A view on development....

Discussion in 'USA Men: News & Analysis' started by Karl K, Sep 7, 2002.

  1. Karl K

    Karl K Member

    Oct 25, 1999
    Suburban Chicago
    There's this view, often propounded, that the USA will allways be behind the curve in the world because are practices are too structured, our kids are "over-coached", we don't play enough street ball, and pick up games.

    Well, I saw this quote today from Houston Rockets scout Tony Ronzone, in the wake of the Team USA basketball debacle.

    I thought it was VERY interesting, and very applicable to our own soccer situation.

    Moderators, of course, feel free to move this thread where appropriate.

    Here's is what Tony said:

    "In Europe, they're all about developing players. It's old-school....all skills-based. In Europe and Asia, kids shoot 300 to 500 jumpers a day. Out kids are playing [pickup] games, and they may be getting 15 shots in those games. Here in America, we're losing ground. Our AAU programs are killing us because kids aren't developing. I drive by our neighborhood courts, and our rims are bent. I drive through Europe and China, the the rims are straight. What does that tell you? Their kids are shooting. Our kids are dunking."
  2. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

    May 2, 2001
    The Electric City
    Chicago Fire
    I'm not sure about the implications for soccer, but this may mean that, in a few years, I might start watching the NBA again.

    Actually, regarding soccer... while it's true that there are things you can't coach (in all sports) and while it's true that many superstars have games that are defined by those things you can't coach... there are still many, many things that coaching can bring to a player's game. And there are many players (in many sports) whose game suffers from a lack of those nuanced little skills that are boring to practice, unnoticed by most fans, and are never on sportscenter. Those are also the skills that actually help players help their teams win games.
  3. beineke

    beineke New Member

    Sep 13, 2000
    Karl's NBA scout is looking only at the inner-city basketball players. What about the millions of American kids who play in coaching-intensive environments? Why do they suck?

    The reason is that their coaches are motivated by winning, not player development. Give them a young Dirk Nowitzki, and they'll train him to stand around under the basket and shoot lay-ups. He won't develop a perimeter game.

    Unfortunately, most US youth soccer coaches also measure themselves in wins and losses. As a result, they concentrate on their players' physical conditioning instead of the soccer skills that are more important down the road.
  4. Karl K

    Karl K Member

    Oct 25, 1999
    Suburban Chicago
    I wouldn't disagree with you at all here, and I think Ronzone would probably distinguish between coaching to develop and coaching to win. Those are two distinct styles.

    Before I handed my kid off to professional coaches, when I was doing it, I started off believing "winning doesn't matter," especially at the young ages. When I mentioned this to a guy who has built a very good career in youth soccer coaching, his response was...

    "It doesn't matter to you, and it doesn't matter to me...but it matters to THEM."

    Kids are people, we often forget, and you need to put them in situations where they can taste success, learn to deal with failure, and get out of their comfort zone. So they need to win SOME of the time, otherwise they won't know what it feels like. And they also need to lose, to make sure they understand they don't know everything and that the other guys aren't going to fall down for them.

    This is just ONE key aspect of development -- it probably takes a back seat to skill-building, but it is important.

    Of course, who cares a crap about how well a U9 team does in the 6th game of the Fall season? It DOESN'T matter. It's the LESSONs that matter. Some coaches -- and believe me, many parents -- don't grasp this.
  5. JohnR

    JohnR Member+

    Jun 23, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    Winning Doesn't Matter?

    We hear that all the time ... in the U.S., youth sports are about winning, while in the other [i.e., better] countries it's about development.

    I'm suspicious. I converse with British youth soccer coaches, and most of them believe in playing their best players all game, with their weaker players watching the entire game from the bench. That's pure development? Unlike most people on these boards, I have personally watched a European youth soccer tournament. Those teams were playing to win.

    I betcha that the European youth basketball teams are playing to win, also.

    Of course there is playing to win in a good way -- being intense but using appropriate tactics and technique -- and playing to win in a bad way -- using silly tactics that only work against little-kid teams. Maybe the Europeans are better in both soccer and basketball in playing to win in the good way. But I for one don't believe that they are not playing to win.
  6. Captain10

    Captain10 Member

    Jul 26, 2000
    Marietta, GA
    Corinthians Sao Paulo
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    JohnR, I have no doubt that the teams are trying to win, but it is the way they emphasize winning that makes a difference. I grew up in Brasil and yes, we were playing to win. And when we won, we didn't gloat -- when we lost, we weren't reamed by the coach or belittled by the other team.

