Commentary

Didier Chambaron on steering U.S. Soccer's coaching education 'evolution'

In February, U.S. Soccer promoted Frenchman Didier Chambaron to Director of Coaching Education, replacing the Belgian Barry Pauwels, who held the position since January of 2018. Pauwels had replaced Dutchman Nico Romeijn, whom U.S. Soccer hired as Director of Coaching Education in June 2015. (Romeijn returned to the Netherlands in February 2020 after serving as Chief Sport Development Officer since 2018.) Also part of the latest shuffle was the departure in January of Dutchman Wim van Zwam, who arrived in 2015 and had served as Coach Educator and pro license lead instructor. Among those who came on board during the Romeijn era, Coach Educator Aloys Wijnker returned to the Netherlands in 2018, Italian Vanni Sartini moved to an academy job with the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2019, while Dutchman Antal Vergeer remains Technical Lead of Instructor Education & Development.

Before joining U.S. Soccer five years ago as Assistant Director of Coaching Education and the A License technical lead, Chambaron served nine years as a FIFA instructor. He was also the Oceania Confederation's Head of Coach Education in 2010-16 and head coach of New Caledonia's national team in 2007-2010.

SOCCER AMERICA: Did the pandemic force a lot courses to be canceled?

DIDIER CHAMBARON: We didn't cancel any courses. We created courses in a way we could move forward in a virtual environment in case we couldn't organize in-person meetings. We know in-person education is vital for development courses but we also know that now we can apply some of the best practices and provide our soccer community with a combination and virtual and in-person teaching. And we also took this opportunity to sit down and reflect on our current situation, what we do, and what the future of education look like.

SA: Will virtual teaching be a bigger part of the courses in the in post-pandemic future?

DIDIER CHAMBARON: Yes. Education will never be the same. ... Now we do education from a different perspective. It will reduce the number of nights coaches are away from their families, their club and players. … If we can bring education in terms of in-person meetings in market, with people traveling less, that would be fantastic.

SA: Is U.S. Soccer able to meet the demand of coaches applying to take courses?

DIDIER CHAMBARON: We have an application process because, as a Federation, we are licensing people. We recognize competency at the end of the course experience, so it's not open for everyone, but we have an education pathway from grassroots to full license. For every course, we have criteria. But we offer educational opportunities at all levels.

We are currently working on a new strategy for the future to make education more accessible. We would like to provide access to quality education opportunities and promote diversity through specific programs.

SA: When you refer to changes in the coaching education approach, do you mean changes to how it’s taught and what is taught?

DIDIER CHAMBARON: Both. But it's not about change for me, it's about evolution. As education evolves, we need to continue to evolve.

We used 2020 to reflect on best practices in our department, we met with our members, with experts in teaching from our sport, but also for other sports. And it's very important to me to understand the needs of our community.

And we learned it's not just about providing our community with a formal education pathway leading to a license, but also to provide access to educational opportunities just to be informed, to be engaged. So, in the future we would like to supply all these needs to educate people. We will continue to certify because it's important for our federation to have standards, but we would like to go beyond this formal education.

And we would like to promote continuous education, to retain and develop coaches, for all of the levels of games.

It’s very important for us to create and develop standards not just within our coaching education department, but in collaboration with our members to improve our capacity to provide education all across the across USA. It's a big, big project. Collaboration with all our members is vital if we want to influence the next generation of players and coaches.

SA: If some is going to get a C license, for example, later this year or next year, how different is that going compared how someone got the C license a couple of years ago, or three years ago?

DIDIER CHAMBARON: We believe we should do more in between, to provide coaches with learning opportunities in between courses. It's going to be part of the new world in the future, because like in Europe, the confederation, Concacaf, is going to regulate coach education across our confederation.

In the past, we always focused on in-person meetings. Now we look at every course as an experience with content spread out for over a longer duration, depending on the license, so it will be more aligned with the principle of adult learning. So it's not just about overwhelming people with information, but we would like to provide them something more consistent with more connective points.

SA: How confident are you that the costs of getting licensed won’t be a barrier to many coaches in the USA?

DIDIER CHAMBARON: It's definitely an area of improvement and we invest a lot of money, but making education more accessible is very important. Time commitment can also be a barrier, which why we want to providing more flexibility. We will try reduce the number of nights away. Providing education in their region, in their market is definitely important. If people don't need to travel, it will reduce the cost.

We know it's an area we need to work on, so we’re working on strategic plan with our members to provide more courses all across the U.S.

SA: Are you concerned that despite the USA’s large Latino community and a significant presence of Latino players in the men’s youth team program, Latino coaches have been under-represented among the A-, B- and C-licensed coaches?

