As kids lay in bed at night, dreaming of becoming the next Messi, it never crosses their mind to consider where they live. Should it? So many players around the world have a dream to one day make it to the big time. These players sometimes fight despair, poverty, lack of parental support and abysmal educational opportunities before reaching fame in soccer. Hopefully here in the U.S. we aren’t setting ourselves up for the demise by limiting a player’s progress through the ranks based on where they live.
Youth soccer has made tremendous progress in the past 12 years since I started coaching so long ago. The development of regional leagues, and now the USSF Development Academy and ECNL, has elevated youth soccer in this country in so many ways. Alarmingly though, for some players who live more than an hour outside of a large metropolitan area it seems to be increasingly difficult to be identified by the many different identification processes now in place.
I am always happy though to find coaches at small clubs spread across the country that seem to find a way to not only develop elite level teams but also elite level players. Teams from small clubs continually pop up at major events, having great success. Players from these teams/clubs are often found on ODP rosters, at national team training centers and at US Club id2 camps. A small club in Manhattan seems to have really honed in on what it takes to develop elite level players. Manhattan Kickers FC (topdrawersoccer.com article) & http://www.manhattankickersfc.com
There is no secret ingredient or hidden pocket of exceptional athletes at this club. It is a focus on putting kids in the right environment and giving them the right training. For kids who are serious enough to attempt becoming the best, finding this type of club is the most important step. It is a long journey but well worth it for those who can follow through. Below I have outlined some common characteristics that I have found through my dealings with youth soccer and small clubs that seem to get it right.
Characteristics of small clubs with big success in player development
These clubs and their staff tend to be very organized down to the last detail. From their training curriculum and schedules to team and player selection these clubs normally leave nothing to chance, as they know they can’t afford to lose players or one day of moving those players forward in their development.
Technique, Technique, Technique
The training focus for these clubs is almost always over the top on making their players technically excellent. The training curriculum is very focused and detailed based on the players age, level of play, and how to best move him/her forward as quickly as possible while also teaching them to enjoy and grow in the game.
Educating parents is always a key for these organizations. Making sure that parents understand the true road to player development is necessary. Without proper education many parents from these smaller metropolitan areas begin to look elsewhere, even so far as several hours away to play on more competitive teams that WIN big events at earlier ages. Teaching parents to understand the pathway for player development and the path that their club has chosen takes time and repetition just like it does with the players.
These clubs almost always have some type of written curriculum that all of their teams/players/coaches follow throughout their career. In addition to the their curriculum they do a great job at focusing on the correct components of the game (Technical, tactical, physiological, and psychological) at the correct ages. Click here for US Soccer and Claudio Reyna’s new curriculum for youth soccer in the U.S.
Staff and coaches in these clubs always work tirelessly to insure that the best players and teams receive lots of challenges in both training and games. Younger players often train and play with older players. Multiple additional training opportunities are always available for all players to continue their development. Training, playing on your own and watching soccer is always stressed as one of the most important areas of improving as a player.
Jeremy Aven currently holds the USSF A License, USSF National Youth License and the USSF Goalkeeper Level I License, along with the NSCAA National Diploma. He is the Director of Coaching and Player Development at the Savannah Soccer Academy, the founder of Adidas SKILLS Program, a staff coach for both the South Carolina Youth Soccer Association and the Georgia Youth Soccer Association, the assistant director at Ben Freakly School of Soccer and is the director at JA Academy. His full profile can be found at http://www.jaacademy.com/coaches/JeremyAven/index_E.html. His club and camp websites are www.savannahsocceracademy.com and www.bfschoolofsoccer.com. Jeremy’s personal blog is http://jeremyaven.blogspot.com/.