Our Problems Aren’t New, Solutions Need to Be

By Tim Nash

Ok. Here are two quotes to consider. A little later on, you will find out who said them. They both deal with a couple of the hot player-development topics.

This first one relates to the heavily organized way young soccer players are trained in the U.S., the coach-centered structure that many believes gets in the way of players learning to be instinctive, creative and dynamic.

“Kids today think there has to be a coach present in order to play. They don’t just go out and play. We, as coaches, need to replicate free play in training.”

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Gianluca Busio Makes Early Move Toward Future Success

By Tim Nash

Darren Powell has made a career out of recognizing soccer talent, and he knew there was something special about Gianluca Busio when he first saw him.

Even if Busio was just five years old at the time.

“Gianluca and my son Caleb are the same age and played on the same team when they were little,” says Powell, the former coach at Elon University, former Academy Director at Orlando FC, and now the head coach of the USL’s San Antonio FC.

“Even as a five-year-old, he stood out on the field with exceptional technical ability,” says Powell. “He had the ability to run with a soccer ball with coordination and balance. It’s just looked very natural.”

So, Powell was among the people completely unsurprised on Aug. 24 when Gianluca Busio (jahn-LOOKA BOO-see-o), a quick, creative and versatile forward, became the second-youngest player ever to sign an MLS contract at 15 years and 89 days. His signing came on the heels of a five-goals-in-five-game performance with the U.S. U15 National team at the CONCACAF Championships earlier this month.

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At 30, McCall Zerboni Having Best Year Yet

By Tim Nash

“McCall Zerboni was brilliant again tonight.”

That’s what North Carolina Courage coach said after his veteran midfielder set up the first goal and scored the second in a 2-0 win over the Seattle Reign on July 8 in Cary, N.C.

But it’s not the first time Riley has uttered that sentence. He has coached Zerboni for three straight seasons now and has come to expect brilliance from the 30-year-old, nine-year.

“She just gets in great areas, her distribution is great, and she leads the league in winning duels and tackles,” said Riley. “But it’s her reading of the game that probably the most important thing for us. She picks off so many passes that are going into pockets. She starts the attack and she is very much on the end of the attack as well.”

The skills Riley describes – winning tackles, reading the game, covering group –come from years of experience and dedication to fitness. Zerboni’s professional career dates back to 2009 when she was drafted out of UCLA with the 48th pick of the old WPS draft. Since then, she’s played for six professional teams in three U.S.-based leagues.

“For me, it doesn’t get easier,” she says. “It’s gets harder so it requires more focus, more dedication and more sacrifice.”

The dedication and sacrifice have paid off. She says she is the fittest she’s ever been. But that doesn’t stop Riley from closely monitoring her. Continue reading

What I Hope Soccer Parents Understand

champs

By Tim Nash

I’ve coached girls youth soccer for a long time. And one of the reasons I still enjoy it is that every year I learn a lot.

Most years, I discover new ways to reach players, or figure out the pros and cons of certain styles of play. I learn different ways to teach technique and how to adapt to new twists in the game.

This year, I coached two teams — 04s (players born in 2004) and 03s (born in 2003). For those of you who don’t like math, the 04s were 12 or about to turn 13; the 03 were 13 or 14. Once again, I learned a lot, but the main takeaway from this year has to do with parents.

The other night, I was at a function that included my girls as well as some 10-, 11- and 12-year-old players and their families. While the girls played in the pool, I watched the parents from the younger teams interact with each other, the ones just getting started. They were having a great time reminiscing about the year. They talked about certain games, tournaments, hotels, team dinners, what a fantastic team they had, other teams they played. They spent nine months together and formed friendships that will go on for years. Continue reading

Is Academy Soccer on the Right Track?

 

By Paul Oliu

Something has gone awry with the Academy system.  Whatever the original intent as

Paul Oliu 2016

Paul Oliu is a former ex-writer, coach and dad. His articles appear from time to time on the 56th Minute

designed by US Soccer, I find the reality a bit troubling.  We were told that Academies are there to develop players.  We were told it is intended to elevate the quality of play.  We were told playing with an Academy IS the way to be the best soccer player.  Sadly, the difference between intention and reality could not be starker.  For the Academy system has become just another Ponzi scheme in the lexicon of US Soccer organizations.  I realize I may be in the minority here, but we should not be surprised by it in the least.

 

What has struck me the most over the past few years is the sad quality of coaching that is currently on the sidelines.  Having logged hours watching practices, I will say that our development of players are in the hands of coaches and trainers who lack experience, guidance, expertise, or all three.  The lack of quality is by and large accepted or ignored, and little organizational guidance is provided.  The lack of a coherent and structured curriculum creates a year’s worth of training into a hodgepodge of exercises without purpose.  The end result is players that individually may be very technical, but have the tactical awareness of a rock. Continue reading

Why Players Should be Lobsters

lobster

By Tim Nash

So, I heard this story the other day and decided to tell it to the two teams of 13-and 14-year-old girls I coach.

My players, most of them anyway, like story time. They have learned to expect something completely unexpected, and it often leads to an interesting conversation. Others, those on the other end of the “Things I Find Interesting Scale,” just listen and kind of give me that open-mouth stare while thinking, “What the hell is he talking about.”

Anyway, this story was an attempt to explain to my players one of the challenges girls that age face — getting out of their comfort zone and testing themselves in difficult environments. That is, after all, where the most progress can be made. But every time some of my girls go out on the field, they will place themselves in their comfort zone, that area of the field they are used to, the spot that offers no surprises.

I move them around, pull them aside and talk to them about trying new and different things, but they are sucked back to that familiar place. Everyone wants to do what they are good at, and that’s how they spend their time. It seems that the players who make the most progress are the ones who get mad at themselves for not being able to meet a new challenge. They will keep at it until they master it, like the player who got so mad at her inability to juggle, she worked at it until her personal best went from 12 to 438. Continue reading

We Never Got Enough of Kelly Smith

smith

By Tim Nash

Way back in 1998, I had been writing about women’s college soccer for nine years and had seen many of the greatest players in the world.

The 1998 was the year the University of Florida won the national championship with senior Danielle Fotopoulos, a freshman named Abby Wambach and another future national team player in Heather Mitts. Angela Hucles was staring at the University of Virginia. Santa Clara featured Danielle Slaton, Aly Wagner and Mandy Clemens. There was a sophomore at Notre Dame named Anne Makinen, a tremendous midfielder from Finland, and a senior named Shannon Boxx. The University of North Carolina featured Cindy Parlow, Tiffany Roberts, Lorrie Fair and Staci Wilson, all U.S. national team players.

When I called Notre Dame coach Chris Petrucelli to ask him who, in his opinion, should be named the national player of the year, he mentioned none of them.

“The best player in the country is at Seton Hall,” he said.

Wait, what? Seton Hall? The Pirates finished the ’98 season 11-6-1.

“Kelly Smith,” Petrucelli said, “is phenomenal.” Continue reading