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September 17, 2013
Body Language Lessons from Klinsmann et al.

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

A few years ago I arrived at soccer practice in a bad mood for reasons I don't recall. The giggly girls hardly hit a decent pass during the warm-up rondos and I started barking.

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May 17, 2013
The Death of a Referee: Make it an Hour of Silence

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

"The yells and insults from the sideline from the parents make kids more violent.”

-- Utah referee Pedro Lopez, the brother-in-law of 46-year-old referee Ricardo Portillo, who died last week after being punched by a 17-year-old goalkeeper.

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March 16, 2013
'Crazier than it's ever been' (Jimmy Obleda, Fullerton Rangers, Q&A)

According to Jimmy Obleda, the 2011 NSCAA Youth National Coach of the Year, the U.S. Soccer Development Academy has made the youth soccer landscape an "absolute mess."

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

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March 01, 2013
The Great Halftime Pep Talk

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

If you're watching a game on TV, and a team stages a second-half comeback, you'll likely hear the commentators speculating on what brilliance the coach imparted during halftime, on what motivational technique he used:

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December 01, 2012
MLS should mandate minutes for homegrown players

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

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August 15, 2012
The Role Model Coach: Pia Sundhage

By Mike Woitalla (from Soccer America)

The sideline shots of coaches during TV broadcasts tend not show them in the best light. The ranting and raving at the refs. The futile screaming when unsatisfied with their teams. The sad, stressed-out grimaces that surely can't instill confidence in their players should they glance toward the bench. Then there's Pia Sundhage.

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August 10, 2012
High school ban hits hard in Manhattan

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

Martin Jacobson is likely the most renowned high school soccer coach in the USA as his success with inner-city New York kids, at a school dubbed "Horror High" by the tabloids, has been well-documented by media outlets, including CBS's "60 Minutes."

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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?"

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May 26, 2012
Mooch Soccer: An inner-city success story

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

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May 17, 2012
Bayern beats Chelsea in youth matters

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

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April 24, 2012
Playing in 'small spaces' and speaking of Barcelona

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

"I think we really need to get better in small spaces," said Claudio Reyna, U.S. Soccer’s Youth Technical Director, in the wake of the U.S. men's failure to qualify for the Olympics.

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March 30, 2012
Different paths to stardom (Sebastian's Story)

What especially impressed the South Carolina youth coach about the boy wasn't what he did with his Carolina Elite club - although Andrew Hyslop was very impressed -- it was the soccer Sebastian Velasquez played own his own.

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

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February 28, 2012
'Not every kid wants to play high school' (Q&A Leigh Cowlishaw, Richmond Kickers)

The Richmond Kickers have announced they will be covering the costs of players on their U.S. Soccer Development Academy teams. We spoke with Leigh Cowlishaw, the Central Virginia club's Director of Soccer, about the impact he expects from the move -- and the Academy's new 10-month season, which keeps its players out of high school ball.

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

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

We need dribblers! ...

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

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January 08, 2012
Thanks, Manny Schellscheidt!

Perhaps no man has had as great an influence on as many American coaches as Manfred "Manny" Schellscheidt, who retired in 2011 at age 70.

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

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December 14, 2011
Tackling gay issues in sports

The hardships faced by gay teens inspired the coming-out of former University of North Carolina star David Testo after nearly a decade of pro soccer in MLS, the USL and NASL. We contacted longtime soccer coach and journalist Dan Woog, the author of five books on gay and lesbian issues, to comment on the importance of pro athletes coming out and to offer advice for coaches on how to combat the homophobia that can torment gay and questioning teens.

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

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November 20, 2011
If MLS wants kids to watch ...

How do you, a youth coach, address your players when they're victims of bad fouls, brutish opponents or bad refereeing?

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

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September 13, 2011
Growing pains: Girls face challenge of the 'commotional' years

Age-appropriate coaching has been cited as extremely important in player development. The Youth Soccer Insider begins a series on this topic with a look at the challenges faced by female players as they transition into their teen years by checking in with Tad Bobak, one of the most experienced and successful girls coaches in American youth soccer.

