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July 20, 2012
Spain's bright future; U.S. U-20s; high school vs. club

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

Two weeks after Spain routed Italy, 4-0, to win Euro 2012 – following up on its 2010 World Cup and 2008 Euro titles – came a sign that Spanish dominance could have a long future.



Spain lifted its second straight European Under-19 Championship with a 1-0 win over Greece last weekend and has now won six U-19 Euros in 11 years.

The Spanish U-19s scored 11 goals in their five-game run to the 2012 title. Jesé Rodríguez won the Golden Shoe with five goals and scored the winner against Greece in the final. A Canary Island product -- like David Silva -- Rodriguez joined Real Madrid at age 14 and last summer made his first-team debut for Coach Jose Mourinho as a 64th-minute sub in a 4-1 friendly win over the Los Angeles Galaxy. Rodriguez has been playing with Real Madrid’s second division team but saw his first 10 minutes of La Liga last season.

Also worth keeping an eye on is winger Gerard Deulofeu, who joined Barcelona at age 9 and made one La Liga appearance last season. Deulofeu set up Rodriguez's gamewinner in the final. He scored twice in the 3-3 semifinal against France and struck the decisive penalty kick in the shooutout tiebreaker. Deulofeu played two La Liga games for Barcelona last season.

... Spain also won the last U-21 European Championship, in 2011, which qualified it for this summer's Olympic soccer competition, a U-23 tournament at which teams can field three overage players. Spain last qualified for the Olympics in 2000, when it beat the USA, 3-1, in a semifinal that included Xavi, Carles Puyol, Landon Donovan and Brad Friedel. Spain settled for the silver medal after losing the final in a PK tiebreaker to Cameroon.

... Spain's women reached the final of this year’s the U-19 European Championship, falling, 1-0, to Sweden in overtime.


* * *


U.S. MEN'S U-20s QUEST. The USA failed to qualify for the 2011 U-20 World Cup, missing the biennial tournament for the first time since 1995. Charged with putting the American U-20s back on track is Coach Tab Ramos, who represented the USA at the 1983 U-20 World Cup, the 1988 Olympics, and World Cups in 1990, 1994 and 1998.

Ramos took charge in October and to prepare for 2013 U-20 World Cup qualifying that begins in February is taking the team to Northern Ireland’s Milk Cup, where the Americans start off against Denmark on July 21 and Turkey two days later.

“We’re certainly going to Milk Cup hoping to win every game,” said Ramos. “At the same time, we’re in the middle of our evaluation process and we do believe we have a competitive group. We have a few players who have not been with us before, but I think they’re very good players and that they’ll contribute. (Read Ramos’ USSoccer.com interview HERE.)

Holden Fender (Marietta, Ga.), Kendall McIntosh (Santa Clara, Calif.), Mario Rodriguez (North Hollywood, Calif.) and Dillon Serna (Brighton, Colo.) are the first-time U.S. U-20 selections on the Milk Cup-bound team. For the entire roster, go HERE.


* * *


U.S. WOMEN'S U-20s WORLD CUP PREP. Coach Steve Swanson is holding his final camp with the U.S. U-20 women before the U-20 Women’s World Cup in Japan that kicks off Aug. 19. Swanson is using the July 15-30 in camp in Bradenton, Fla., to pare down his 24-player roster to 21 players.

The USA won the inaugural U-20 Women’s World Cup in 2002 and the fourth edition in 2008. It fell Nigeria on PKs in the quarterfinals in 2010.

“There’s also a lot of spirit in the team,” says Swanson, whose team was drawn into a formidable group with Ghana, China and Germany. “I think we’ve worked very hard at cultivating a strong team on the field, but a united, trusting and respected team off the field. It’s going to be a challenging environment in Japan. We play some awfully good teams, some teams that have equally strong preparations like we have.”

Read Swanson’s USSoccer.com interview HERE and check out the roster HERE.


* * *


HIGH SCHOOL vs. CLUB. Jeff Hartsell of South Carolina’s Post and Courier spoke with players, parents and coaches about the U.S. Soccer Development Academy’s banning players from high school ball.

Player Christian Jablonski is skipping his senior year of ball at Wando High School play for the the S.C. United Battery after doing both for three years: “What hurts the most is knowing that I won’t be able to have a senior season at Wando. It’s hard to give that up. ... With our academy, I get a chance to be in a very professional and elite environment every day, and that’s what I love. I want to be in that environment all the time."

