Posts Tagged ‘soccer’

Had the opportunity to sit in on US Soccer’s Regional Workshop a week ago and learn from the national coaches and national technical staff.  It was a jam packed four days of great information on the developmental pathway US Soccer has laid out for the youth in our country, how the coaching education pathway is changing and becoming more connected, and how to be a better individual coaches and instructors.  Below are my notes from Jurgen Klinsmann’s “state of US Soccer” presentation that kicked off the week.

Klinsmann (2)

REALITY

The state of soccer in the USA after this last World Cup cycle.  Klinsmann noted that the USA has not produced a FIFA top 10 player since 1990 (the modern era of USA soccer).  In that same period 15 different countries have reached the FIFA World Cup semifinals while the USMNT has only reached the quarter finals once (2002).  And the MLS has struggled to produce and success at the continental level (one CONCACAF champion in 2000).

The point is simply the United States struggles in player development.  In the modern era of soccer we haven’t produced a world class player out of the hundreds of thousands that come through our “premier” youth ranks.

OBSERVATIONS

  Couple of things that Jurgen has noticed scouting the younger generation of USA talent are related to technique and focus.  We lack players who have a combination of physical speed AND quality technique.  This is one of the primary reasons the USA lacks a dangerous push into the final third of the field.  And the other observation is we lack focus for 90 minutes.  Klinsmann pulled out examples on both sides of the ball for the USMNT where a lack of concentration resulted in allowing a goal or missing an opportunity to score.

KEYS TO IMPROVEMENT – COACHING

So how do we tackle these short comings in the next World Cup cycle and beyond?  Coaches need to obtain the top coaching credentials.  Does having an “A” License mean you are one of the top coaches in the United States?  Not necessarily, but according to Klinsmann it gives coaches credibility to the players and parents.  It fosters a culture where professionals desire the credentials laid out in our field to improve themselves and their teams.

Another key was to use all available learning platforms to teach and engage players.  This is a technologically advanced generation, and we need to keep up to engage them in every facet.  And we need to use these resources to connect with players and to get them thinking about the game.

Other keys that were mentioned; treating every day of training like game day.  Players need to train harder and more intensely. Coaches need to help players realize the importance of off the field attitude and behavior as much as on the field.  Areas like fitness, nutrition, sleeping patterns, and lifestyle all play a role in the development of a player.

Jurgen concluded that coaches are the foundation of player development, and we need to take our role in this process seriously.  We need to model and practice what we preach as coaches.

MY THOUGHTS

It was interesting to hear Klinsmann’s thoughts on the state of soccer in the USA.  I agree with several of his critiques; we do lack those difference makers, game changers, to break open a game at the senior level.  Our top level of talent does not play as many games in a calendar year as the other nations we are competing with internationally.

I believe US Soccer has made some great strides in player development with the introduction of the DA.  Having a system where coaches and directors must have the top licensing, and training is monitored and evaluated regularly adds to the consistency of growing the game.  But as always, there are some factors that are outside of our control. At the end of the day our best athletes are not making the choice to play soccer over American football and  basketball.  The geographical size of the country makes identification of top talent and playing good competitive games much harder than our counterparts.

The growth of soccer in the USA is definitely on the rise, and we need to keep it going in that direction.  We are better off than we were 20 years ago, but we still have a lot of ground to gain.

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With all the talk from last week’s announcement of the US 23 man roster for Brazil a lot has been mentioned about a new era of US Soccer especially with the exclusion of Landon Donovan from the World Cup.  A question was even raised about how good the senior national team is now compared to 1998 and 2002.