    It's the attitude that's demonstrated (and taught) by the coaches and parents that makes the difference IMO -- unfortunately, it's a 'win at all cost' attitude that harms the youth game.
  7. kb

    kb New Member

    Nov 23, 1998
    Boston, MA
    Re: Winning Doesn't Matter?

    lets not jump the gun here...these countries are still not [better] in basketball , despite a couple of wins... i don't think the lack of success of this basketball team gives us a definitive answer about how to develop the ultimate baskelball power .. any more than the success of the US soccer team team tells us how to be a soccer power (maybe brazil should develop 20 players pro style every other year and let the rest go amateur)

    the fact is that none of these teams could take 2 out of 7 against ANY nba team, but to their credit they came up big here, just like the US team did in the world cup

    Not sure either means anything
  8. JohnR

    JohnR Member+

    Jun 23, 2000
    Chicago, IL

    When I wrote "Maybe the Europeans are better in both soccer and basketball in playing to win in the good way" I meant "Maybe the Europeans are better in both soccer and basketball youth trainingin playing to win in the good way."

    No, I would not say that that European basketball is yet at a par with the U.S. I'm writing about youth training only. And I am not stating as a fact that the European youth teams play to win "in the good way." Indeed, I am not sure that I believe such a thing. I'm merely entertaining the possibility that this could be true.

    As a side note, the notion that a team with 7 NBA All-Stars could somehow be so shoddy as to not represent a real win for Argentina or Yugoslavia is ridiculous ... reminds me of those "Oh, we just sent our B team" excuses when a country loses an international soccer match. These guys are among our top pros, and we learned that they ain't as good as we (or they) think.
  9. L127

    L127 New Member

    Oct 9, 1999
    I coached, but before that, I had the pleasure of watching my son play at the highest level for his age from 10 to 18. He played against many teams from Europe, be it U13 or U17. They always did well, never being out of a match and winning many, probably more than losing. But it did occur to me, thinking like a coach, it must be nice to get a group of kids and not have to teach them how to strike a ball or head a ball or pass or shoot. I would guess that a coach over there gets kids with a lot of skill and tries to teach them tactics sooner than an American coach has the luxury of doing. This is a part of the maturation of a player that is faster over there than here. I don't think that skills are not to be overlooked here or there, but watching games and thinking tactics sooner has to be part of why they play faster over there.
  10. JohnR

    JohnR Member+

    Jun 23, 2000
    Chicago, IL

    OK ... so what do we say when my son's soccer team got clocked by a terrific Spanish squad, and when the game ended the Spanish team then walked off the field without shaking hands. In a youth tournament where, yes, every other team shook hands after the match?

    I say, those kids had a major attitude and they were gloating. I'd be ashamed if my son's team behaved like that.

    Or what do we say when my son is pushed in the back with 2 hands by a defender on a different Spanish team, and the player who pushed him gives a High Five to his teammates when my boy goes face down?

    I say, the kid was a d*&^head. My boy would spend the next 3 weeks peering out his bedroom window if he pulled a stunt like that.

    Maybe Brazil is different. But my admittedly limited experience suggests that the habitual reaming that U.S. youth coaches, players, and parents are subjected to is unfair. Because they ain't perfect in other places, either.
  11. beineke

    beineke New Member

    Sep 13, 2000
    Re: Winning Doesn't Matter?

    Nobody's suggesting that other countries are generally better or worse. But all countries do have strengths and weaknesses. IMO, an American strength is that we're relatively good at identifying our weaknesses and fixing them.

    Getting back to the point, there are two clear reasons why we emphasize winning more than the European youth programs.

    (1) Our kids spend a relatively large amount of time in structured activities. This gives supervisors a lot more control. Even though European youth coaches also try to win, they often don't have the same power that ours do. They can't force a young defender to play like a donkey all the time.

    (2) Elite European youth teams are affiliated with professional clubs. These clubs really don't care whether their youth teams win. All that matters to them are the two or three star players that they can promote to the senior level.

    Neither (1) nor (2) is 100% "better." In the case of (2), European club development risks being a "star system," where only a handful of players get coaching attention. As for (1), structured practices do give our coaches more ability to provide a positive influence. I think that was Karl's point in starting this thread ... I just don't think that it happens enough.
  12. empennage

    empennage Member

    Jan 4, 2001
    Phoenix, AZ
    US 1 - England 0 circa 1950

    One win does not make a nation great at a sport. Europe has a LONG way to go in basketball, whereas the US has a way's to go in soccer. IMHO however that the US is closer to the top in soccer than the Euros are in B-ball
  13. Attacking Minded

    Attacking Minded New Member

    Jun 22, 2002
    What percent of time do you think a European coach spends on technical training?