Christian’s father Richard said, “I truly wish the adults could arrive at an accommodation that would allow the kids to do both, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Kids face divided loyalties between programs and coaches they love and respect. It’s an unfair burden to place on kids, the vast majority of whom will never play a minute for the U.S. national team.”

Battery executive director Clark Brisson said his club S.C. had “zero input” in the U.S. Soccer decision: “They are trying to improve the level for the elite player, that’s the goal. Whether we agree on how they are going about it or not, it doesn’t really matter at this point. … I don’t see why the two can’t co-exist. But that’s for higher-ups to make that decision.”

Read “Top soccer players forced to choose between high schools, elite clubs” HERE. ...

FURTHER READING

... Parents brawl after girls U-17 game in Greece, N.Y. 13WHAM.com


... "Positive Soccer Coaching: Five Dumb Things Coaches Do" by Edwin Torres Yahoo!Sports


(Mike Woitalla, the executive editor of Soccer America, coaches youth soccer for Bay Oaks/East Bay United SC in Oakland, Calif. He is the co-author, with Tim Mulqueen, of The Complete Soccer Goalkeeper, and More Than Goals with Claudio Reyna. Woitalla's youth soccer articles are archived at YouthSoccerFun.com.)

July 12, 2012
Kristine Lilly: Have fun and go after it (Q&A Part 2)

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

Kristine Lilly, the world record holder for national team appearances with 352, debuted for the USA at age 16 in 1987 and retired in 2010 at age 39. In Part 2 of our interview with the veteran of five World Cups and three Olympic Games, Lilly offers advice for young players and reflects on her youth sports and national team experience.



SOCCER AMERICA: What advice would you give to young players who are striving to reach the higher levels?

KRISTINE LILLY:
Go after it. If you want something, work at it. Surround yourself with people who can help you. Listen to coaches. Have fun with it and go after it.

Do other things as well. Don’t just be consumed with soccer. Any athlete in any sport in my generation did more than one sport.

SA: On the boys side, the U.S. Soccer Development Academy has prohibited its players from high school ball. And there are also cases on the girls side where they’re asked to choose between club and high school. Year-round club ball also limits their ability to play other sports. Your view?

KRISTINE LILLY:
I think it’s crazy. Telling kids they can’t do something that’s fun and part of their high school is crazy.

I think they’re trying to limit the number of games they’re playing -- and some kids are playing too many games -- and that’s the way they’re going about it.

But I think kids should be be involved in high school and having fun. And being a kid. One day you're not going to be able to play any sports and that stinks. So have fun while you can.

SA: At what point did you focus solely on soccer?

KRISTINE LILLY:
Not until I went to college.

SA: What sports did you play in high school?

KRISTINE LILLY:
Softball, basketball and soccer.

SA: You think playing the other sports helped your soccer?

KRISTINE LILLY:
I think all the sports I played growing up helped my soccer.

SA: When you played other sports did you still play some soccer?

KRISTINE LILLY:
I still did some soccer, definitely, but it wasn’t as consuming as it is these days. I played spring soccer. I’d do soccer stuff on my own. I’d play some indoor games.

SA: How did you get introduced to soccer?

KRISTINE LILLY:
My brother, Scott, who’s four years older, played. Whatever he did, I wanted to do, whatever sport was in season. We had town teams. I played for my parks & recreation teams.

SA: What do you think of the state of women’s soccer in the USA? The level of play, the progress of the national team. Obviously other countries have taken women’s soccer more seriously so there’s more competition …

KRISTINE LILLY:
I think there was always strong competition for the United States. When we won the World Cup in 1991 and 1999, it wasn’t easy. There were teams playing that were very successful. Maybe back then, the top 5 teams would compete for a world title, and now the top 10 have a chance of winning the World Cup, and that’s great for the game.

People are investing on the women’s side, and it’s growing, and there’s more interest. It’s been great and you can see that in the last couple World Cups.

SA: You played for every U.S. women’s national team coach -- Anson Dorrance, Tony DiCicco, April Heinrichs, Greg Ryan and Pia Sundhage – (besides Mike Ryan, who coached the first four U.S. games in 1985). Can you speak to playing for these coaches?

KRISTINE LILLY:
They were all different. They all had their strengths. They all had their weaknesses. They all had the opportunity to coach the top players in world and did the best they could.

It gave me a great opportunity to play for different people and see some different mindsets, some similar stuff. I grew as a player under each coach.

SA: Do you remember the first time you had a female coach?

KRISTINE LILLY:
In softball and basketball in high school. In soccer I don’t think I ever had a female coach until April Heinrichs [2000-04].

