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Advice Jan 12, 2016

Dure: NSCAA Convention a great time for much needed national youth soccer discussion

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BeauDure-HeaderIt’s about time we youth soccer coaches, administrators, journalists and so forth gathered for the NSCAA Convention. We need to talk.

In addition to the usual topics on how to teach and motivate players of all ages, the Convention will feature a few sessions on the issues that have heated up over the past few months:

– Coinciding with the U.S. Soccer mandates on small-sided play, the NSCAA is offering a Special Topics Diploma on Small Sided Games. The sessions for that diploma do NOT include the panel discussion “Small Sided Games and Age Group Changes: A Discussion of Youth Soccer in the US.” (SoccerWire columnist John O’Sullivan is on that panel.)

– What about the birth-year age group mandate? Club Champions League is presenting “USSF Birthyear Mandate: Thinking Through Challenges and Implementation at The Youth Club Level.”

+ READ: Which year determines your age group?

– Is soccer getting too serious and squeezing out the fun? Check “The NOT FUN MAPS: Youth Soccer’s Conceptualization of All Things Impeding Fun,” with two academics from George Washington University.

– Tired of dealing with parents? Lynn Kachmarik, founder and director of True Brand Sports, has a session called “Stop Complaining: Educate and Hold Parents Accountable.” When that ends, move a few doors down for “Are Parents Soccer’s Biggest Problem?” by Xara Soccer’s Chris Price. The next morning, see Springfield College psychology professor Judy Van Raalte for “Communicating With Parents.”

This topic also made it into the perennially entertaining Twitter hashtag #NSCAARejectedSeminarTopics.

– Perhaps an overdue topic: “Hazing in College Athletics,” with Ohio Wesleyan’s Jay Martin. A 2014 lawsuit over a 2011 incident at Clemson is still in progress.

– A Friday panel asks “Advancing Too Soon? When’s Too Soon?” The next day, try “Refocusing on High Participation Recreation Leagues Instead of Exclusionary Elite Competitive Travel Teams for U12,” with Illinois Youth Soccer’s Caulbert Smith.

That’s another Rejected Seminar Topic.

– Speaking of younger players, AYSO’s Scott Snyder will present the sardonically titled session “Zone 1 … We Really Care!”

– And if you’re still around late Saturday morning, check in with the ever-outspoken Eric Wynalda for “Let’s Fix This, It’s Broken.”

Those are, of course, just the official NSCAA sessions. This year’s convention will be prime time for hallway and Exhibit Hall conversations.

And it’s going to be great.

We need these discussions. There’s no road map to show us how to take a diverse, immense country with generations of soccer apathy (if not outright hatred) and turn it into a place where elite players win World Cups and the rest of us enjoy watching and playing the game. We’re still finding our way.

+ READ: What will come from U.S. youth soccer organizations’ detente?

What we need, though, is to make sure these discussions lead somewhere. NSCAA shouldn’t just be a gripe session.

We don’t need to make every coach use exactly the same drills and techniques. We don’t need to make every club the same. Diversity is the USA’s strength.

But we do need some consistent standards. We need, as Skye Eddy Bruce said, a common language so that a family moving from California to Virginia understands the landscape and so coaches from across the country can more easily converse.

And we need to educate. Downtown Baltimore will be crowded this week, overrun by people in track suits. But those people aren’t enough. The messages and the discussions need to get out to all coaches and all parents.

If you can’t be in Baltimore, read what you can about what’s going on. Scores of journalists will be there.

If you’ll be there, bring an open mind and maybe an appetite for crab cakes. And a real jacket — it’ll be too cold to walk around in your track suit all day.

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Beau Dure’s new book, Single-Digit Soccer: Keeping Sanity in the Earliest Ages of the Beautiful Game, is now available in paperback at Amazon and in electronic form at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online booksellers. Read more about it at SportsMyriad.

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