Archive for November, 2011

This article addresses the proposal the NCAA is making to do away with the five spring developmental matches that are currently allowed in Division I soccer.  As it stands we are facing a major shift in the development of soccer players in the United States with the introduction of the US Academy system.  Players are already giving up high school soccer and traditional club soccer for the pursuit of the being seen to sign a professional contract or consideration for a national youth team.

The NCAA should be considering moving soccer to a split season format, not decreasing the number of matches even further.  As it stands D1 schools are allowed only 20 matches in the fall championship season, and five developmental games in the spring.  These 25 matches make up one of the shortest seasons in college sports.  While our international counter parts are getting 10 months of soccer training and matches to develop top performers our kids will get a four year degree, but be limited to five months of competition and training in a structured environment.

What the NCAA is proposing is going to make it harder to sell kids on the benefits of pursuing a degree while also pursuing the dream of playing soccer at a higher level.  More kids have already given up playing high school soccer to be a part of the US Academy system.  Players in this system are already being molded to think more about pursuing a professional playing career immediately out of high school rather than pursuing an education.  For most of these players they might spend some time on a developmental club or in a lower division professional team, come out at age 20-24 without any higher education and try to figure out what to do next.

Instead the NCAA should be working with USSF to figure out how we can accomplish the task of developing young talent best for the professional and international game, while still promoting the importance of a college degree.  If this proposal passes (and there is already a proposal for the NCAA to decrease the number of fall matches to 18) than the other divisions and college leagues will probably follow.  Division II soccer will eliminate their dates of competition in the spring, and the NAIA will eliminate theirs as well.  Then we will see more and more kids opting to skip college and try their hand at a professional career instead.  Right now the talent pool in college soccer is still very high and considered a good source for our professional league, but with this new rule we will see college soccer become a second-class citizen to the semi-professional teams that are in and out of leagues annually.  We need to do what is best for the development of soccer and the development of productive young men and women for our society.

Our club was fortunate enough to have Don Ebert hold a short coaching clinic with the association coaches.  When I received the information about the clinic I was immediately interested since I was familiar with Coach Ebert’s coaching record while he was at Concordia-Irvine, and NAIA powerhouse when I was a national rater in 2008.  He also had an extensive playing career at the professional ranks, and has been coaching club soccer for more than 25 years.  He is currently with Strikers FC and working with Jurgen Klinsman to develop a Center of Excellence in Southern California.

Below are some notes I took from his session…

Don Ebert; “Challenges of Coaching Youth Soccer Today”

First he addressed several challenges that players, coaches, and clubs are faced with in today’s American soccer culture. 

  • Players are faced with extreme pressure to perform.  They are receiving top level coaching year-round and they are expected to produce results more than ever before. 
  • For coaches he recommended that the number one thing we need to get better at is managing parent’s expectations for their kids.  Individual evaluation and feedback are becoming the keys to proper team management in a world where parents are investing thousands of dollars into their child’s playing career.
  • Clubs are faced with several issues related to finances and product.  The price of participation is going up and up with no end in sight, and the introduction of the US Development Academy has increased the funds needed to compete at the highest levels.  More and more the demand for clubs to produce professional and top flight college level players is becoming more of a priority in marketing.

Second he discussed how Strikers FC is trying to focus on developing the players in their association through the different age levels.  Strikers FC is a unique club in that they will only have one competitive team per age group.  As a member of the US Development Academy their primary goal is developing players who will be ready to play for the U18 and U16 academy teams and move on to the professional ranks or college. 

The key emphasis for the academy teams were equal attention to technical, tactical, and physical development.  Sessions need to be varied, intense, and extremely competitive.  The players in these two top teams were always being individually measured and evaluated, and not only on paper, but also in groups in front of their peers.  The coaches were instructed to train and coach to the best player’s ability, not the team’s average.  As an academy program they cover all the costs for the players, and therefore the coaches demanded absolute commitment from the players for the entire ten months.

Very different from the environment that we are able to provide in our club, simply because the objectives of the level are different.  But there were some things that I definitely took away from the clinic that I found to be very interesting.

