VBR Star’s approach to developing players at younger ages, and goal of creating a pathway for players to reach the next level.
This is a one of the most highly debated topics in youth soccer and sports. One that can define a club’s long term viability, or short term success. As a parent of players, I understand the desire of wanting your child’s personal and team success. Being one of the more competitive coaches you will ever meet, I put my focus for players into being the best individually and showing improvement within the game’s controllables. I always define my competitiveness to players like this “I dislike losing more than I like winning”. But….with a game like soccer, what is losing? Does losing the game today, as a U12 player, define you within the landscape of your playing career? Can a player win, on a day that their team lost?
When speaking with many college coaches during the recruiting process for high school aged players, I tend to get similar response. They want to see a number of qualities from players, and usually very low on that list is the priority of being on a winning team throughout a youth career. Many want to see that the player enjoys the game, and that the player works hard to improve them self (is the player coachable?). Does the player show technical and tactical understanding, that helps with speed of play? Also, is that player a solid student-athlete?]
It is hard to say that winning is not a priority, but if you look at some of the best clubs in the world, their focus is on developing players to become professionals within their club. At VBR Star, our younger age teams (typically ages up to puberty, U11-U14) struggle to compete with clubs from larger populations. As a club, we are at a distinct disadvantage not having hundreds of players to choose from in each age group, but we do have more of an opportunity to retain players long term, with less higher level clubs in the area.
My goal, as the Director of Coaching & Player Development, is to de-emphasize athletic success at the younger age groups. Put the focus on players to be technically proficient, and tactically observant, so that when….because it will happen, when players grow into their athleticism, we want to be ahead of the curve.
Prime example: 2000/2001 Boys, I know that using them as an example is fine, because they have bought into my system. When I arrived in 2015 to Roanoke, this group of quality players had been struggling through their CCL experience at the bottom of the table. But with their desire to improve, and a bit of cleaning up the tactics, we were able to take that team to the State Cup finals, losing on a goal in stoppage time, to what some call one of the best youth teams to play in VYSA. At the end of the youth career, our players from our club of 750 kids, were at the top of their game, and college coaches saw it, pushing 15 of them into collegiate programs, most of whom will have an immediate impact as freshman because of their game understanding.
In the end, we are a club that believes in our development philosophy, and have instilled a culture in our players, that can and will breath success. Sometimes it is tough to see through the mud right in front of you, but looking at the big picture, it becomes clear.
We believe at Star, that players should play against like minded players, and that players should be playing with and against other players of similar skill level. The Club Champions League now provides this opportunity for our Elite teams and Championship teams alike, pushing kids through their development, and helping them achieve their long term goals.
Does is matter if you lose young? I would say no, but it does not feel good, which can push a player to become more focused. Winning should become a priority for players but wait until they are efficient and knowledgeable as players before the stress is put on them to win.