Here are some stats I found about the level of soccer at the senior international level.  I’ve divided international soccer for the United States into four distinct periods…

The Forgotten Era (1930-1950)

  • World Cup Highlights: 3 wins – 0 draws – 4 losses (-9 Goal Differential); the obvious highlights are reaching the semifinals in 1930 after two shutout victories in the group stage before being eliminated by Argentina.  Another highlight has to be the victory over England in the 1950 WC Group Stage is considered one of the greatest upsets in the history of the tournament.
  • Olympic Highlights: 1 win – 0 draws – 3 losses (-12 Goal Differential)
  • National Highlights: The National Challenge Cup (now the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup) was created in the 1913-14 season and the American Soccer League was reinvented as the professional organization in the USA during this period.
  • Key Contributors: Bert Patenaude is credited with scoring all three goals in the 1930 victory over Paraguay, and thus holds the record of the first hat trick in World Cup history.

The Dark Ages (1954-1986)

It’s not that we lost soccer all-together during this period, but it was mostly imported from outside of the USA.  This was made very evident by the lack of success at an international level for the USA and Team America finishing in last place in the NASL during the 1983 season.

  • World Cup Highlights: None, didn’t qualify once during this period in history.
  • Olympic Highlights: 1 win – 3 draws – 7 losses (-25 Goal Differential)
  • CONCACAF Gold Cup: 6 wins – 4 draws – 2 losses (+4 Goal Differential)
  • National Highlights: The birth of the North American Soccer League in 1968 gave the USA it’s first viable and competitive professional league that lasted until 1984.  The Major Indoor Soccer League continued to carry the flag of professional soccer in the USA from 1978-1992.
  • Key Contributors: The New York Cosmos and owner Steve Ross fueled the game by bringing international superstars to the USA in the likes of Pele, Giorgio Chinaglia, and Beckenbauer.

The Modern Reformation (1990-1998)

  • World Cup Highlights: 1 win – 1 draw – 8 losses (-11 Goal Differential); made the Round of 16 when they hosted the 1994 World Cup.
  • Olympic Highlights: Beginning in 1992 the Olympics became a competition for national U23 sides
  • CONCACAF Gold Cup: 16 wins – 2 draws – 3 losses (+20 Goal Differential); Won their first, and only championship during this period in 1991.
  • National Highlights: After the success of hosting the 1994 World Cup a new professional league was started in 1996, the MLS.
  • Key Contributors: Alan Rothenberg lead the US Soccer Federation as president from 1990-1998.  He was instrumental in hosting a successful 1994 World Cup and played a key role in the development of the MLS.  Bob Gansler also has to be noted for his ability to help lead the US MNT back to WC qualification during the 1990 campaign.

The National Awakening (2000-2011)

  • World Cup Highlights: 3 wins – 4 draws – 5 losses (-4 Goal Differential); 2002 was a breakthrough year for the US MNT when they defeated Portugal and Mexico to advance to the Quarterfinals before falling to Germany.
  • CONCACAF Gold Cup: 32 wins – 4 draws – 4 losses (+48 Goal Differential); this run includes four championships and two runner-up finishes.
  • National Highlights: The MLS continues to strengthen in attendance, financial stability, and TV ratings.  In 2009 the US MNT finished 2nd in the Confederations Cup, their first appearance in a FIFA Final.
  • Key Contributors: Sunil Gulati, current president of USSF, hired Bob Bradley who led the US MNT to the 2009 Confederations Cup Final.  Don Garber’s impact on the national development of soccer as the MLS Commissioner since 1999 also must be mentioned.

Since the “Modern Era” of US Soccer (usually deemed 1990-present) the level of play and the pool of the national team has increased.  The team has become more and more competitive in international competitions where we have a realistic expectation to win the Gold Cup every two years and finish on top of World Cup Qualification every four years.  Just 25 years ago we were shocked to qualify for the World Cup in a given cycle, and now the expectation is to compete.

I’m interested to see where the  next era is going to take us in this country, and it started with the hiring of Jurgen Klinsmann in 2011.  He is ushering in a mentality that the United States should play a more attractive style of soccer and that it must be fostered down through all tiers of development in the country.  The philosophy and methodology of our coaching education has seen drastic changes in the past three years along with the development of the MLS and other leagues in the USA.  Another factor that I think will be a key to the dawn of this new era for us is television.  Never before have we seen networks make such a financial investment in the game of soccer for the USA, and the recent deal between Fox, ESPN, and Univision with Major League Soccer for eight years could make an amazing impact on the culture of our sport.

