Thursday, June 19, 2008
Our organization in youth soccer is a double edged sword for us. On one side our organizational abilities have helped us grow the game of soccer in the USA dramatically over the last 35 years. Because of the efforts of innumerable people, most of them volunteers, we have soccer in communities where the sport never existed 40 years ago. We have millions of youngsters playing the game and we have millions of alumni from the youth soccer ranks who have now reached adulthood. Hundreds of thousands of adults participate in youth soccer as referees, coaches and administrators. Businesses support soccer like never before. Soccer on television is at an all-time high viewership. Because of our organizational abilities both private and public soccer complexes have sprouted up across the nation. The quality of many of those facilities is truly outstanding. Jobs in soccer have grown from a cottage industry to a true business and on a large scale. In many ways due to American organizational skills we have in only one generation become a soccer nation.
Look at the number of colleges now with intercollegiate teams – the number of professional teams is healthy – American players are being exported to other nations to play in the pro ranks. Our national teams regularly qualify for international events and we are always competitive. In every measure of the game our skill at organizing the game has nurtured the growth of the game.
Yet on the other side of the sword our organizational skills get in the way of player development. In the desire to be organized many adults cannot step aside now that the game is moving on its own. Too many adults interfere too much in the player's game. At the youngest ages we adults need to be less involved in telling the children how to play the game. Our role now is simply to be the taxi drivers, game-time setters, grass mowers and otherwise let them play without our adult expectations weighing upon their small shoulders. So can we adults instill a school physical education approach and mentality into our youth soccer world? We now have a professional team franchise mentality permeating all that our kids experience in the sport. Those adult results orientated perspective in fact hinders the development of our players. We could and should have even more players than we do qualified to play college soccer and beyond.
Now don't tell me that we cannot change this attitude because it is ingrained in our American culture. People say the same thing 30 years ago that soccer would never make it here since it was not part of our mainstream sports culture and clearly that has changed. We can and must change the mentality of the adults involved with youth soccer. Yes it may take 30 years, but so be it!