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

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September 05, 2011
For Kids Only

This column is for the kids. Adults can stop reading now.

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

Dear Soccer-Playing Children of America,

The fall season is underway and I'm hoping you're having a great time. I'm hoping that you're playing soccer more than you have to stand in line and do drills.

Read more...



August 28, 2011
Mexican clubs cast net over U.S. talent

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

Jose Nino's hopes of attending a four-year college hit a roadblock. The $11,000 from Pell and Cal Grants the 18-year-old is eligible for doesn't cover all the college costs.

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August 14, 2011
Can Klinsmann make a grass-roots impact?

Before Jurgen Klinsmann's debut as U.S. coach against Mexico, ESPN's Julie Foudy asked him, "How would you define success over the next three years?" It's noteworthy that Klinsmann steered his response to youth soccer:

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

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July 30, 2011
Voices from Ajax Amsterdam: 'Everyone here wants the ball'

Ajax Amsterdam, having produced players from Johan Cruyff to Wesley Sneijder, is considered by legions of American youth coaches as a model for youth development.

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

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July 19, 2011
Do we get another Mia?

One thing great soccer players have in common is that they grow up with a favorite player or two whom they idolize and emulate. In the backyard or on the field, they pretend to be that player, mimicking his moves or trying to score the way their hero does. They wear his number, perhaps get a replica jersey, or even a similar haircut.

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

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July 07, 2011
Wilmer Cabrera: U.S. boys are immature

For the 13th time in 14 appearances, the USA returned from the U-17 World Cup in Mexico without a win in the knockout stage, losing 4-0 to Germany in the round of 16 after going 1-1-1 group play. We spoke to Coach Wilmer Cabrera about his team's performance, the future of the U-17s residency program in Bradenton, and player development in the USA.

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

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June 28, 2011
Bayern's approach; England's birthdate issue; U-17s super Koroma

Bayern Munich's youth program has produced current German national team stars Philipp Lahm, Thomas Mueller and Bastian Schweinsteiger. The 40 top players that came out of its academy in the last 12 years have a total market value of $320 million.

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

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June 23, 2011
Former U-17 coach Roy Rees: USA should be further along

How many players on the U.S. team currently competing at the U-17 World Cup in Mexico will make a significant impact on the full national team?

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

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June 15, 2011
Game-fixing; Turf wars; Silly ref gesture; case for school ball

The coach of an Omaha FC U-13 girls team resigned after it was revealed he instructed his team to allow the opponents, a team from the same club, to score the game-winning goal that would send them to the state final.

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

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June 03, 2011
The high-school dilemma; Fair play or not?

One of the most unfortunate aspects of American youth soccer is forcing kids to choose between club soccer and high school ball.


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

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May 05, 2011
The latest coaching recipe

For the second time in six years, the U.S. Soccer Federation has produced a handbook designed to improve youth coaching in America. Claudio Reyna, the USSF's Youth Technical Director, unveiled the "U.S. Soccer Curriculum" in April. It offers specific, age-appropriate guidelines on how to run practice sessions throughout a season. The aim -- besides turning the USA into the soccer world power it certainly has the resources to become -- is to coach children in a way that helps create an American style of play.

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

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April 05, 2011
Lecture them not

If being told how to play enabled children to master soccer we'd have an excess of great players and superb teams. The game, it is so obvious, is the best teacher. That's not to say the coaches' choice of words doesn't have an influence. The question is how a coach can communicate with youngsters to help them improve, inspire them, and make their soccer experience an enjoyable one.

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

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March 10, 2011
Tab Ramos: Keep the parents at bay

Tab Ramos, considered one of the USA's most skillful players ever, played for the USA at three World Cups, two Copa Americas, and in the Olympic Games. Two years after retiring in 2002 from a playing career in Spain, Mexico and MLS, he founded the New Jersey youth club NJSA 04. In 2008, he coached the NJSA 04 Gunners to the U-14 U.S. Youth Soccer national title, marking the first national championship for a New Jersey club in two decades.

