Monday, June 11, 2007

Sam's Blog - Know Your Players - June 11

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.

Quite a body of information is presented in the National Youth License on age characteristics (for more insight into this coaching course click here).Those who attend the course improve their coaching skills and learn a good deal about the makeup of children. When the adults better understand the nature of these young players then they can adapt and interact smoothly with the children. This knowledge of the needs and spirit of kids also influences the decision making of the adults who shape the youngsters’ soccer experience. Most certainly those adults include coaches, but let’s not leave out the administrators, parents and even the referees. These four groups of adults are the pillars of youth soccer. They support, guide and influence the game. So they are obliged to know the distinctiveness and desires of the children whom they impact.

With this knowledge more decisions will be made in the best interest of the players. This outcome should be especially true of the policy-makers, the administrators. Team managers, club board of directors, state and national administrators who have gained a solid knowledge of the characteristics of players will make decisions on by-laws, rules and policies in the best interest of the players.

To be equipped to make such decisions soccer administrators are required to study child development and the basic components of soccer. Indeed as our club, state, regional and national offices become more professional there should be an expectation of professional qualification in order to hold these jobs. The soccer community in America expects the referees to be certified and the coaches to be licensed, so we should also expect administrators to be qualified. After all this is only good business!

The players are our customer base and all businesses have customer service as a core value. But the picture is not quite so clear in youth sports since the parents are the consumer, even though they are not the customer. In this instance the consumer buys the service (sign kids up for soccer), but the child is the customer who receives the service (the chance to play soccer). Both the customer and the consumer have a reasonable expectation here for the providers of the service to have some minimal qualifications. To this end the overwhelming majority of clubs and leagues offer, through the state association, education for coaches and referees. But what about the administrators? Yes, clinics and workshops are offered for the adults in the administrative role, but no formal pass or fail course is currently offered as is the case with the referees and coaches.

As an example at the state association level when a state Technical Director is hired the requirement is a playing and coaching background. Additionally there usually is a requirement of holding the “Y” License and perhaps the “A” License or Premiere Diploma too. In many cases the Technical Director also has a college degree in some field of the sports sciences. So should not the state administrator have a degree in Sports Administration, Sports Business, Sports Management or Sports Marketing? These expectations of professional qualification of fulltime soccer professionals must occur at the club level too. Indeed a growing number of the over 6,000 US Youth Soccer clubs across the nation have already met or exceeded these standards.

We continue to grow and evolve as a soccer nation. The four pillars of youth soccer – administrators, coaches, parents and referees – support and shape the sport. As these pillars of youth soccer come to better understand the players whom they serve then the climate surrounding those players will become healthy and vibrant. This enriching experience is our gift to our children.

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