and teens play pick-up soccer outside their youth team, and not under the supervision of a coach, prior to the 1994 World Cup. That has all changed, partly through all the soccer that kids can now watch on TV. See a game and many are now going to a field or their backyard later to practice a move.

What has greatly improved in players during the past four decades is their tactical awareness and dribbling ability. Unfortunately, some of the older youth players, mainly on the boys side, now go down very easily when touched. Again, all the soccer they are seeing on TV.

The Games. It used to be that if you had teams from different cultures playing against one another, the game would often be problematic. For example, many Anglo teams hated it when the teammates on an opposing Latino team spoke Spanish to one another. Now, it’s much more accepted by the Anglo kids, a growing number who speak Spanish, as players from different cultures are getting along, at least on soccer fields.

The Fields. Many youth soccer games during the 1970s were played on football fields and those fields were long and narrow––120 yards by 55 yards or so. Not the best size for a good game. Then came the rise of soccer field complexes and now artificial turf fields, all with appropriate field sizes. Artificial turf is a good solution for overused fields that were reduced to dirt but I prefer a good grass field to any turf field as it’s a different game on turf since the ball moves much faster.

I would like to offer that whether it was back in the 1970s or today, if a youth player is having fun while learning the fundamentals as well as sportsmanship plus has a coach who cares about him or her, a lot of good things will happen to that player, both on the soccer field and off. That was what certainly happened to me.

(Randy Vogt, the author of "Preventive Officiating," has officiated more than 10,000 games.)

34 comments about "How youth soccer has changed in the past four decades ".
  1. ROBERT BOND, September 5, 2017 at 10:03 a.m.

    D course has it all going computer schematics, as if circles and triangles were all the same..uss doing SUCH a GREAT job.......time to retire..

  2. R2 Dad, September 5, 2017 at 10:24 a.m.

    One thing that has not changed, unfortunately, is the greed of small club ownership. I thought we would have surpassed this issue, seeing how clubs have DOCs and a purported "style" of play. But the triangle of participation, with gajillions of U8s funneling down to U15s, can never be resolved without 2/3rds of all teams "blowing up". My kid's club just announced (after all fees had been paid and player IDs issued for the fall) that their coach was de-employed and the same old/lame owner-coach would be replacing the ex-pro that performed so well last season. Too bad there isn't incentive for top coaches and players to align their interests. How might that be accomplished?

  3. Scott Johnson replied, September 5, 2017 at 2:59 p.m.

    A big problem is the one-year commitment. I understand why clubs do it--to avoid player poaching. But if a club gets your money for a year (or can prevent you from playing for a different club if you haven't completed your financial commitment to the first), they quickly lose incentive to provide value. And outside of the very top level of competition in a region, player poaching is generally not a problem.

  4. Bob Ashpole, September 5, 2017 at 10:40 a.m.

    Interesting article. Thank you.

  5. Joseph Pratt, September 5, 2017 at 10:55 a.m.

    Regarding the turf field comment, that the ball moves faster, it also bounces a lot more. Has there been any talk of developing a "turf" ball, similar in concept to a futsal ball? Or better yet, why aren't turf fields built to play like grass in terms of speed? It wouldn't adversely affect football, but would help soccer.

  6. Randy Vogt replied, September 5, 2017 at 11:56 a.m.

    In regard to Joseph Pratt's comments above, I have not heard of a special turf soccer ball proposed. When I first started reffing on Field Turf around the turn of the millennium, I was told that there was equipment to maintain the turf. Yet I have never seen that equipment used. Here is info that turf needs to be swept, brushed and aerated: http://www.fieldturf.com/sites/fieldturf/assets/FT_Maintenance%20Guidelines.pdf I think that if the turf was maintained, the ball would not move so quickly. I can tell when I'm officiating how old a turf field is as the turf blades are flattened over time. Has anybody seen turf fields maintained?