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

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February 22, 2011
Reinventing the Soccer Ball

It seems to me that playing soccer with different kinds of balls is good for children's skill development. I don't have scientific evidence for this, but a lot of anecdotes from great players. Pele played with a grapefruit and a sock stuffed with paper when a proper ball wasn't available. Diego Maradona walked to school kicking an orange or crumpled-up paper. Claudio Reyna played one-on-one with his brother in the basement using a Nerf-type ball and kicked against the ball with one of those plastic bouncy balls you find in drug-store bins.

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

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November 18, 2010
A season ends; reflections begin

Today is soccer practice day, but it isn't because the season ended last weekend.

So I'm not checking which balls need to be pumped up, if the first-aid kit is in order, or if the pinnies and goalkeeper gloves are back in the coach's bag. (Which reminds me, are you ever supposed to wash those pinnies?)

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

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October 20, 2010
Crucial for Coaches: Injury management know-how

To coach young children where I live, I had to get licenses from a couple of coaching courses that totaled five days of instruction. We were taught all sorts of drills -- a few of which resembled soccer-playing -- and were given some useful tips. Like keeping plastic bags in your coaching bag in case you need to pick up dog poo before practice.

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

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October 19, 2010
Champion coach Albertin Montoya puts winning in perspective

On a sunny September Sunday, Coach Albertin Montoya watched his Gold Pride players, including the magnificent Brazilian Marta and U.S. world champion Tiffeny Milbrett, celebrate the WPS championship after a 4-0 win over Philadelphia

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

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May 30, 2010
High school soccer still gets short shrift

Long gone are the days when soccer in the USA existed on the fringes. Its massive popularity among the nation's youth, among other factors, moved it deep into the American mainstream. So it's easy to forget there are still battles to be won.

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

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April 25, 2010
How Reyna can really make a difference

When U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati announced the hiring of Claudio Reyna as Youth Technical Director, they spoke much of learning about player development from foreign clubs. That's the least crucial element of Reyna's quest to improve the youth soccer environment in the USA.

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

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February 02, 2010
From the kids, literally


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

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January 20, 2010
The path to fame and fortune is ...

An expanding MLS and increased interest in American players from foreign clubs have created more paths to pro stardom than ever for the nation's elite youth players, for whom college ball can also serve as a springboard.

By Mike Woitalla (from the January 2010 issue of Soccer America)

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January 02, 2010
Adults and their funny instructions

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

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December 08, 2009
A Nation Gone Tournament Mad

If you've been wondering why tournament play has become such a major part of the youth soccer experience, follow the money.

By Mike Woitalla (Soccer America Magazine)

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October 06, 2009
Why is scrimmage dessert?

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

It seems to be conventional wisdom that scrimmaging - letting children actually play soccer - is something that should happen only at the end of practice. It's promised to them like a dessert, the reward for eating the broccoli.


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September 20, 2009
For Kids Only ...

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

This column is for the kids. Adults can stop reading now

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September 03, 2009
The Real Problem with Women's Pro Soccer

The first season of the Women's Professional Soccer league produced smaller crowds and bigger financial losses than anticipated. Of course, the nation's economic downturn has been blamed, and the analyses of the league's struggles have focused on off-the-field issues.

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

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September 01, 2009
The Internet Impact

The game will always be played on the field, but everything that leads up to it has become easier thanks to high technology.

By Mike Woitalla (from the September 2009 issue of Soccer America)

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August 01, 2009
Getting 'em while they're young

The age at which players are being offered college scholarships is getting younger and younger. Not everyone believes it's a healthy trend.

By Mike Woitalla (from the August 2009 issue of Soccer America)

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July 15, 2009
AYSO: Where The Volunteer Model Lives On

In an era when so much of youth soccer has become profit-driven, the 45-year-old American Youth Soccer Organization continues to provide low-cost play for children thanks to its steadfast belief in volunteer coaches.

