I was having a conversation with a friend and fellow coach the other day and we were discussing the where’s. whys, and expectations for our players in the fall season. As often times happens, trying to find that balance of player placement is almost akin to bottling smoke. The discussion did touch on some of stumbling blocks our soccer culture faces as we strive to move forward in a global sport.
As things stand right now, the US follows a structure model that has some built-in road blocks for player development. Not the least of these is education for both instructors and players. We as coaches are faced with such a diverse range of expectations, from parents, players, administrators and selves, it is sometimes hard to articulate just what we need to assure progressive, positive and cohesive development in players and our culture.
We tend to push players to always keep moving up the ladder as it were, that the next level of play will bring about the transformation that improves us as players. While I wholeheartedly agree with this ideal, I would like to put forth this as an alternative. Currently, we utilize a hierarchical style of placement for players in that they try out and are placed on team X or Y, they stay with that team till it is determined that it is time to move on, be it from development or dissatisfaction, etc. We as coaches are charged with not only the teams development but the players and we each go about it in a manner that we feel best suits our players and teams dynamics. Well and good so far, right? Then why do we lament that we are so far the rest of the world in our development?
Imagine now, if we followed some formats already in place in other parts of the world and in isolated areas of our country, where we place players in a pool, they are trained and instructed by multiple coaches with differing skill sets and then allow vertical movement as players develop/stumble. Players learn how to work within the context of the particular game they find themselves and not playing to player X because of that players strengths/weaknesses. Would players learn to truly read the game and develop the needed skill sets to be able to compete at their personal best in this type of model? I don’t know and am sure that there are many intelligent discussions happening right now that are addressing this very dilemma.
We as coaches have to face the mirror each day and challenge ourselves to also grow, to develop and push ourselves just as we expect our players to. We must never be satisfied with “that’s good enough”. One of the things we must incorporate is that there just may be a solution to a current issue within our teams with the coach just across the pitch from us, that someone may have a perspective to the missing component we lack that could help put our players over the hump so to speak.
While we all have our own perspectives about how to go about development, and may disagree from time to time, at least I see discussions taking place and that, is the right steps to move us forward as a culture. I am hopeful that those with much more experience and knowledge than I will provide the spark that will catch on through out our country and we will see us take our earned position within the global soccer community.
till I see you on the pitch