Monday, April 23, 2007

Sam's Blog - What Youth National Team Coaches Look for in Players - April 23

Sam’s Blog will be a weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. Sam Snow is the Director of Coaching Education for US Youth Soccer.

This weekend the Futbol Internacional tournament began in Alabama. The tournament is being played in six different cities across the state over a week’s time. The kickoff matches were played yesterday in Birmingham. The nations here with their U21 Women’s National Teams are USA, Argentina, Canada, China, Mexico and Trinidad & Tobago. I had the opportunity to meet with the coaching staffs of Canada, China, Mexico and the USA.

On a side note the coaches mentioned that they enjoyed meeting one another and discussing soccer issues together as typically they usually only meet after a match to shake hands.

I posed several questions to the coaches and discussions lasted a good hour and a half. The one question I’ll address here was – name some of the player traits you are looking for in a youth national team player. While they had some slightly different priorities based on the players available to them in their country the consensus was this list in priority order:
1. heart (a passion for the game)
2. a high level of ball skill
3. athletic ability, especially speed
4. imagination (creativity)
5. discipline

This is an interesting list.

You will note that there is no mention of tactics or team formation or even position played. Granted by this age players have settled into playing goalkeeper or two or three of the field player roles. That versatility on the part of the field players is expected.

Yes, a field player may come into the team with the predominate role of fullback or midfielder or forward, yet adaptability is prized. As to formations and tactics the coaches do expect the players to grasp the basics. But they feel they can teach the player new to the team the formation they will play and the team tactics. The team formation usually is one that they likely played with their club or college teams. The general tactics always are based on individual and group tactics. So if the players have been taught well in their clubs on the principles of play for soccer they will be ready to learn the tactics of the youth national team.

Do the five points above appear in your club’s player development scheme? Do you hit upon them regularly in your training sessions? I’ll have more for you from the discussion with these international coaches in the coming weeks.

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