  1. Individual measurements helped coaches to teach players personal responsibility and realistic evaluation. 
  2. Speed of play in possession is the priority in development.  It starts with proper technique, and works up to tactical decisions and reads that players must make.  But we do not spend enough time preparing youth players for the higher levels.
  3. Good coaches are evaluated by their ability to help players progress and how ready their players are for the next level.

It was a great clinic and I really appreciate the efforts of our DOC and club to get Don Ebert to host the session!

Well the season is over and the individual meetings have been wrapped up.  This is just some thoughts and comments I have about the 2011 season and what I’ve learned about myself, and our team.

Season Stats:

  • Finished 9-9-1 (6-3-1) with the toughest schedule in program history.
  • Finished 2nd in the conference for the regular season (highest finish in program history).
  • Advanced to the conference tournament semifinals and eliminated in the semis again for the second year.
  • Eight players given All-Conference honors (One on 1st team, two on 2nd team, and five Honorable Mention).
  • Two Academic All-District selections.
  • Home record 7-3-1; Away record 2-6
  • Achieved three of four preseason goals (the fifth team goal for team GPA is still pending until the end of the semester).

General Thoughts

My first impression is that we struggled to be consistent, especially on the road.  However, it wasn’t a bad season, and there are a lot of positives to draw from the year.  We struggled with injuries the last half of the conference schedule, and we still found a way to go 3-1-1 in the last half through some pretty tough games.  We showed some resilience and responded at times when we really needed to step up and come through.  We did enough to finish second place in the conference standings when we were selected in the preseason to finish sixth.

We had some key freshmen really step up for us this season and they are looking to be bright spots in the next three years.  The rest of the team developed as we had expected and the returners were right where we left off last year.

One trend we noticed with the team was the struggle we had with being the “better” team.  Our team identity is shifting, and we need to develop the mentality to go along with this shift.  In the past we’ve played the role of the underdog and the under-rated team really well.  We need to start making the shift to show up and earn the result we are supposed to have.  We can’t let other teams dictate to us how we should be playing, we need to play at the highest level we are capable of and not let our play drop.

Priorities to Improve for 2012

Areas that I see a need to improve before next season are the following:

  • 1v1 defending
  • Speed of play
  • Keep momentum going forward in the attack
  • Ability to possess the ball when necessary
  • Team defending and cutting down shots by opponents

Things I Personally Learned

With the ups and downs of the season I need to challenge myself to see what is happening with the team’s mentality through the season.  I’m concerned about how we respond on the road, and I think we need to look at what we do and what we can change for our routine. 

I felt like our coaching staff did not do a good job of keeping evaluations of the players updated and available for the players during the season.  Our focus on the lines really fell through this season compared to last year, and that surprises me especially since we have a larger coaching staff this year compared to previous years.

As always I walk away from the season feeling like we did well, but still did not reach our potential.  I’m confident in the system that we run, and I’m confident that it will help us win a championship.  However, I need to do a better job of sharing that with the team and helping them understand it better.

Overall, it was a season that surpassed my expectations in some areas, and fell short in others.  I really feel good about the direction that the program is headed and where we are with recruiting for the future.

As always I want to challenge myself in the off-season to get better personally and help the guys tighten up their fundamentals.  There is still a lot of things I want to see this program achieve, and I think we have the potential to do them.

Final Home Game of 2011

Posted: November 5, 2011 in Psychology

Today is our final home game for 2011.  We are hosting the conference tournament semifinal.  If we win we will advance to the #1 seed’s place for the conference final.

You have to love coaching in a sport like soccer.  This morning I woke up and found the newspaper had a blast of information about the last home football game, and the last home volleyball game was listed as an “area event,” high school playoff game previews were all over the front page of the sports section, and nothing about soccer.  Our campus administration will be at the two other sporting events, and one of our assistant coaches will have to keep stats because the SID will be at Parent’s Day for the other two sports.

I’m reminded how easily soccer is forgotten in the mill of everything else going on in this country.  But I chose this sport, it is my passion and our fans are second to none because they support us no matter what.

It’s going to be a great day today, doesn’t matter if anyone else in town is there.  We have three seniors who have meant the world to me playing their final home game, and a group of guys who have faught hard this season to get to where they are.  Very proud of this team and what they’ve accomplished, and I know it’s going to be a great day today.