Why I Am a Fan of Icelandic Soccer
As of today I am a new fan of Icelandic Football (soccer). While this country is not known as a soccer powerhouse, I recently learned about this incredible soccer landscape. This year at the NSCAA Convention, I was able to sit in on a session run by several gentlemen who run the majority of the programs for one of the more prominent clubs in Iceland, Breidablik FC. This club, founded in 1950, is the largest sports club in the Iceland. Although they offer several different sports, their primary focus in on the football and soccer teams.
The country of Iceland has a small population of 321,857, but boasts 90 soccer clubs with over 20,000 players and 575 professional coaches. Of these coaches, eight hold a UEFA Professional License, 165 hold a UEFA A License and 402 hold a UEFA B License. Their goal is to have one professional coach for every 50 players. With this high number of trained coaches, everyone benefits. Volunteer coaches have close access to the trained professional coaches, while players get a chance to see these coaches frequently. This has led to a significant number of players playing professionally in some of the highest leagues in the world, quite a feat for a country approximately 1/10 the size of the Denver Metro Area. Currently Iceland has more than 60 players playing in professional European leagues. The National team for both the men and women’s sides have had a high level of success in recent years. The women’s team just reached the quarterfinals in the UEFA Euro’s 2013. The men were a playoff win away from qualifying for the World Cup this summer, this would have been the smallest country to qualify for the World Cup!
Briedablik went into some of the aspects that they believe bring success to their players.
Players started playing with the club as early as U3 or a 2 ½ year old player. At the youngest levels, players were engaged in creative, fun and safe training regiments with the idea that if players had fun playing with the club they would then take that to their schools and neighborhoods and continue to play.
All clubs in the country were funded by government funds. This allowed them to build high quality training facilities and fields. The club can currently train all of their players year round without having to worry about fields or facilities.
Players at all levels intermingled with each other. From the professional players to the U3’s, everyone was involved at all levels of the club. The younger players would come out to watch the top teams play and some of the older players would coach or referee the younger players’ games. This created a connectivity throughout the entire club and helped breed the mindset that soccer was a lifestyle, not just a hobby.
Great coaches lead to great players. With high levels of coaching at all age groups, players were given a good foundation on which they could grow and develop. This included coaches and volunteers. The coaches were all encouraged to grow in their education and knowledge. Volunteers put in time and energy both on the field coaching and helping with many other tasks within the club. Everyone has a place and everyone has a job in helping development thrive.
While sitting through this lecture, I began to get very excited. I feel Skyline Soccer Association is doing many of the same things in order to help our players develop.
Our Grasshoppers program accepts players as young as 2 ½ and give them the same creative and fun training sessions that will lead them to playing outside of training sessions and create players who want to play for many seasons.
Skyline already offers programming for all of our players nearly every month of the year, but we are currently working on building a new indoor facility that will open up more training opportunities for our players.
With some of the recent changes made to team assignments, most notably at the U9 and U10 age groups, players are placed on teams with players they might not know as well. This will help develop a club wide unity and is a first step in helping players of all ages come together.
Skyline already has a great group of volunteer parents and volunteer coaches. We are working on improving our coaches education by offering more and more coaching education opportunities for the spring season and in the future. We hope all of our coaches take advantage of this so we can continue to raise the level of coaching that players receive.
All things considered, I am very excited for the future at Skyline as we can see the things Skyline is trying to implement work at some of the highest levels of soccer in the world! I also know the next time I am able to catch a Icelandic friendly, I will be cheering on the likes of Kolbeinn Sigporsson and Gylfi Sigurdsson. Help me cheer on the blue and white of Skyline as we continue to grow and I hope you join me in following the blue and white of Iceland!
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