Below is a link to a very interesting article, written and posted by the http://www.Canadakicks.com website, which is dedicated to all things soccer and Canadian. The article highlights some unique aspects of the German soccer model, and some ways in which Canada can learn from – and copy off of – this model in order to improve our domestic player development.
The main aspect of Canadian soccer that the author feels needs to change is our coach education system. Specifically, the author is advocating that the Canadian Soccer Association create a Canadian National Youth License, with a curriculum centred around optimal training methods for talented players aged U8-U12. The rationale for the implementation of a National Youth License and coaching/teaching curriculum for talented young players is that these are the ages in which our players do not receive proper technical instruction and/or are not exposed to proper learning environments in which they can develop their tactical knowledge and speed of play. Players fall behind at these ages because there are no coaches who are adequately trained to properly optimally develop them.
I am 100% in agreement with the authors of this article. In 2006, when I was just getting started as a coach, I enrolled in the United States Soccer Federation’s National “Y” (Youth) License. At the time I knew very little about the course, but because I was working with youth players (U10-U12) I thought the course content would be very helpful and applicable to my work. Everything about the National “Y” License was impressive to me. In each of the first 5 days, the course focused on a specific age category, starting with U6 on Monday, U8 on Tuesday, etc. all the way up to U12 on Friday. The instructors were not just soccer coaches, but also teachers, child psychologists, and physical fitness experts. We learned about each particular age category’s unique characteristics, based on their stage of physical, psychological, and psychosocial development, and how best to structure the learning environment to be able to maximize players’ skill development throughout each stage. Also included in the course was video feedback, whereby we were recorded running our sessions and then watched the video while receiving feedback from the instructors and our peers. By the time of the final exams on the weekend, I was very confident and had gained a lot of valuable knowledge and insight into how to best train young soccer players. The experience was very rewarding for me and I am sure it has helped me tremendously in my career as a coach and fitness coach.
Based on this very positive experience, I have since been an advocate that all coaches working with youth players should take the USSF National “Y” Licence, and also that the Canadian Soccer Association should develop its own Youth coaching license. It has always struck me as odd that in Canada, so many of the coaches who work with our elite level youth players (aged U10 to U14) have National “B” and “A” Licenses, which have a curriculum focused almost exclusively on tactical training of elite players ages U14 and up. The knowledge and experience these coaches gained from the National “B” and “A” Licences, while certainly very valuable, is not at all applicable to the actual work they are doing if they work with youth players aged U10 to U14. Furthermore, because there is no level of credibility to distinguish which coaches are truly experts in working with youth players, we also have no way of ensuring that our elite youth players receive the best coaching and development available to them.
Of course, there are several factors which together have contributed, and are still contributing to the lack of optimal player development in this country. In my opinion, the creation of a Canadian National Youth Coaching License, as described in the article below, is one way in which we can improve coach education and, ultimately, player development in Canadian soccer.
I’d love to hear your opinion about this topic. Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.