Why US Women’s Soccer Team dominates?

A fair question to my previous post is: How did the US Women’s National Team win the World Cup last year?

Do U.S. girls grow up playing street soccer? No.

Isn’t their training and development similar to the US Men? Yes.

So, how did they win their second World Cup in 20 years and continuously rank in the top few teams in the world, if your theory is correct?

When you see pictures of kids playing street soccer from other countries, how often do you see girls in those pictures? Rarely.

The US Men’s team compete against players who grow up playing street soccer, especially from the time they can walk up through about 10-12 years-old, where skill development starts at around 2 years-old.

US Women do not. They compete against players who grew up in development environments similar to U.S. Men and Women: organized team play where skill development starts around ages 8-12, if you’re lucky, with less development of skills in early years and outside of organized team events.

UPDATE: So why do US Women dominate when our training is similar to other countries?

Our pool of female players is larger, so we have more chances for having elite players. Why is our pool larger? Because our country is wealthy enough for lots of teenage girls to spend a good deal of time pursuing a sport and activity that has very little long-term return for them.

It starts with Title IX scholarships. Winning a college scholarship for playing a sport has become a conspicuous consumption item for wealthy families.

College soccer (male or female) doesn’t sell enough tickets to support itself, so the ROI for the college sport is low and is subsidized from other sources by Title IX.

And, if you sum up the cost of being a club athlete vs. the expected value of the college scholarship, that ROI is so low for the parents, so only wealthier families can afford to pursue it.

Take away Title IX and I’d predict that US Women would lose their dominance in soccer within a generation, and it may already be in trouble as more young ladies are choosing volleyball and softball over soccer.

Why US Mens’ Soccer Struggles

I hear lots theories of why US Mens’ soccer doesn’t dominate on the world stage.  I think below is the key reason.

Kids playing soccer in Argentina:

Argentina Soccer

Kids playing soccer in the US:

US Soccer

As a side note, I coach some 10 and 11 year-olds in soccer. I’ve tried for years to get them to learn to juggle. They have plenty of excuses for not doing it. It’s boring. It’s too hard. I was too busy. The weather was bad. 

On a jog a few months ago, I passed a house with an 8-year-old Hispanic kid in the front yard playing. It looked like he was with his Dad as his Dad was doing some work for a homeowner inside. He was juggling a tape measure. Yes, a tape measure. He was holding it by the tape and dangling it and using his feet to juggle the case of the tape measure.

He wanted to learn to juggle because he thought it was cool, not because an adult coach told him to do it. He didn’t have a ball, so he improvised.

Just like the kids in the above picture in Argentina, they didn’t need a $100 ball to kick around on a million dollar sports field with a licensed coach leading them in drills. They improvised. Plastic bottles in the street will do.

Kids in the US don’t improvise. Soccer is something they do in practice. The ball stays in the garage at home, until the next practice. If they play soccer on their own, it’s the FIFA video game.

UPDATE: I’d like to add that the 5-year-old on the right side of the Argentina picture displays some elements in driving (i.e. kicking) form that average 10-year-olds in the U.S. do not have.

First, he’s holding his hand opposite of kicking foot high in the air. This keeps his chest up, maintains balance and squares his body weight to the ball so more of his body’s momentum gets transferred into the ball on the strike.

The average 10-year-old the States keeps that arm down and folds their opposite shoulder over as they strike the ball, losing all the momentum from the opposite side of their body and thus losing power on their shot.

Second, he’s loading his striking leg (pulling it way back), before the kick. This ensures that his foot strikes the ball at maximum speed on the swing. The average 10-year-old in the States, pulls the kicking leg back a few inches before kicking, and usually strikes the ball when the leg is somewhere between a quarter or half max speed.

Third, he’s looking at the bottle he’s about to kick. This helps him make good contact. Like any swinging form, golf or baseball bats, good contact is the key. The average 10-year-old in the states is looking where he wants to kick at this stage, instead of looking at the ball.

The question I have is how did that 5-year-old learn this? By watching and emulating his favorites? By being ridiculed by friends in the street when he did it wrong? I’m guessing a little of both. Who knows, maybe they even teach it at school. Or, perhaps, he just happens to be an exceptional Argentinean kid? Maybe.

Wise words from Leslie Jones

I happened to hear a local radio station talk to Leslie Jones, comedian and actor, known for her lively performances on SNL and soon-to-be-known as a Ghostbuster.

I thought what she had to say was very wise and worth repeating.

First, during the interview, one of the DJ sidekicks mentioned his try at stand-up comedy. He bombed. He said it felt worse than death and hated that feeling. He asked Leslie how she deals with it.

She said, Bombing on stage is a part of being a comedian. You shouldn’t dread it. Learn from it. It’s really not a big deal.

That’s why she’s a comedian and he’s not. She understands that nothing’s perfect, not everyone will think your funny and some nights just won’t go so well. But, she doesn’t let that stop her.

When asked what she thought about the criticism the new Ghostbusters is receiving, her response was, she doesn’t take it seriously. I mean, the movie isn’t even about real things. There’s no such thing as a ghost buster.  It’s just for fun. Some people say I ruined their childhood [with this remake]. Honey, if this ruined your childhood your childhood was already much too delicate.

YES!

Finally…

An economist publicly says something I’ve thought for more than a decade:

Paul Krugman, very sadly, no longer even pretends to reason like an economist.  He instead reasons as if he’s a 19-year-old cultural-studies major.

Don Boudreaux, Cafe Hayek, Krugman Flunks Basic Labor Economics

“How the West (and the rest) Got Rich”

That’s the title of an excellent essay in today’s Wall Street Journal by Deirdre McCloskey.

The answer, in a word, is “liberty.” Liberated people, it turns out, are ingenious. Slaves, serfs, subordinated women, people frozen in a hierarchy of lords or bureaucrats are not.

“Immitate the stuff that brought us wealth, not the stuff that almost brought us ruin.”

Nice short video about what makes Sweden great (HT: Café Hayek).

 

Government-can-solve-all types often point to Sweden’s big governments as something to imitate, but they get cause and effect backwards. Big government didn’t cause Sweden’s wealth. As Norbert points out in the video, Sweden got rich first off free trade and an open economy.

This is very important to keep in mind. I wrote about this in regards to a burrito business way back when. Government is overhead. While it provides some valuable services, just like the overhead functions of a burrito business (like accounting, HR, etc.), selling the burritos is what keeps the overhead functions busy, not the other way around.

 

Things aren’t so bad

From the NY Times:

With disparities in wealth greater than at any time since the Gilded Age, the gap is widening between the highly affluent — who find themselves behind the velvet ropes of today’s economy — and everyone else.

 

You might think the article is about how the wealthy can afford better health care or something like that.

Nope. It’s about cruise line companies offering luxury experiences for a higher price removed from the masses on their boats.

What’s not addressed in the article: We’re doing pretty good if the masses can afford to take cruises. A generation ago they couldn’t.