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Fundamental Soccer Blog

Transforming Youth Soccer in the USA: (Lessons from the Netherlands’ Successful Model)

Hi Koach Karl,

It is good to see that you are continuing to work on creating a better playing environment for players in the USA and District-7. However, if children are treated like professional players, something is going in a terrible direction, and that will not be easy to change. My daughter studied in Florida (Gainesville) when she was 17, and from here, we learned how competitive school was at that time (1991-1992). With ‘best student’ of the week, ‘best football player of the week,’ etc. How can you change a ‘culture’?

The advantage of my country is that it is very small and that we travel max four hours to get from the north to the south or west to east. The other advantage is that our Association leads in the game’s vision, strategy, and promotion. After the generation of Van Persi, Robben, Van de Vaart, Schneider, etc., we now produce van Dijk and Wijnaldum (Liverpool), Hakim Ziyech (Chelsea), Delpay (Lyon), and more.

This is the result of our club system, where we produce well-educated youth coaches through the KNVB working with kids from 5 years onwards and in a system where every kid, rich or poor, can join the club.

From 6-8, they play locally, each week one match—10 months per year.

From 10 to 12 years, there is a competition for each kid, but no promotion or relegation. When a team wins too much with high scores, the team is halfway through the season put into a better competition so that scores of losing 10-0 or even more are no longer possible.

From 12 years and older, the real competition starts, and the player, together with the parents, can choose to be part of a selection system where the best play the best and where your son can even be scouted by a professional club (Academy)

These Academy players, like Ajax, Feijenoord, PSV Eindhoven AZ Alkmaar, etc., are recruited from amateur clubs, and transport, study, and care of the family are arranged by the club. They train 4 to 5 times a week and play 40 to 50 matches per season, plus 3 or four tournaments abroad.

The kid can also choose a recreational pathway, train, and play for fun. Mostly, training is twice a week, and a game is on Saturday.

From 4 to 12, kids should have fun and Play for Fun. The involvement of parents should be minimalized and leave their children to professional coaches who specialize in coaching children. These coaches should not try to copy famous coaches but invest in their personalities and guide the children to grow as grown-up soccer players and human beings.

Robert Baan

Has had the honor of working with some of the top clubs in the world (Feyenoord, PSV Eindhoven, Roda JC, Al-Jazzera, ADO Den Haag, FC Twenty, etc.) And as a Technical Director, he gained respect in the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, and India. He worked for Dutch clubs such as ADO and FC Den Haag, FC VVV, Roda JC, FC Twente, PSV, Cambuur, Excelsior and Sparta. And was technical director of Feyenoord for six seasons, where he was partly responsible for winning the UEFA Cup in 2002. He was also assistant coach of the Dutch national team, structured the football organizations in Australia and India, and was active with Al-Jazira in the United Arab Emirates. Through his friendship with Alan Maher, Coach Baan has been a silent contributor to FUNdamental SOCCER since the 1980's.