The Fourth Path: Rethinking early player development in the United States

JohnOSullivan-Header“When you come to a fork in the road, take it,” exclaimed New York Yankees great Yogi Berra to any travelers trying to find their way to his house. Berra meant that whatever way you went, it was the same distance to get there, so go ahead and take your pick.

If only life were that simple.

When it comes to the development of young soccer players in the United States, many parents and coaches come to that proverbial fork in the road, and are unsure what path to take. Most parents want their child to try many sports, yet are faced with the harsh reality of high participation costs, nearly year-round commitments required to have a place on the team, and the fear that if they do not have their child specialize, he or she will get left behind.

Organized free play must not be an oxymoron.

Internationally, there are three traditional paths to becoming an elite soccer player. Each path has positives and negatives, and exists as a reflection of the soccer culture in each country. For the good of the game in the United States, though, we need to have a serious discussion about blazing a new path which will help us not only produce the most elite players, but the next generation of coaches, referees and lifelong soccer fans.

As I mentioned, there are three traditional paths to mastery in sport. They are:

  1. Early Specialization Path: this path is characterized by the early introduction of organized soccer and deliberate practice. It is the path increasingly followed throughout the world. Supporters of this pathway point to the relationship between hours spent in deliberate practice (sustained effort toward a long-term goal, put off gratification) and skill acquisition that leads to expert performance. Detractors rightly point out that there is scant evidence on how many of these hours need to be performed prior to the age of 12, evidence that points out diminished basic motor skills for early specializers, as well as the numerous medical and psychological issues associated with early specialization.
  2. Early Diversification Path: This pathway emphasizes the need for deliberate play (focused on immediate enjoyment, increases intrinsic motivation) and sampling multiple sports prior to the age of 12. Following this model, players specialize from ages 13-15 and invest heavily in training toward elite level performance from age 16 on. Supporters point towards this path’s allowance for early enjoyment, ability to find one’s true passion, and improvement of overall athleticism and pattern recognition through multi-sport participation.  Detractors point to inadequate time spent training soccer-specific skills during the golden age of skill development (age 6-12), and the prevalence of professional players who specialized early.
  3. Early Engagement Path: This is a route that is often a single sport path, but during the early years is filled with copious amounts of deliberate play and minimal organized structure and deliberate practice. It is high on intrinsic motivation and enjoyment, very low on adult involvement, and is the pathway the vast majority of the game’s all-time great players followed. I recently read that Spain international Diego Costa Diego_Costa01played street soccer until he was discovered at 16! Research shows that players on this path are often more creative, possess superior anticipation and decision making, and have higher levels of intrinsic motivation. As a result, they are more likely to be engaged in the game for more hours than players whom are not as motivated, and are perhaps better equipped to take on the increased levels of training and demanding competition during their teen years.


Why the Early Specialization Path Is Failing in the US

While players in the United States have arisen from all three pathways, there is a strong movement here toward emphasizing the Early Specialization path. The rising costs of youth sports, coupled with increased demands for year-round commitment prior to the age of 10, have led many parents to put all their eggs in the early specialization basket. Yet the early specialization path is not working very well, and is driving many kids to quit the game. I do not believe it is one that will best serve our country moving forward.

Why?

First, we are funneling all of our players down the same path of extreme commitment, even ones who possess neither the ability nor the desire to make it to a higher level. By demanding year-round commitments from everyone at a young age, simply to participate, we injure them, burn them out and eventually drive them to quit. These players should be our future fan base and coaches for the next generation, but instead they grow to hate the game.

Second, unlike many soccer-playing nations, our American culture is very supportive of numerous sports, and the opportunity to engage in a variety of sports at a young age is far more prevalent here then in most other countries. Soccer is not necessarily the path that popular culture pushes the best athletes down, as might happen in Holland, Brazil or England. Forcing athletes to choose one path when many good options exist – or worse, their parents choosing that path for them – does not lend itself toward numerous teenage athletes ready to put in the time or effort needed to become elite. They are burned-out and looking to try something new at the exact time they should begin to concentrate on one sport.