By Mike Woitalla (from the July issue of Soccer America)

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June 15, 2009
Reality TV Uncovers Missed Talent

The story of this year's winner of "Sueno MLS," soccer's answer to "American Idol," underscores how high the odds are stacked against low-income children in American youth soccer.

By Mike Woitalla (from the June issue of Soccer America)

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May 15, 2009
The Girls Game - Higher Expectations

Anson Dorrance, the USA's first world championship coach, and Pia Sundhage, its latest, share their views on how American girls soccer can keep getting better.

By Mike Woitalla (from the May issue of Soccer America)

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April 15, 2009
MLS Shakes Up Youth Game

North Texas provides an example of how the youth landscape is changing now that MLS has entered the fray.

By Mike Woitalla (from the April issue of Soccer America)

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March 12, 2009
The Camp Economy's Wide Reach

Soccer camps are a big part of the nation's multi-billion dollar summer camp business and impact several levels of the American game.

By Mike Woitalla (from the March issue of Soccer America)

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February 20, 2009
Field Play Makes Better Keepers

Is the USA's ability to produce great goalkeepers threatened by early specialization?

By Mike Woitalla (from the February issue of Soccer America)

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December 30, 2008
Youth Beat: It's Wonderful To Win, But ...

There's universal agreement that a results-driven approach to youth soccer is a detriment to player development. And although ignoring the scoreline is easier said than done - it's worth the effort.

By Mike Woitalla (from the December issue of Soccer America)

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December 09, 2008
Beware of Brits Bearing Baloney

Soccer America columnist Paul Gardner comments on the ever-increasing involvement of British clubs in American youth soccer: "There is something distinctly offensive about this attempt to palm off on U.S. coaching systems and 'methodology' that have failed to measure up in England."

Read the whole column HERE.




December 01, 2008
Dealing with sideline abuse

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

Brian Hall became a referee at age 13. He earned his FIFA badge at age 31, officiated at a World Cup and numerous major international tournaments, and earned MLS's Referee of the Year honor four times. But most teens who take up refereeing don't last very long.

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October 14, 2008
Why Sideline Screaming Can Stifle Your Child's Game

By Mike Woitalla from AYSO's PLAYSOCCER Magazine.

Imagine you're undertaking a fairly difficult task: assembling a piece of furniture with hieroglyphic instructions, filling out IRS Form 4562 on April 14, or standing on the highest rungs of a ladder painting the crown moulding in your living room with 14-foot ceilings. Think it would help if someone yelled at you during the process? Of course not.

Yet when a child tries to control a bouncing ball in a crowd of other kids, adults often believe it's perfectly acceptable to scream "advice." The shouting at America's soccer fields is so epidemic one wonders if adults ever reflect on their behavior. Adults who would never shout at children while they're enjoying the playground, drawing in a coloring book, or rearranging their dollhouse, loudly instruct from the sidelines without hesitation.

Read more...



September 01, 2008
Refs' Difficult Job Made Harder

As U.S. Soccer works on improving the nation's refs, their job isn't made any easier by coaches, parents and TV commentators.

By Mike Woitalla, Soccer America Magazine

Of course, it's wonderful that there's so much soccer on American television. Young players watch high-level soccer, then take the field trying to emulate it.

Let's just hope they're not listening too closely to the commentary, which frequently encourages the kind of soccer that we don't want from our young players - or from any players, for that matter.

Read more...



August 15, 2008
Selling shirts or star searching?

Foreign clubs are getting involved in American youth soccer, which makes one question what they're after and whether we want what they're offering.

By Mike Woitalla, Soccer America Magazine

The annual Dallas Cup attracts top youth clubs from around the world, but it's not always easy to tell from which country the teams hail, based on their name or uniform.

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June 20, 2008
How the screaming hurts

What makes the epidemic of sideline shouting particularly egregious is that the instructions are usually misguided.

By Mike Woitalla (Soccer America Magazine, June 2008)

What better venue for an endless array of amusement and bemusement than the youth soccer field? Much is predictable, like the adult sideline behavior, but the unexpected never ceases.

Read more...



