This is the sort of article we’re used to seeing when Canadians discuss problems related to developing young players. What’s unusual is the credibility of the critic. Tony DiCicco has coached both men’s and women’s national teams in the States and won both a World Cup and an Olympics with the women’s team.
But here’s a sample of what he has to say about youth soccer development in the U.S.:
Our players are not getting the foundations of the game. Our players are not technical. Right now in the U-17 World Cup, the semifinalists are South Korea, North Korea, Japan, and Spain. Three Indonesian (sic) teams – they’re all about technique. Their coaches emphasize it. Our coaches at U-10 emphasize winning. You can win games and sacrifice player development and that’s what’s happening in our system. Why is that happening? Like I said, youth soccer is big business. If I don’t win, it doesn’t matter if I’m developing players, my business is going to hell.
This was published a few weeks ago so it really foreshadows the Americans loss to Mexico in CONCACAF in qualifying for the 2011 World Cup. There’s real concern, for both genders, but the women’s team in particular that they are slipping on a global stage and changes need to be made.
Here’s something that I heartily concur with:
On the girls’ side our players are not smart players, they lack sophistication, they’re not technical enough. If I get a stud athlete and I get her to out-run everybody and I put the ball over the top 15 times, she might score two or three goals and we win the game. But eventually that stud athlete comes up against a stud defender and it doesn’t work anymore and she doesn’t know how else to play because she’s never been coached properly. We have a lot of that. I don’t blame the players, I don’t blame the parents, I blame programs and I blame the coaches.
He’s nailed it there. It’s shocking how much of girls soccer, right through to Metro and Y League levels is all about knocking long balls over the top for fast, athletic girls to chase down ahead of defenders and get shots on goal. It has all the sophistication of Sarah Palin.