Monday, May 18, 2009
Now and then a group will attempt to start a new league in a state, across a few states or an entire region and on the rare occasion nationwide. On one hand it's good that folks are looking to improve the soccer environment. On the other hand the group may be biting off more than they can chew. Still folks will surge forward confident that they have it all sorted out. They write a plan, begin a budget, put down some ideas on a schedule, and perhaps even write some league rules. This information ends up in a document making the process slightly more formal.
Usually there are some unrealistic expectations in the document of their ability to underwrite the costs involved to the teams as the money has to come from somewhere. It'll just end up being a hidden cost in the club (player) dues and the league will have to require money from the clubs to participate. Groups who think they can do it better often are sure they can get sponsorships, but they rarely have a professional background in sports marketing to know the realities of getting cash from sponsors, especially in a bear market and a recession.
Additionally. simply organizing a league to help develop players hits only at the surface of player development. The assumption that a league and set competition alone will deeply impact players is naïve and tells us they do not understand the complexities of player development. Development for teenaged players MUST hit, in order, three key factors:
- The quality of your teammates
- The quality of your opponents
- The quality of your coaches
The answer is not, nor has it ever been more matches, but more quality training (review please U.S. Soccer Best Practices). Therefore the most important environment to be improved is within the club. More and better training is the key to developmental success. However that's not as sexy to sell to the customers (parents) as are matches. Yet what the consumers (players) need are top notch teachers (coaches) who can really help each individual player improve. Coaches of that caliber are rare!
If a group hopes to find elite players for their clubs, colleges or the youth National Teams then they can cast only a small net if they are really covering all of the lodging, meal, ground transportation and staff costs. This means many players in many parts of the country will be overlooked. If it were possible to cover all of the expenses and still cast a large net to find every possible Olympic caliber player then U. S. Soccer and US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program would already be doing so. It's unsophisticated to think the national governing bodies would not be making such efforts if it was currently possible.
Instead of creating new variations of existing programs we must focus on improving those programs already in motion. Yes let's look at new ideas, but concentrate our work on improving our current soccer culture.