  7. Miguel Dedo, September 5, 2017 at 11:37 a.m.

    Two centuries ago the Viscount de Tocqueville attributed American success as a society to our ability to get together informally to do things that required collective effort. That not only got things done, it helped to create a sense of community among people who would otherwise have been strangers.
    As “official” institutions took over the sense of community disappeared and our organization as a community devolved into the bitter politics that our last presidential election and our dysfunctional Congress exemplify.
    In the two generations I have been involved soccer, in my town, has changed. Then, coaching and administration was almost entirely by volunteer parents; a part of community-building. Now, it is entirely by professionals, parents’ role is only to write checks.
    Win a state cup, win a college scholarship, win the World Cup.
    "What doth it profit America to gain the whole world and lose its immortal soul?"
    We in the soccer community have made our contribution to this loss.

  8. ROBERT BOND replied, September 5, 2017 at 2:33 p.m.

    he thought chess was taken too seriously-at least fulbol is good exercise.....

  9. frank schoon, September 5, 2017 at 12:51 p.m.

    Right on about the so-called Premier teams facade and their passing ability...If parents only knew how they are being rooked by the so-called professionalism employed with this youth sport

  10. Ray Lindenberg , September 5, 2017 at 4:19 p.m.

    Amen Frank. The level of supposedly experienced and licensed coaches who are selling kids and parents down the tubes through the malfeasance of misguided and deficient coaching is mindboggling ... usually the result of someone or some org looking to monetize and capitalize on the wave - make that the tsunami of popularity that is sweeping the nation at the youth level.

    This is not an indictment of all -- there are pockets and outliers out there that generally do the right thing -- but the majority of the coaching we see is off the mark, often by well-meaning coaches who simply missed, didn't get, or misapply the message.

    Kids need to play, and if they are not being coached properly, then just let them play. Of the dozen coaches and academies I reviewed two weeks ago, only 4 emphasized proper warm-ups and stretching before allowing the players to touch the ball ... and remarkably 2 were teaching nutmeg-inducing dribbling techniques -- a skill that is only designed to embarrass opponents (a case for immediate termination, in my book) ... while 99% of the passes and traps that the players did during the practice and simulated games were choppy, ill-executed or fumbled. Lots of kickball ... but very little soccer.

    What I've seen increase most in my 45+ years of coaching in the US is way too many hucksters taking advantage of a monumentally popularizing sport, plus too many observers and administrators that could be more demanding and do something about it, enabling and allowing themselves to be taken for a ride.

    We've came a long way; but I argue we could have come a lot further with greater coaching standards. There are too many good people and coaches out there that are suffering from the effects bad apples on the sport. We need to put our foot down and come up with a better way to hold coaches accountable for their efforts. The coaching of the coaches seems formidable ... it's when they leave their clinics and academies; when they need to apply their training to live coaching sessions, that the system breaks down.

  11. barry politi, September 5, 2017 at 8:05 p.m.

    I hate the US Soccer federation. They have done nothing for youth soccer.

  12. barry politi, September 5, 2017 at 8:13 p.m.

    Many of you have written to me concerning my dialogue with our country’s soccer leadership. I am writing to make you aware of the situation involving the US Soccer Federation (AKA: USSF, “US Soccer”). Last year the USSF mandated for all teams to change the date of birth “cutoff” for the age category(s) within youth soccer. The change was made from August to January 1st. In other words, a change from the long accepted “School” schedule based age segregation to the “Calendar” based age segregation for purposes of creating different age groups amongst youth players. The August date had been used for many, many years because it is much easier to categorize children by their grade, and because families and children want to play with their school peers and friends.
    The Federation (USSF) forced all teams and 3.2 million youth soccer players across the entire nation to institute their change. In other words, they have dismantled the entire country’s youth teams. This dissolved many relationships between children, coaches, parents and families, which in some cases were together for years. It also slowed the current soccer cohorts development, down struck the personal chemistry between former teammates, and this change also created much confusion, frustration, and extra work; especially for coaches, even causing some to simply quit.
    As some of you know, youth soccer is rather chaotic, and has been plagued with problems for many years; however, this particular issue and its consequent mandate were actually unusual and unique. Why? Because of the vast numbers of children to teens that were negatively affected, and because the changes were forced by adults in power at the top of the Federation. Why would the USSF do this you ask? Many other adults and children have asked this question as well.
    USSFs National team players are less than .03% of the soccer population. They play internationally at the pinnacle level. Having a calendar birth year might make it easer for USSF coaches, leadership and administration to identify rare elite players and compete overseas. It also aligns with the rest of the international community. The USA Soccer Federations teams have never done very well (except for the women's team), and suffer from a long history of international mediocrity. The Federation believes that having a Calendar year will possibly allow them to more easily monitor and then choose elite level player and thus ultimately win on the international stage which is what they so deeply and, to some degree, pathologically crave.
    This is disturbing to many of us that follow youth sports because it is also unprecedented in the demonstration of skewed priorities, and because it places stark emphasis on the already too much over-emphasized mentality of “winning is everything”. It also places the selfish Federation leadership’s desires ahead of the public and ahead of our children. Sadly, children did not have a voice.