DIDIER CHAMBARON: To me, it’s important to promote diversity and foster an inclusive community, representing all backgrounds. It's definitely a must-do. Diversity is a strength. I would say, we need to be more inclusive in the future. And if we do that, we will win together.

As we plan future courses, we have to make sure we value the qualities each individual brings to the game and we definitely need to make coach education more accessible to some communities. We champion diversity and it’s something we need to keep in mind when we create content, when we’re thinking about the big picture as a country.

SA: It’s also a style of play issue, isn’t it? And obviously Latino players are a major part of our soccer community. When someone takes a C, B or A license, does that prepare them for coaching Latino players?

DIDIER CHAMBARON: Education is focused on the individual. We know we definitely need to be closer to the reality of all our communities. It's something that is a very important part of our values. It's definitely something to consider – and to consider various ways of looking at the game, their own club’s identities, their own club's style of play, their own game model. And then providing them with an appropriate coaching education to develop their process in their club, in their environment.

SA: Over the last half decade, U.S. Soccer has brought a number of Europeans to play influential roles in coaching education – including four Dutchmen, a Belgian, an Italian and yourself. How confident are you that people from countries with significantly different soccer landscapes and demographics can relate to the challenges of American coaches?

DIDIER CHAMBARON: For me, it starts with the U.S. identity. Looking at the country, we are unique and we should be proud of this uniqueness. And in terms of coaching education, it's about providing people with opportunities. Learning and education opportunities to develop players in their environment.

I believe in game in the U.S. I believe in the people I work with. I am very people-oriented and never do something against American coaches. I do my best to create something unique, not to copy and paste something from somewhere else.

SA: How do you see the balance between the right amount of coaching and the right amount of letting players play? Allowing them the freedom to learn from the game?

DIDIER CHAMBARON: It's very important to give players opportunities play the game and to give them opportunities experience real-game situations. Once we create this environment, now it's time to influence them and help them to make decisions. Give them opportunities to see the game, and then helping them make good decisions and to execute the decision.

We all know every game situation is unique and it's not about telling players what to do, it's about helping them to grow and to understand and recognize game situations – creating this type of environment from Monday to Friday – and on game day players can enjoy the game. It's about facilitating learning.

SA: Anything else you'd like to add or address?

DIDIER CHAMBARON: Something that's very important to me is collaboration with all our members. That will help us to aim high and to move toward something fantastic for the new generation.

14 comments about "Didier Chambaron on steering U.S. Soccer's coaching education 'evolution'".
  1. Tim Schum, May 21, 2021 at 1:32 p.m.

    Interesting. This is the latest in US Soccer's attempt to influence the training of soccer coaches in this country by hiring foreign coaches. Dettmar Cramer (German) had an enormous impact. In particular he identified and influenced Walt Chyzowych who utilized his teachings to solidify both the coaching schools and the national team processes. It was a cadre of American coaches identified by Walter that eventually carried the U.S. through the 1970s all the way to the 1990 World Cup.

    USSF's hire of Heddergott to succeed Chyzowch as a disaster while beginning in the 1970s a host of British coaches (Winterbottom, Ramsey, Hughes, Wade. Roxborough) would make appearacnes at NSCAA conventions and/or produce teaching aids (books, videos, etc.) that influenced the U.S. coaching community short term. The NSCAA Academy program institued in 1982 addressed soccer coaching education without the Cramer dictate that a coach had to be a talented player to become a first rate coach.  

    The hire of Mlltunovic was strickly strategic for national team purposes and he had no influence (or interest) in elevating U.S. soccer coaching. While the Federation hired Quiroz (Portugual) to map out a long range plan to make the U.S. a world soccer power, subsequent US Soccer coaching education appointments have focused on a number of European non-entities to direct matters. Some of whom, as described, have been "short-termers" and thus have had little impact.

    Reading between the lines in the interview, Chambaron seemed to avoid answers to the questions posed. In all liklihood because he, like many of his former counterparts, has very little understanding of the immense challenge it is to understand the complexities involved in educating the diverst American soccer coaching community. Particularly the issue of addressing the needs of the Latino coaching community. 

    As for learning from the foreign coaching community, perhaps Bruce Arena's answered that he found it much easier and informational to call on successful American basketball coaches who are more readily available for consultation than those outside the country. Particularly when it came to tactical matters such as application of pressure defenses.

