Carlsbad Elite U16 Head Coach Paul Holohan
Youth Soccer News: Top Youth Coaches on Coast Soccer League U16 Premier
As the Coast Soccer League’s U16 Premier Division heads into the final weekend of competition, it is clear that this is one exceptional division. Led by Fullerton Rangers White, with an 8-1-1 record, the league includes many of the top teams in Southern California at that age, ranging from Los Angeles to San Diego. Earlier in the season three of the top coaches, Fullerton’s Jimmy Obleda, Carlsbad Elite’s Paul Holohan and LA Premier FC’s Barry Ritson, discussed what makes Coast Soccer League U16 Premier such a strong division.
“We’re in a pretty unbelievable division,” said Holohan, who organized the conference call. “We have a two-time National Champion (Fullerton Rangers) in our age group. I played LA Premier (recently) and that was an unbelievable game.”
“Without a doubt, that U16 has been a solid age group for a long time,” Obleda agreed. “For us, it gives us what we need to compete and maintain our level. Every weekend playing well-coached teams, teams that are very talented individually and as a group. So for us it works in having that competitiveness. Every game, everybody is trying to do the right thing, and most importantly trying to win while doing it.”
“Throughout the U16s you just know that they are very well coached teams,” Holohan said. “And you’re talking about some young coaches here that are coming up, so it bodes well for the future.”
What the three agree sets the division apart from many others is the focus on development that takes place throughout. While none of the teams are Academy clubs, the focus on helping players reach their potential is as laser-focused as you’ll find anywhere.
“With development and winning, people think they are two different things when in fact really they both work off each other,” Obleda explained. “The reason I like the league is because of the competitiveness and the speed that people are trying to play at, which make my players have to react more quickly, play more quickly and make sharper technical and tactical decisions.”
“I think we all have to stand back and realize that the competitiveness of this bracket didn’t happen overnight,” said Ritson. “I know firsthand about Paul’s and especially Jimmy’s philosophy and how they want their teams to play, but it’s a process. We get these kids at nine or ten years old and we’re talking about five or six years later where they all play at the speed Jimmy has alluded to. I’m delighted with the competitiveness of the league.”
|LA Premier FC U16 Head Coach Barry Ritson
When it comes to development, much depends on the club and how it is structured. As the club sees development, so goes the development on each individual team.
“I think it comes down to the club structure and the curriculum,” said Ritson. “The coaching directors do a great job with the coaching staff, and it’s a group effort. I think that’s changed a little bit in terms of organization over the last five or six years. Clubs are coming forward with a plan for their whole club. I remember six or seven years ago you would have one team at U14 and one at U16 and they would have totally different styles of play. I think a lot of credit has to be given to the coaching directors – they all committed to the idea and it’s working.”
“I’m totally in agreement,” Holohan said. “I’ve said before, the kids may not be ready to win a National Championship at 11 or 12, but maybe by the time they get to 16, maybe we can have a go at it. It’s a process. It takes time to bring them up, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to do in the Carlsbad Elite program.”
While all three coaches have had experience in the Academy system, each believes that his current club is more than a match for any of the Academies. What it comes down to, they feel, is the effort put into helping each player to grow.
“It’s about doing your job,” Holohan insisted. “If you’re doing your job and developing your soccer players, creating a good environment for your players and getting in good showcases like Dallas Cup and Surf Cup, the only thing you’re really missing is the Academy Showcase. That’s the only showcase you’re not really going to. We’re giving them just as good an education, if not better.”
Comparing his current club’s philosophy to that of the Academies, Ritson explained, “Nothing changes with the demands we put on our players. The actual day-to-day stuff is exactly the same as what we implemented when we first started in the Development Academy five or six years ago. I don’t think we, as Coaching Directors, look at our group of players and say, ‘These aren’t Academy kids.’ I think we look at our group of players and think how we can get the absolute best out of them and how we can showcase them to the best of their abilities.”
“It’s ironic that once (the kids) get to a certain age that everybody wants them,” said Obleda, “everybody’s coming after them, everybody’s trying to grab them.”
One important area that the three coaches see as differing between the Academy and non-Academy clubs is the end focus for youth players. While Academies frequently seem focused only on National Team or professional careers for players, many players are happy to go on to play at college.
|Fullerton Rangers U16 Head Coach Jimmy Obleda
“In the end, you’re developing kids to play at the highest level of soccer,” Obleda explained, “whether that’s National Team or college or professional. We are doing the things that we feel, in each of our clubs, is going to help that player reach his full potential. We’re not focusing on one avenue or one end result because the reality is you can play on the National Team and still go to college, and eventually go pro. It’s being able to develop the player as a whole and helping him reach his full potential as a player, not just saying if you’re not good enough to be on the National Team then we’re going to find somebody else who is.”
“Our goal from the development standpoint is getting kids into college,” said Ritson. “There are no games you can win to get that kid into a collegiate soccer program. That’s LA Premier’s end goal and that’s what we strive for. Playing against the likes of Fullerton and Carlsbad and Albion along the way is the platform that allows us to do that.”
“At times I think there have been two different paths for some of these Academy clubs and non-Academy clubs,” Ritson continued, “but at the end of the day if the kid puts on their resume they send off to college coaches as a junior that they just won a national championship, obviously that kid’s going to get looked at.”
While college is a major focus in the development of all three clubs, each has had success as well placing players in the National Team system. Several on the current U.S. U17 National Team spent considerable time with either LA Premier or Fullerton before moving to Academy teams, and Rey Ortiz, who is in the ’97 National pool, is currently with Carlsbad. All three coaches are proud of the roles they have played in helping the boys to success.
“The U16 age group in Coast Soccer League has some really excellent teams with coaches and Directors of Coaching who do unbelievable jobs,” said Holohan in closing. “Their staff do unbelievable jobs. They’re developing players in the right way, sending them to National Teams if they’re good enough. They also have a college-bound program within the club, so they take care of all their players.”
“I think it comes down to the real direction of these clubs and how it’s driven by the Coaching Director – the club structure,” said Ritson. “I know Jimmy and Paul and Noah (Gins of Albion SC) and I have a detailed blueprint of what we want to teach the kids from year to year at specific age groups. Our coaching staffs do a phenomenal job on a day-to-day basis. Nothing changes in how we try to develop these kids just because we’re either an Academy or non-Academy club.”
“It doesn’t matter the title you have,” Obleda pointed out. “It’s what you do on a daily basis with the players in your club that helps your players grow and develop them to the next level. As for my team and all the teams that are in Coast, we get exactly what we need, especially in the Premier level, to get the competition to continue to push us to become better. I’m very happy with Coast and what the U16 Premier is going to do for my team, and we’re continuing to do what we do on a daily basis. No matter what title you have, it’s what you do every day.”