Tuesday, January 12, 2010
As you may know, the US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program (US Youth Soccer ODP) also takes place in Europe. The participants are American kids whose families are in Europe. Some of them are there with a parent working for an international company, some have a parent working in a U.S. Embassy, but most are military families. So that these young players can stay connected to our elite player identification and development opportunities, a group of adults (mostly military) run US Youth Soccer ODP Europe. They form "state teams" for the boys and girls and participate in the US Youth Soccer ODP Region I trials each summer.
Because most U.S. military bases in Europe are in Germany that is where most of the kids and coaches reside. So, while the "state" try-outs and much of the training takes place in Germany, there are American players scattered across Europe and they participate in US Youth Soccer ODP.
Many of the challenges of appropriate player development occur in Europe just as they do in the U.S. One of the challenges is when to move a talented player up in age groups. That decision involves the parents as well as the player and coaches. So, the question came to me this weekend from the technical director for US Youth Soccer ODP Europe about one of his players. The question was posed to him by the young man's father. Here then is the exchange:
Hey Guys / Gals
Just a quick update that "S" has been ask to start training with FC Vestsjaelland (Slagelse B&I) U-17 Division 2 next week. I am not sure if playing four years up is normal here in Denmark ... just have to see if he has the physical strength I guess to stay with the team. So, time will tell. Perhaps "M" has some insight on this and comparison to German players.
Please share your opinion with me on this issue. This player made the US Youth Soccer ODP Region I Team and the U-14 U.S. National Pool last summer.
Moving up four years, up from puberty or early adolescence to middle or late adolescence, is a really big jump. Not only will there likely be a big physical factor of height, weight, strength, speed and power, there will also be a cognitive gap (which will impact conceptualization of tactics). I think there will also be a social disconnect of the younger player with the older players. In no other aspect of their lives will they interact, and with teenagers this is a big deal affecting acceptance in the group (team).
There's no doubt that the level of play will be a good challenge for him and one that should have a positive impact on his game. However, in moving up four years in age groups will he start, be a regular first substitute or ride the pine? If he's not playing regularly then the move up to a more competitive environment will not have done him any good; to fully develop, he needs to play as well as train. He needs also to have opportunities to be a starter, to learn how to impact the game at its beginning and also come on as a sub into the flow of the match.
So, before a final decision is made I think the player, his parents and all of the pertinent coaches should consider his readiness for this jump up four years in his psychomotor, cognitive and psychosocial current stage and future development. Regarding his soccer talents assess his technique, tactics, fitness and psychology for this new level of play.
Is it possible for him to train with the older players (perhaps once a week) and remain with his appropriate age group the rest of the time? How will he learn to be a leader and impact player if he's always the youngest player?