Three years ago I wrote an article that I tried to submit to MYSA’s Soccer Times about how clubs are failing their kids.
It didn’t get published.
I was disturbed by the trend that clubs were only focused on team development and patronizing player development by offering camps and clinics that lined the pockets of DOC’s but didn’t emphasize player development. Community clubs, super clubs, you name it clubs, were recruiting players, meddling with each others teams and never creating opportunities for players to get better through their own means or choices–they had to be selected, recruited, or already be on the top team to get the best attention.
Over the six years that I’ve lived in Minnesota I’ve witnessed player after player, family after family go through the agonizing process on an annual basis of deciding what to do with their child who just wanted to play soccer. They wanted to play high level soccer and receive good coaching so that their daughter or son could be a great player.
Most just wanted the power to decide on where to get the best training without leaving their friends for a super club hours away. One mom told me the only club in town that would program three nights a week was the worst experience for her child, but it was the only option to go to.
The problem was that there was never anywhere you could guarantee that the focus would be on your kid. Any team, club, camp, clinic or program creates an experience for the kid, but not real programming for the overall development of the individual player. And no one programs seven nights a week so that the family has multiple choices of when to attend.
Even the programs I worked for had kids coming in and going out and were restricted to when and where you could attend. On Friday’s in St. Croix, Thursday’s in Minneapolis, Sunday mornings in Coon Rapids, Tuesday’s in Blaine. You had to fit within the box if you wanted soccer training that wasn’t volunteer coaching.
Or if the facility rented full or half fields, the clinic had to pack in 40 kids for 3 coaches in six weeks on half a field. If you were lucky to get a good trainer it was worth the $135 for 1.25 hours in a dome during the winter, but the soccer was never that great. The player didn’t get better. (on my behalf, you can’t work with a kid in 8 hours and expect greatness to happen over night!)
That model later grew to a 38 player half field session with two coaches for roughly $24/hour over 16 weeks but that was it. You’re in and you’re out on your own again.
So I tried working through three different clubs and programs to create long term academies that weren’t team based or location specific, that were player and coach based. The ideas failed to get past boards of directors and club directors because “people just didn’t want that”. I tried to create a center of excellence within a super-club that didn’t organize itself based on recruiting kids away from their community club. That never materialized.
I went to work on my own. I patiently began building my own Academy on the idea of long term player development without any attachment to winning, team formation or status, but coaching for the highest level of play from every kid. That I was focused on the player attaining higher levels of play every season, if that player wanted to work that hard.
I continued with the vision to have a facility that was geared toward player development. I grew from 3 players in 2008 to 35 in April of 2010. But I wanted a facility–I needed a facility to take that next step.
If you look at the new domes that are being built they’re built on one premise: To make money on players being part of teams. They’re not built on the premise of making players better by having the facilities to develop soccer players. If they were they’d have as many full size goals as basketball courts have baskets. In one of the newest facilities there are only TWO full size goals for four halves of fields.
Watch a team shooting at goal during practice one day and imagine that being how someone would practice their golf swing: You hit the ball, chase it down 40 yards and then wait for someone to finish before getting your next shot.
How are we to create better goal scorers if that’s how we continue to practice shooting? During that process you have 16 players standing in line waiting for their next turn.
–“oh that’s fun.”
If there weren’t 60 yards between the goal and another wall you might not have to chase the ball, but our cities, business leaders and architects aren’t creating soccer facilities with players in mind. They need fields to create more leagues. More leagues are cheaper to administrate and bring in more revenue.
Large fields to create more teams of players having a 1:22 ball to player ratio!
So what are we about to do about it? How must we create the change we want? How do we create more players, becoming better?
How do we rise the tide and lift all the boats?
First: Smaller classes, smaller groups, within a primary facility designed for shooting and finishing, dribbling, heading and technical skills.
Second: A ball to player ratio that is not 1:1, but more like 3 balls per player, which is not dependent on players bringing balls to practice with them. A repetition ratio that doesn’t have to wait for three players to chase the one ball that’s inflated.
But a shooting gallery that is enclosed and directly inline with the scale and repetition to hit shot after shot without having to chase a ball all over a dome, park or field.
Third: Access to any and all training sessions you want to attend. If you want to go 5 days a week, go five days a week. if you want to go twice a week go twice a week, even go seven different times each month in different time slots if you want! And you don’t have to leave your community club!
Fourth: Provide high quality, nationally licensed youth coaching that you know exactly what you’re paying for. Don’t let it be a hope and let’s see what we get. Know who you’re buying to coach your kid. Know what they’re all about.
And be able to talk to them about your kid. Know that they want and demand the highest standard for your child and themselves. Be in a long term relationship with your coach, not a fear-based, “hope my kid plays if I don’t say anything” relationship.
Fifth: Create an online scheduling and payment system that makes it easy to buy, schedule and change the players’ schedule to easily accommodate your family’s crazy life.
Sixth: Have more than one Full Size GOAL to shoot on at practice!
Seventh: Be able to track skills development through the use of custom skills training programs that progress from one skill to the next. Not just a, “here’s a bunch of fun tricks– see if you can do it”.
Eighth: Be in one location seven days a week that’s centrally located, easy to get to and OPEN YEAR ROUND, rain, shine, snow, hot, cold, lightning or hail.
Ninth: Create competitive leagues that are skills centric, player oriented and flexible to the strength of the players not the inadequacies of the opposing teams.
Tenth: Build young athletes first and great soccer players emerge.
Be part of a revolution in youth soccer.
Pre-Registered Lefties have begun registering online for classes today.
Pre-registered clients will have 48 hours before online registration is open to the public to purchase and sign up for classes.
Online Registration, Payment and Scheduling will open to the public at 8:00 pm Wednesday, October, 27th.
Classes begin Nov. 6th.