For any fan of US Soccer, specifically the US Women's National team, the name Tony DiCicco holds plenty of clout. So, when L.E. Eisenmenger of the U.S. Soccer Examiner posted her interview with highly respected former USWNT head coach Tony DiCicco where he gave his blunt evaluation of player development in the United States many fans, coaches, and bloggers paid attention.
The interview (HERE) was sent out throught the Twitter-verse immediately and reposted by many soccer sites. The issues DiCicco brought to light, lack of player intelligence and technical ability do not come as a suprise to many soccer fans in our country I was reminded of how far down the problem has trickled down. At a club soccer game this past June I noticed the same "stud athlete" DiCicco pointed to as the prototypical player that youth coaches and programs have begun to cater to.
Following is my article on the lack of proper development within youth soccer and why, as it turns out, it may be an issue that could wind up costing the dominant USWNT there top spot in international soccer.
The beautiful game, not always so beautiful at the youth travel level
by: Chris Wimmer
June 8, 2010
You've surely seen this unfold on a local soccer field near you. You head over to your kids soccer game prepared to see how much skill and technique your player has earned from all their hard spent hours at practice and not to mention your money and precious free time, only to have to see a game against "that team" or a team with with "that player".
You know the one I'm talking about, little or no soccer skills but completely willing to push and shove their way to the goal regardless of who is in their way. Use of arms and elbows are usually the 'weapons' of choice. Most often that same team has "that coach" who has decided that his voice is so amazing that every player should hear him bark directions nonstop the entire game.
Now it comes as no surprise especially at the youth level to come across a player who is bigger or faster or even more aggressive possibly even all of these attributes combined. And of course there is nothing wrong with being any or all of these things on the soccer field. My objection comes from the coaches and parents who stunt the development of these players into better soccer players by simply teaching them to "muscle" their way past the other team.
The short sightedness of encouraging this player or team to continue to rely on there physical attribute or aggressive play leads to an underdeveloped player. After a few years pass, the rest of the players in the age group who have been focusing on skill and technique year in and year out eventually grow into their bodies and end up catching up to there counterparts.
The result is a once "athletic" and dominant player and/or team who has never been asked to develop soccer specific skills and ability gets left behind.
Lets be honest as coaches and parents it is great to see our players succeed and win games or even win tournaments but is that the only objective of youth soccer or sports in general. Of course not, but this cycle of win now by any means possible seems to never fail in repeating itself.
I like to think in terms of the school yard bully. At first all others are afraid of the bully,then one kid gets sick of being bullied and fights back, beats the bully and takes away his mystique of invincibility.
As coaches and fans of the Beautiful Game we have a responsibility to our players and the next generation to teach them what it is that has led soccer to be called the Beautiful game. It is not beautiful because the biggest, strongest, meanest players or teams always win rather the players with the most amazing footwork, awareness, and finesse such as the most popular names to ever play soccer like Pele, Maradona, Cruyff, Ronoldinho, Messi, and Ronaldo CR9 (my favorite current player to watch).
I would rather watch this:
As opposed to this:
I prefer the beautiful version, I'm just saying.