May 20, 2008
Youth Beat: U.S. mix better than ever

Soccer shed its reputation as a foreign sport thanks to the youth participation boom that started in the 1970s, but new waves of immigrants continue to enrich the game.

By Mike Woitalla (Soccer America Magazine, May 2008)

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May 18, 2008
Pros and cons of the southward pipeline

What will the effect be on U.S. soccer as young Mexican-Americans continue to find opportunities south of the border?

By Mike Woitalla (Soccer America Magazine, May 2008)

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April 24, 2008
Measuring Youth Development Progress

MLS expansion challenges American youth soccer to produce exceptional players at a higher rate.

By Mike Woitalla (from Soccer America Magazine, March, 2007 issue)

Major League Soccer, aware that it must raise the caliber of its play as it enters its 13th year with 14 teams, increased the limit of foreign players allowed on each team's roster to eight.

There will always be sound reasons for a healthy presence of foreign players in MLS. The diversity adds spice, attracts global interest and helps raise the level of domestic players. Italy, Spain and France, for example, produce brilliant players at an impressive pace yet their leagues are brimming with foreign players.

But MLS's current need for imports has much to do with the fact the USA isn't developing enough players to meet the demand. The challenge of filling rosters with high-quality players will grow as the league does, to 15 teams in 2009 and 16 in 2010.

Read more...



March 12, 2008
Tackling Pay-to-Play

Lifting the cost burden off players remains the big challenge for elite youth clubs.

By Mike Woitalla (from Soccer Magazine, February, 2008 issue).

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February 25, 2008
A Different Approach

A replica of the French federation's youth development program may not be feasible in the USA, but some key aspects of the system are worth considering.

By Mike Woitalla (from Soccer Magazine, February, 2008 issue).

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January 29, 2008
Total Soccer for Children

When should coaches start assigning specific positions to young players?

By Mike Woitalla (from Soccer America Magazine, January 2008 issue)

We see it so often one wonders whether American youth coaches are getting their soccer advice from Garry Kasparov.

"Kids come up to the halfway line," says Sam Snow, U.S. Youth Soccer's Director of Coaching Education, "and actually balance themselves not to go past it, because they suddenly realize, 'Oh my god, there's the line that I'm not supposed to go past.' Their arms are swinging, it's almost like they're on a balance beam or something."

It's a prime example of overcoaching - prevalent even though it's generally agreed that pickup games or street soccer spawned the world's greatest players.

Read more...



January 09, 2008
Let them dribble

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

It's one of the most common screams heard on the youth soccer fields of America: "Pass it! Pass it! Pass it!"

Unfortunately, parents and coaches often aim their shouts at young players who are at a stage of their development when they should be encouraged to dribble.

Becoming a confident dribbler is the first step to developing a comfort on the ball necessary to be a good passer and shooter. Discouraging young players from dribbling is like telling toddlers to shut up when they're learning to speak.

Read more...



December 01, 2007
Coaching with Cones

By Mike Woitalla (Soccer America Magazine, 2002)

Near my house, there's a wonderful park with two playgrounds and a pond with geese whom you shouldn't feed, because they get aggressive and chase toddlers in hopes of a handout. There's a meadow large enough to handle three soccer practices for young children.

Here come the coaches and the cones. Not a few cones for goalposts, but orange funnels everywhere. What will they do with them?

Read more...



November 17, 2007
Go Abroad, Young Man?

Interest from foreign clubs in teenage American players is at an all-time high and an increasing number of youngsters are considering leaving their homes to pursue their soccer dreams aboard.

By Mike Woitalla (from Soccer America Magazine, November 2007 issue)

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September 28, 2007
Brilliant Brazil exposes inconvenient truth

By Mike Woitalla (from Sept. 28 SoccerAmericaDaily)

Regardless of which keeper stood between the U.S. posts, what mistakes Coach Greg Ryan made or the red card to Shannon Boxx, the difference between the teams in Brazil's 4-0 rout of the USA was skill. Dribbling, trapping, shooting, passing. Brazil topped each category. And Brazil entertained.

