Youth Soccer News: Interview with Sam Snow, Coaching Director of US Youth Soccer, on the New Player Development Model
US Youth Soccer recently released their Player Development Model, a Player-Centered Curriculum for US Youth Soccer Clubs, written by the US Youth Soccer Coaching Education Department. It is, in essence, a blueprint for soccer clubs. It is a step-by-step guide to successfully develop youth soccer players. SNN interviewed Sam Snow, Coaching Director to discuss the new model and its goals.
RELATED ARTICLE: New US Youth Soccer Player Dvelopment Model
Some 6000 youth soccer clubs are part of US Youth Soccer, the organization that supports 3.2 million young soccer players all across the United States. While a household name to many, if you are unfamiliar with US Youth Soccer you should get to know the soccer organization that Cal South and 54 other member State Associations belong to.
SNN: What are the goals for the new US Youth Soccer Player Development Model?
Sam Snow: To help our 6,000 youth soccer clubs and provide a guide to improve youth soccer for our 3.2 million young players. The Player Development Model was created to help coaches have the information they need to develop players.
It is important to educate coaches. Eighty percent of our youth coaches are volunteers, and when you look across the nation 80% of our youth soccer players are 12 years old or younger, so that means a lot of moms and dads are coaching. Volunteer clubs tend not to have as much internal guidance as professional paid youth soccer clubs. The volunteer-based organizations simply do not have the resources.
SNN: Eighty percent of clubs are volunteer based?
The purpose of the US Youth Soccer Player Development Model is to help youth soccer coaches and soccer clubs raise the level of play across the country. This can be achieved by becoming aware of the capabilities and aspirations of their players at each stage of their development and by creating more positive, player-centered learning environments. The key to modern youth player development can be found in the lessons of the free play era, where children took charge of games, learning and fun. By participating in endless hours of player-centered soccer, the children of the street soccer generation developed a life-long passion and a practical feel for the game that has been all but lost in the transfer to over-organized sport. By returning to the ideals of the free play era, youth coaches and soccer clubs can use meaningful soccer games and soccer-related activities to unlock the potential of their young charges to produce savvy, sophisticated American players.
Sam Snow: There is a broad and diverse range of youth soccer clubs in America. There are many tiers of clubs, some with only one paid administrator, some with two, some with a couple of paid part time coaches.
SNN: In Southern California, for example, competitive youth coaches are paid and there is a thriving soccer economy.
Sam Snow: Yes, it is a consequence of the vast number of players in the area. Youth soccer clubs with paid coaches and a staff are usually in the more populated areas, such as Eastern New York, Southern California, Pennsylvania and Texas. These deeply populated states simply have more soccer players.
SNN: Theoretically, paid coaches would develop players better, so one might think more players on our U.S. National team would come from these areas with professional clubs. But when you look at the rosters for the U.S. youth teams, I cannot see this trend clearly. Why?
Sam Snow: Not all paid coaches are qualified. Not all paid coaches have licenses or have attended sports management classes. It is up to the club's leadership to make sure its coaches are well trained and using the player development model created by U.S. Soccer and by our organization.
While there is a lot of information available, how much is used and enforced is the question. Unfortunately, all too often the information sits on the shelf.
Think of coaches as if they were teachers. While each coach should bring his or her personality, the soccer training should be consistent from team to team, coach to coach. The soccer curriculum is similar to a school’s curriculum. Teachers teach to age groups and students progress from grade to grade and build a strong foundation. We want this for America’s youth soccer players. We want to help soccer players develop and maximize their potential.
SNN: How many of the millions of youth soccer players will go on to play soccer in college?
Sam Snow: Roughly 2% of today’s youth players will go on to play college soccer.
SNN: And what percentage of youth soccer players will become professional players?
Sam Snow: Only 1% at most will go on to become pros and .5% of today’s youth players will become part of the U.S. National team’s roster.
SNN: Is youth soccer in America doing well?
Sam Snow: I think youth soccer is doing quite well. No other country in the world has a sports mentality like ours. You have to do an apples-to-apples comparison. When you look at youth soccer in Italy, for example, all the professional soccer clubs have a vested interest in developing young players. Their ‘farm’ system is their youth program, and from a young age they are trying to produce professional players.
In America, we have a vast array of youth organizations playing soccer, from the YMCA to the most competitive youth clubs.
SNN: How many kids play soccer in the USA?
Sam Snow: The Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association says there are 10 million kids playing soccer. There are 3.2 million youth soccer players registered with US Youth Soccer.
SNN: Who is the target reader for the Player Development Model?
