Dure: Machiavelli’s guide to winning in youth soccer
Winning in youth soccer is an easy task for those who are bold, aggressive and focused solely on the present.
First, establish yourself as a coach who does things differently. Other coaches may claim to be influenced by European or South American models, but you walk the talk. If you don’t have an accent, even a faint one, try to adopt one.
You’ll tell parents that you can develop anyone according to the principles of whatever school you’re following — maybe Ajax, maybe Barcelona, maybe some obscure club that stood out in an obscure country long ago before the troubles came, leaving you to uphold the traditions in your adopted land. No matter what, you must keep up the perception that you know things and teach things that the bureaucrats at U.S. Soccer can’t handle.
Second, you must use this carefully constructed image to lure the early bloomers in the region to your club. Hey, we know a coach can only make so much difference with adults, let alone kids. You need the talent to get results. Just tell yourself — and the parents — that you deserve it. You know best.
Third, ignore all the best practices published by U.S. Soccer, US Youth Soccer and US Club Soccer. This serves two purposes. One, you’ll further enhance your image as a rebel fighting the system. Two, you’ll cast aside the “development over winning” mantra that other clubs are following, giving you the edge on the field.
Your top scorer should only play forward. Your top goalkeeper should only play goalkeeper. “They” will tell you not to specialize at age 9, but you know better. This is how they do it in Europe, you’ll say. If any parents dare to question you with research or experience showing otherwise, just stick to your guns.
“They” might even tell you not to teach heading to young kids. You have no need to listen to the medical community. Just enjoy the ooohs and aaaahs when your winger lofts the ball to the big kid you recruited as a target forward.
You’re probably sacrificing the kids’ long-term development. That’s OK. Your reputation will lure more talented players and get them good opportunities with colleges or pro academies. Then it’s their problem.
Fourth, play in as many tournaments as you can. Gotta get those rating points so you’ll be on top of the heap. Then you’ll get more recruits to displace any kids who are falling short of your lofty goals.
(Alternate approach: Fly under the radar and only enter your teams in carefully selected tournaments and leagues where you’ll be the top dog. Don’t let your parents know about the other leagues that are higher in quality. Win that second-tier league and pretend it’s first.)
Be careful in discarding players, though — you still have to uphold the myth that you’re developing kids far more intelligently than anyone else. If someone else developed a player who’s better than the one you developed, well, you simply have to blame the player. It’s his fault. Or his meddling parents’ fault.
In fact, make sure all of your missteps have someone else to blame. The refs are against you. Other clubs are against you. The whole system is out there keep you down.
And enjoy the fact that you have the freedom to do all this. This is America! Not only is it the land of the free, it’s the land where no one will tell you to stop what you’re doing. You couldn’t get away with this in the European countries you name-drop.
Other coaches might do the same thing you’re doing. But they’re frauds. You’re the real deal. Make sure your parents know that.
Follow these steps, and you’ll have a whole bunch of trophies and perhaps a couple of lucrative job offers in no time.
If not, you must be doing something wrong, because I gave you this advice, and I know everything.