Why can’t kids organize soccer pickup?

In a couple of recent 3Four3 podcasts, Pranjic and guests talked about the inability of American soccer kids to self-organize a pickup game.

I’ve experienced that myself.

They wrote it off as something to do with kids these days.

I don’t think so.

Why? Because, I’ve seen the same kids who couldn’t organize a soccer pickup, organize pickup baseball, football and basketball games.

Why could they organize pickup for these sports, but not for soccer?

I think one reason is because they have more experience playing these sports in informal settings with mixed ages and ability levels and have picked up on the subtle solves for getting the game going and keeping it going.

Most of their experience in soccer has been coach-led.

I think the other reason is that the kids haven’t yet developed the skills to make soccer more fun in anything other than an organized game of kicking the ball into space and running to it.

That game doesn’t translate to smaller areas and smaller numbers, like a 1v1, for example. I wrote more about that here.

Short answer: culture.

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Why don’t Americans score goals in the MLS?

Top MLS goal scorers (as of 8/14/2019):

1. Carlos Vela, Mexico

2. Josef Martinez, Venezuela

3. Diego Rossi, Uraguay

4. Wayne Rooney, England

5. Kacper Przybylko, Poland

6. Kei Kamara, Sierra Leone

7. Felipe Guitierrez, Chile

8. Charles Gil, Spain

9. Alejandro Pozuelo, Spain

10. Mauro Manotos, Columbia

11. Saphir Taider, France/Algeria

12. Jozy Altidore, USA

Goal scoring is soccer’s top ball skill. Consistent scoring requires high-level ball mastery.

It’s “striking” to me that in the USA’s top soccer division (a league considered to be in the third tier of pro leagues around the world), that the top 11 goal scorers are not from the U.S. They are from countries with strong ‘ball-centric’ soccer cultures.

This is one result of the US “participation culture” in soccer, as I wrote about in the previous post, where ball mastery is treated as an afterthought.

The feedbacks for encouraging ball mastery in the participation culture are weak or negative and the ball mastery light bulb doesn’t turn on for too many players until it’s too late (usually about 10 years too late) to be able to catch up to the levels of mastery achieved by players from ball-centric cultures.

Why the U.S. Men’s National Team hasn’t improved in 30 years

This Coaching Soccer Weekly podcast has a good discussion about isolated technical training (i.e. ball mastery work) during soccer practice and what he heard while taking a pilot USSF’s pilot Director of Coaching course.

The podcast host, Mura, took the pilot course and says that part of the rationale presented in the coaching course to not do isolated technical training at soccer practice, in favor of more game play, was to make practice more fun to keep kids interested and playing longer.

Hmmm…

Soccer cultures that produce world level talent are centered on mastering the ball from early ages. Mastering the ball takes a lot of practice, against opponents and on your own.

U.S. Soccer culture is centered on participation with ball mastery at early ages as an afterthought.

The last 30 years proves that participation doesn’t improve top level talent.

If kids don’t think ball work is fun, then we are attracting the wrong kids or we need to come up with more fun activities that get kids enjoying working with the ball.

If you look closely at ball-centric soccer cultures, you see they have these activities along with knowledge transfer among large age bands (e.g. pickup game with ages from 3 up to adult), encouragement to learn (e.g. the worst juggler gets picked last).

I’ve seen this firsthand here in the U.S.

Priorities

I drove past a local park yesterday and saw construction crews pouring a concrete pad. I checked online to see what they were doing.

They are installing new pickleball courts.

A couple stories down the webpage, they had news another new project, installing a soccer goal in a park, that they proudly stated was made from scratch by one of their employees to save money.

LOL…For pickeball they build brand new stuff. For soccer, they put a random, homemade goal in a field to save money.

 

Good discussion about true competition on the 3Four3 podcast

Guest Ben Fast and host John Pranjic have a great discussion about the nature true competition that is lacking in soccer in the U.S. and the role of governance in this 3Four3 podcast.

It would make Austrian and George Mason University economists proud.

Glass half full

The last few weeks we’ve heard a lot of comparisons of the pay and money brought in by the Women’s World Cup and the Men’s World Cup.

But, there’s no mention on how the $130 million brought in by the Women’s World Cup compares to other women sporting events.

I can’t think of any that could come close to that.

Major tennis tournaments and the Olympics probably come close if you break out the female sporting events, but that’s tough to do.

My guess is the Women’s World Cup is the most valuable female-only sporting event and it continues to grow, which are good signs that don’t seem to get noticed.