Former Pro player Jacques Ladouceur with his former championship indoor soccer team, the SOCKERS, playing at the Beach Soccer Jam
Youth Soccer News: Jacques Ladouceur - Changing Youth Soccer For The Better
Jacques Ladouceur is a world class coach and former professional soccer player who has now produced an amazing audio tape on soccer player development and parental behavior. Ladouceur currently coaches at Hawks in Temecula and is launching a new player development program with a parent education component. Parents need to realize that soccer is not that easy. Once parents learn how difficult the techniques are, they understand they should be more encouraging. It does take a lot of effort and training for all 'these cuts to the right and to the left'.
Ladouceur was once referred to as an aspiring radio show host by the LA Times & is a former communications major from Howard University. A native of Haiti, Ladouceur was born in Port-au-Prince in 1959 and played soccer in Greece before playing 8 seasons of indoor soccer and playing on the U.S. National Team in 1984 and 1985. Always passionate about soccer, Ladouceur wrote a book 'Make Your Life Count', available on Amazon.
SN had the pleasure of reviewing the material and it is terrific. The emphasis is simple. We all need to examine the kind of examples we set for our children. How focused are we on winning?
Today’s competitive soccer has become highly pressured. Pressure from parents on coaches and players to win at all costs.
Perspective often has been lost and we find ourselves committing acts of unreasonable fervor… all in the benign name of cheering our children on. Claudio Reyna's whole new curriculum from U.S. Soccer emphasizes the importance of player development over winning. Ladouceur's CD is a primer for parents. The CD Maximizing The Youth Sports Experience provides valuable insights on parent - player discussions (don't put to much pressure on your kids and be upset about their performance on the field, encourage them to do better). The CD also provides tips for better parent interaction with Coaches and explores what really should be the purpose and goal of the parent in youth sports? There is a HUGE amount of time spent on youth sports and Ladouceur asks if we are using this time as effective. And of course, Ladouceur asks how does a parent's behavior towards the referee affect our children? What example does it set when a parent looses his temper on the field and embarrasses his child? This information every parent needs to hear.
Jacques Ladouceur wants us to ask “What do our beloved children learn from our behavior?” We all know the answer to that question – sometimes our actions are less perfect than we want. But really, does the saying do as I say, not as I do really work? Has anyone ever listened to that? Aren’t we a bit embarrassed to even say it? Jacques even pushes farther and asks parents to examine what we say to our children in the car rides to and from the field. Are our conversations in the car productive or destructive?
This is not all about parent behavior but it does evoke reflective thought which will hopefully bring some positive changes.
SN asked Jacques Ladouceur if he had ever caught himself committing some of the transgressions he speaks of -- how did he deal with some of those vexing situations on the sidelines? We have all heard reasonable adults turn into .... well, not sure what word I really want to use here.
Jacques Ladouceur: "Oh, all of us step over the line from time to time. I have found myself coaching my daughter’s team when I wasn’t the coach. I apologized to the coach and moved 50 to 60 yards away from the field to watch the game from a distance so I would not be tempted to coach from the sidelines. Actually, I stayed far enough away where no one could hear me."
SN: Many of us have found ourselves committing these soccer indiscretions...We know they are bad but it is hard to stop when you are caught up in the moment.
Jacques Ladouceur: "I believe each competitive youth soccer club needs to have a person to educate the parents and provide some tools to help them understand the true purpose of youth sports."
"Parent education is very important. It is not easy to always behave well on the sidelines, but it is important, and parents are the role model.
SN: Do you think American parents behave worse at soccer games than at other sports?
Jacques Ladouceur: "I don't think it is just limited to American families, just look at hooliganism, but it does seem to be limited to soccer, after all you don't get this behavior, at the youth or professional level with rugby, American football, baseball, basketball, Olympic games and the myriad of other sports out there."
SN: Why? What is different about soccer?
Jacques Ladouceur: "I think all sports are very emotional. In outdoor soccer where there aren’t any time outs and very few set plays. Every player makes decisions on the field which they live and die by. For the fans, they wait for goals, it’s a big field and players run 30 to 40 yards to be disappointed over and over again. This creates a lot of emotions. Fans and players are often disappointed by near misses or painful fouls that stop the momentum of the game."
"Soccer looks so easy from the sidelines. It looks simple to kick the ball where you want it to go. On top of all the frustrations, then you add the referee. And, unlike other sports, the soccer referee is a lone ranger making any decision he wants and on many occasions making honest human errors. He has all the power without any playback review and can rule advantage when there’s a perceived foul."
"Soccer is a game with rules that can easily bend based upon the personalities involved. No soccer field is the same size and conditions can vary dramatically. What does all of this tell you? It tells me soccer is a great arena to develop leaders that know how to make decisions.
