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Klinsmann's comments on grassroots soccer get to the root of the problem

Last month, newly appointed U.S. Men's National Team coach, Jürgen Klinsmann, was asked of his opinion of youth soccer in the United States.

"I define success in individual development of players," he said. "Soccer traditionally is a lower-class sport. We need to find ways to give those lower-class kids the opportunity to play in the club environments where there's a lot of money involved. We need to find ways to get the kids who are in a club environment to also play and kick the ball in unorganized ways."

What does Jürgen mean when he tells us unorganized play is the key to the future for U.S. Soccer programs?

Unorganized play can be defined as "pick-up" soccer — a culture where players simply play for the love of the game. In this playing environment, players are able to take initiative and facilitate their own matches, without the game-day structure of referees and coaches. They "JUST PLAY." This atmosphere has been the foundation for some of the most creative and memorable players of our time. In this model, players develop a passion and love for the game in its purest form.

If we are to continue to follow our leaders at U.S. Soccer, we should promote "pick-up" soccer games and free play, in addition to the training players receive from their clubs and other organized events.

He went on to say, "If we can get kids interested again in just going out for an informal game of soccer now and then, we will be headed for a better future for the sport."

Washington Youth Soccer Technical Director, Gary White affirms this philosophy and adds, "Pick-up games allow players to get match-related repetition necessary for their technical and tactical abilities to become instinctual, rather than rehearsed and mechanical."

Already, we have created a list of recreational coaching and development resources; I encourage each and every one of you to look at our Online Age-Appropriate Coaching Module Sessions. They go from U6 to U12 and include video tutorial sessions.

Also, check out the online coaching course for U6, U8 and U12. We are also offering coaching education in your district, Association and club in the form of Summit discussions. We have specialized coaching in areas such as Goalkeeping, Female Soccer Development and also US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer coaching certification. We continue to offer workshops in Team Management, and Movement and Coordination, as well as FUTSAL and small-sided games. We have also tasked Gary with creating a Long-Term Player Development model, as well as Health and Safety Resources on a variety of topics. This is all in addition to the coaching tips and educational opportunities presented in Play On and the Technical Zone in focus e-newsletters.

When I take time to visit the many clubs in our state, I am always asked the question about development of our youth. We have seen the recent trends in our clubs to offer "academy"-style training for our U6 to U10 players. This is one of the first positive moves towards this "free play" model that Klinsmann has talked about many times. This style of play does not involve organized teams or organized set plays. It involves creating special environments that allow these skills to develop, and allow the player to grow. Washington Youth Soccer encourages these activities amongst our clubs and members.

We must continue put aside our philosophical differences and work towards one accepted development model in the U.S.A. As Klinsmann states, we must develop our own "American"style of the game. We must each do our share to make this happen. Washington Youth Soccer continues to provide programs that will help each of your clubs in this area.

Just as we are being tasked by U.S. Soccer to achieve these goals, we are tasking each of you with this same duty. We urge you to continue to connect with your community to introduce the game of soccer to these children. We do not only find our children in the schools, we find them in our churches, our community centers and our neighborhoods. The time has passed us by when the players just turned up at our practices and our games. We must also seek out the volunteers that will dedicate their time, energy and passion for the game and their community.

The day of independent leagues are going by the wayside, as families are finding that their local clubs provide this necessary soccer structure. Youth soccer continues to fuel its expansion by the growth of Major League Soccer and the attention it brings to our communities. Never before have we seen so many Sounders FC jerseys, hats, jackets and the like being worn all around us in the areas where each of us live.

The demand continues to grow for our coaching clinics, that now teach coaches of all ages and abilities to adopt and accept the U.S. Soccer standards. Today, more and more parents are asking us to provide these avenues and pathways to assist them in the development of their children. It is incumbent upon all of us to cast aside our independent actions and find these common goals.

Thank you for what each of you do in your communities, neighborhoods, schools and clubs. I look forward to seeing you on the pitch.

Doug Andreassen
President, Washington Youth Soccer


 
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