  13. don Lamb replied, September 7, 2017 at 2:19 p.m.

    Wow. You would think that USSF is starving children. Loosen up. You say that, "The August date had been used for many, many years because it is much easier to categorize children by their grade." But that is not true at all. What about children who were held back or not held back? The only way to make this cut and dry without any confusion at all is to group players by birth year. There will be a speed bump in implementing it, but it is the best way to do it for the long term. The kids will hardly notice.

  14. barry politi, September 5, 2017 at 8:14 p.m.

    The USA Soccer Federation (USSF) is a group of about 250 employees with about 30 coaches and executive leaders. These bureaucrats are self-serving, but that’s not the end of the story. There is more.
    The Federation has tried dearly to fool all of us into believing that there were other reasons and that their mandate is for the better. Examples of this are the claim that the change somehow does away with the “relative age” affect; but it does not. There will still be children that are the youngest in the group no matter what society does.
    The USSF has crafted a script from which they robotically answer calls and questions regarding their mandated change, published confusing and erroneous logic, as well as falsely claimed that they have consulted with other soccer organizations, and their own membership. The truth is the coaching directors of each organization (US Youth, NSCAA, AYSO, US Club, etc.) were NOT on the committee that made these changes. These organizations were simply forced to implement USSFs foolish decision(s). President Sunil Gulati and his minions have conducted no research on the matter. In fact, in 2016, they actually ignored petitions signed online by nearly 40,000 citizens to rescind their mandate. Little league baseball is an exemplary organization. Little League recently did their research before deciding to use September first as their date of birth “cutoff”. They also listened to the membership and noted that families wanted kids to play with there school peers and that they did not care about winning nearly as much as would be expected; nor did they care about the international norms or the results from international team games.
    The essential issues are not just an issue of the desire to play club soccer with your school classmates. In the United States, unlike anywhere else in the world, our schools and the NCAA have a solid organized system of soccer that overshadows club participation in that club soccer schedules revolve around school soccer schedules, and schools have vast numbers of children playing soccer. Almost all youth soccer players that continue soccer are going to end up playing in college (versus the national team, or pro teams). There is no other country in the world that has our excellent college soccer system where student athletes benefit from not just a huge fairly regulated athletic system, but from an education! The NCAA system is an important developmental piece for everyone except the very minuscule numbers at the very top.
    With the detrimental shift to the Birth Year Registration what happens to the thousands of college coaches sitting on the sidelines recruiting players? If they are recruiting from the sophomore class – they now need to watch 60% of one game and 40% of another game versus 95% of one game and 5% of another game. USSF has damaged HS and college and the recruiting process – by making it more difficult for college coaches. With USSFs

  15. barry politi, September 5, 2017 at 8:22 p.m.