    One suggestion to US Soccer: Spend some time and treasure having respected U.S. soccer coaches embed themselves for extended periods of time with successful European and South American coaches and identify those components that have led to their successes. It would seem that intergrating such information based on such experiences would be preferrable to trying to have foreign coaching educators trying to implant their educational approach on a U.S. soccer coaching community that they have little appreciation for of nor experience with.

    But if the history of US Soccer is any indication, their relience on European soccer educators is bound to repeat itself. 


  2. Kent James replied, May 21, 2021 at 11:38 p.m.

    Tim, nice history of US soccer's efforts.  I took the C license course under Heddergott in the early 1980s (just after graduating while being an assistant at the college where I played; the college paid for the course as part of my salary (more of a stipend)).  Anyway, I remember two things from the course; Lincoln Phillips coached us much of the time and he was excellent.  Heddergott came in for a day and I thought he was a disaster.  He talked to us about being positive with the players;  then he ran an exercise using some of the coaches as players, and it was clear that some of them had not played much soccer, and he yelled at them for being incompetent!  So much for being positive...


    Back then the c course required 2 weeks (I don't think that lasted very long because it was so difficult logisitcally and financially; one week of learning, then (after you go away for a year to implement what you'd learned) another week of testing.  The next yearI was a head coach in HS and had no money, so I never got to go back for the testing (to actually get my license).  When I asked US soccer if I could take the B course (after coaching for quite a few years) they said I would actually have to start all the way down at F (or G, or whatever the entry level course was).  Yeah, that was not going to happen.  I was disappointed in their approach; you'd think they would try to work with you to get you in an appropriate level (I had also gotten the National Youth License, so it's not like I was trying to avoid their courses, I just didn't have the time or money to repeat stuff).  Very frustrating. 

  3. Santiago 1314 replied, May 27, 2021 at 10:12 a.m.

    Kent, So Funny... I was at the same Course doing my B... I remember the "Yelling" Session quite well,,, He really DID Tear Into Some "Dads".... Heddergot was trying to teach the "Cross-Over" Spin Turn with a Player Behind you... As one of the few people who could Cope with the German accent and actually do the Turn; I became His "Demo Boy" for the week ... We actually became Pen Pals and I even took one of my H.S. Teams, at his Invitation, To his Hometown, Hennef Sports School in Germany for some games... A very Good/Nice Person actually, Thrown into a Difficult situation

  4. frank schoon, May 21, 2021 at 2:52 p.m.

    Tim, couldn't agree with you more. R2, how 'bout you putting your 2 cents on this garbage....

    The moment I saw the word 'education', it went downhill from there. The problem is that kids coming from 3rd world have better skills and more fluid ,ball handling wise, and game sense  than our kids who unfortunately accosted by these licensed 'educated' coaches. These 3rd world type kids don't have nice fancy fields or 'EDUCATED' coaches and therefore are not 'programmed' by  coaches who tend to create 'stiffs' as players

    The BS verbage itself as expounded by this individual is such general nonsense. I couldn't last 5min.in his class without getting a headache. This whole set up reeks simple of a moneymaker. We have totally achieved a 'cottage' industry of issuing licenses, night courses for adults....you name.
    If anybody thinks that acquiring these licenses is going to make you 'see' the game with more insights, I got news for you .....forget it....You either got it or you don't. As Cruyff once stated he only considers 4 coaches in the world who understood this game. Furthermore he also stated that perhaps about 4% of the professional players have the ability to 'see' the game in a manner that one change on the field could solve the problems. This is why ,today, players when substituted going onto field are first shown a schematic diagram of what to do or where to go....I would call it LEGO soccer.....And you think those going for a license, know any better?..This whole thing is Damn Racket and people are making money off of it, by bringing some of these nitwits from Europe over who basically no better than the "paper poopers" we have here......



  5. R2 Dad replied, May 23, 2021 at 4:24 a.m.

    Frank, I don't know who Didier is, but he's responding as coaches have been programmed to speak if they ever want to climb the ladder in the sport. But when he's asked about style of play and he says " For me, it starts with the U.S. identity. " he never gives an answer. Why must this be so difficult? We are a counter-attacking country,  trying to change that identity in order to give us a chance to reach a world cup semi--that was the 2002 goal and I don't think it has changed since. Is it possible to change this identity? I don't think I've heard an answer to that question yet, either way.

  6. James Madison, May 21, 2021 at 2:57 p.m.

    Whereas my C, B, and A instructors, from Chyzowich and Bob Gansler on down all wiere either immigrants or sons of immigrants and drew on guests from the Netherlands, they played and coached in the US and were attuned to the wide US geographic and cultural differences. There were even cross-connections between US Soccer and what was then NSCAAssn, despite the different educational silos.  Are we doing a better job of educating goaches now?  Good question.