Finally, we are ill-equipped to properly coach our vast, geographically diverse population of young players. We have what I consider to be a very negative attitude toward coaching education by many coaches, and thus we do not have enough educated and properly trained coaches working with our youngest players. Yes, we have coaches that played the game at a good level, but most of the ones I meet think they should be sent straight to their USSF “B” License because they played pro or college ball. They might know the game, but they know very little about children, proper athletic development, or how to actually teach it to kids! They do not value the necessity of working with players at all ages, beginning with the very young ones, so they better understand the path of player and child development. They just want to work with the best kids immediately.

As a result, most clubs do not have their highly qualified coaches with their 5-10 year olds. Instead of placing our best coaches with the players they can impact the most developmentally, we place them with the teams that can bring them recognition and higher pay through larger rosters, state championships and national titles. If we choose to go down the early specialization path, then we need to flip this, educate far more coaches and perhaps make it a requirement of high-level licensure that a certain percentage of your time has been spent or will be spent with the youngest players. Right now we are inadequately prepared to follow this path.

Iceland_FAIf you doubt the effectiveness of good coaching at young ages, you only need to look to Iceland, whose entire population of 325,000 would barely qualify as a small city in the US. Yet Iceland currently has over 70 professionals playing throughout Europe, and nearly qualified for the 2014 World Cup! How? Over 40 percent of the coaches in Iceland have a UEFA “B” License or above, many have backgrounds in physical education, and starting at age 5, players work with highly qualified, paid professional coaches. Since we are nowhere near the needed level of educated coaches to match an Icelandic or Dutch model, the early specialization model seems far more likely to turn off more players than it produces.

It is also clear that the early engagement path produces the type of player Jurgen Klinsmann and other American soccer leaders are clamoring for, the soccer version of the skillful, creative, athletic American basketball player. But as far as soccer is concerned, with the exception of some small, mainly immigrant communities, and organizations like Joy of the People in St Louis, that ship has sailed. Free play simply does not exist. We are far closer to the organized, early specialization model than the unstructured, free play pathway. There is too much money, too much structure, a scarcity of pickup games and a cultural shift away from free play that makes this utopian ideal all but impossible on a large scale.

So what are we to do?

We need a fourth path. We need an American path forward.

It must incorporate the positives that our current structure can bring to the table, such as high-quality facilities, widespread access to coaching education, the ability to screen and place coaches appropriately, and the financial resources to be on the cutting edge of sports science, nutrition, athletic development and coaching best practices.

We must continually look for the best player development systems (right now we are highly focused on Holland, France and Germany), not to copy them, but to take the pieces that will fit the American psyche, as well as ethnic and geographical diversity. We need to become a melting pot of ideas from around the globe instead of trying to specifically model one system or another.

Our best coaches must demand, and be required, to work with our youngest players.

We need a massive attitude shift in our coaches. Our best coaches must demand, and be required, to work with our youngest players. We must come to value coaching education, and our organizations must ensure that our coaches are lifelong learners, and not naive know-it-alls who scoff at the notion that they have something new to learn.

We must demand the end of ridiculous things like state and regional championships at Under-11 and U-12, and take the emphasis off of winning, rankings and excessive, results-oriented travel.

While we are at it, why don’t we get rid of referees for 11 and under soccer. Referees become targets for abuse, and make players, coaches and participants more focused on the result, because this particular event  matters enough to have an impartial judge. No referees means it is a lot easier to emphasize fun and enjoyment, regardless of the result.

We need our leadership, namely U.S. Soccer, US Youth Soccer, AYSO, and U.S. Club Soccer to stop allowing full-sided soccer to be played by 9- to 11-year-old players. The USSF could do this by refusing to sanction organizations that play 11v11 games below U-12, but they do not have the courage to because they are afraid they will lose money through player registrations. They are selling our kids, and our game, short by allowing dollars to drive their decision instead of best practices.

And finally, most importantly, the American path must blend the early engagement emphasis on free, deliberate play into our organized structure. Organized free play must not be an oxymoron. Coaches must ensure half of their practices or more are free play, especially when coaching kids 12 and under. We need more games with one coaching point: enjoy yourselves! We must teach kids to organize their own game as soon as they arrive, and then let it run into the start of training. We must play more street soccer and futsal, like they do in the countries that produce the world’s top players. In other words, use structure to provide a safe place for parents to drop their children, but then turn the game over to the kids.

D.C. United Academy standout and U.S. youth international Jorge CalixWhen we do this, we will have more players falling in love with the game. We will have more kids carrying a ball around, practicing and playing outside of their organized training.  Our kids will become creative and fearless. They will develop the autonomy and motivation to keep playing. With that in place, if they have the genetic ability to become elite, then funnel them down the path that gives them the best chance of doing so.