    USSF has damaged HS and college and the recruiting process – by making it more difficult for college coaches to actively recruit players. With USSFs desire to replace college soccer with Academy type play, they are taking a path that will eventually eliminate scholarships for these players, and thus impacting the ability for many of these players to even attend college. This path can be traced all the way down to those in High School.
    In the end, the academy system idea was taken from Europe is nothing special. Gather the best players in one place, let them play each other and profess them to be the best. It was a middle finger to every grassroots coach, to everyone who did not want to play in academies (cost, travel...) and devalued everything outside of USSF academies - the money making "prism" of an elitist mindset. By the way, Cristiano, Pele, Messi, etc., ... none of these greats reared from an elitist system. None of them would have fit into the US Soccer academy system.
    Under the Calendar Year Registration, some 40% of the players on a team will be in a lower grade. When those lower grade kids are in their Junior Year in high school, 60% of their team will be in their Senior Year. What are they going to do for club soccer in their Senior Year? USSF has no answers so I will venture that many will not seek to play. So, what happens in the year there is a transition to middle school and high school when 60% of the team plays soccer for their school and the remaining 40% are still in a lower grade? Kids lose out. Here is just one of many examples: a child born in 2002 who is still an eighth grader will not have anywhere to play next fall, because the 2002's will be deemed U15, they will cater to high school and there will be no fall club teams in the area to play for because none of them host a fall team since quite literally all of the kids play high school soccer and the majority of 2002s will be in high school. That eighth grader is now in an administratively adult created limbo.
    With the current detrimental shift to "Birth Year Registration", club teams will be split almost in half during the transition years between middle school and high school; however, US Soccer doesn’t care about high school soccer. They wrote articles themed along the idea that high school is a distraction from their mission, and just a “social activity” which they have campaigned against for years. USSF further declared war on High School soccer a few years ago when they set up their Academy programs. USSF has even gone so far as to pass regulations that kids that play in their Academy system may not play in soccer in High School, or other clubs. There is evidence of more of this type of thinking and activity being planned.
    Instead of launching initiatives to find players who can afford high school soccer but not club soccer, USSF is finding and funneling players into competing “national leagues” - Academies where only...

  16. barry politi, September 5, 2017 at 8:25 p.m.

    ...their "best" can go. Instead of enabling coaches to get better education, USSF is ending waiver programs and making its licenses logistically difficult to obtain.
    Instead of de-emphasing the “win, win, win at all costs” mentality they have endorsed over-training, more traveling, and steeper competition. The notion that extreme and hard core youth competition will breed better players is shrouded on intuition, however; there exists no proof for this trend and in some cases the opposite has been the case. Nor is there any proof that then USSF academy system is better than the other systems.
    Instead of developing competition and expanding the NASL, the latest example comes as U.S. Soccer attempts to bone the NASL by redefining the parameters of a Division I soccer league.
    Instead of trying to keep the female and male player salaries near equal and promote a sense of harmony and national gender equality, USSF has treated the women as second class, and even faced legal suit(s) for wage discrimination etc.
    Instead of working with ECNL to improve an already good league, USSF figured it would be smarter to create their own new league to compete against ECNL.
    Instead of listening to parents who are wavering in their desire to sign their kids up for youth soccer, USSF is insisting on birth-year age groups that will reduce the likelihood of kids entering soccer and seeing familiar faces as they tentatively step onto a soccer field.
    Instead of being proactive with head trauma and “heading” the ball they face another legal issue. Rather than taking steps that might (or would) reduce the number of concussion injuries, USSF is instead relying its so-called “concussion protocols" which do not work.
    Instead of assisting youth players that are playing overseas, the USSF has done little to influence FILA. As it stands now, some minors were not permitted to train overseas according FILA rules, and were forced to return to the USA to play.
    Last year several youth soccer groups issued a rare joint statement saying the Federation isn’t communicating at a time of great change, and U.S. Club Soccer’s Elite Clubs National League had a fruitless summit meeting with USSF officials.
    I have investigated USSF for over a year now. It has become very obvious from the many emails and conversations I have had with many other soccer folks that no amount of "dialogue" with USSF or Sunil will be constructive, however; you may still elect to speak out against USSF and all of its injustices at:
    skg21@columbia.edu - and - communications@ussoccer.org
    You may also call/contact: Phone: (312) 808-1300.
    USSF has backwards priorities. They are about money and about what is best for themselves and not for the people, and for our children. I have a collected many sad stories from all over the country expressing serious issues with USSF.
    See: http://worldsoccertalk.com/2015/07/20/andrew-jenning

  17. barry politi, September 5, 2017 at 8:26 p.m.

    See: http://worldsoccertalk.com/2015/07/20/andrew-jennings-calls-for-revolution-to-oust-sunil-gulati-from-us-soccer/.
    Indeed, USSF is tone deaf and could care less about the other 99.9% of players, children and families which is why we need a new organization to play under.
    I hope this communication will spur a movement to get our kids away from USSF. USSF is counting on the lack of parent cohesion and the lack information in the public as to its true intent. Please, please do pass this email on to your own club parents and membership! As individuals we can do nothing to force USSF to adopt reasonable rules and regulations. However, together we have power.
    Thank you everyone.

