Many youth teams (think U-6 to U-10) are frequently coached by well meaning parents who often either never played the game or have no experience working with kids. At this critical stage, the focus should be on the development of balance, motor skills, social skills and correct technique. Coaches in these age groups should have to be subjected to training on how to interact with kids of this demographic as well as have a required minimum of playing experience. The USMNT will greatly benefit from this.
After getting through a sub-par youth recreational AYSO experience, the lucky skilled players then have to be put through the National Academy clubs and other “elite” youth set-ups. They often require the family’s of players to pay thousands of dollars a year. Many families of promising players simply can’t afford to cover that. Moreover, these clubs are often run by administrators that already favor certain kids to not only make the teams but then start and receive exposure to college coaches in showcases.
The solution here is to scrap the pay to play model, its worked in the past when soccer was growing in this country but now that the sport is here to stay, it’s time that talent over money is the emphasis. An example of the dire consequences of only ascribing to clubs with money is shown in the U.S. Men’s National team. There are positions all over the field that are missing a consistent presence. As Jeff Carlisle noted for ESPN, Jurgen Klinsmann is being forced to rely on veterans such as Clint Dempsey, Kyle Beckerman and Michael Bradley. The U.S. should be deep enough to be able to take care of lesser CONCACAF opponents without calling on the usual starters.
The USMNT has a flurry of young talent ready to seize the moment. Bobby Wood (23), Gyasi Zardes (24), Julian Green (20), John Brooks (22), Jordan Morris (21), Matt Miazga (20) and Sebastian Lletget (23) are just some of the names that deserve consistent playing time with the senior team. The United States has an influx of talent across the globe and should have their pick of the litter. Klinsmann’s job is to keep the up-and-coming players interested in the U.S. and keep them away from the clutches of other Nations. The giant melting pot of diversity and bi-cultural citizens gives them the option to choose the U.S. or their other respective nationality.
The tragedy with these “elite” youth clubs that are so often the source of future national team stars is that they are usually in more affluent areas searching amongst the more privileged kids. The word from coaches is that a lot of these kids don’t have the work ethic to become elite soccer players when they spend all of their lives having everything handed to them. When coaches implore their players to work harder, these kids often don’t or don’t know how too and that’s a shame, because our national team suffers for it.