SA: Do you see an increase in women’s coaches in soccer?

KRISTINE LILLY:
Definitely, but we need some more women involved. I think it’s just a matter of time of more getting their foot in the door and feeling confident enough to compete with all the guys out there.

But you definitely see more female coaches and there’s definitely some great ones out there.

SA: Do you think it’s important for girls have female coaches.

KRISTINE LILLY:
I think it’s important for females to coach. I don’t know if it’s necessarily important for girls to have female coaches. What’s important is having a good coach. If you’re a great coach, the gender doesn’t matter.

What’s good for girls is to see that females are coaching to set an example if they want to do that one day.  It’s important for girls to see women doing things, whether it’s in the business world or playing soccer.

(Read Part 1 of the YouthSoccerInsider’s interview with Lilly HERE).


(Kristine Lilly scored 130 goals in 352 games for the USA in 1987-2010 and was a member of two World Cup and two Olympic championship teams. She played pro club ball in Sweden, the WUSA and WPS. Lilly won four national championships with the University of North Carolina. She's assistant coach of the WPSL Eite's Boston Breakers, runs the Kristine Lilly Soccer Academy and is the soccer ambassador for Korrio, an integrated sports automation platform developer.)

July 10, 2012
Clive Toye does Roald Dahl for soccer

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

Of individuals who have had an extraordinary impact on youth soccer in the USA, Clive Toye ranks very, very high on the list.

Toye brought Pele to the New York Cosmos in 1975. That propelled the North American Soccer League, which the Englishman helped launch in 1967, into U.S. mainstream consciousness and enabled the NASL to ignite the nation’s youth soccer boom.

During all his time of running NASL clubs, the former London journalist, besides signing the likes of Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto and Giorgio Chinaglia, sent his players and coaches into grass-roots America to spread the seeds for youth soccer: “Not letting a school go without a visit -- not letting a community miss the chance of a coaching lesson …”

His vision was an America with millions of kids playing soccer and although the NASL, for which he toiled nearly two decades, folded in 1985, the vision became reality.

Fitting then that Toye, who in 2006 wrote the wonderfully informative and entertaining NASL history, “A Kick in the Grass,” has now penned a children’s book: “Toby and The Greatest Game.”

If Roald Dahl had written a soccer book, one imagines it would read like this. The Chocolate Factory is the wonderful world of soccer. The witching hour comes when the young Cameron is doing homework on his computer. Suddenly appears – not a Big Friendly Giant -- but Toby, a magical talking soccer ball.

Toby has to “make sure all the other balls, my helpers, are in place … I am the soccer ball. The rest of them … well, they’re all part of me and I’m part of them.”

So Toby takes Cameron on fantastic journeys through the soccer world, past and present, on all continents. There’s Pele, Wayne Rooney, Lionel Messi, Joe Gaetjens, Eusebio, Michelle Akers ... Cameron gets to be a ballboy for Barcelona, witness Brazil’s first game (in 1914), enjoy a World Cup (while tortured by vuvuzelas) …

Young readers will finish the book well-educated on the history of soccer – but fear not that they’ll consider this assigned reading. There’s too much fun – and suspense – as Cameron helps Toby battle for soccer against the Mountain of Greed.

(“Toby and The Greatest Game” by Clive Toye, 2012. IUniverse, 126 pages. $11.95 softcover; E-book $3.95.)


(Mike Woitalla, the executive editor of Soccer America, coaches youth soccer for Bay Oaks/East Bay United SC in Oakland, Calif. He is the co-author, with Tim Mulqueen, of The Complete Soccer Goalkeeper
, and More Than Goals with Claudio Reyna. Woitalla's youth soccer articles are archived at YouthSoccerFun.com.)

July 09, 2012
Kristine Lilly: Good coaches create good memories (Q&A Part 1)

Interview by Mike Woitalla (from Soccer America's Youth Soccer Insider)

Kristine Lilly, the world record holder for national team appearances with 352, debuted for the USA at age 16 in 1987 and retired in 2010 at age 39. We checked in with the veteran of five World Cups and three Olympic Games for her insights on American youth soccer, past and present.

SOCCER AMERICA: What have you been up to since hanging up your cleats?

KRISTINE LILLY:
Raising two kids … I'm assistant coach of the Boston Breakers [WPSL]. I coach at my camps and give private lessons [Kristine Lilly Soccer Academy]. … I’ve built some partnerships. One is with Korrio. ... I give speeches, promoting the game. …

SOCCER AMERICA: Is there anything you remember about the coaching you got during your youth days that you think was especially important to your success?