  18. Fly Bynyte replied, September 6, 2017 at 1:55 p.m.

    On the issue of Calendar year. This was better for my son and our family. It make very clear the 'age' of a child. Second teams take care of late bloomers and birthers within a calendar year. My son happens to be the former. He's developing as a '9' on the 2nd team at his club. No schools offer sport until 7th grade in our area. Thankfully club soccer exists and he's been playing since six. We don't rely on schools for soccer. Now he's twelve he has friends and school and soccer. He has learned to make new friends on the soccer field and at school. His soccer team has blown up twice. He's still happy. When we travel inside and outside the US we have a common vernacular with everyone that describes his youth soccer status. His birth year and his U number. I like this and think it was a good change ...

  19. K L replied, September 8, 2017 at 1:16 a.m.

    Weighing in on the mandate that changed the registration of youth players from August 1-July 31 to Jan 1-Dec 31...I agree with Barry. I was involved with youth soccer for about 20 years with my children. Fortunately, the youngest and most avid, finished his playing days just as that mandate was being put in place. If it had been implemented sooner, his club team would not have survived. Fly mentioned it worked well for his son (which is great)because he is now part of his club's 2nd team. We live in a rural state where football not futbol is KING, even the largest club rarely have 2 teams in the same age/gender group. I was very disappointed when I learned of the age group change. While I think kids acclimate, as Don suggested,the ones who were hurt the most were the older teams who had been together for years. The benefit of using school-based age segregation is exactly what Barry pointed out...MOST of those on a team with birthdays from Aug 1- July 31 are in the same grade versus a calender based system where MOST kids are in 2 different grades. This becomes particularly important when considering those eighth graders who lose half their squad when their 9th grade teammates start high school soccer. And those same kids get left in the lurch when they reach their senior year and all those Jan-July former teammates are off to college/life when soccer season rolls around in the fall. I doubt this is much of an issue in metro areas where clubs can have 5, 10, or more teams in single age group. That is just not a luxury the rest of us have. I have come to love this game though I did not grow up with it. I want to see it grow, both in quality and quantity of players. I just wish USSF had truly considered those of us in "soccer poor" areas before making the age change....but I guess it will help all those USSF coaches streaming into our state to identify elite players for the national team :)

  20. Nick Daverese, September 5, 2017 at 9:02 p.m.

    How has the game changed. Kids played on an adult field 11v11. Play with a club for 3 yrs the club owned the rights to the player. The only way a kid could leave if his club was if the club gave the player his release. If he was good they were not going to do that or if they moved away. Then if you got the release you had to pay a certain amount of money for each yr you played for the club. Plus you had to wait for the new season to start.

  21. Nick Daverese, September 5, 2017 at 9:14 p.m.

    Plus it was a very inexpensive game to play. You did not coach to make money there was no money to be made coaching kids. So why did we do it. We loved the game and wanted to pass on what we learned to others. Like our coaches did for us. How did we pay for it the clubs were sponsered by restaurants, and bars and by us if we owned businesses. Parents did not have to pay for their kids to play. Which also meant we did not really listen to what parents had to say unless they themselves were players we knew about.

  22. Ginger Peeler replied, September 5, 2017 at 11:23 p.m.

    Nick, when I was registrar, then assistant coach in both recreational and traveling teams back in the 70s and 80s, the kids did pay to play. But we were non-profit leagues and the fees, which were minimal, paid for uniforms (shirt, shorts, socks), booking the fields and licensed referees. All our coaches in ref were parent volunteers. Some of the traveling teams' coaches were parents and some were people who had played professional soccer for a number of years...usually from England or South America. The kids were expected to buy their own soccer shoes, shin pads and soccer balls (for practice).

  23. Nick Daverese, September 5, 2017 at 9:21 p.m.

    On field turf I knew the guy that invented it. Trying to get us to use it. Then later he sold it to Nike. Then cheaper versions of field turf by different manufactures they had lead in some of them. One of them caused my old park down for years. A lot of stupid people thought it was find to move fake grass for their game. That was the Giants in Giants stadium those knuckleheads. I saw people use field turf for the front loan in there houses more knuckleheads.

