U.S. Soccer coaching courses in Spanish? Not a big deal.

So U.S. Soccer has decided to run coaching instruction courses ... in Spanish. Not all  the courses, you understand. In fact, only a few of them, and those at the very lowest level, called the Grassroots Pathway.

They are intended as an introduction that will allow beginners to progress on to the coaching ladder -- the D, C, B and A licenses.

Spanish-speakers are evidently deemed not ready for those licensing levels, they must first of all take some kindergarten instruction lessons. Heaven knows what they will learn at those sessions. But one thing is certain: whatever is taught will be soccer according to U.S. Soccer. And who says that is the ultimate wisdom in soccer intelligence? Why, U.S. Soccer does.

Which is one very good reason why all Latinos should turn their backs and give a mighty Bronx cheer to this patronizing gesture. This is merely the latest signal from U.S. Soccer that it regards Latinos as soccer infants. The logical extension of that viewpoint is that Latin soccer itself is not a matter of any great interest to U.S. Soccer.

A couple of anecdotes will underline the point:

Some 30 years ago a Latino friend of mine had been attending a Federation licensing course (A, B, C? I can’t remember -- does it really matter?) and had been irritated because all the references, all the cited teams and players, were European. He asked the instructor: “Can we have some examples from, say, River Plate, or Sao Paolo?” The answer, from one of the Federation’s top instructors, was “If you want to learn about Latin soccer, get your carcass down to South America.”

Soon after the 1994 World Cup, a Latin American Soccer Coaches Association (LASCA) was formed at the coaches convention. I had watched the proceedings and was rather surprised to see that George Tarantini was given a secretarial appointment. It seemed quite the wrong job for Tarantini, who was very much an on-the-field sort of guy. A week or so later, back in my New York apartment, I got a phone call. From George.

“Hey Pablo - I need your help.”

“For what George?”

“Translating. LASCA's given me all these pages. It's a coaching course curriculum. They want me to translate it into Spanish.”

I hesitated for a moment or two, then “George, the first thing you should do with those pages is ...”

George interrupted to finish my sentence “... to chuck them in the garbage!” He knew, as did I, that merely translating the curriculum into Spanish was not going to change anything. As far as I know, he never did the work.

Those two anecdotes come from more than 20 years ago. But has anything changed? Not that you’d notice. How much mention and study of Latin soccer do the U.S. Soccer courses contain today? How much would you expect from a curriculum that has been suffocated for decades by English and Scottish, German, and now Dutch and Belgian input?

If you want to study the Latin game, flying down to Rio or Buenos Aires is still the way to go. A U.S. Soccer coaching course won’t be of much help. (Nor will the United Soccer Coaches, who recently rolled out “an exclusive coaching education experience,” consisting of a “week of high-quality coaching education.” In Brazil, maybe? Wrong. In Scotland -- a nation currently in 53rd place in the world rankings).

The recent revelation that U.S. Soccer assembled a Task Force on youth soccer without Latinos among the 60 members has no doubt prompted this decision to allow Spanish-speakers to take elementary courses, in Spanish. It is a clumsy move.

What is needed is something much more fundamental. A change in the Federation’s attitude, for a start. Namely, that U.S. Soccer should show some humility, should stop treating the Hispanic soccer community as though it is an ignorant child that needs educating. That is a travesty of the reality. The Latin game comes with a 100-year history of achievements far beyond anything the USA can show.

The USA has much to learn from the Latin game. When will it start listening? When will it realize that translating a few of its minor courses (or any of its courses for that matter) into Spanish is not a particularly praiseworthy move, but looks more like the least it could do.

Let’s make this clear: the inclusion of Hispanics and Hispanic influence into the mainstream of American soccer will not be achieved by dropping a few crumbs from the head table. It is about making sure that Hispanics are sitting at that head table, that their voice is heard when the curricula - and all soccer decisions - are formulated.