KRISTINE LILLY:
I can tell you that most of what I remember was oranges at halftime. Sodas or drinks after the game [laughs]. And having fun. I have good memories. That means people were doing the right things.

A lot of the coaches I had back then were just fathers. Some didn’t know the game and some did. I was fortunate to have some good people around me all the time.

SA: Was there a point during your youth soccer that you realized you had the potential to play at the high levels?

KRISTINE LILLY:
I didn’t because when I was young there was no higher level. There wasn’t a national team until 1985. There was no Olympics, no World Cup for [women’s] soccer. College wasn’t really in my mindset when I was little. I didn’t know a lot about it.

I loved playing. I had fun. I competed in soccer. I played hard-ball baseball when I was younger. I played basketball. I tried gymnastics. I tried tennis. Sports were just the basis of what I did.

SA: And growing up in Connecticut you played on boys teams because they didn’t have girls soccer yet?

KRISTINE LILLY:
I played on boys teams growing up. They were just starting to have some girls teams, but I played with boys until high school.

SA: What influence did your parents have on your success in soccer?

KRISTINE LILLY:
They opened the doors for us. We were a very sports-oriented family. On weekends, sports were on TV. Football, any sport … bowling, baseball. We’d always have sports on.

And they’d let us try everything. They were very encouraging. If we wanted to try something, they’d say “OK.” The only thing was they’d say is, “You have to finish it. You can’t quit.”

If we didn’t like something, we had to finish it out. But they opened the doors for us.

SA: How different do you imagine your soccer experience was from today’s youth soccer environment?

KRISTINE LILLY:
If you’re talking 8, 9 to 12, I hope it’s not much different but I have a feeling it might be. Because I hear so much about clubs that are recruiting 10-year-olds and that’s really not what was going on when I was younger.

You played for your town team. Maybe if you were good you made the A team and they had a B team. So you represented your community and played within your area and for your state and moved on from there.

Nowadays I think it’s a little more consuming for the kids, which I think is a little bit unfortunate. What I hear is that kids are getting burned out early and that’s sad, because you shouldn’t be burned out at 12 years old.

SA: Do you think parents approach youth soccer differently now?

KRISTINE LILLY:
Parents now are probably a little more involved than mine were. Mine were involved but I didn’t realize it and they didn’t tell me to do something. Now parents are worried about whether their children are playing premier, or for this club or that club. I don’t really care. Is your kid having fun?

There’s only a handful of kids who are going to make it to the national level. There are a lot more doors open for college scholarships, which has created different avenues, and that’s a positive, but I think we shouldn’t lose sight on the kids and just make sure they’re having fun.

SA: What’s your coaching philosophy?

KRISTINE LILLY:
I believe in the basics. Passing, dribbling, shooting, heading. The proper technique. I teach that to young kids and to high school kids, and even with Breakers it's a big part of the training I do.

(Kristine Lilly scored 130 goals in 352 games for the USA in 1987-2010 and was a member of two World Cup and two Olympic championship teams. She played pro club ball in Sweden, the WUSA and WPS. Lilly won four national championships with the University of North Carolina. She's assistant coach of the WPSL Eite's Boston Breakers, runs the Kristine Lilly Soccer Academy and is the soccer ambassador for Korrio, an integrated sports automation platform developer.)

July 01, 2012
Parents should hush on the ride home

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

"What is your worst memory from playing youth and high school sports?"

That was the question posed to college athletes in a survey by Proactive Coaching. The overwhelming response was: "The ride home from games with my parents."

Children, not surprisingly, don’t enjoy a critique of their performance when they settle into the backseat. Who, no matter what age, would?

Imagine a rough day at the office -- an office that resembles a typical youth soccer game. Your boss screams instructions while you work and lectures you before and after. Then you ride home with your parents. They’ve witnessed your mistakes. So they offer you advice.

No matter how well-intentioned, their advice will likely register as admonishment. And they’re denying your desire – your right -- to wind down and contemplate your feelings on your own terms.

If a parent actually did have some advice for a young player that might help the child, after the game -- when the kids are physically and emotionally spent – is certainly not the time.

In that same survey, the athletes were asked what words from their parents they remembered most fondly. The by far most common response was, "I love to watch you play."


(Steve Henson wrote about the Proactive Coaching survey in his Yahoo!Sports ThePostGame column: “What Makes A Nightmare Sports Parent -- And What Makes A Great One.”



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