Let’s be perfectly clear, youth sports (including soccer) is a multi-billion dollar industry that is going to take
a lot of people who are much smarter than me to change. No one is simply willing to say ‘no thanks’ to
their revenue stream. As long as money is driving our sports, we will continue to fail at a prodigious rate.
So, what does this have to do with the US failing to qualify for the World Cup? Everything!
Player development, and that is at the crux of this conversation, is failing us. Imposing adult level
expectations upon 6-10 year olds is not yielding us the kind of players that the “Beautiful Game” requires.
Our win at all costs mentality is producing players who are very predictable, and most certainly,
unprepared to solve the mysteries of the game that will lead us to success at the higher levels of
Success is derived from a willingness to take risks, make good decisions, persevere, show resilience, and
the ability to overcome failure. Sadly, these are no longer the dominant traits that we are instilling in our
children through sports. The invaluable life lessons that were once learned on the sports fields are no
longer a reality. Because money and adults rule the kingdom, children are being cheated out of these
wonderful opportunities to explore, create and grow. If my kid isn’t finding immediate success on one
team, I quickly take him or her to a new team with visions of better fortune.
Changing teams with the hope of finding more success is not teaching anyone the importance of hard
Having been passionately involved in the game of soccer for over fifty years, I have heard the talking
heads repeatedly reassure us that in just ten years, soccer in the US will be ruling the world. Well, while
soccer has certainly grown in the US over those fifty years, our recent ‘wake up call’ puts us at a
crossroads of self-examination. How can we do better?
We’re going to have to figure out how to side step the business of youth sports, ask an arrogant
governing regime to take a good look in the mirror, and most importantly, figure out the child development
piece. No one has adequately illustrated that we are ruining such a high percentage of children at such
an early age by our current push. Until the disease is diagnosed, we’ll never find the cure.
The Brazilians have futsol (pick up play on a hard surface) and the Dutch have the science of 4 versus 4
mini-games. We need to identify a middle ground that allows kids to play and have fun without thrusting
our expectations of college scholarships upon such young prospects. Piaget’s stages of child
development have been well researched and should be an appropriate starting point in creating the kind
of environment that allows children to progressively grow their passion for sports and healthful living.
Ironically, the change that is necessary requires the same characteristic traits that are listed above.
Hopefully, we have enough engaged leaders involved in this debate who can display these traits and
begin to shift us in the right direction.
The fact that the US didn’t qualify for the World Cup is tragic, but even more tragic is the fact that we have
several generations of young children who are being cheated out of the chance to grow up with a healthy
perspective on an active lifestyle. Around the globe, nothing is bigger than the World Cup, except the
health and wellness of our future generations.
Maybe fixing the World Cup problem for the US is a good place to start.