SN: How long have you been coaching soccer & where have you coached?
Jacques Ladouceur: "I have been coaching for more than 20 years. I have coached at Scripps Soccer Club, Temecula Hawks, and the Women's team at Palomar College.
SN: How do you select your soccer players?
Jacques Ladouceur: "Depends on the age group. I usually look for a few things such as coordination, Athletic ability, a desire to play the game, speed and technical abilities or ball mastery."
SN: How important is team bonding, how do you accomplish this?
Jacques Ladouceur: "Team bonding is very important but not easy in youth sports because it takes time and the parents have to be on the same page. Parents have more influence on their kids than I do so they need to see the value of the players bonding together.
I work with my soccer players on a lot of technical drills and exercises that require them to help each other to succeed. We do things that if one person fails the entire team faces the consequences of that failure. We win and lose as a team. Off the soccer field special events can be set for the kids to get together as well and often work well.
SN: How important is winning?
Jacques Ladouceur: "Wining is very important because it develops confidence it shows us that hard work does pay off but it should never come before development. Developing the soccer player should be a coach’s main focus in youth sports."
SN: What makes a great coach?
Jacques Ladouceur: "A great coach believes in his people more than they believe in themselves. A great coach can take the things inside his brain and place it in another person’s head through great communication. A great coach knows how to develop relationships with players and parents."
"A great coach helps people reach their full potential in life not just in the sport they are coaching."
A great coach clearly understands what he is trying to accomplish when it comes to youth sports and understands the words he speaks to young children will impact them for the rest of their lives."
"A great coach has a door he wants to go through but understand he will have to take different roads to help each individual get there."
"A great coach sets an example in his personal life that his players want to follow."
SN: What is the difference between talent and skill?
Jacques Ladouceur: "Talent is God given, skill is human development. Talent is never enough because it’s a promissory note. There were many very talented guys in my neighborhood who never found the reason to go out every day and develop their skills. They had potential but a bowling ball is full of potential. When you are out every day developing your skills it also develops an air of confidence that talent alone does not give you. Being out there you develop a mental toughness to overcome challenges that will arise. It also gives you the feeling you belong at the top because you have worked so hard.
SN: What are the differences between coaching younger and older youth soccer players?
Jacques Ladouceur: "The youth soccer player 12 and under needs:
1. Less coaching so they can be more creative.
2. Develop ball mastery because if they do not have that, strategies and concepts are a waste of time when they get older.
3. Have a lot of fun and learn to enjoy the game.
4. I think you have to build the individual and help them play at their strength."
SN: American kids often have so many options; do you believe all these choices are distractions to becoming a world class soccer player?
Jacques Ladouceur: "I don’t think it has to be a distraction because I played baseball, soccer and ran track in high school."
"I think they need to do the things that are necessary to be a world class player and at some point they have to make a choice which sport they are going to focus on. I still played soccer on the street during baseball and track season. I think having these kids playing organized soccer all year around is a problem because it becomes more of a job than a labor of love, because everybody is so afraid of falling behind or losing players to another club. Playing all the time becomes something that is driven by fear."
SN: What do you think of the play to pay system?
Jacques Ladouceur: "I wish that was not the case but it is here to stay. I think in many instances it takes away the drive from children to work hard to make a team because the parent can step in and demand more playing time. If you don’t pay the only way to play is to prove you are better and I think that brings out the best in people. When people pay for something they feel like they should have a voice and that’s where the challenge begins. No one gets on an airplane and demands to see the pilot’s flight plan because we pay professionals to do a job we cannot do."
"I think that’s the number one reason why we need to educate parents on the product they are buying because when parents are educated they form a partnership with the club to develop soccer players. When parents are not informed of the goals and how they can help in the plan for development for their child it can turn into chaos very quickly."
SN: Why is the U.S. not more of a global soccer power?
Jacques Ladouceur: "There are two main reasons it hasn’t happen yet. The first is the size of our country has an impact on how we find the best players; it has been a challenge finding that one system all the best players are in. for example the NFL gets most of their players from colleges it’s easier to scout in one place. A country like Brazil would be a good place to study and learn how they do it because of the size of the country."
"The second reason is that we need to develop creative players and that does not happen when they are being coached starting at five years old they rarely learn to solve problems using their skills in a few seconds. We need to allow them more freedom and less strategy at a young age."
As Ladouceur says, "The only way to change the hearts and the minds of parents is by educating them, through partnering and working together. The parent is part of the team. The reality is 95% of all the players in youth soccer are not going to become professional soccer players. Ladouceur asks, "If only 5% are going to try to become professionals, what are we doing with the other 95%? We should be mentoring them, teaching principals -- not demonstrating bad behavior on the sidelines."
Jacques Ladouceur's CD Maximizing The Youth Sports Experience is available here