  24. Nick Daverese, September 6, 2017 at 4:33 a.m.

    Ginger here most really good players were kids of foreign born immigrants working poor. So they could not pay. Plus wants you got the parents to sign the permission slip so the kids to play. You hardly ever saw their parents they had to work most 6 days a week. Some 7 days a week. I used to laugh when I saw a coach with an English accent here. No one checked them out on whether they played pro or not. When the kids bought there self did they buy it direct from the club house or from a particular soccer store. They used a soccer store we recommended then the store would kick back to us money or services. Like free bags of practice balls or two game balls or we could advertise for new players in their stores. Later on I bought that store and another they owned and one in Manhattan. Also bought a throphy store. onthe uniforms just the shirts the club owned the shirts. We would give them out just before the game and collect them right after the game. Someone from the club would wash them. They were not used in practices. So you could get three seasons out of them at that age group we did that with ever team age groups. Each group was two years. So we had under 6, under 8, under 10, under 12' under 14, under 16 and under 19. Then the adult club.

  25. Ray Lindenberg , September 6, 2017 at 1:17 p.m.

    Nick - here's an interesting tidbit on how things have changed, if you go back a 5th decade ... as a young kid in the old German American Soccer League in NYC (before it was known as the Cosmopolitan League), I was assigned, with restricted transfer rights, to a Jewish Team (Blue Star) because of my faith. Shep Messing and Bruce Arena probably remember those days. Can you imagine? And if you go back a 6th decade, you would have seen the best world-class soccer on the planet played locally, thanks to the immigration bump from the Hungarians (no thanks to the Soviet invasion of Hungary) who were the masters of the day with their glorious brand of football, and fielded the best team these shores ever saw with their NY Hungarians (same GASL League). But the one thing that remains constant for even more decades is that, when it comes to youth soccer in the US, the best play, best prepared players, best system, and greatest success -- even to this day, can be attributed to the Blau Weiss Gottschee club, of the same league. What I witnessed when I spied on their practices two weeks ago (after 4 decades) is that they still really got their act together when it comes to outstanding youth soccer development.

  26. Nick Daverese replied, September 6, 2017 at 11:31 p.m.

    You got that right Ray my sometime father was an Hungarian Jew from Italian Harlem. But his sports was amature boxing and speed skating. My son played for BW when he was 11. He would travel by himself on the train and bus to get to McCarin park that was the field BW trained. There home games were at met oval. In those days you did not have the preditors you have now. Brooklyn Italians did not have youth teams then. He did not want to play for GJoa they were not good enough to suit him back then. He is 46 now. I liked him better when he was a kid.

  27. Fly Bynyte, September 6, 2017 at 2:03 p.m.

    Barry on HS's and Colleges. I fully agree that the athlete scholar is a great opportunity. But HS and College soccer is so different from the FIFA game. look at the NCAA D1 men's final last year in Houston. One of the teams used 19 game-time subs over the two periods and extra times. There were more and period starts. Then there were players taking penalties that did not even play! The challenge is how to develop players in college that will translate to pro ranks with the difference in schedule and rules. It has not worked to date. Something needs to give and the club to pro channel is growing quickly and kids are choosing NOT to go to college because that system is proven to not develop players. Maybe PDL helps but that's a long way off. A lot of challenges remain, but cannot ignore that HS and Colleges just have not delivered and have not been willing to adjust so that our players can develop on par with rest of world. Just my 10cents. Thanks!

  28. frank schoon, September 6, 2017 at 2:21 p.m.

    Fly Bynute, I don't see the problem here. If a kid wants to play college and learn while playing...more power to him. I think this kid has other plans then worrying about pro-ball, of which how many really ever make it. If the kids got talent and he is in college, he might stand a good chance to make pro...if that is what he wants.
    Besides I'm not impressed with what is being developed by the soccer academies and the pro clubs. Show one developmental academy that produces great strikers, or great defenders, so much has to do with inner talent. This is why a kid would jump at a chance to go to Europe to learn and play there rather learn and play at pro academies here..