Sam Snow: The Soccer Club leaders. The Directors of Coaching, the boards of the youth soccer clubs. We want them to hand down the curriculum to the coaches. We want to encourage all coaches to read the primer, which has the why and what for, and then turn to the section they coach.
The Model is divided into age groups, so coaches can easily get the information they can use on the field.
The Player Development Model provides a major central plank for the development of youth soccer players across America
SNN: What do you think of the emphasis placed on young players to perform?
Sam Snow: It has proven to be detrimental to our player development. If this win-at-all-cost mentality worked, by now we would have developed great players and the MLS bench would be filled with American players.
SNN: What do you think of the win-at-all-cost mentality?
Sam Snow: It is an American disease. The focus on winning is not exclusive to youth soccer but infects all youth sports.
SNN: How can we shift away from this mind set?
Sam Snow: There needs to be a change in attitude. Parents need to focus less on the outcome and more on giving back to the kids. Everyone needs to realize this is not a quick fix.
SNN: What needs to change?
Sam Snow: Parents drive a lot of what happens at the soccer clubs. They are the customers. Parents need to be more focused on development of the child than the immediate outcome of a game.
It is the long-term development that will bring about real soccer victories.
SNN: What is the one thing you would like to change?
Sam Snow: Players need to enjoy soccer and have fun.
SNN: How can we all help this?
Sam Snow: We need to remember these are children playing a sport.
Recently, David Beckham stood up to a referee who gave a 7 year old a red card. Sending a 7 year old off the field does not instill a life-long love of soccer in a child. How do you think that child felt?
We want fewer kids to drop out of youth soccer at the age of 12.
SNN: When do most kids put away their cleats?
Sam Snow: We find 70% of all youth players stop playing soccer after the age of 12.
Soccer needs to be fun.
SNN: The great players have fun playing soccer. Fans share their joy and passion while watching them on the field.
Sam Snow: Our youth soccer players should share the same joy.
As stated in the Player Development Model: Developing a passion for soccer brings lifelong joy. At the fundamental stage of player development, nothing is more important or rewarding than developing a young person's joy for the game of soccer.
Now it is up to the clubs to use the resources to train players.
The US Youth Soccer Player Development Model was prepared by the US Youth Soccer Coaching Education Department and Sam Snow, Director of Coaching, in association with the US Youth Soccer Coaching Committee, with support from the US Youth Soccer Board of Directors, US Youth Soccer Recreation Committee, US Youth Soccer Referee Committee, 55 US Youth Soccer State Association Technical Directors and the U.S. Soccer Technical Advisors.
Brief Recap: The coach inspires the soccer experience for the players, and this Model provides the knowledge needed to pass on the beautiful game to the next generation... and the US Youth Soccer Player Development Model wants to inspire and help coaches be their best.
And perhaps most importantly, the Model reviews what a coach is: "A coach can be many things to many different people. A coach is a mentor, teacher, role model and sometimes a friend. Most of all, a coach must be a positive personality."
While it is not "play," anyone interested in the game should download and read this Player Development Model. It can only lead to better play and more fun for our players.
As Albert Einstein once said, "Play is the highest form of research.”
Perhaps the fun has been forgotten, or overlooked, by the zealous effort to win at all costs.
Perhaps the fun does need to return to soccer and that, especially with the younger players, parents, players and some coaches need to remember that Rome was not built in a day. Players need time to develop. Just let the kids play!
A bit more info…Started in 1974, US Youth Soccer is the largest member of the United States Soccer Federation, the governing body for soccer in the United States. US Youth Soccer is a nationwide organization of over 600,000 volunteers and administrators, and over 300,000 dedicated coaches, most of who also are volunteers.
What is US Youth Soccer?
US Youth Soccer is a member of a much larger soccer community, and therefore its players are members of this world community. Boys and girls register to play with one of the more than 6,000 clubs or leagues formed by their State Associations. Each of the 55 State Associations across America are members of US Youth Soccer and US Soccer (there are two other divisions, US AMATEUR SOCCER for adults, and the professional division). US Soccer, along with over 197 other national soccer organizations, is a member of FIFA, the Federation Internationale de Football Association. FIFA serves as the international governing body for soccer, and US Soccer has been a member since 1913. Together, local, national and international organizations form a family of support for the young soccer players of America.
US Youth Soccer is in your area:
The US Youth Soccer membership is divided into four regions, each with a Director elected to the board. The regions are essentially East (Region I), Midwest (Region II), South (Region III) and West (Region IV). Each State Association has a Board of Directors, elected by delegates from their member leagues, clubs or teams.