Manchester United head of athletic development Tony Strudwick oversees the Manchester United youth system. While ensuring that his athletes are well rounded in their motor skills and comfortable with movements outside the soccer realm, he shared his thoughts on the American youth development system.
“A big part of our philosophy is making sure we’re working outside of the football environment with athletic training and conditioning,” Strudwick said.
Stressing the importance of multi-sport athleticism has been a growing priority of his for years. More often than not, Strudwick says, the best athletes in the world are able to distinguish themselves from the pack thanks to a range of motor skills beyond what is typically expected in a given sport. For example, the footballer with a background in gymnastics is likely to have significantly more potential in the long haul being able to contort their body and move more fluidly than the one-sport ‘specialized’ player.
Strudwick said one of the major differences between European and American youth development strategies is that the net is not cast wide enough or for long enough at many American clubs. While many of the elite clubs in the U.S. pack their top teams with the biggest and fastest players at the younger ages, the late bloomers often miss the cut early on and don’t get another realistic chance later.
Adult obsession with winning is killing youth sports in America. “The best methodology is simply identifying that’s it’s a journey, and not just selecting the big kids at U-13 and U-14,” he said. “One thing unique to American teams is they’re always fit and they’re not behind from an athletic point of view. There aren’t many sports where America is not one of the very best in the world, so you’ve got to look at participation rates and what their approach is to training at the younger ages.”
“For me it’s about skill development and motor control at the early ages,” he continued.
Chalk Strudwick up with the growing list of well-qualified proponents for not specializing in one sport at an early age.
Worth a look by any parent of a young soccer player
Watching and Identifying A Developmental Saboteur
In club soccer, developmental saboteurs usually coach primarily at the U10-U14 age groups. They pick these age groups carefully for two reasons. First, they involve parents and players that are frequently new to the game, and therefore uneducated about the soccer world. Second, these age groups are “sweet spots” for winning without teaching. At this age, the recipe for competitive success is relatively simple for anyone with basic soccer knowledge and poor motives: recruit 1-2 technically or physically advanced players, put them up front, be marginally organized, and play low-risk soccer (code for “kick the ball forward”) everywhere else.
Developmental saboteurs use one or two players as their weapons and tools. They identify the best players at a young age (9-13 usually), those players who are already either physically advanced or technically advanced, (neither of which occurred with any aid from the coach), and then begin to become exceptionally close to their parents.
Developmental saboteurs sell visions of grandeur – making promises of incredibly bright futures, comparing this year’s great player to the greatest player they have ever coached, and more. They tie this vision to their own exclusive ability to bring the chosen player to the Olympic podium. Developmental saboteurs exaggerate (or outright falsify) their connection to the pros, the national teams, or the biggest colleges – with promises of unique connections and abilities to open exclusive doors purely by their own word of mouth.
Christian Lavers is the President of the ECNL and is Exec VP of US Club Soccer. Lavers is also an Assistant Coach with the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) Chicago Red Stars and the Director of Coaching at FC Wisconsin Eclipse. His 16 years of coaching experience includes time with the U.S. Youth National Teams program. - See more at: http://www.soccernation.com/christian-lavers-on-watching-and-identifying-a-developmental-saboteur-in-youth-soccer-cms-5840#sthash.4keoiCDs.dpuf
- See more at: http://www.soccernation.com/christian-lavers-on-watching-and-identifying-a-developmental-saboteur-in-youth-soccer-cms-5840#sthash.4keoiCDs.dpuf