Read more...



September 25, 2007
U.S. Team Winning Games, Not Style Points

Click HERE to read my column in the New York Sun on the USA's performance at the Women's World Cup.




September 20, 2007
Why the Academy?

By Mike Woitalla (Soccer America Magazine)

Whether to pursue entry into U.S. Soccer's Player Development Academy wasn't an easy choice for many of the nation's top clubs, particularly in areas like North Texas and Southern California, where clubs are already entrenched in highly competitive leagues. Don Ebert, Director of Coaching of the Irvine Strikers, explained why his club decided to enter the U.S. Soccer league for U-16 and U-18 boys.

Read more...



August 23, 2007
Ignored by USA; welcomed in Mexico

Edgar Castillo, who was born and raised in the USA, debuted for the Mexican national team on Aug. 22. The 20-year-old explained why he chose to represent his ancestral country rather than the USA: "I have dual citizenship. I am a Mexican-American. And I decided to play for Mexico because the other side never called me."

When Edgar was a young teen growing up in Las Cruces, N.M., his Strikers FC coach Linda Lara scraped up money to send him to ODP tryouts. She said the response she heard from ODP coaches was, "He's so small. He's so small."

But Castillo, now 5-foot-9, tried out for Mexican First Division club Santos Laguna in 2005 and has been a starter since January of 2007. Still, he received no contact from the U.S. national team program.

The U.S. national team fields players who are subs on their European clubs or see no league action at all. Yet its coaches don't even show interest in a Mexican First Division starter.

That just doesn't make sense.

(I wrote about Castillo and other Mexican-Americans heading south in the May issue of Soccer America: Young U.S. Talent Heads South).





August 17, 2007
Best Practices

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

What's really important about the U.S. Soccer Federation's ambitious move into youth soccer isn't just the U-16 and U-18 boys leagues of its new U.S. Soccer Development Academy.

For sure, taming the wild west of youth soccer that overburdens elite teen-age players is a crucial part of steering player development in a better direction. And expanding the player identification process by incorporating the nation's elite clubs into the national team program should decrease the chances of missing young talent.

But what will make the most profound impact is whether U.S. Soccer succeeds in its stated goal to change the approach to how the nation's very young players are coached. The Academy launch, stress its architects, is only the first step in their quest to change the youth soccer culture in the USA.

Specifically, U.S. Soccer aims to have youth coaches adopt the Federation's Best Practices Player Development Guidelines.

Read more...



August 16, 2007
Taming the Wild West

Creating the U.S. Soccer Development Academy is the USSF's first step in trying to take advantage of the strengths of American youth soccer while tackling its flaws.

By Mike Woitalla (From Soccer America Magazine)

If boys youth soccer continued along its current path, it's safe to say we'd be getting more of the same. Lots and lots of decent players, and a handful of brilliant players. Is that acceptable?


It shouldn't be. The USA is a giant country with tremendous resources and millions of players. There's no reason why it shouldn't be churning out world-class players the way countries like Brazil and Argentina do. But with all the growth at the grass-roots, with all the self-proclaimed highly competitive leagues and tournaments that spread through the nation like kudzu, with thousands of youth coaches earning good money to "teach" our kids how to play, how often do we produce the truly exceptional player?

Read more...



August 13, 2007
Marketing to the youth crowd

Click HERE for a piece I wrote for the Oakland Tribune on pro soccer in the San Francisco Bay Area and marketing to the youth soccer crowd.





July 27, 2007
Time for a Children's Revolt

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

Some of the things I've heard adults yell at children at soccer games are just downright hilarious. Like the coach who yelled at a 6-year-old, "Give him a target on the flank!"

Oh, how I wish the kids would start shouting back. Go ahead and give an earful right back to the loudmouths on the sideline.


Read more...



July 25, 2007
A case for U.S. Soccer's 'Best Practices'

From Soccer America's "Youth Insider:"

By Mike Woitalla

What's really important about the U.S. Soccer Federation's ambitious move into youth soccer isn't just the U-16 and U-18 boys leagues of its new U.S. Soccer Development Academy.

