I’ve been running a series of meetings at our club for a variety of House (U5 to U10) groups. Some are for parents and some are for coaches. There’s 12 scheduled and I’ve done eight to this point.
I’ve made a point, with the ones for U5 parents and the ones for U6-7 parents (the age split is based on the program they are entering) of asking three questions and asking for a show of hands in response.
The first question is “Who has heard the term Long Term Player Development.” The next is who knows what “Physical Literacy” is and the last is “Do you know who Jason DeVos is?” (I use a quote from one of his blog articles on LTPD in my presentation).
While hardly scientific and really just based on a quick count of hands and a rough count of those in attendance at the meeting, it has made me realize that we are just scratching the surface in terms of getting any sort of message about progressive approaches to youth soccer out to people.
At no point in any of the four meetings I’ve run for these two groups has any more than 10% of the crowd answered affirmatively to any of these questions.
There’s a vocal, committed group of local soccer coaches and parents who contribute to this debate, particularly on Twitter, and there’s a continuing push that will likely see this start to spill offline to actual meetings around the ideas of best practices and curricula but enveloping yourself in Twitter conversations about local youth soccer issues can be a exercise in circlejerk-ism. It has to go beyond that.
There are good people out there and good ideas out there. They are not reaching beyond a small group and as a result the vast majority of incoming soccer parents are not apprised of what a good youth soccer experience should look like and thus not in a position to hold lazy, non-progressive clubs’ feet to the fire and demand programs that ensure their kids are taught the game properly.
Just as I’ve mentioned a few times that elite level soccer in the form of BCPL really is entering a critical year, it’s third season, and needs to demonstrate why people should continue to support it and have confidence in it, all clubs at the grassroots level should also be looking in the mirror and examining how they can improve their U5 to U12 programming. I know what my club is doing and I’m not trying to use this as a forum to say how wonderful we are but the onus is on Technical Directors like myself to push for better and different ways of doing things rather than just reflexively being content with ‘good enough’. The push to improve will eventually come from parents as they get more educated about LTPD and what well-structured age and level appropriate soccer practices look like and what separates good coaches from average coaches but we’re not there yet. Change is still going to be driven from the top down in the absence of parental insistence. The last two years have seen the start of change of soccer in this country but the heavy lifting is still ahead of us.