For far too long the language issue has been used as an excuse, a useful “difficulty” to be cited as an explanation for lack of action. Now its role has been reversed -- its appearance at the lowest level of Federation coaching courses is being put forward as an example of progress. Maybe it is -- but it is a side issue, not the main event.

This is a soccer issue, not a language quibble. One would like to believe that the language being spoken on both sides of this divide, is the language of soccer. Which is also the language of futbol. Of course there are differences -- rather like dialects -- but they are part of the adventure of understanding the global game. With goodwill on both sides they are not a “difficulty.”

U.S. Soccer is the power group, and it is they who must make the big moves. They urgently need to stop behaving like an arrogant colonial power dealing with uppity natives and to incorporate, to welcome, the Latino influence. The days of crumb-dropping must be ended.

Events at the recent Under-17 World Cup provide a useful end-note. A tournament in which the USA, under its Swiss coach, played poorly and was quickly eliminated.

Mexico -- the USA’s “distant neighbor” -- meanwhile made its way to the final, there to lose narrowly to host Brazil. The Mexican team included two Mexican-Americans who might well have been part of the USA squad.

There is much food for thought there. Yet I find myself wondering -- in all seriousness -- whether anyone at the overwhelmingly Anglo Federation took the time to watch that final, to take in the high quality of the soccer played by both teams.

14 comments about "U.S. Soccer coaching courses in Spanish? Not a big deal.".
  1. John Munnell, November 25, 2019 at 11:26 a.m.

    Too funny/sad. Maybe a little earlier than your Latino friend, I went for my A and was denied on the practical element. I don't have any proof, but I have always believed it was because I got into an argument with Bob Gansler over a run that he declared "...was no longer part of the modern game." I still see that run almost every match day.

    The unwarranted arrogance of our Federation has very deep roots. The blind eye for South America and Mexico makes no sense developmentally or economically. There is nothing about current coaches or executives that holds any promise for change.

  2. frank schoon replied, November 25, 2019 at 12:26 p.m.

    JOHN, One of my best friend is a well-known pro in Greek soccer ,told me that years ago he went for his A-license . Bob Gansler, flunked him on the "anatomy' part of the exam, for he couldn't name some of the muscles.....UNBELIEVABLE....But these professor types deem this important for the development of our youth. We have too many professor types running the show here....

  3. jose cornejo, November 25, 2019 at 11:51 a.m.

    I have been replying to surveys from the NSCAA and United Soccer Coaches for years; 'How can we improve the coaching schools"? "What can we improve on'? Look down to South America has been my reply, as my mentor and long time friend George Tarantini used to say;Por Favor!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Ginger Peeler, November 25, 2019 at 12:05 p.m.

    How many years is it going to take before US Soccer crawls out of this gigantic mess they are currently creating? The powers-that-be are busily patting themselves on their backs for reinventing the wheel! A mighty flawed wheel, by the looks of it. 

    Thanks, Paul, for the background info. 

  5. Ric Fonseca replied, November 25, 2019 at 5 p.m.

    AY CARAJO!!!  Muchas gracias Senor Pablo el Jardinero!!!  A mention of LASCA and Jorge Tarantini, yes he was appointed secretary, and yes he was to translate the US Soccer coaching Manual or whatever, many years have elapsed since I was there - if memory serves me well, it all started (LASCA, that is) at the US Soccer AGM in Santa Clara, well attended by the likes of Steve Sampson, Carlos Juarez, Lou Sagastume, Ralph Perez, even Sigi Schmid, et. al.  And the meeting he referencesm was if I recollect correctly, in Washington DC - or was it Boston??? - Fortunately, the then "soccer gurus" supported LASCA, we even had several meetings with Alan Rothenberg, Hank Steinbrecher,  and the former NSCAA also together with UMBRO gave us resounding support.  Sadly the organization was - for lack of another term - subsummed by the coaches group, though they were very supportive, and many of us futboleros, also fell by the wayside.