  29. Bob Ashpole replied, September 7, 2017 at 1:29 a.m.

    There are some real problems with college as a player development vehicle. There are NCAA restrictions which limit organized training by hours per week and by season too. Also the longer you stay the less training value college has. Freshman are 18 playing on a U23 team. But as the years pass a player faces less challenge ending as a 22 year old playing on a U23 team. I don't have a problem with the NCAA substitution rules, because you can use less subs, even play with the same 11 for the entire match.

  30. Philip Carragher, September 7, 2017 at 1:51 p.m.

    Better Coaching. How do we get there? Great coaches are difficult to find. Great coaches need to have many skills: 1)Accurately assess players and matches; 2)use accurate assessments to problem-solve; 3)effectively implement solutions to those problems; 4)coach games well; 6)handle players, parents and administrators well. I'm sure there are other skills that can be added here, but what happens when that great coach is found? Is he/she coaching coaches or isolated within a club? Does the club have a curriculum and coaches that can effect that? If the great coach is isolated, most lessons will disappear unless reinforced by the next coaches. I live in the Chicago suburbs where effective curricula are virtually non-existent. Money and politics drive these organizations, not player development.

  31. Mike Mcglynn, September 8, 2017 at 10:06 a.m.

    Randy's 4 decade review and look back left out one entire critical bucket. That is the advent of individual soccer skills programs in both the global and U.S. regions. Led by The Coerver Coaching program created by wiel Coerver, Holland (late 1970's) and made user friendly by Alfred Galustian & Charlie Cooke in the early 80's this change in soccer training and coaching has generated in a major shift in fan enjoyment and player personal improvement, satisfaction and enjoyment. Watch any world cup game at the beginning of the 4 decade look back and compare to the skill level now...huge difference. Not driven totally by increased attention on ball mastery in training sessions but a definite incremental noticeable effect. In prior years a coach/trainer would show up to practice with one ball and 22 guys. Most physical training took place without the ball. The Coerver Coaching Method calls for a ball for each team member and lots of repetition and ball work. This was a basic change to practice session time. Result is better first touch, passing, confidence on the ball and more attractive soccer.
    Wiel Coerver is the 'Einstein of Soccer' training and coaching and Alfred & Charlie brought the system to every day youth soccer coaches across the USA and around the world. The Coerver Coaching Method materials are now translated into over 12 languages and there are full time programs in over 30 countries. Proven results in assisting player development whether a young player or a seasoned professional as used in countless pro clubs around the globe. We noticed a huge effect at our youth soccer overnight camps before & after hosting Wiel Coerver three times in the 80's - kids returned home and the constant, new query from coaches was: "What did you do to my player"? Thanks from Lake Placid Soccer Centre.

  32. Ray Lindenberg , September 11, 2017 at 12:27 p.m.

    The level of coaching and play has undoubtedly evolved dramatically over the past 4 decades in the US. That's not to say that soccer is in great shape globally though -- not on any level ... neither youth to pro to world cup ... not national or internationally ... and not in coaching. Let's not confuse progress in the US, from being a 3rd world nation soccer-wise a half-century ago, with true success in a global context. In fact, the quality of soccer has, at best, been in a holding pattern (I say, has taken a downward spiral) since the glory days of Dutch Masters total football. With the exception of a few bright spots, we have become complacent enablers, settling for the rubbish that we see on TV and in stadiums worldwide that, at best, is power kickball -- and not nearly the jogo bonito that it has the potential to be.

    We are guilty in general of lowering our standards and settling for massive displays of way too much choppy, selfish kickball -- and confusing popularity with acceptable quality. There is very little fluid, one-touch, daisy-cutting soccer, with players creating productive space and passing opportunities -- in other words, way too little true 'soccer'. For all the great coaching academies and clinics out there, something is getting lost in translation. The essence of constant, fluid motion of ball and players just isn't making its way to the pitch...and the youth coaches are way too mum and tolerant of it, resulting in the staccato, mindless displays of see-what-I-can-do kickball and too much standing around, with just an occasional hint of technical magic. Not good.

