Category: Soccer

Soccer turmoil, the meme

I don’t do social media memes, but here’s one I found on Twitter (courtesy @flight_19), that sums up the state of the American soccer pyramid.

I used to think this mess was a failure of leadership. But I think the leadership is doing exactly what it wants to do.

Pulled from @flight_19's Twitter feed. If credit is due elsewhere, leave a comment.
Pulled from @flight_19’s Twitter feed. If credit is due elsewhere, leave a comment.

Soccer turmoil, updated

Relatively few people are paying attention, but the US soccer pyramid is becoming clarified. The second-division NASL and the fourth-division NPSL are being squeezed. These two independent leagues have the most interesting independently owned teams in North America. But they are struggling.

After NASL and NPSL have been extinguished, I will probably have to find a new enthusiasm. I won’t be able to work up much excitement or interest in the bland, corporate soccer produced by MLS and its compliant partners, USL and the US Soccer Federation.

My friend Neil Morris gets a shout-out in this piece, too. He tweeted leaked press releases about our local club, the Carolina RailHawks, and its long-rumored re-brand to “North Carolina FC.”

(On a personal note, I post this in a world-weary state. I used to care so much about these topics, and right about now, I don’t care at all. I just want to read and fly airplanes.)

The tiers below MLS–and a number of the clubs that play in them–face future-altering decisions in the coming days.

Source: With lower tier of U.S. soccer on the brink, NASL and USL try to figure out future | FOX Sports

I got an F

screen grab digital coaching center
Jurgen and Jill, for now.

I added a certification to my CV today. I’m now the holder of an “F” coaching license from the U.S. Soccer Federation. This means that I completed a two-hour online course that imparted the best practices for coaching soccer to children aged 5-8.

I don’t have children, but in my role with Durham Atlético, a futsal club, I decided it’s important to begin acquiring credentials. We are planning to develop children’s programs in partnership with Parks and Rec of Durham, and we need to know what we’re doing. A couple of our player-volunteers have this certification, as well as the “E,” which is for children aged 9-12, and at least one other person is taking the “F” course, too.

The system of licensing coaches is a novel practice for Americans, but globally, soccer federations believe youth development is too important to be left to its own devices, whether it be an unregulated free market or an army of often untrained parents who yell at kids, play them when they’re injured, and favor their own children. Or, at a later stage of development, shady AAU programs that are little more than talent scouts for agents and shoe companies, or high school gym teachers who wouldn’t know a concussion if it hit them on the head.

Here in Durham, we take inspiration from the nation of Iceland, which charmed the soccer world during last summer’s Euros. The population of Iceland is scarcely bigger than Durham, yet this tiny nation advanced to the quarterfinals, claiming the scalp of England along the way. Here’s the key to the miracle:

Arrigo Sacchi famously suggested elite coaching should be open to people from any walk of life, from elevator operators to stockbrokers. At the end of the last century the Icelandic FA put this into practice. Bolstered by the TV money pouring into every Uefa country, Iceland set up an open, hugely popular training scheme. Currently this nation of 335,000 has around 600 qualified coaches, 400 with Uefa B licences, or one per 825 people. To put this into context, in England this number falls to one per 11,000.

The result is a spread of expertise right down to the lowest level. “Here you need a Uefa B licence to coach from under-10 level up and half of the Uefa B licence to coach under-eights,” Dagur Sveinn Dagbjartsson of the Icelandic FA says. This isn’t simply box-ticking. The Uefa B is one step off the level needed to coach a professional team in England. Yelling dads it ain’t.

That’s from The Guardian. For more on Icelandic football, here’s a piece (originally in Howler, but only coming up in a Guardian reprint) by Durham writer Davis Harper, who’s also a fine futsal player. (No discussion of Durham Atlético and Iceland can fail to mention Tash. –Ed.)

I may write more about the online “F” course at a later date. As it happens, my day job is as an IT instructional designer, so I have a professional interest in the quality of the pedagogy as well as its content.

Instructional design shop talk aside, the course showed some of the fissures and identity problems that afflict American soccer.