Exciting times.

This weekend we wrapped up another session of spring training.  Spring ball, as we call it at our college, brings a whole new environment to the college soccer experience.  In the fall every training session is directly related to our current performance.  Games are layered with pressure to perform and to stay in the hunt for postseason play.

In the spring there is no pressure to perform and attain results on a team level.  However, individual players are fighting for varsity roster spots, and starting positions on different teams.

This spring we improved every weekend of our matches.  We addressed two main themes this spring; winning the ball in specific areas of the pitch, and transitioning forward with quality and quick possession into the attacking third of the field.  Every week we saw players growing and adapting to the college game.

We entered spring ball with 26 players in training, and between injuries, eligibility, and the business of a student-athlete’s life we played our three dates of scrimmages with approximately 15-17 players.  This was actually a huge positive to the spring season; several players surpassed our expectations and really claimed spots on the varsity roster for next fall.  They showed marked improvement in their understanding of our team systems and tactics as a whole, and I will feel much more confident dipping into our bench next season when we are fighting injuries or weariness.

Overall I’ve been very encouraged with this spring ball season.  Probably much more than I have in any previous spring season while here at Dakota Wesleyan University.  But spring is still just spring, and the results mean nothing.

Now it’s time for the coaching staff to contemplate and agonize over what the fall season might bring during the long summer.  The hardest part of coaching a fall sport is leaving the preseason preparations in the hands of 35-40 young men who are looking forward to a well deserved break.  However, the summer is also a very exciting time with the endless possibilities of the season-to-come constantly on the mind.

We’ll find out in three and a half months!

Playoffs

Posted: November 1, 2012 in Psychology, Team Management
Tags: , ,

Well, this is what the season is all about. Qualify for the playoffs and then test yourself against the best. It’s been somewhat of a disappointing season, but we managed to secure our spot in the post season by going 3-1-1 in our last five matches of the regular season against some very tough competition. Now we travel to the top seed to play the first round at their place and test ourselves against the #25 team in the country.

It’s amazing how quickly the mood on a team can change in the span of a season. Coming into 2012 we were really excited about the possibilities. Within a month we were throwing everything out ready to start from scratch. a few weeks later we went back to the tested ways and started to climb out of the basement a little. Now we’ve had a small taste of success and we are ready to take on the world. Sports are crazy, but it wouldn’t be any fun any other way.

This is why we do this, and this is why we invest our time and energy into something that is so simple and means very little in the big picture. But hopefully we are doing a good job to use this fun, and sometimes frustrating, game to teach these young men lessons that will apply to their lives down the road in a more important way.

The season isn’t done yet, but I know that one of the things that will stick out about 2012 for me is how the team came together like a family and never gave up on the year. There were times that we didn’t like each other very much, but they kept fighting for one another and for the team. It was really fun to watch them come together so quickly and take ownership for one another.

Tonight is the test, but the journey has been a good one overall.

One of the best things I’ve enjoyed about this career is the fraternity of coaches I’ve met in the last nine years.  Every convention, coaching course, showcase, and tournament we find time to sit and enjoy exploring this great profession we’ve all chosen.

What is it about sitting down with other coaches to swap training activities, coaching philosophies, stories of sport psychology, and the great memories we’ve created working with young people?  I enjoy attending and teaching at coaching courses because the outcome is the same; I get to learn from other coaches who work with a wide range of ages and competitive levels during lunches and breaks.  It’s a great profession when you’ve never learned enough and can always glean something from your peers.

That’s why I wanted to start this blog.  I wanted to give coaches a place that we can come together and share with one another to help us grow as individuals and become better coaches in our profession.  This is a place where you are encouraged to share!  You are the expert, and you have something to offer the rest.  If we work together than we can make an even better impact on the players that we work with.