Since the official announcement by Don Garber that MLS teams would be required to enter youth teams in competition in 2007 details have been few and far between on how the actual set up will work. In limited meetings with Rapids Assistant Coach John Murphy I’ve tried to figure out what my club is doing and Mike Woitalla at Soccer America put together a nice piece outlining what much of the rest of the league is doing
You can go ahead and read Mike’s article, I don’t see a need to regurgitate it here or give my opinions on much of it. There is one point that I am going to puke all over. Please read the following a second time:
“Chivas USA's Southern California rival, the Los Angeles Galaxy, has not formalized its plans. The Galaxy has been offered a partnership by the Coast Soccer League whereby select players make guest appearances for the Galaxy while remaining with their CSL clubs. But if the Galaxy goes its own path, CSL Premier Competition chairman Gary Sparks says their teams will not be welcome in the CSL, the area's most competitive league.
Moreover, Sparks says the Galaxy would risk losing 40,000 competitive youth players and their families as Galaxy customers if it recruits players from CSL teams.
''The coaches in California make a living by how well they do in state competitions, national competitions, tournament competitions,'' says Sparks, ''and if their best players are continuously recruited away by MLS, their chances of winning reduce, their income reduces. They won't be happy.''
I’d like to meet this Gary Sparks and slap him a couple times. What is he thinking? Is he really trying to blackmail the Galaxy into a partnership by saying 40,000 ticket purchasers will not attend Galaxy games if they don’t partner with his CSL league? Gary, you’re kidding right? The Galaxy just signed David Beckham…they’re going to sell out their 22,000+ seat stadium all season long. Your 40,000 southern California kids are not going to make a difference in 2007 and they probably won’t listen to you anyway. By the time Beckham mania wears off the Galaxy will have moved passed you and CSL.
This kind of competition for youth soccer players has astounded me since I first learned of it from Coach Murphy. In a group presentation recently he said that Colorado and specifically Denver has one of the most competitive atmospheres for young soccer players he has ever seen. There are actually clubs that don’t support their kids going to Rapids events because they fear losing the players to an eventual Rapids youth team. I see where these clubs are coming from. They have multi-million dollar operating budgets from corporate sponsorships and club fees. They don’t want to lose their meal ticket and nor would I. However, they need to stop protecting themselves and focus on what is important; youth soccer player development.
We all have the best interests of the sport and our kids in mind, right Gary? Ohh, I guess we don’t. If coaches truly want to see America become a soccer nation, the kids need to see professionals up close and they need to emulate them. When the kids want to be the next Pablo Mastroeni, Landon Donovan, Cobi Jones, Eddie Johnson, or Justin Mapp or whomever, then we have a soccer nation. That won’t happen so long as guys like Gary Sparks are throwing up road blocks. Gary, let your kids love the Galaxy or Chivas USA no matter what happens with your youth league. I bet if you changed your outlook a little, you’ll figure out how to get more kids into your program to fill the holes left by the ten or so players “stolen” by the Galaxy. Remember, MLS teams are going to be looking for the best and brightest and as the kids get older, they’ll be fewer and fewer staying with the professional team. Those cut players will no doubt want to keep playing and they’re going to have professional training helping the club they end up with.
The Rapids are kicking off their third season of Colorado Rapids Soccer Academy
. At Academy events players are coached by Rapids coaching staff and players. They get to meet guys like Pablo, Hunter Freeman, Jacob Peterson, Terry Cooke and Aitor Karanka. Yes, your child last year could have been coached by European Champion Aitor Karanka. This year the Academy will be held 100% at the Rapids' new home, Dick's Sporting Goods Park. However, the first two years were a little slow going in terms of attendance. For one thing, the Academy had to find available fields all over the metro area to hold their camps, making scheduling tough and conditions not ideal. Another thing getting in the way was coaches at area youth organizations thinking the Rapids were trying to steal players. The coaches would actually discourage participation in events that would have improved the soccer skills of their players. What? Does that make sense?
Let’s get something straight...the Rapids were not trying to steal any players and they didn’t even field a youth team at the time. These were clinics and events to help get kids interested in soccer so more kids would want to attend Rapids games. I suppose this can be seen as selfish on the part of the Rapids but in the long run they are just trying to help the growth of the sport in the final frontier. Isn’t that what American soccer fans want; soccer to be a major sport here in the USA?
That is what I want and I can see that MLS is trying to take us there. Youth development is a huge component of that but so long as clubs are fighting over players and trying to keep them away from the professional environment, we’re not going to reach our full potential for producing quality players. Our kids need to get the best coaching, the best access and the best exposure to quality soccer to learn and grown inside the sport. It is time for selfishness amongst youth soccer organizations, which are making far too much money off these kids by the way, to end.
Labels: American Soccer, MLS, Youth Development