News Detail


October 22, 2012

By Steve Hoffman | Cal South Director of Coaching Education and Player Development
To read "Identification," the first part of this series, click here.

In our first article, I talked about the identification portion of Cal South Pro+ and how our Olympic Development Program is now part of a much bigger program. This week, I want to focus on what should be a key aspect of a player's growth.

Development is a word that should be the main focus for all youth coaches and players. However, while we all know this word is used a tremendous amount in the soccer community at large, that focus is generally on team development.

In an average calendar year, I spend a lot of time watching coaches and players trying to win games, which they do by developing their teams. This is not a bad thing, but it is of the utmost importance that we don't lose focus on developing individual players for the sake of wins and losses.

One of the most important pieces of our new Pro+ program is identifying the needs of our individual players, and then finding a way to enhance their abilities within the relatively small frame of time in which these players get to train with the Cal South Pro+ staff coaches. One of the biggest advancements to our program is that we have adopted a training-to-game ratio to our schedule, in which we will strive to have three to four sessions held to each game played.

In the past, Cal South teams have gone to events and played far more games than training sessions. What's wrong with that? Training and teaching the players becomes secondary to playing games, which internally drops the quality of those games. The players often end up going through the motions on the field, and there is no doubt that the value of the game is diminished.

We took the principles of our new training-to-game ratio to our Pro+ Summer ID camp held in July at Concordia University. We created a schedule of eight micro-sessions for the squads, which had them playing two games within a five-day cycle. This allowed us to put the main focus of the camp back onto the individual and small group training sessions.

We wanted to motivate the players to train at the highest level possible, so we invited U.S. Soccer National Staff coaches to not only observe sessions, but to conduct some as well. To give players another level of aspiration towards which to work, we also invited some top Division I college coaches to conduct sessions. Working with different types of coaches in a new environment gives players the maximum opportunity to develop.

I think we can all agree that in life, you develop not just on the job, but also when you are off the job. So, this summer we invited some special guests in to talk to the players. Cal South alumni such as U.S. National Team captain Carlos Bocanegra and other pro players such as Ashley Nick, the team captain for FC Twente in the Dutch league. The guests related how much hard work players must put in to reach their full potential in the game, and that everyone will have ups and downs, but you must learn from these experiences to develop as a person and a player.

Sports science is a becoming a large part of player development, so we invited sports performance speaker Joshua Michael Medcalf, CEO and founder of Train to Be Clutch. Joshua helped inspired and challenge the minds of our young players by giving them tools they can use whether playing or preparing for competition.

The high level of quality of the players in Pro+ truly makes these training sessions into a very competitive environment. Players are totally taken out of their comfort zone, which alone accelerates the learning and development of elite players.

The one sure thing you can do as a coach is to make your training sessions as demanding as the games you play on the weekends. In other countries, the average youth players compete in 30-40 games maximum a year. Currently, many elite players in our country are playing 70-80 games a year, which gives them hardly any time to develop their skills to prepare for the next game.

Our goal within Pro+ is find new, cutting edge ways to assist our elite players in helping them to develop and become the best technical and tactical soccer players they can be. I must emphasize that "assist" is the word Pro+ staffers prefer to use, always recognizing that the main source of development for these players should be at the club level. As a state association, we must do everything possible to help coaches gain more knowledge in all areas of the game.

Cal South is working closely with U.S. Soccer, and in 2011, the Pro+ ID camp purposefully did not invite National Pool players to take part, as one of our goals is in developing players that have not already been identified by U.S. Soccer. There is a lot of work to be done, but the end result will eventually be better players to help our country become the world power in soccer it should be.

Next week: Part 3 - Greater Inclusion Opportunities with Cal South Pro+