But more importantly, the 99 percent who do not become elite players can at least become passionate fans of the game. They can coach their kids. They can referee. They can play in adult leagues. They can teach others about the beautiful game that brought great enjoyment to their lives, instead of cursing the game that stole their childhood.

Only by growing the game for all levels and abilities will we become a world power in soccer.

Only by letting the kids play first and foremost will they develop the capacity to train and compete for elite status.

Only by focusing first on building the next generation of fans will be build the first generation of truly elite American players, instead of a handful every couple of years.

Only by forging a unique, American path will we change the game.

 

Sources:

Côté, J., Baker, J., & Abernethy, B. (2007). Practice and play in the development of sport expertise.Handbook of sport psychology, 3, 184-202.

Ford, P. R., & Williams, A. M. (2012). The developmental activities engaged in by elite youth soccer players who progressed to professional status compared to those who did not. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 13(3), 349-352.

Tayara, K. (2014) The Path to Expertise in Young Football Players.

By | February 24, 2014 | 30 Comments | Tags: , ,

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  1. Western MD Soccer Coach says:

    I really guess the first question that needs to be addressed is do we need a “national” development philosophy for soccer. I find it interesting that we are moaning about the inability to develop elite level players and if you read the press from the UK they are saying the same thing about the FA’s development efforts. Brazil, Spain and Germany also went through the same things recently. But assuming for the sake of argument that we do at a macro level need a single development philosophy, here is what I feel that we need to get this done.
    1- Take the money out of the equation. Whenever there is money to be made there will be people willing to make the money. In talking to a fellow coach last night at an indoor game he was saying how growing up in England he/his family paid basically nothing to be in the club training system. There is no reason that the parents of a 14 year old player should be paying $2,000 to play for a low division travel club coached by a parent (even if they are licensed) like a local club is charging. Even at a high division travel club with a “professional” coach this is extremely high. Money is also keeping a large number of lower income players from playing at the elite travel levels, reducing the number of potential players entering the player pool. If you take the incentive to make loads of money out of the equation, hopefully it will reduce the number of adults who are using youth soccer to line their pockets or stroke their egos.
    2 – US Soccer must step up and become a strong management/oversight organization not the weak one it is today. As several of the people have commented, US Soccer put out some fantastic youth training standards, but very few clubs actually pay attention to them. US Soccer should force the subordinate organizations (AYSO, US Club Soccer, etc.) to make sure their member clubs read review and comply with the training philosophy that is put out by US Soccer. If the youth organizations don’t want to comply, then you take away their certification, if the clubs don’t want to comply the youth organization can remove them.
    3 – At every level training needs to be improved. Coaches licensing, referee licensing all need to be improved. The first step of this has been taken by making the E course more difficult and like an actual licensing course. But this needs to be pushed across all of the licensing courses. Make the tests harder to pass, and require field components on top of the written portion. Have the NSCAA licensing and the US Soccer licensing become more integrated and closer matching. The same with the referee training. Make the training, especially for the grade 8’s more challenging. Don’t let a grade 8 work a game alone until they have worked at least 10 games under supervision. Don’t allow a new grade 8 to work any travel game, make them start at rec leagues, then if they want to work travel, HS or college make them apply and be tested prior to them getting on the field.
    4 – Every coach should be licensed. If I ran a club, every coach would be licensed, even the parent volunteers at U-6. One of the biggest problems that we have at the young ages is that the parent volunteers, and we all have been there at one point or another, are trying to teach the kids things they saw on TV or YouTube. The coaches at every level need to know what is age appropriate, skill appropriate and competition level appropriate. This suggestion, by the way, only works if the licensing is improved.
    5 – Stop with the tryout madness. When you put together a group of kids, at the travel level, they shouldn’t have to worry from one year to the next if they are on the team. Now I know there are fringe kids, the top 2 or 3 and the bottom 2 or 3 that may move on, but the idea of wholesale changes to a team every year is insane. I have know parents who have taken whole teams to different clubs because the team was going to be broken up. A good coach/club will discuss the individual strengths and weaknesses of the player, with the player and the parent and allow the child to grow in confidence and ability. Now with the fringe kids you should be honest, “your son/daughter is really weak in this area and we are concerned that if they continue to play at this level their development will be stunted because they aren’t going to get much game time.” It will hurt the child and the parent’s feelings but in the end if you do what is best for the child (not the club or coach) you will have a player who is happier and enjoys playing soccer. How many times as a coach have we seen a player struggling at one level, but if they drop to a slightly lower level of competition they thrive. Keeping the bulk of a team together for several years will allow the players to develop in an environment that isn’t as highly pressurized as the current system.
    6 – No flighted play before U-13. Spread the wealth, have more advanced players play with the less advanced players (again this is specific around travel soccer), until they hit U-13. This will allow both groups to develop, the less advanced players will benefit from practicing against the more advanced players and the more advanced players will grow in confidence, not just in their skills but as leaders of the team. Leagues should allow the club pass system until U-13 as well, that way a player who needs game time can move easily to the other teams in the club to get the game time but not be penalized. Again, the coaches need to be honest with the parents and players here, “we are going to have you play for the blue team, because we want you to get extra time during a game to…”
    7 – Encourage specialty training. Different coaches have different skills, there is no reason why a club (or a group of parents) shouldn’t take advantage of the skills of their coaches. My children work with a local coach on individual foot skills, which is an area that I do not excel at. I can run the same drills as this coach but he has the ability to demonstrate the drills and the knowledge to pick out small little individual things that will help develop the player skills. Many clubs will do individual goalie training but how many of them have a foot skills coach, or a tactical coach who can teach the older kids about formations and movement?