  14. Captain10

    Captain10 Member

    Jul 26, 2000
    Marietta, GA
    Corinthians Sao Paulo
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Re: Gloating

    Sorry your son's team was subjected to such classless behavior. IMO there's no excuse for that on the field (or off of it either.)

    And yes, Brasil IS different -- at least way back when I was playing there. :) Now, don't get me wrong, there were plenty of occassions where there were largely isolated instances of poor sportsmanship, but it was generally frowned upon even by the teammates of those players committing the infractions.

    From my experiences, Brasilians tend not to be the instigators -- but they do know how to retaliate in the flow of the game. For the most part they didn't start trouble, but if it came *looking* for them they didn't shy away and gave as good as they got.

    As far as current youth teams -- from what I've observed, the times now appear to be much different. There seems to be more mocking and belittling of opponents. There's more trash talking than I ever remember there being when I was young. Hopefully - for the good of the game - the example of bad sportsmanship that you described is not representative of most youth teams around.
  15. kb

    kb New Member

    Nov 23, 1998
    Boston, MA
    Re: Correction

    A better excuse might be poor chemistry.. but perhaps the best excuse is no excuse at all.. correct me if i'm wrong but i believe the infamous soviet victory over the US olympic team was in '72, making it at least 30 years that basketball has been truly competive internationally. Many countries have had development programs and/or professional leagues that are closer competively and economically to the NBA than the MLS is to the top European soccer leagues. The world is SLOWLY catching up, not IMHO because american basketball is slipping, but because the improvement of the rest of the world was/is inevitable.

    At any rate, the increased international competition and player pool is great for the sport
  16. nobody

    nobody Member+

    Jun 20, 2000
    I think the reality is that for top notch players, you need both.

    Good coaching can help a kid get the most out of his skills, but a coach can't follow him around all the time. Add this to the fact that the vast majority of players don't practice more than twice a week until they are 10-12 years old and a whole lot of formative years on the ball are wasted without extensive play with the ball in unorganized places.

    Of course, the raw skills of players who grow up on the ball need to be refined and guided by a good coach at some point along the line. It would just be nice if the US had a huge number of kids who played aften enough from an early enough age that by the time the coaches got a hold of them they actually had pretty decent basic ball control and the like already.

    The US basketball problem is not because of the kids playing in the parks. It's because the coaches aren't doing their jobs refining the raw skills the kids have and teaching them to translate those skills to organized ball. I'd be astounded if you could find a European basketball coach who wouldn't salivate over the chance to get a crack at coaching some of the raw talent coming off the playgrounds of US cities.

    In soccer, a country like Brazil demonstrates just how well things can work getting the best of both worlds. Kids grow up with a ball at their feet and develop ball skills wherever they go. The kids who demonstrate that they've picked it up well enough and are physically gifted enough get funneled into clubs where they can get good coaching.

    Even going back to basketball, the gold medal team, Yugoslavia, is one of the few countries that not only has good coaches, but has a realitively thriving culture of kids playing basketball in the streets and parks as well.

    You need both to reach the top.
  17. Chester FC

    Chester FC New Member

    Jul 19, 2001
    There is more than one way to develop highly skilled talent. Brazil presents one route ("street ball", though I'm not sure the moniker "development" should apply) and Holland the other (highly structured programs like Ajax). Those two countries consisently produce attractive soccer and great individual players, so there is no magic bullet.

    Here in the US, we have the "street ball" environment in a few place like Baltimore (Quaranta) and, of course, in the Hispanic community. We also have highly structured programs like the Bradenton residencey programs and, though early days, MLS affiliated youth programs.

    Since we can't control the success on unstructured development, we should work on that which we can: more Ajax like programs.

    my 2 cents.
  18. nobody

    nobody Member+

    Jun 20, 2000
    I do think you make a great point that we may as well consentrate on improving what we can, and yes, there is very little we can do about getting kids to play outside formal practices while we can certainly improve our formal methods.

    I would still point out that that Dutch kids grow up playing everywhere too. Brazil is the most obvious example, but you'd be hard pressed to find any strong soccer nation that doesn't feature large percentages of their kids growing up paying soccer in streets and parks.
  19. jd2084

    jd2084 New Member

    Aug 1, 2001
    Rhode Island
    New England Revolution
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    There's got to be a balance between the skills learned in structured drills and the instincts developed while actually competing.

    You can't have players who fall to one extreme or the other and expect them to be the best. If a player has learned to play growing up on the streets and can dribble through every player on the opposing team, but can work a simple one-two then he is useless. And on the other hand a player who can dribble around cones all day long but doesn't understand when to use his skills is also useless.

