LET THEM PLAY
I have found your podcast recently and I have gone back and listened to all the posts related to technical skills acquisition and player development. Partially, I give you credit for me not pushing my son to stay in ODP.
You have been very vociferous about ODP not being worth the money, but I want to make a stronger claim, that US Soccer through its DA or Academy system is stifling player development instead of promoting it; at least at the younger ages.
My son is 11 (2008) and is a passionate player. Some background, we opted out of playing for the local DA team (at that time DA started at U12) in our small midwestern city and instead stayed with the club that he was already with. The primary incentive was because he preferred futsal to soccer and wouldn’t have been able to stay with his futsal club if he played for the DA.
About one year ago my son started playing soccer in one of the local “Latin leagues”, which has been a real eye-opener. For one, it is less than half the cost of the local futsal league that he loves so much. Second, the quality of play was much superior to a rec program and, at the higher ages, rivals the two local clubs. Plus, they let him “play-up” and even play at multiple age levels. Finally, all three local leagues are within a 30-minute drive from my house, no traveling three hours to play a single match.
We chatted with one of the boys on his team, a Burmese boy who is the best 2007 in the city, and he said that he plays four matches every Saturday, U12, U14, U16, and U20. He does no practices, just pickup and “Latin league” matches on the weekends. The second and third best 2007s in the city are both Mexican-American boys who got their start with the Latin leagues, and still play there, but have recently joined my kid’s club.
I would love to hear your viewpoint on the advantages of many games at multiple age levels and for you to deal with the pros and cons of the DA (and even club soccer) a future podcast. I think that you are the only person brave enough to take the positions that you take on ODP and player development, even though many may feel similarly. Presuming that you agree with me, I’d like to know at what age the kids should begin to play fewer matches and instead focus on a single club.
As I see it, the advantages of the Latin Leagues over the DA:
• Rolling ages, can’t be that age as of first day of season. Along with 2-year age ranges, it allows players to be at first the youngest player and then later the oldest, depending on where they are in the cycle. Under US Soccer a December birthday is always the young one.
• Encourages playing in different age groups, one 2007 boy plays for 4 teams every Saturday, from U12 to U20. This, perhaps, makes excessive travel unnecessary. My kid is bigger and faster than most kids his age so playing up forces him to use other skills.
• Lots of game time, practice is great but in games they are always opposed and always learning from other players.
• Tons of time spent watching older relatives, goofing around with the ball, and taking shots on each other during half-time. The Latin kids strike the ball hard!
• Probably from half to a quarter of the cost per hour of play, depending on whether you play for the “DA” club (which costs just as much even though there is no longer DA for U12s any more) or my kid’s club.
Tyler, I enjoyed reading your comments of what your experiencing in your community. Way to take control of your son’s development. I am going to feature you in tomorrow’s podcast Epidsode 398. Thank you for the content. I look forward to talking about your experience and give you my thoughts as well.
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