Peter Cochran's U12 Boys Took An Unlikely Path to the Founders Cup Title
As they stepped onto the field for their Dec. 15 group-play opener in the 2013 Chipotle Washington Youth Soccer Founders Cup, Peter Cochran's Bellevue Youth Soccer Club U12 Boys Select squad were in a tough spot. A year after playing well in their Select-level debut, they had struggled in league play, and with the holidays looming, and other sports beckoning in the winter and spring seasons, no one would have blamed them for packing it in.
No one, that is, except themselves.
A win in the opener kicked off a run of seven-straight unbeaten games, including five wins, the last a 1-0 victory over Crossfire Select B00 in the Founders Cup championship. For Cochran, the title was a tribute to his team's resiliency and perseverance.
"I'm so proud of our kids," he says. "Even when they struggled during the season, they continued to work hard and have fun. I think they learned a lot about resiliency and teamwork. This is what youth sports is all about."
Cochran would know. The Oregon native was a youth soccer star in his own right in the late 1980s and early 1990s, even earning a spot on the U.S. National Team for the 1989 FIFA U-16 World Championship in Scotland.
Now, Cochran passes on the lessons he's learned through 30 years in the game to his players, who span the Recreation, Select and Premier levels of play.
While Recreation play is mainly participatory, focusing on fun and skill development, and Premier play geared towards results, Cochran says that Select bridges that gap, providing skilled players with a stiffer challenge while not requiring the same commitment that most Premier clubs do. Select play, which begins at the U11 age group, occurs in the fall, with the year-end Founders Cup running mid-December through early February.
"A lot of the Select players I work with play two or three sports," he says. "They love soccer, but they love it in the fall. Select gives the player who maybe isn't willing or able to commit to a Premier club — either because of other commitments, or maybe financial reasons — to get a higher level of play."
Cochran also notes that while Select is slightly more results-oriented than Recreation, players will generally receive more playing time than at the Premier level. In addition, while many of the top Premier clubs draw players from throughout the region, Select teams are mostly comprised of players from the local community.
"Most of my players go to school together and see each other all the time off the field, which makes it more fun for them," Cochran says. "I think those are the three main benefits to Select play — the chance to play multiple sports throughout the year, more playing time as compared to Premier, and the chance to play with other local kids."
Interestingly, Cochran says that his training plans for the same age groups are almost identical for all three levels of play.
"From U6 to U13, the emphasis needs to be placed on development, so I actually run the same drills no matter what level I'm teaching," he says. "Obviously, the Premier kids are going to be able to execute a skill more quickly or efficiently, but the drill itself is the same."
Cochran says that no matter what the level of play, the reward for him is seeing young players develop their skills and passion for the game, the same way coaches did for him three decades ago.
"I remember [former Sounders and U.S. U-20 coach] Bobby Howe pulled me aside once and said, 'This game has taken you all over the world, and someday, you're going to have the opportunity to give back.' I've never forgotten that," he says.