    When people talk about US development being too structured (soccer) I think their talking about at the younger ages (U6-U8). When their talking about basketball players being too free, I think their talking about somewhat older ages (high school, aau).
    At a young age kids need to learn to love the game and get a feel for what they're doing. Then once they love the game (which ever game it may be), they will have the willingness to learn to refine their skills. And this then needs to be planted back into the game situations.
    What I'm trying to say is that it comes down to balance.
  20. ncguy

    ncguy New Member

    Jan 28, 2002
    It still is astounding to me, as a U8 coach , the number of kids I get each year who have never seen a soccer game that they haven't played in. These same parents would never think of taking them to basketball, football, or baseball practice without at least watching a couple of games on TV.
  21. tubby_butter

    tubby_butter Member

    Mar 22, 2002
    When people talk about the problems with youth soccer development in this country (suburban kids, over-coached, winning at expense of development), they are not necessarily talking about right vs wrong way of player development. The criticism is that the kids are not becoming passionate about the game, instead they are simply learning how to trap and kick a ball. Consequently, we lose a lot of great prospects and talented athletes by the U19 level, because they start to do other things with their life. Is this a product of over-coaching? Maybe. But it is also socio-economic. Since soccer is still an upper-middle class game here, most of these kids have other options (and probably face parental pressure to do something more academic, in the long-run). I guess you would hope that some of the kids trying to make it out of the ghetto through the NFL will start to want to go to MLS.
  22. JohnR

    JohnR Member+

    Jun 23, 2000
    Chicago, IL

    Yes, I think this point bears repeating. The suburban set has never been a major breeding ground for the big team sports, except for perhaps baseball pitchers (not shortstops, not centerfielders, but pitchers). For the reasons that you outline. There is definitely the possibility that the "system" (coaches, parents, etc.) are taking the blame for what might inevitably occur. Because in the U.S. suburbs, the economics for pursuing soccer as an actual career are very, very poor. Truly dismal, in fact.
  23. beineke

    beineke New Member

    Sep 13, 2000
    But your criticism is precisely about "right vs wrong way of player development." If kids are simply learning how to trap and kick a ball, then practices are clearly far too similar to piano lessons.
  24. Nutmeg

    Nutmeg Member+

    Aug 24, 1999
    As usual, I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. I can only offer antidotal evidence to this, but in my experience, there are quite a few pickup basketball games happening in Europe. In Italy and Spain, the two European countries in which I have spent the most time, finding a pickup basketball game in a city park is just as easy as finding a pickup soccer game. There is also quite a bit of pickup basketball in Argentina and Chile, two other countries I've been to quite often recently. Basketball did not appear to be as popular as it was in Europe, but it definitely appears to be on the rise.

    Having said that, the pickup b-ball games I have seen and played in while in Spain and Italy were vastly different than ones I have played in here in the States. Team play was better, the shooting was overall much better, and basic fundamentals like dribbling, screening, defense, and rebounding were far superior to even the best pickup games I've participated in here in the States. That could very well be a carry-over from the training European players get in formal leagues and teams - I don't know.

    To carry that analogy over to soccer here in the US, I still believe that young players here suffer from not playing enough pickup soccer. I think it is great that so many kids, and there are more every day, participate in organized leagues. But according to SGMA reports, pickup games appear to be down across the board for team sports. I think that hampers a kid's development in any sport.

    I believe that development happens best when a kid is well-trained under a good coach who is concerned about his players' development, and then takes that training and regularly applies it in an environment where the pressure to do everything mistake-free is reduced or non-existent. That usually means a pickup game environment. In that environment, a young soccer player can try new things, learn creativity, feel free to make mistakes without fearing a consequence like not making an elite-team cut or getting benched because they did not play exactly within a defined system. As long as fundamentals are stressed and taught well in an organized environment, I think a pickup environment only helps, and not hampers, a players' development in any sport they choose to take up.

    My guess is, kids are being taught very good fundamental basketball skills in Europe and then apply those in both organized and nonorganized games they play in. In contrast, I think fundamentals are not being coached well in US basketball, and wherever our kids play, they only continue to develop the bad habits that have never been corrected in the first place.

    In soccer, I think kids in the US, in general, are being taught good fundamentals in organized play, but they participate less and less in unorganized games and their development is hurt because of it.
  25. Martin Fischer

    Martin Fischer Member+

    Feb 23, 1999
    Kampala. Uganda
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Re: Re: A view on development....

    In Yugoslavia, even 15 years ago, basketball pickup games were everywhere. It's hard to say based upon being a tourist that they were as common as in the states, but they were certainly not rare.

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