Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I Concur!

Here is the beginning of a great article by Ohio Wesleyan U. soccer coach Jay Martin. Read the full article here.

Stop the Tournaments Too many games, little preparation and no training opportunities
By Jay Martin, Ph.D.

Tournaments, tournaments, tournaments. They are overwhelming youth soccer in this country. Everyone wants to play in tournaments. Soccer America has an entire issue devoted to tournaments. Every soccer publication in this country lists pages of tournaments for our children to attend! Every year the biggest decision a club team makes is "which tournaments do we attend?" Most clubs have a person or three who do nothing but prepare for tournaments.

Stop the tournaments, I want to get off.

Tournaments are hurting America's soccer playing youth.

Soccer tournaments started in this country as a way for clubs to raise funds to pay the bills. Great idea. Clubs would sponsor a tournament early in a playing season or in the summer when league play was suspended to make some cash. Now these tournaments rule youth soccer. It is now very important to participate in these types of events. Many clubs recruit players based on the tournaments they attend. Many coaches entice U-16's, U-17's and U-18's to their club by promising attendance at tournaments where college coaches will attend. Many players (and their parents) choose a club solely based on attendance and success in certain tournaments. Today, the main focus for teams, clubs, parents and players is tournaments.

The weekly league game (or two) is secondary to tournaments. And maybe games are even eliminated from the busy tournament schedule. In Central Ohio where club teams must participate in a sanctioned league in order to be allowed to play in tournaments, some clubs have a team for the weekly league (usually a weaker team) so the A team can compete in tournaments all over the country. If you don't get into the tournaments of your choice? Change clubs or create your own tournament. It works. Try it.

These tournaments allow our soccer playing youth to play a variety of teams in a variety of states all year long. But they are expensive. It costs the average family a weekend, car mileage, hotel expense, entertainment for between games, food and video game money.

Why? Because everyone plays in tournaments. The kids will become better players. The college coaches can see them play. Yes, everyone plays in tournaments – except youth teams in other soccer playing countries.

The weekly game is the most important game in most other countries. The teams have one week of training. One week of learning. One week to prepare for the game on Saturday or Sunday. The most important aspect of learning the game happens in well-founded training programs. The habits necessary to become a complete player are developed in training.

Training is important. Training is critical to the success of these soccer-playing nations.

Why is training important? It allows a supervised and progressive means to learn the game, if done properly. It allows the player, coach and team to focus on the areas of the game that will influence performance. What are those areas?

  • Fitness
  • Constant technical improvement
  • Improvement of tactical understanding based on problems in the previous game
  • Improvement of the mental aspects of the game by applying stress in the training situation in a variety of situations
  • Team building

Do any of these things happen during a tournament? Not very likely. The very nature of tournaments prevents this from happening.

Maybe in America we are uncomfortable with training. It is still a fact that some of our youth soccer coaches still do not have the background in the game as a player to feel confident in the design and execution of a training session. The obvious solution is play games. So, we play games and don't train.


Trihardist said...

Mirrors the "No Child Left Behind" problem in schools. Students are constantly being assessed with little opportunity to learn practical skills that will last them a lifetime. How interesting to see the situation paralleled in juvenile athletics

"Fat Boy" said...

Great article. Being a strength and conditioning coach, I am so amazed that so many Americans still use their sport to "get in shape" instead of getting in shape for their sport.

Too often our priorities are misaligned and we put the cart before the horse.

Chris Topher said...

Jay or some other soccer coach wrote a similar article like that 15 years ago: shows how little things change or how a good idea runs amok. English coaches came to the US to train parents just getting their kids (when I was a soccer association president, parents would get mad at me if I would not let their 3 years old play!) started with soccer in coaching techniques and with their boring 4-4-2 style of play, stressed tournaments not realizing that kids no longer play in the neighborhood. There is no play time, no "street soccer", no pick up baseball games, no neighborhood basketball games. (Even adults had a hard time with Sunday afternoon "pick up" soccer games.) Instead, kids are shuffled between tournaments and speed and agility camps. And nobody practices or trains unless it is under the eye of a coach. Heck, the parents won't workout unless it's under the eye of a personal trainer. The end result is kids who are on winning teams and as a result assumed to be good athletes who cannot dribble/pass/throw/shoot/hit a ball if the ball sat in their laps and said, "mama". You get football players so obsessed with the numbers that their power cleans are SLDL with a power reverse curl, wondering why their backs hurt. The question then becomes who will be the first to throw away the money making event and work toward better long term athlete development?