Special to soccerthought.com, meet Dylan Glad. Dylan is the Director of Player Development at Albion Hurricane Soccer Club in Houston, Texas.
Dylan has a long history in soccer, beginning as a 6 year old, continuing through his service in Iraq (as a member of the All-Marine Team) and time with the Houston Hurricanes of the USISL. He currently lives in Katy with his wife and child. His experience in soccer notwithstanding, Dylan considers himself “a USSF School product” and currently holds a USSF “A” License as well as a USSF “Y.”
His club, AHFC, did a great Q/A with him that you can read here. As I read it, I was drawn to the first question – the fact that he is the first Player Development Director for AHFC. He stated that he “believes technique is everything.” Dylan has generously taken some time to share his views on certain aspects of Player Development. So, without further adieu, here are some words of wisdom from AHFC’s Director of Player Development…
1. You are the Albion Hurricanes Football Club Director of Player Development — what does your job entail? How many youth players are in your club? Specifically I have the pleasure of working with our under 12 and down to U9 Academy players; both boys and girls. With them, I ensure we are taking full advantage of small sided games and everything that format has to offer. All in all it is about 600 players in those ages. They make up the foundation for our club, and my job along with our other coaches is to make sure they are technically equipped to play a certain way by a certain age in any system required.
2. How do you define Player Development? How does it apply to youth soccer? I’d say it is a long term investment into the soccer education of a player over the course of their entire career and goes well past the youth level. Professional players and coaches need to continue to advance their games and their understanding as well. Instilling youth players with a competent technical ability which will last them and serve as the foundation for their future ability and potential is our main focus. I learn something everyday working at AHFC on how I can improve our players’ experience.
3. What do you think are the biggest impediments to Player Development in youth soccer in the United States? What can we do to overcome them? Interesting dilemma we face in the US regarding our sports and soccer specifically. The same attitude that makes this country great may also be the thing that holds us back from being a top class soccer nation. The culture revolves around results. We test our students in school so we can judge if they understand concepts. The two timelines don’t always match up with people’s expectations. Player development should be seen in terms of years, not games; if parents and players expectations are such, and they understand the long road ahead, then set backs like a losing score become less meaningful. Reactionary coaching after a loss knocks a team or an individual off course. Stay true to the principles of play that your club believes to be beneficial. (emphasis added)
4. As a club, is it hard to satisfy parents’ desire to win with a Player Development approach? Very hard. It is the number one most time consuming challenge I face week to week. In a results based business it is trying at times to explain why a result has occurred. Staying positive is the key. In the youth game you must see the game within the game. Young players lack the understanding of how they relate to more than a couple of players at a time. They can’t put it all together until they’re older. Keeping people grounded in our beliefs is paramount. Great thing about soccer is it is open to a multitude of varying opinions and there is always a conversation to be had. I’ve remained consistent in my approach regarding individual technique and team possession based play. People see value in that long term which makes my job a pleasure.
5. What are your feelings on ability-based training and grouping for match play? How does age apply to that analysis (if it does)? It is very important to play opponents equal in ability, even better if you can play tougher teams. If you can use these matches for experience and keep them competitive and fun, players will benefit more so from playing skilled teams rather than having easy games day in and day out. There in lies another balancing act. Who do you train with? Anyone and everyone—go to as many practices as you can with different ages and abilities. Each one of those presents a different problem to solve. Older kids are faster, more experienced, so I must play quicker. Younger players are less experienced and may not defend properly. Boys are naturally more aggressive so when girls play with boys you get that added benefit. (emphasis added)
6. What is the difference between a team-based approach and a player pass system? Do you favor one over the other? Why? At what age? Great question. Obviously we take a player centered approach. When you keep the player in mind at the center of your decisions then you don’t have to change ideology midstream. Our youngest players don’t need a team based approach. About U12 we begin to make those connections and hopefully we’ve done a great job of developing the individual so they can contribute to a team. At the end of the day however, it comes back to the individual. Are they going to play in college, or in the pros, or be a terrific High School athlete? Perhaps you need to be on a good team to be noticed, but the current identification system for those avenues take into account the players who might be on lesser teams or at lesser known clubs. Everyone is searching for that player who lives off the grid so to speak. Player pass is key. It provides the flexibility to coaches to make good soccer decisions. It makes sense that we should have the freedom to move players from level to level as they progress. It would be a shame to wait an entire year to play with a group because our administrative constraints say so. (emphasis added)
7. What role has coaching education had in shaping your coaching philosophy? Your philosophy of player development? I am a USSF coaching school product. I credit the federation with trying to educate its coaches and offering them various courses. At the end of the day, those courses help you organize your own thoughts and structure. The content is your own, and although those courses influence you, the philosophy comes from years of trial and error and seeing what works and what does not. You must be comfortable in your own identity. I feel I have taken on an American approach to the game similar to how our culture has evolved. I take the best parts from all over the world and try to construct it into something uniquely ours. Like a recipe, I’ll add a bit of Dutch flair and possession, sprinkle in some Italian defending and some German discipline, add some South American tempo and drama, all the while keeping a fantastic American work ethic at the core.
8. At what age do you recommend position specialization? How does that relate to Player Development? I’ve always felt that players don’t choose positions, their personality does. The position requires certain attributes from the individual. Not everyone is suited to every position, but it is very important as U9 and up to see the game from as many different perspectives as possible. If you are forced to play somewhere constantly it stifles players, I think they become disinterested, unmotivated and lose out long term. Goal keepers are a prime example of a position the USA clearly has top quality in, but none of our youth players want to play it. Do a great job of making balanced all around players who can play any and all positions—at the least, they’ll have a better appreciation for how they fit into a team. I would not let age be the deciding factor of when, but rather when is the player capable of understanding their role at that position. Rest of the time, mix it up and have some fun with it. We all love to score goals, but equally exhilarating is a well timed slide tackle to clear a ball of the defensive line.
Many thanks to Dylan Glad for taking the time to share his thoughts on Player Development. Thank you!