While reading about the questions of sportsmanship in last year’s U15G National Championship, I came across a post that I had to share:
there is a reason why millions more Brazilian boys have passion for the soccer ball than American kids, and it ain’t because our boys intrinsically lack heart. It’s because they are not presented with the vision. In Brazil, the kids are surrounded by the vision — other kids playing, the game everywhere in popular culture, heroes on TV, the stories and legends about Brazilian soccer supremacy. It’s a national heritage. Us? Not even a glimmer of a hint of a taste.
So I firmly believe that U.S. coaches need to recognize this and to build creating a vision into their job descriptions. Help the kids see how fantastic this game can be, how they can become like Brazilians, what it means to be a soccer fanatic. A lot comes from the house, yes — the climate that is set at home. Are games on? Is the family enthusiastic about the sport? Are there siblings and cousins and neighbors to play with? I would never say it’s the coach’s job alone, or even the coach’s main responsibility. But it is something that the coach can work on. He/she can inspire. Can lead.
The response to this was even better. I’ve seen the same type of thing with the summer camp program our league brings in. They assign the kids to world cup teams and they compete throughout the week in mini scrimmages. But they also encourage the kids to read up on their national or professional team name and players. A lot of the kids do. At the end of the week the kids wear their team colors, make flags, and have an all around fun time at the ‘World Cup’ or ‘Champions League’ Finals.
As I embark on my new ‘challenge’, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to get my players fired up for the rigors of travel soccer as all but one will be moving up from Rec. How to get them to want to work with a skills ball while they talk on the phone or watch TV. How to get them to think about the game, not just execute the moves they learned in practice. To get them really excited about the game. This is exactly what JohnR was saying in the passage above. Give these kids a vision of what great soccer can be and get them to strive to do it. That’s not an easy task to do in the US. But it should be possible. We’ll see how I do and if I stumble onto anything profound, I’ll be sure to share it!