Who are role models for young soccer players in the US?

In countries with soccer clubs stacked in levels going from the very top to neighborhood clubs, young players entering the organized sport at age 8 are usually coached, or assistant coached, by the 16-18 year old players from the club’s senior ranks.

In such a setup, the young players have natural role models that they interact with every week for 10 months of the year that gives them a line of sight to the type of soccer players the should want to become.

They look up to their young coaches, they want to watch their games on the weekend to see how they play and they want to strive toward playing like them, someday.

This gives those young players a long-term vision of the direction they should be headed that young soccer players in the US do not have.

I was reminded of this recently when I saw a comment on Twitter about youth teams in the US chasing tournament trophies rather than development.

That’s true. Without the vision of how they should be playing by age 15 or so, wins and trophies now are all they have to go by.

Unfortunately, winning can actually have the negative effect of making development tougher as it’s tough to convince the players and parents of winning players that they still have work to do.

When young players have role models, they can win games and still be thinking long-term because they may want to be able to make the club’s senior team someday.

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