Skyline Staff Visit the 2015 NSCAA Convention
The Skyline staff is fortunate enough to attend the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) soccer convention every year. I’ve heard it described as “The Disneyland for soccer coaches.” In a way, it’s a great way to describe the event, but not because it’s all fun and games, but because of the excitement it generates for coaches to learn. I find it better described as “The Comic-Con for soccer nerds.”
Coaches from all over the world gather to experience a wide array of events. This includes lectures, workshops, field sessions, product demonstrations, licensing events, round-table forums, and even the MLS Super Draft. With all of the options available, it’s impossible to experience everything you could want, but what you do experience is sure to be of value.
Personally, I packed everyday full with as much as I could, but the big highlight for me was Romeo Jozak, the Technical Director for the Croatian Football Federation.
I attended a field session of his and a lecture focused on “Dynamic and Functional Technique” where he used the Philadelphia Union Academy U16 Boys team. It was extremely eye opening to watch these boys go through the session. Many of the kids couldn’t execute the simple technical requirements of the session, and really struggled with the functionality of the exercises. Romeo explained that the session being ran was a session they use for U10 Boys, and is an expectation among Croatian youth to have it mastered.
The session progressed and the technical flaws were exposed, but perhaps the most thought provoking aspect of the session was the introduction and wrap-up.
The common movement, and coaching buzz-term, in American soccer right now is “The game is the teacher.” It’s actually an American mandate by US Soccer’s Director of Coaching, Dave Chesler. Yet, the Croatian Technical Director had a much different take.
Romeo explained a point that many coaches miss with this key concept. He equated it to a book and explained that the book might be the best way to teach you the subject. It has all the knowledge and aspects you need to know about the subject and can give you everything you need to succeed. The issue is, how good is the book if you don’t understand the language?
The game might be a great teacher, but it’s up to coaches to teach the language of the game, the foundations of the game. In this aspect, the teacher is the teacher, not the game. The coach is the teacher, and is meant to provide the basic understanding so players can interpret the game how they see fit.
Later in the lecture portion, he explained that if the book is the teacher, and to understand it you need the knowledge of the language, then the U16 Philadelphia Union Boys hadn’t been taught the letter A yet.
This is in the same vein as my last blog post, “Technique Before Tactics: A Skyline Foundation.” If technique is to be taken care of by 14, as the last post mentions, then some of the top young players in our country are already drastically behind. It was explained in the lecture portion that the United States Youth National Team has never lost to Croatia at the U14 level. We beat them every single time. At the same time, the US has never beaten Croatia at the U19+ level. This begs the question, why?
The explanation was given that at the U14 level, much of the focus is on technical development and not winning in Croatia. The US can generally dominate at this level due to our athletic superiority. At U19, athleticism has relatively evened out and then it comes down to the ability to play the game. Our teams can’t match up because of the lack of technical ability and Croatia ends up beating us because of it.
It’s the same approach we are trying to build within Skyline. Athletes will win you soccer games at 9-12 years old. Soccer players win you games at U14+. This means the emphasis isn’t on what the results are of your team at 8 years old, but rather what your child will look like when they are 14. This player development approach is crucial for our club to understand at every level. Competition is important, winning is important, but player development is paramount and concern number one within Skyline.