    As for US Soccer's attempts to make amends with us the Latino communitiy, I can and will tell y'all that they were way back then very supportive, although some in the "Coaching elites," looked at us with "suspicion" - I should know I was present when Detmar Cramer gave his first class in 1971 at UCLA, and many of the Latino Soccer local bigwigs were also but nothing came of it, just the usual C Licensing grads, etc.  And then again in '78, '79, and '80 when US Soccer conducted three courses again at UCLA, Cal State Long Beach and CSUN.  Why do I tell you this, 'cause even then the few Latino Coaches in attendance were far and very few, as many said, what the heck, why should I attend such a course, when we can have "Profesor so-and-so from Liga Mex, or Argentina," teach me more than the Americans?  

    And so now, US Soccer wants to require a "beginners" course for Latinos....  I think, as Ginger says above, they're trying to reinvent the wheel, it will be very and muy interesante to see what the end result will be on this, if indeed it does come to pass, like the very many decades almost fifty years ago from the time Coach Detmar Cramer opened the C Level class at UCLA, when he pounded on the desk/lectern and began lecturing to a group of like-minded coaches, and said PLAY ON....  

  6. John Soares, November 25, 2019 at 1:38 p.m.

    Great article Paul...
    But hold on the critics are just warming up:)

  7. Alvaro Bettucchi, November 25, 2019 at 1:39 p.m.

    I've said it before and I say it again! English soccer has been in a rut for how long?  They brought in Italian Coaches, not Anglo coaches, and look at the change.  We have been, and are still a very race conscious country. We will never be able to compete at a high level, until we take advantage of the material we do have before us, in referees, players, and yes, have these different groups at the table to make the necessary decisions in a worldly view.

  8. Derek Mccracken, November 25, 2019 at 1:46 p.m.

    I really, REALLY like the way Paul Gardner thinks. As for the USSF, it is still a mafia-type group mired in decades-long cronyism with roots in European, mostly English, soccer. It's sad, because if one looks at success of English soccer, the creators of the modern game, it is incredibly mediocre, considering. 

    The fact that the Hispanic population is now the largest minority group in the USA, but a relatively small portion of USA soccer, speaks volumes at the continued good ol' boys network in the federation that continues to shoot itself in the foot, year after year, because it refuses to take off its blinders and is content to mire in mediocrity as long as "it's people" can stay in power. SHAME ON YOU, USSF!!! 

  9. Damon James, November 25, 2019 at 2:25 p.m.

    I'd clarify that they make everyone - not just Spanish speakers - take the kindergarten lessons unless they are able to waive out of them based on playing experience. I played pro (not long enough for a waiver), in college, and had one of the highest NSCAA diplomas, but I still had to start at the F License (because they dropped NSCAA equivalency becore Calnorth got around to scheduling courses I could actually take, and had to go to SoCal eventually for my E). Playing ability doesn't mean you can coach, and shouldn't be handed out B/C Licenses on that basis as they regularly do, but any system that ask someone with extensive playing and coaching experience to start at the Grassroots level, regardless of their native tongue, is a poorly thought-out system. And I'd hazard a guess that cost and availability, not language-accessibility, are bigger barriers to more Latino participation in formal coaching courses.

  10. frank schoon, November 25, 2019 at 2:36 p.m.

    Yes, the worse thing that happened to US soccer development was that from the beginning it has been largely influenced by German and English soccer coaches, training and philosophy. I much rather would have had Dutch ,Yugoslavian and Brazilian as the main influence in American soccer.

    I don't know why but the German and English were there when leadership was needed. I question where was the Hispanic leadership. And it also had to do with the advanced European economic development when as you compare it to South America that was run by dictators in those days. There were other factors going on and yes Europe was economically modern. For example even in the Baltic countries like Yugoslavia , Rumania, Bulgaria, it is tough getting good soccer videos from the 50's and 60's stars or 70's even due to their economic situation. In those days it was Brazil that had the big name in soccer in South America, that was it.