    Probably longer than it should have been but it is an interesting topic.

    • soccermom#6 says:

      Western MD Coach, Very impressive thoughts, as always. I want to comment on two things. Regarding European countries where kids get to play at amateur clubs for basically free is true but there is a catch to it. When big clubs come calling for some of these players, clubs make huge money by releasing those players. So they make money off of a 11 yr old even. Secondly, I don’t know what is going on but I do see a difference in the level of play between my daughter and son who are 6 years apart. When she played, I don’t remember any training session being on the technical aspect of the game. Could be that camps such as Coerver etc. are making a difference and we are not realizing their impact. How about someone address that topic. The influence of summer camps…is it all about money or any quality teaching going on?

      • Western MD Soccer Coach says:

        Agreed the clubs do make money off of the kids that are sold to the bigger clubs, although I believe that cannot happen until the player is 16. I also agree there is a big difference between the coaching/training my 7 year old is getting compared to what his sister got when she was 7. I do think there is more emphasis being put on technical skills, including having futsal become more popular, and I think that to some degree the coaching is getting better, but I also know that we as parents are much smarter and more selective on where our kids play and who they play for. We talk to the organizations about their philosophy and observe the coaches before we sign up. This is due to what we have learned from our experience with our daughter and having made mistakes in the past.

        • soccermom#6 says:

          16 yrs for professional contract. Unless someone gave me the wrong information when I was at a club in Europe recently, I heard that small clubs can release youth players to youth academies at big clubs and still make money.

  2. Nandi says:

    Discussion is good but I hope the stakeholders here don’t just ‘talk’ but ‘do’ something. I see many times that we talk and talk but don’t walk the talk. Too much soccer bureaucracy! There is US soccer organization, state soccer organization, city/clubs, EDP, Premier leagues, ODP…..have I missed anything…Most kids and players want to be get on the train (one of the above) early before they miss the chance.

    @Soccer Pop – if you are implying that ‘third world countries’ are good at soccer because it is not rocket science, it is no surprise that many of the top scientists and decision makers in this country are from third world countries. Third world countries may not have infrastructure and facilities but makeup in regular practice, hardwork and determination.

  3. Soccer Pop says:

    Very good article that touches on some great points. Im all about the third path that states

    “early years is filled with copious amounts of deliberate play and minimal organized structure and deliberate practice”.

    Currently I have a u12 son, and if I had to do it all over again I would not have started him in travel soccer until next year at u13 or later. Unfortunately, I didn’t find the training organizations that my son currently works with until he was 11 and was almost ready to quit. These training organizations as I will call them, truly focus on total development of a player not position nor wins and losses. They instill proper passing and striking technique with ball possession. Every player is truly engaged in playing space, not position. Learning to break down on a counter attack for example; in a defensive position not because they are “defenders” but because they are footballers and well rounded which he has learned from consistent free play.