    We need to demand more quality of play at all levels -- and especially of the coaches to apply more of the standards that they are being taught. We need to have coaches with backbone, make unreasonable demands of themselves to make what should be reasonable demands of their players to deliver a higher concentration of total, one-touch, weaving soccer that the flow of play constantly begs for. This is true of many team sports too. We need to have more uncompromising John Woodens, Red Holtzmans and Rinus Michels step forward at the youth levels and insist that pure soccer be played properly. Coaches need to raise the bare 0-5% of the game where we see controlled, contagious, one-touch soccer ensue, and demand that that ratio be raised to 10-15%. Youth coaches absolutely can influence better soccer play development during training. That's the only way to get pros to improve their pure soccer quotient -- it has to come from the bottom up since the pros are largely a lost cause when it comes to true soccer worthy of being emulated. Most pro coaches are beholden to the players, who are largely corporations not willing to follow instructions on how to go about their game paces. They grew up as chop-chop kickballers, and they ain't gonna change now. The inmates are running the asylum, but there is hope - if youth coaches take charge and truly 'coach'.

  33. Philip Carragher replied, September 11, 2017 at 1:26 p.m.

    Ray, I hope more soccer minds can sign on to your thinking if they haven't already. One of the main aims I have when coaching youth players is to help them get into "game-flow" as quickly as possible. This means that they have an idea as to how they should position themselves without the ball and what to do with it once they get it. As soon as they connect with the group and understand how to play interdependently they help generate and participate in "game-flow" and wonderful things happen. Best of all, the players love it. I've had players who hate being at games and practices transition into players who constantly demand the ball and hate getting taken out. They're in high school now and still playing. These are AYSO-graduates who only had one hour of practice per week and one game on the weekends, but our consistent focus on promoting a flowing, intelligent game allowed all the players, no matter their athletic ability, to connect with others and feel like a valued-team member.

  34. Ray Lindenberg , September 11, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

    Amen Phil. That's pure, essential, true 'soccer' ... developing the instincts and sense of 'flow' -- and all having players think and anticipate the passes, right positioning and their subsequent play so that they are fully engaged and productive during the game or scrimmage. Players need to have emphasized by their coaches to think of passing as a responsible, multi-faceted activity. The perfectly considered and executed one-touch daisy-cutter (mostly when a defender is two meters away or less), is only part of the passing dynamic. The passing dynamic also includes: the development and execution of instinctual anticipation; preferably having at least 2 teammates as outlets at all times reacting creating a passing lane (that don't have to be forward); and then a continuum of mostly one-touch daisy-cutters that mesh through the other team's defense to create an unstoppable, contagious flow of breathtaking, free-flowing, fluid, pure soccer.

    And here's the neatest part: in soccer, when played properly, it reduces (and sometimes eliminates) the advantages of age, size, speed and to a degree, technical ability. Yes ... a well-trained, true soccer playing squad of U-13 girls can outpoint a physically and technically superior U-17 boys team. How? By playing true 'soccer' and having a coach that demands and enforces that they do. I've seen it many times in my day. Soccer is the one team sport where, by the end of the century, we will see played by women, relatively on the par and co-ed with men at the college pro level, because they have the ability to apply true, pure soccer playing skills and flow in a disciplined manner.

    Ball-hogging, heads-down dribbling and staccato kickball need to be scorned upon and stamped out by coaches at the youth level in order for the sport to progress to a phase of its original basic beauty. What we're witnessing most and tacitly support by not demanding better play, is kickball and power kickball -- and while it's interesting and engaging ... it ain't glorious, jogo bonito soccer. The coaches demanding the equal billing of a total passing dynamic alongside technical skill development ... and not settling for anything less ... will signal the turning point to what is the most beautiful game on earth when played as it was meant to be. Demand better -- cuz we deserve better. The oohs and ahhs of seeing Messi, Neymar or Ronaldo ply their magic is a real treat. Give me a group of boys, girls, mixed, at any age, or any senior team, that moves the ball with graceful, intelligent and productive one-touching for more than 10% of its passing opportunities, and I'll show you an even greater treat. Rinus Michels and the Dutch Masters were on the right track. A stubborn on standards youth coach can make a world difference, start the ball rolling and set the world on fire if they put their mind to it. The greats, like Steve Jobs, Lin-Manuel Miranda and John Wooden -- have shown us what uncompromising standards can yield.

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