Read more...



June 12, 2007
The Perils of Profit-Driven Coaching

Convincing parents to pay for professional coaching is like picking low-hanging fruit. So what does that mean for the children and how this country is developing players?

By Mike Woitalla (From the June 2007 issue of Soccer America Magazine)

The next time you attend a youth soccer practice or game, pay close attention to how much time passes without hearing at least one adult telling the children what to do and how to do it. Also, time how much actual soccer the children play during a practice session.

Read more...



June 07, 2007
What the Future Holds for Youth Soccer

By Mike Woitalla (From the June issue of Soccer America Magazine)

Let's look into the future of American soccer, shall we?

Major League Soccer had been going strong until the coaching shortage, the top guys having moved to youth soccer, because that's where the real money is.

The Dallas Diaper Demons won the first Under-2 U.S. National Championship in a hard-fought victory over the Chicago Crawlers, whose star playmaker was ejected at halftime for tossing his sippy cup at the referee.

"He didn't deserve more than a two-minute timeout!" complained the Chicago coach. "The cup was empty!"

The Dallas coach was unavailable for comment because the Diaper Demons had to catch a flight to the West Coast, where they're competing in the College Coaches Super Showcase Invitational. But the club's director was on hand to praise the new national championship.

"Without the incentive of a national crown," he said, "a lot of these kids would just keep playing rec ball. Then they arrive at our club with all sorts of bad habits that are hard to un-teach when a child is already 3 years old."

In fact, there are few recreational leagues left around the country, having been replaced by Soccer Academies, Soccer Schools and Soccer Factories.

The number of volunteer coaches has dwindled to 18. Some cite the new requirement of completing an 82-hour H license course to coach above the U-5 level. Others credited the demise of the volunteer coach to the good sense of parents who really care and love their children.

"Parents have finally comprehended the fact that it's foolish to trust their children's soccer development to someone they're not paying lots of money," said the director of the Super Star Soccer Factory for Infants & Toddlers, one of the 191,870 professional trainer programs for kids around the nation.

The impact of the booming U.S. youth soccer business has been felt globally. The migration of British coaches to the USA leaves so many UK kids un-coached that Prime Minister Richard Branson has asked the U.S. government to cap H1-B work visas. U.S. Congress responded with a curt "no way," citing a new surge in demand for coaches to fill positions in the rapidly expanding Prenatal Soccer Camp industry.

(This article originally appeared in the June 2007 issue of Soccer America Magazine.)




May 31, 2007
New USSF youth plan would decrease reliance on ODP

The U.S. Soccer Federation looks set to dramatically decrease its dependence
on the Olympic Development Program, which is run by the state associations and
U.S. Youth Soccer. According to Washington Post reporter
Steven Goff, the Federation is creating a nationwide academy program and a national youth league for teenage boys that will involve up to 2,400 players at both the U-15 and U-18 age groups. "The federation plans to identify 60 to 80 youth clubs across the country," reports Goff. "Those clubs will then select players from the under-15 and under-18 age groups to participate in the academy."

Academy teams will play in a regionally structured national league in which the U-16 national team will compete. Goff reports that the plan,
reportedly approved by the U.S. Soccer Federation's board of directors, encourages each MLS club to field teams; that national team coaches will scout the games; and that teams will play a 36- to 38-game schedule, plus friendlies.

America's youth soccer landscape already includes national championships run by
U.S. Youth Soccer (cup and league), U.S. Club Soccer, the Super Y-League, and
Red Bull -- plus a myriad showcase tournaments. The USSF's ambitious move
into the grassroots level of player development has long had many advocates, but it will also further heat up what we call American youth soccer's Turf War.




