It’s time to Stop and Reflect on where we are going with the sport, especially at youth levels. We have been a soccer nation to a great degree since the late 1960s if you include the starting point as the NASL. The sport has been twisted and turned in all sorts of directions as first schools, then colleges, and then clubs dictated its growth. Then the MLS and academies dictated its growth.
Unfortunately, it’s become like the wild west with all sorts of madness in between. What have we produced when you add up all this experience for all its structure and the millions of youngsters that have passed through the many leagues and cups?
As they say, you measure soccer’s crop by the talent it produces, and sadly the fruit that’s fallen from soccer’s tree has been meager. As of yet, we have yet to produce any men world-class players. Yet you think of the millions that have competed. Why?
OBVIOUSLY, THE GAME NEEDS RESTRUCTURING, BUT WHERE TO START?
MAY I SUGGEST AT THE GRASSROOTS LEVELS
IF THE BASE IS FIRM AND GOOD, TALENT WILL FLOW!
State Associations need serious restructuring. They need to educate their clubs and leagues to create small-sided leagues of 4v4 and 5v5 for U. 10’s. With an emphasis on enjoyment and skill, the result is a secondary concern. This is the basis of bedding down a strong base of technical development. If the result becomes the valued concern, the game gets twisted and fractured into a results factory. Results are important in the teenage game, especially at older ages.
Money is often cited as a major need. Yet, you look at countries where poverty rules, then look at African & South American countries flooding Europe’s top leagues. So money is not the answer but enthusiasm and love of a great game. Look at countries like Uruguay, Serbia, Brazil, and Argentina, plus a crop of African countries supplying Europe’s top leagues with talent.
A great Lesson to Learn is getting youngsters to learn to manage their own game- learn to create teams & run their leagues. One of the crimes of the American game is that adults dominate the sport. The result is youngsters flee from the sport in their teenage years.
There are many examples, like the Banana Leaf Leagues run by teenagers with hardly an adult to be seen. This is critical as youngsters take control and invest their energy into it. With little to no money, they even improvise, creating their ball by using banana skins into a ball.
Or children in Uruguay somehow how old beaten up soccer balls and stuffed them with straw or rags, so they invented FUTSAL. Children are brilliant when encouraged to use their vast imaginations.
Clubs and schools should encourage youngsters to form their teams and leagues. You will produce “REAL PLAYERS” by Giving Youngsters Ownership, and then the USA will proudly walk the stage with “WORLD CLASS PLAYERS.”