    From what I have witnessed, the US “club” structure of “teaching” soccer IS truly messed up. And I don’t feel we need highly skilled coaches to fix it. Our kids need places they can go 5 days a week if they want, not because they have to, but have the option. Our youth need to be taught how to pass, strike and receive the ball consistently, with more free play to experiment, thus allowing our kids to truly develop at their own pace. Not over abundant structured Sunday games that categorize our young kids on a stage of screaming coaches and parents at such young ages.
    Highly qualified coaches can teach tactics to any 15 year old that has been taught proper technique, but without the technique no kid will ever learn to “dance with the ball”. Soccer is not rocket science, if it was many third world countries would not out dance us on the pitch.

  4. Coach Pete says:

    Hi John,

    Excellent article, well written. What is your opinion on futsal and the way it helps to develop the young player? I’ve learned that in Brazil it is the way in which youngsters develop the close control and quick feet they are famous for. It seems to be growing in the US and you mentioned in your article that ‘free play simply does not exist’. I have recently added futsal to my players training program and have noticed that their awareness, speed of thought and movement have all increased greatly.

    • Coach Pete, I think futsal is our path forward. I believe that compared to how our current system is working, we would be far better off just letting kids play futsal up till U11 or 12. The players would be more technical, Tactics can come later, skill cannot.

      • Landon Moore says:

        John – This is a GREAT article.

        I would suggest that futsal is part of the way forward, but that the best path is one of variety. Year-round training could include traditional field sessions (technical training and APPROPRIATE sized and GUIDED small sided games are the key here [let the kids play, but do it in an environment where they are benefitting more than they even realize]), futsal, pick up games, wall training, soccer tennis and other informal technical games, etc.

        The culture of the environment is key as well, in my opinion. In addition to varied, it should be low pressure and progressively instructional. This part is hard since it requires knowledge and an organized long term plan from the coach.

  5. joe says:

    Improving coaching education and using qualified coaches at the younger ages sounds great in theory, but you yourself identified the problem with this approach, “but most of the ones I meet think they should be sent straight to their USSF “B” License because they played pro or college ball”. I’ve sat in class with these guys and they tune out, learn nothing, and come out if anything more arrogant and less educated than they were going in. Then if you stick these “qualified” coaches at the youngest ages you can watch them trying to run college level pattern drills with their 6 year-old charges–because that’s what their college coach did with them.
    Our youngest ages need to be with nurturing coaches who understand the needs of young children. Coaches who care and are able to place their player’s long-term development ahead of short term goals like the next win. And we need to surround them with a structure that supports them and helps educate parents. We need coaches who are passionate about the game and foster the same passion in the young people around them. “I don’t believe skill was, or ever will be, the result of coaches. It is a result of a love affair between the child and the ball.” – Manny Schellscheidt. That’s what the youngest coaches need to teach, a love affair between the child and the ball. Not sure if those are the qualifications you mean when you say our best coaches–what makes a coach a good U-18 coach does not also make her a good U-8 coach.

    • Thanks Joe, well said. I remember Steve Heighway, Academy director at Liverpool FC saying that for the youngest players, he would rather have coaches who understood kids than coaches who only understood the game. When you have both you are golden, and our coaching education system must teach more of the material you get in the US National Youth License in all of its beginning courses.

  6. Thanks so much for posting this. We’re going through that fascinating transition with our current U12 son, of balancing encouraging his play with his club at a C1 level with making sure he doesn’t burn out: something we’re already seeing with a couple of his teammates. What’s even more fascinating is that given the opportunities kids would always gravitate to the third path. Kids love to play. Its parents who are compelled to manage every aspect of their kids’ lives who have created this monster: not the desires of the kids.

    I love your concept of the fourth path, and think it has great promise. I’ll do what I can to promote it, including promoting this article through FB, Twitter, and through my parenting blog: trustingeducation.org

  7. ChelseaFan says:

    Mr. O’Sullivan- thanks for making such great points. We had exactly the experience you propose with our young player…great coaching at a young age…more emphasis on skills in a fun way than on winning at an early age. The successes came not that much later and the result is really beautiful and entertaining soccer. And I fully agree, the US really needs more well-prepared coaches. When I see coaches screaming at their players over every move, I wince. And I’m sad for players whose entire team takes the field and makes body slamming and jersey grabbing the focus of their game instead of tactics and skill. Their coaches have let them down. Some of you will blame the parents, but a lot of them simply don’t know there’s a better way to play. After all, when you’re raised on American football, what’s a little two-handed tackle in soccer? I digress… DO keep pushing for more coaches with better teaching skills. You’ll have support from parents like us.