    Although it is good to have Latin coaching courses offered by the USSF, but don't be under illusions that this means that with more licensed latin coaches our American game is going to be more of a latin blend style....I would say , Keep on Dreaming.  That's not going to happen, if you think our style of soccer will change from what we are playing now.

    It's not about coaching but skills ability. South American kids have skills and touch on the ball that is not due to their coaching but playing pick up, it's part of their culture...All 3rd world countries where kids don't have it as good as our kids have better skills than ours and that is not due to them having better facilities and more coaching availabilities, DEFINITELY NOT!!! 
    So let's not get to carried away this coaching license garbage whether it is taught in Latin, pig Latin , Icelandic, or in danish rune.
    The latin ,south American game has gone more European style and not the other way around, keep that in mind when you think of coaching courses.This is why I no longer look upon Brazil as the savior of soccer for they have sacrificed the beautiful game and cut corner to play more European style, rely more upon counterattacking, a switch which began in the early 90's due to their meager record of WC wins. As a matter in WC '14 , I was rooting for Germany that beat Brazil 7-1 and rightfully so....

  11. Bob Ashpole, November 25, 2019 at 4:14 p.m.

    "The USA has much to learn from the Latin game."

    The situation is worse than that. "USSF" has much to learn from the Latin game played right here in the USA. They don't have to go out of the country to cure their myopia.

    Sadly I think that the problem is that USSF thinks that their job is to promote the business of soccer, not the sport.

  12. R2 Dad replied, November 27, 2019 at 9:15 a.m.

    Came to read the USSF beat-down, am not dissappointed.

  13. Ric Fonseca, November 30, 2019 at 3:58 p.m.

    Some years ago when I was a Cal Youth South-Soccer District commissioner, and being only the second Spanish-bilingual commissioner, I tried for almost two years to convince and then Board of Directors, some who were well meaning and others just plain "mean spirited," to reach out to the many-many-many unaffiliated Latino/Hispanic/Mexican American youth soccer leagues, finally succeeding - to address a couple of leagues - yet failing to convince them to affiliate.  I recall attending a board meeting with another commissioner whos district would impact her numbers, sadly though her bilingual abilities consistiged of about 50% of Spanish, while the members of that league, were virtually all Spanish speakers but whose comprehension abilities were pretty danred good.  The result of the meeting was negligible, and Liga California continued on their own, not wanting to do a thing with the affiliation processes primarily under the impression that not only USYA and US Soccer would eventually take over their efforts, etc.  As for a coaching school, I alluded in a comment above, that the leadership of the Latino Youth Unaffiliated Leagues, preferred then (in the late 1970's early to mid '80s) to invite former professional Latino coaches, whether from Colombia, Argentina, Mexico or Spain as they felt they had more to offer, etc.

    I might also add that around the same time period, the local ayso headquarters here in So Cal, attempted to reach out to the other unaffiliated leagues in the East Los Angeles area, and even went so far as to hire a very good friend, who himself used to be an ayso devotee in the Culver City area.  His job was to introduce the ayso concepts, philosophy, organization, etc. and I asisted him a bit simply and because although bilingual himself, (English-French) and some Spanish, that origran did not succeed nuch at all.  I understand, however, that this has changed somewhat as ayso, having hired a former US Soccer Referee on a full-time basis, the "South Bay Original" youth soccer group, sorta finally awoke and began to spread its philosophy and all "volunteer" concepts and philosophies.  But, as you can probably deduce, there is a lot yet to be told, but this is not the forum, where, as we say in the communitiy, "quien sabe...." who knows!!!

    Anyhow, just saying, and closing as usual, PLAY ON!!!

  14. David Ruder, December 3, 2019 at 10:03 a.m.

    If someone wants soccer training in Spanish, they should go to a Spanish speaking country. We speak English in America, it's our mother tung. It started with the first English speaking person making landfall in 1598.  

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