I recently attended the National Youth License course. It was an incredible experience. The quality of the instruction was superb and the curriculum outstanding. I can write more about it later, but I wanted to share a document that was passed by Sam Snow, the US Youth Soccer Director of Coaching Education. It is called a Vision Statement and covers the idea behind the training model directed by US Youth Soccer. It is called the Vision document. The basis of the document is the role of “player development” philosophy in youth sports. Some times, player development is sacrificed for results. Here are some good quotes from the document (from the introduction):
Indeed how do we measure player development? Too often in America a professional sport model is used in measuring youth sports success. Youth soccer is not immune to this misapplied standard. For soccer the situation is made worse by a desire of many adults to use measuring tools from other sports. In fact it is maddening to many adults that soccer is not as black and white as with some sports in judging successful play. Many team sports played in our nation are statistically driven and coach centered. Soccer is neither of those! Indeed just like the Laws of the Game our sport has many shades of grey within it. As a player centered sport some coaches become disillusioned as they learn that they are the ‘guide on the side’ and not the ‘sage on the stage’. Too many soccer coaches bring a “Pattonesque” attitude to the youth sport environment. This coach-centered perspective has been handed down to us from other sports and coaching styles of past generations.
In many sports the coach makes crucial decisions during the competition. In soccer players make the primary decisions during the match. The coach’s decisions are of secondary importance. The ego-centric personality will find coaching soccer troublesome. The other significant group of adults at a youth soccer match is parents. They too often have their view of the match colored by the professional model and by a view of “coaching” that is portrayed in the media. Although it is changing, the majority of parents watching their kids play soccer have never played the game. In fact the statistics show that most of today’s parents never played any team sport. So their only exposure on how to measure sporting success is gleaned from the sports media. The sports media predominately report on adult teams at the college and professional levels. These adult measurements of team performance should not and cannot be applied to youth sports.
The analogy can be made to a youngster’s academic development in preparation for work in the adult business world. While the child is in primary and secondary school the corporate world measurements of success are not applied. Those business assessments are not yet appropriate because the school-aged student does not yet have the tools to compete in the adult business environment. The knowledge and skills to be a competitor in business are still being taught and learned. This holds true in soccer as well!
Soccer is an adult game designed by adults for adults to play. Adults enjoy the game so much that we have shared it with our children. Yet adults err when we bring our adult performance and outcome based thinking into the developing player’s world.
The document is fantastic and I would encourage everyone to read it, whether your child is involved in youth football, baseball, or basketball, the ideas carry over. There is also a section titled “What Parents Can Do” that I would recommend for parents who are looking for ways to support their little athletes but are not involved in coaching them. Here are some of the excerpts under “What Parents Can Do”:
1. Talk positively with their children before and after activity;
2. Supply transport;
3. Assist with supervision;
4. Officiate games;
5. Help with administrations;
6. Assist with the organization of special events.