I am extremely disappointed.
It has been more than 20 years since I started playing soccer in California. In the 90's, America was definitely the 'New World' in terms of world football. There was virtually nothing on TV or in the papers about it outside of the World Cup. Major League Soccer wasn't much more of a draw than a Minor League Baseball game. So, needless to say, the youth soccer system was 'recreational' at best.
The beautiful game is growing at a very high rate, here in the 'States. Our national teams are very competitive, some of our players are representing US well in the top leagues around the world. MLS is thriving and providing healthy competition for the NFL and MLB. It's looking good, sort of.
I'm hesitant to lay a blanket critique of youth soccer on a national level. I haven't observed every system. However, for the past 4 years I've followed my younger sister and her experience in club and High School soccer in the Murrieta/Temecula area. Based on what I've witnessed, I feel like my sister has been cheated, robbed of a proper education of 'The World's Game'.
Several of my coaches over the years remind me of the old Settlers. There wasn't much to go on. They just showed up to the New World with a desire to learn as we go. As far as soccer goes, we were all just feeling around in the dark or learning how to walk.
Now, I understand that nobody really knew what we were doing. We played kick and chase. We didn't know all the rules. We were lucky to have all the proper equipment let alone the fundamentals and strategy.
In 2014, things haven't changed much where it counts. The uniforms are nicer, the cleats are flashier, there's turf but, I'm still seeing the same lack of fundamental skill and strategy. My parents are paying more money than ever for my sister to play with 'high quality' clubs and yet, she's still not learning how to play the game properly.
I understand, we are still the 'new kids' in the world game and as a country, we're still searching for a soccer identity. It's a lot of work. Most of the parents don't even know what they should be cheering for outside of a goal. They don't understand that some of these coaches are wasting their time.
I hear 'rumors' that this coach played professionally in South America, this coach worked with Major League Soccer, and so on yet, none of them have taught my sister how to pass the ball, how to build an attack, how to occupy space, how to spread a defense, how to possess the ball. I still hear things like 'BOOT IT!', 'Chase It!', 'Don't Play With It!'. I can't help but question their legitimacy.
So, yea, I'm disappointed. I feel cheated. My sister and her friends and their parents have all been mislead. Our youth, the kids who could possibly represent our country at the World Cup one day, have been robbed. There's all this hype about how great these coaches are and every one of them has let us down.
So here's what I'm thinking about. Should we just feel disappointed? Is it just that the ones we trusted to teach us the game have failed to teach us? It's possible to be an outstanding player and not really be able to translate that to coaching.
Or should we be outraged? Have we been manipulated out of our time and money by 'coaches' and 'clubs' who never really knew the game in the first place? Was it just a chance to make a few bucks?
Is it sabotage? Do these guys want us to fail? Are they upset that they don't have what it takes to succeed themselves so they take it out on your children? Or do they just not really care to teach the fundamentals?
I don't know.
I love this game and what it's taught me about myself, about life. I'm proud of the strides we've made as a nation in growing the game. Coming from where I did, I can appreciate the time it takes to learn this game. I can be patient with the growth. I know we're not England. We're not Spain. We're not Italy, Germany, France. We are who we are.
It's time that we start applying responsibility where it belongs. If we want to be better, we must practice. However, if you don't know what to work on, you are wasting your time. That's where the coaches come in. It's time we start challenging these coaches. When you don't play the game correctly, good teams will make an example of you.
It saddens me to see that my sister just doesn't love the game like she used to. She seems confused and frustrated, hesitant to receive the ball because she hasn't learned what to do with it. Her instincts are great. She has a natural mind for the game but, I can see where she's conflicted. The coach is more concerned with being liked by the girls than coaching them.
She deserves better.
But this isn't about her.
It's about all the girls she's ever played with.
Every youth player who deserves a good coach.
Over the years I've seen a few very talented players who could be world class with even just a little direction, only to be let down by a coach who's just not good enough.