  8. JP says:

    The first two points were pretty poor but the author comes around to the major issues afterward, lack of free play and lack of quality coaching, so in the end this turned out to be well worth reading.

    For point 1: the early specialization path is, in my opinion, great overrated. Kids in the US play all kinds of things in recess, PE and after school. Unfortunately, soccer is rarely one of them. And many of those kids who primarily play soccer also play basketball in the winter.

    For point 2: the whole burnout thing is also greatly overrated. Many kids who reach 12-14 end up dropping out of many different sports. Why should soccer be different? Kids encounter the opposite sex, increased demands of school, alcohol etc etc. It happens. More kids ‘drop out’ of soccer because more were playing it at the rec level anyway. Not the end of the world.

    But the lack of free play hurts as does the lack of quality coaches. But it’s not like clubs are willfully ignoring good messages such as those contained in this article; they’re simply not getting the message in the first place. My club is infected with trainers looking to make money, telling clubs that American kids lack ‘footskills.’ This is what I hear as a coach more than anything else: ‘are you teaching footskills?’ ‘My kid needs to learn footskills.’ US Youth soccer has put out some good stuff in the last few years but precious few club directors have seen any of it.

    Another major problem is the self interest on the part of the hundreds of little clubs out there. More important than teaching kids is making sure they’re the ones who get credit.

    Between trainers looking to make as much money as possible and clubs looking for glory are lots of kids who aren’t getting nearly as much out of the game as they could be. That’s the bigger story than early specialization and burn out rates.

    • Thanks JP, the whole issue of clubs finding a path that supports both a business model and a child centered training model is an issue for a whole other article I think. I appreciate your taking the time to comment.

  9. Pat Michels says:

    Thanks for this excellent, thoughtful look at the different paths. I’ve been coaching for twelve years and have throughout that time always striven to maintain at least a 50/50 ratio of organized skill practice to free play in my practice sessions. We work on our dribbling skills for a bit then we play small sided games. No passing drills. No insistence about staying in position. If you get the ball then dribble it and go take a shot. Everybody’s a striker. Then on game days my message to my players is always a simple “try to use your skills and go play. This is your game.” I think that as coaches we’ve got to acknowledge that it’s the parents that we really have to educate. Every season at my home club we’re approached by parents demanding that we start teaching our players, even the U8 players, how to “play positions”. They want to know why we spend so much time on dribbling skills but none on passing or positioning. It’s an uphill battle sometimes but we keep plugging away.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comments Pat. Your point about educating parents is exactly why I started the Changing the Game Project, as I believe it is the only way to return the game to our kids, by helping parents realize what sport is supposed to be about. Please check out my site at http://www.changingthegameproject.com if you want to learn more, and thanks again for sharing the article!

  10. Jim Paglia says:

    Pure hogwash. You really believe 5 year-olds need elite coaching? Why don’t we just start DNA testing in the womb so you can create the player of your dreams? This whole mindset of earlier, more intense training is sad. The sport doesn’t need more elite players. It needs more players who love to play and that will be all the motivation they need to become lifelong soccer people, some of whom will have the desire and perseverance to rise to the highest level born of a love of learning, NOT from teaching. It has NOTHING to do with more advanced coaching. There’s a reason why kids are leaving the sport in droves at younger and younger ages and I blame self-serving coaching philosophies like this. The sport’s destiny in America does not hinge on International domination. Marta turned out to be a pretty decent player with minimal formal coaching.

    • Pat Michels says:

      I’m not sure we read the same article.

    • Dave says:

      What?????Please read the article.

    • Brian O'Dell says:

      Jim, you totally missed the point of advanced coaches working with young players.
      The point is that our best coaches who are well educated WILL provide the type of training that helps players fall in love with the game. They WILL give lots of free play because they have been educated about the “best practices”.
      Read the article again, you’ll figure out out.

    • Jim

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, but I think you need to finish the article. I advocate exactly what you talk about, more play and less competition/formality to create the next generation of fans and players. I hope you enjoy the rest of the article.

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