Recently I read an article that was posted on the Amplified Soccer website (great site, by the way…) that discussed the skills that the American future coach would have to have in order to advance the game of soccer in the United States. It was written by Jeff Tipping who is a very successful coach with more certifications and accolades than I care to list here (and you probably care to read…)…but suffice it to say, when it comes to coaching, he knows a little bit more than a little bit!
In the article Jeff highlights 4 challenges that the American Future Coach will face that will require them to have superior skills to coaches in countries where soccer is more mainstream.
Below I share with you the 4 challenges, but I also believe that these challenges can, in large part, be minimized if you and I take on the opportunity and responsibility of doing our part to help our children succeed in soccer. Afterall, we are the current coaches that are preparing the future players for the future American coaches. (wow, all that current and future talk makes me want to hop in a Delorean and cruise at 88mph!)
So… let’s go over the 4 challenges and how you and I can do our part to minimize their impact and help the American Future Coach! You and I have a much bigger impact on the future of American soccer than we realize — and it all starts in our backyards!
Challenge #1 – Lack of Modeling
Mr. Tipping notes that European children are conditioned to have a favorite team and consistently watch a lot of high level soccer. He points out that, because this isn’t the case in the United States, our children miss out on the ability to “model” or mimic what they see high level professional players do. I have found that as my own daughter has watched professional soccer — both live and on television she has become a MUCH better player. As a matter of fact, I wrote an article here about 3 ways that watching professional soccer will help your child become a better player (without ever touching a ball…).
Solution #1 – Watch Soccer
Find time to watch soccer with your child. I know you may not have grown up playing or following soccer…and you might have a preconceived notion that soccer is boring, but I can promise you, as you watch it with your child with the intent of studying what professionals do and watching for the moves they do (see #2 in this article), you will find it MUCH more exciting and entertaining to watch!
There are several options to watch professional soccer. ESPN, Fox Sports and Univision frequently air professional games – both MLS and foreign leagues for you watch and many USL games can be found on YouTube. Personally I would recommend watching the Seattle Sounders FC…but I only say that because they are the greatest team in Major League Soccer (I’ll admit a small bias 🙂 haha).
However you watch it, letting your kids see what soccer is “suppose to” look like will make a HUGE difference in their development — and will help the American Future Coach get the most out of your child and move US Soccer forward.
Challenge #2 – Lack of (Soccer) Role Models
The second challenge highlighted by Mr. Tipping is the fact that many children in the United States don’t have parents, siblings or extended family that have played soccer — or really know much of anything about the sport.
(If that describes you, don’t worry about it! That is exactly why we have created this site!).
Without having role models around them that are able to teach them the game and discuss the finer points of strategy and tactics, children miss out on some of the greatest learning possible.
Solution #2 – Become THAT Parent!
Look, this challenge is exactly why I created Backyard Soccer Coach. There are a ton of parents whose children play soccer, but that did not ever play the game themselves. That is why we are working hard to create resources, articles and products designed to help YOU – the parent – to (1) Learn the game of soccer, if your knowledge is lacking and (2) have the resources and tools you need to work with your child on your own, in your backyard (or front yard, living room, soccer field, etc.) to help them become a better soccer player.
You can overcome this challenge. It will take some work (more or less, depending on your level of soccer knowledge at this point), but it is totally possible…and isn’t your child worth it?
Challenge #3 – Competition Between Sports
This is a challenge that I’ve always recognized that we face in the United States. In other countries, the biggest, fastest and most athletic players are most likely to choose soccer as their sport. This is because in those countries, soccer is the most prevalent and popular sport. Not so in the United States. Here soccer competes with football, basketball, baseball and several other sports for the top athletes. This requires coaches today, and will require the American Future Coach to work hard to make a compelling case to athletes that they should choose soccer over other sports.
Solution #3 – Help Your Child See the Opportunity
Soccer is rapidly gaining traction in the United States. Major League Soccer is making major strides in competing with the other professional sports leagues in the country. But you and I, as parents, of children need to recognize when our child enjoys and excels in soccer and help them to see (1) the beauty of the game, but also (2) the opportunities that can be theirs in The Beautiful Game.
I’m not saying you need to try to dissuade a child from playing another sport, but I am saying that as a parent, we need to help our child recognize that there are opportunities to pursue soccer, just as much as there are opportunities to pursue other sports.
We can also help in this regard by working with our children when they are little to make sure that they master the fundamentals of the game so that they are successful when they play. This will greatly enhance the chances that they will want to stick with soccer as they get older.
Challenge #4 – Lack of Competition
In other countries there is a much greater density of high quality players. These concentrations mean that youth are challenged at younger ages and more frequently. And this isn’t just talking about formal competition, in other countries there are rec leagues where youth players play with adults frequently. This kind of competition pushes the youth to work hard and learn from the people they are playing against. All too often, this type of environment is missing in the United States.
Solution #4 – Look for Rec Opportunities
Many areas have rec leagues where youth can play with adults. In the town I live it (less than 10,000 people) there is a rec league every summer where youth ages 15 and up play on teams with adults all the way up to age 60. It is fun to see the interactions between players…and the competitiveness of the games is exciting to watch!
It might take a bit of looking, but I’ll bet you could find opportunities where you live to have your child play soccer outside of their regular team. This could be a rec league, summer camps, indoor leagues, etc. Any chance your child has to play and interact with other high quality players will help them.
In conclusion, yes, the American Future Coach has his work cut out for him. These are very real challenges that we face in this country. But, I firmly believe that you and I are capable of making very real progress towards minimizing these challenges by simply taking the time to work with our own children, outside of organized practices and games, to learn the fundamentals of soccer.
The success of soccer in this country rests on YOUR child and millions of other children — and YOU are the one that will help them grow and develop into the type of player that can shoulder that responsibility.
Let’s do it!