Tuesday, June 06, 2017
The Player Development Initiatives that have been put forward by the USSF have begun implementation to varying degrees across the country. At this point in my region of the country, the PDIs have received a mixed review with mostly positive comments about the theory behind them. The problem will mostly come in the implementation at the local level. Will soccer organizations take this opportunity to buy fully into the development of players over the short term results? Actions will speak louder than words when the PDIs are fully implemented.
One of the opportunities that clubs will have under the new PDIs is to rethink the annual tryout cycle. Already this spring, clubs in my area have begun tryouts for the 2017-18 season. The overarching idea is to select the best possible players and “cut the dead wood”. While this is a regularly practiced tradition, it is not a very developmentally centered one. Development is a longer than one year project, especially when dealing with 10 year olds and younger. However the PDIs allow clubs an opportunity to act with development in mind. With the incremental two year cycle on increasing the size of the field/number of players, biannual tryouts could become the new norm in the soccer world. By taking this step, clubs would be more committed to the development of a player by making a two year commitment to her or him. The players would be under less pressure to perform as an individual in a short window. This change would also cut down on stress related to tryouts and possibly cost as many clubs hire evaluators for tryouts. Although there has been an adjustment in the age classification of players, player ability is not particularly year specific. This two year commitment could allow young players to transition into the “veterans” and leadership roles in their second year at 7v7 or 9v9. Leadership is one of the very human qualities that makes the game more about people and less about results.
The youth soccer world has largely turned into a business where money is not the only currency, players are as well. They are often treated like commodities to be traded, valued and devalued based on their performance. These developmental changes have the possibility to change the way that we view our job as coaches and club administrators from talent day traders to mentors. Although the PDIs are soccer based, there is an inherent dedication to the child rather than the result that runs throughout the initiatives. While soccer skills are an interesting endeavor to be pursued in the short term, the percentage of players who will play professionally is so low that the intrinsic parts of the game (resilience, teamwork, etc.) are much more important. In a two year window with coaches who are focused on the development of the player, those intrinsic components of the game have a greater chance to emerge.
The actions of those in charge of our young soccer players will be the truest indicator to their intentions. If development is truly the focus, then youth soccer will change in the next few years. If not, then no amount of rule changes will affect the present soccer culture. The WHY behind someone’s actions will eventually ring true.
Pete Huryk, Author & Speaker – youth soccer coach in New Jersey.