  7. Bob Ashpole, May 21, 2021 at 4:26 p.m.

    James' comment got me to thinking about the disconnect between USSF overview and player development. At the top the planning is about huge groups of players. Developmental coaching, however, is not focused on huge groups of players but rather on the individual.

    For example IMO the single biggest area for improvement in player development would be making players two-footed. Yet I don't think any USSF planning document or coaching program has ever set this as a priority for development. While at the grassroots, development coaches focus on developing teams to immediately win games instead of developing players for the future. In many cases the coaching focus turns away from fundamentals to team tactics at the earliest ages.

    Thinking that player development is accelerated by skipping to team tactics before U14 is a mistake. The goal should be ball mastery by age 12.

  8. Santiago 1314 replied, May 27, 2021 at 3:03 p.m.

    Being Mundane, and Proficient with BOTH Feet would Describe 99% of Today's Players.... Being "Perfect" with 1 foot is what is the Difference... Top 5 All Time:
    Pele
    Cruijff
    Beckenbauer
    Maradona
    Messi
    Which one was "Two Footed".???? (Trick Question; NONE.!!!!)

  9. Philip Carragher, May 22, 2021 at 7:57 a.m.

    Bob, I agree with you about the need for players to be two-footed. Honestly, if a kid is agile, learning to kick with your "lesser" foot is pretty simple...as long as they can kick well with at least one to begin with.  A critical "secret" to any decent kick is the non-kicking foot/leg. With the plant foot/leg in the correct position, striking the ball well is vastly simplified...so if the kid is better with his right foot/leg, teaching his better foot/leg (his right foot/leg) to plant correctly isn't that difficult and the consequential kick of the ball follows sort of directly. Not rocket science. But you need coaches that can kick the ball well with both feet in order to demonstrate, thus inspiring the kids so they give it a go.


  10. Bob Ashpole replied, May 22, 2021 at 10:39 p.m.

    Kids walk and run with two feet. That is all the rhythm you need to coach striking.

  11. R2 Dad, May 23, 2021 at 4:15 a.m.

    I don't follow the coaching structure too much, but there has been a slight attempt through USSF to simplify Coaching and Officiating levels--something long overdue. Refereeing went from Grade 8 entry level to 7/6/5 state, then professional then FIFA. Now it's Grassroots/ Regional/National/Pro/Fifa--at least one or two extra levels if you ask me. Coaching used to be F (entry level) to D/C/B/A/Pro, now it's Grassroots/D/C/B/A(youth) and A(senior), then Pro. I am surrounded by these coaches, trying to make a living in the sport yet they hardly know the LOTG nor best practices. They want to talk like they know what best practices are, but I never see it in their sessions nor warm-ups before matches. 

  12. humble 1, May 24, 2021 at 10:52 a.m.

    Interesting.  Talking about latino needs.  The lowest hanging fruit in the USA, by far, to improve our coaching resource pool, is to provide a certification path for all the latino coaches that are residents of the USA, but for whom USSF does not recognize their coaching credentials earned abroad.  They work for people that should be working for them.  Think about the irony of the above discussion about how the USA should 'educate' latino coaches!  Are we kidding ourselves?  Any sensible person would know it should be the other way around.  In CONCACAF we just lost to El Salvador in Beach Soccer, Costa Rica in FUTSAL and Honduras for the Olympics.  Wake up!  

  13. Mark Landefeld, June 26, 2021 at 7:49 p.m.

    Heddergott was tough, but he also went right at the myth that a one-week course was sufficient to earn a new level of certification.  He pushed the federation into two separate weeks a year apart.  Now, thanks to a pandemic, we're using remote learning to spread the teaching out and allow coaches more opportunity to work with the ideas conveyed in the schools.

    Heddergott was also insistent in having technical work done with some opponent present, even if passive.  He understood how contextual interference is a component of real skill acquisition. When he left, I was working on my "A" and saw how, sadly the methodologies reverted.

  14. cony konstin, July 4, 2021 at 6:19 p.m.

    Coaching is totally overrated. Coaching education should be free and online. You want to be a master coach go to a university for 4 years and get a degree. Coaching licenses are set up especially in USA to justify this useless pay to play model. You elite players build 600,000 Futsal courts to start with so kids can  compete king/Queen of the court 24/7/365, for free and with no adult interference. That's for starters. Then once you have that in place for 10 years then it's time to create A NÉW SPARTA for the most elite players. Meanwhile you can't make chicken soup out of chicken minutia. 

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