February 15, 2012
Dribble on! ... High school more fun?

We need dribblers! ...

By Mike Woitalla (from Soccer America's Youth Soccer Insider)

We need dribblers! In response to Wednesday’s YouthSoccerInsider on curricula for American youth soccer, Brad Partridge of FC Florida pointed to a bit from the "U.S. Soccer Curriculum" he had issue with. In the second paragraph of the document, in the “Style of Play” section, a key element (Quick Transitions and Finishing) description begins with “Speed of play, avoiding over-dribbling …”

It’s the “over-dribbling” mention that’s the problem, as youth coaches can infer this means they should discourage youngsters from dribbling. Partridge believes, “U9 and under, encourage all players to dribble, dribble and then dribble some more.”

I agree with Partridge for several reasons, starting with that the fact that the lack of exceptional dribblers is one of the American soccer's biggest problems. And how do players turn into great dribblers? They try their moves thousands of times until they start working. Imagine how many times Marta or Lionel Messi “over-dribbled” while they learned craft.

A youth soccer environment where a child with a ball is greeted by shouts of “Pass It! … Clear it! … Boot it!” is one that discourages dribblers -- and dribbling is the first step to mastering all ball skills.
The USSF Curriculum reference to “over-dribbling” may be for the higher levels, but that it appears at the beginning of a document designed as a recipe for youth coaching sends the wrong message. Besides, when’s the last time we watched our national team and thought, “They’re dribbling too much!” More likely we see them unable to establish a rhythm of play because they lack one-on-one skills.

I would think a high-level coach would rather welcome a superb dribbler who needs to improve on decision-making than an unselfish player lacking in foot skills.

High school Fun. Mike Barr’s YSI “The case for high school soccer” produced an enormous amount of feedback and we’ll continue to cover the topic, which has heated up since the U.S. Soccer Development Academy’s move to a 10-month season that doesn’t allow for high school play. Several supporters of high school ball in Soccer America’s chat room and in letters to the editor make the argument that kids relish playing for their schools.

One reader shared an anecdote of a player who skipped his junior year of high school ball at the behest of his Academy club, but sits on the bench at every game, cheering on his schoolmates, and has vowed to quit his Academy team as soon as he seals a college deal. Then he’ll return to play high school ball his senior year.

REFS AND ARs. Randy VogtsYSI on when refs should overrule their assistants drew a protest from Robert Evans in his “For the Integrity of Soccer” blog.

FURTHER READING … An excerpt of Graham Hunter's new book, “Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World” on SI.com recounts Lionel Messi’s arrival from Argentina at age 12. Read it HERE. …

Tom Marshall of MLSSoccer.com checks in with 16-year-old New Yorker Nick Gaitan, who has joined Boca Juniors' youth program. Gaitan, who turned down an invitation to U.S. Soccer’s Bradenton Residency, spent much of the last two years in Argentinos Juniors youth system. “I’ve been a Boca Juniors fanatic since I was 5 years old,” said Gaitan. His father, Adrian, however, is a River Plate fan and they have to watch Boca-River games in separate rooms, “because we fight,” says Nick. Were he to make it to La Bombonera, Nick says his dad, who represented the USA at the 2007 Under-20 World Cup in Chile, would come to the stadium, “but he’d definitely not wear a Boca Juniors shirt.” Read Marshall’s article HERE. …

... The Orange County (Calif.) Register reports on an attempt to use soccer to keep kids out of gangs. About 1,200 students have been offered free tickets to a Chivas USA game if they have no unexcused absences, no reports of bad behavior, no failing grade at the trimester, and who obey their city's curfew laws.