It’s safe to say we are in a coaching crisis here in the U.S. in regards to youth soccer. According to Advanced Sports Media Group there are 350 Soccer Players for every 1 licensed coach. That statistic includes USSF grassroots licensed coaches, D, C, B, and A. Furthermore, with the soccer landscape constantly changing its hard for parents to know which path their child should follow. Not to mention, 1 out of every 5 soccer parents in the U.S. actually played soccer themselves.
The population of young soccer players continues to grow, and with an unstable soccer landscape there is not a clear direction for parents to steer their kids for proper youth development.
With that being said, there is a bigger issue. The few quality coaches that are active in the industry are bombarded by too many players. Most coaches have to keep up with 3-5 teams to make decent income. That’s 45-75 players per single quality coach. With those numbers, this quality coach is left with no option, but to structure the training & development in a way that represents “quantity over quality”. We see this issue at every level, from coaching, to teaching, to politics, etc.
The solution? The market will change, and new services will emerge. This is why you probably are starting to see huge spike in ‘Personal Trainers’. Back in the day, being part of a club was enough. Now, top youth players have one or more of the following coaches; skills coach, mental coach, speed coach, and/or personal trainer - on top of their normal club coach. You probably have seen a spike in Digital Coaches as well including Renegade Soccer, Captain Elite, Dribble Up, and The Soccer IntelliGym.
Parents now have to act like general contractors; identifying the right vendors and piecing together a development program for their child.
With all of this chaos the question comes down to “What is best for my child?” The coach should be able to tell you, however their self-interest may influence their answer. If you’ve heard “watch more soccer” or “go home and juggle”, those answers really mean, “I don’t know.”
The proper approach is one that is aligned with The Player Development System™. This system is a process of Assessing needs, Prioritizing those needs, Executing a plan of action, and repeating. Without a system like this your child is subject to the team drills their coaches are providing for the benefit of the whole and not to them individually. Let me explain:
Let’s pretend your child thinks that doing more moves is necessary to becoming a more confident dribbler, and they don’t realize that change of speed, protecting the ball, identifying the situation, and using their body are other crucial aspects to confident dribbling. They will go to practice, their coach will put them into a team drill, and they may or may not get the opportunity to work on these things they need help with, and even if they do get the opportunity, they may not even know what crucial aspects they should be focusing on to improve. Does this sound like a guessing game? Well it is. Coaches should be able to assess each individual player effectively and put a game plan together FOR THEM individually, so they know EXACTLY what they need to work on during training and during the season in whole. Without a proper assessment, this is not possible.
The Player Development System™ takes the guessing game out of the equation. Coaches can use this to empower their players individually, and parents can use this to properly piece together their child’s training regime.
This level of service is not uncommon. However, it’s only provided by the most structured clubs, and the highest quality coaches, which represents about 1% of the soccer coaching industry. This leaves a wide open gap to the rest of the industry and the rest of the U.S. youth soccer players whom may have the potential, but just aren’t receiving the proper training.
3rd Party Coaching Vendors will continue to emerge, and coaches who care will look to outsource to these vendors for help. Relying on the limited education that comes from USSF just isn’t cutting it anymore.
While this all may sound negative, the truth is, U.S. Soccer is about to explode. I’ve never been more optimistic about U.S. soccer. The quality of young players is unbelievable. MLS has its flaws but continues to grow and develop, while adding new teams like Austin FC, Inter Miami CF, and Nashville FC. Other pro leagues like USL & NASL are stepping up. These next 4-5 years are going to be absolutely crucial for youth soccer development… and it may come down to non-traditional methods that will make the biggest impact.
I implore coaches and parents to take responsibility of their player’s individual development. Now is the time. Don’t wait for your big name (or small name) club to do the work, for they are bogged down. With the number of players these days, the quality and necessary service for players is unsustainable by traditional club models. We are in a state that requires outsourcing, unique solutions, and focusing on the individual player.