May 22, 2007
The assault on free play: drills for tykes

"When play becomes beset by rules ... kids can lose their natural enthusiasm and willingness to try new things" is the response exercise physiologist Michael Bergeron gave when The Los Angeles Times asked his opinion on organized soccer programs for 3- and 4-year-olds. Reporter Jeannine Stein, who even tracked down soccer classes for 18-month-olds, noted that AYSO lowered its starting age to 4 in 2004. A Herald Community newspaper report on a "pro" coaching program for children as young as 2 quoted one of the coaches as saying, "It teaches them discipline." One mother described the lessons: "It's non-stop, they're always doing drills back and forth."

-- Mike Woitalla




April 20, 2007
Do we want Robinhos or Robots?

How over-coaching and the emphasis on winning stifle young American talent.

By Mike Woitalla, Soccer America Magazine

The little boy dribbled and kept dribbling. He had taken the ball away from the midfield pack and zoomed toward his own goal. This surprised the other children and allowed him to keep the ball to himself for much longer than any player had managed during this U-8 game.

Having put some 15 yards between himself and the other players, he slowed down and seemed to marvel at all the territory he now had to himself. He started making a wide U-turn and flashed a big smile.

He moved down the sideline and back into the other team's half, then put his foot on the ball and stopped. When a couple of his little opponents approached, he accelerated toward their goal and took a shot that nearly scored.

What creativity, improvisation and savvy! And in his smile was the joy of soccer.

So how did his coach react?

Read more...



April 19, 2007
Money Ball

The rise of paid coaches is just one reason why it commonly costs an American child thousands of dollars a year.

By Mike Woitalla, Soccer America Magazine

There are a lot of ways to spend lots of money on youth soccer.

You can send your 3-year-old to soccer ''classes'' for $30 a session -- if they don't conflict with his Ring Around the Rosey and Duck Duck Goose lessons.

For $75 an hour, a coach with licenses from three different countries can teach your 8-year-old ''technical ball skills in a nurturing one-on-one environment'' at a park near your home.

Got a spare $180? Hire a ''fully qualified coach'' to come to your kid's soccer game and produce a thorough evaluation of her talent.

Parents can eschew such expenses and kick the ball around in the backyard with their children. But other costs are unavoidable for the parents of children involved in competitive youth soccer.

Elite soccer clubs charge as much as $2,000 just to cover coaches' salaries and the club's overhead costs. On top of that are uniform and travel costs, and league registration fees.

A typical annual expense for a 13-year-old playing for an ambitious travel team is about $3,500.

Read more...



April 17, 2007
Where Are America's Black Coaches?

By Mike Woitalla (From the April 2007 issue of Soccer America Magazine)

LEADERS OF THE NSCAA Black Soccer Coaches Committee hail the increase of black players in mainstream American soccer -- but now await an increase in opportunities for black coaches. Hylton Dayes, the chairman of the BSCC, is the head coach of the University of Cincinnati and a Region II ODP coach.

Read more...



April 03, 2007
MLS YOUTH INITIATIVE: Innovation or Replication?

The USA, with its ever-changing demographics, is too big and too diverse to believe the current system can uncover all the soccer talent. ...

So does MLS's Youth Development Initiative signal the great new era of American soccer?

Read Mike Woitalla's Soccer America Magazine article HERE!




March 29, 2007
Youth Soccer Turf War

By Mike Woitalla

Do players benefit when an increasing number of organizations compete for a piece of the American youth soccer pie?

Read more...



March 24, 2007
Remember, It's Playtime

Taking the drilling and screaming out of youth soccer will make the game more enjoyable and create better players.

By Mike Woitalla, Soccer America Magazine

Let's take the approach so many adults bring to youth soccer to other children's activities.

Take a bunch of 6-year-olds to the playground, but don't let them scamper off to explore the different structures. Make them all line up and wait patiently to take turns on the monkey bars. If one of them wanders off toward the swings, scream at him.

Be sure to tell them exactly how they should climb. Yell at the slow ones to go faster. While they're hanging from a bar, shout at them to ''grab the next bar!''

Read more...



March 20, 2007
The Fruits and Flaws of ODP

By Mike Woitalla

Nearly three decades since the creation of the Olympic Development Program, the question remains: Are we finding the best players that this huge nation has to offer?

Read more...





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