Ball Hogs Need Not Apply!

Jimmy Obleda, the 2011 NSCAA Youth National Coach of the Year, held a Q&A with Soccer America and had some pretty harsh things to say about the USSF academy program and US youth soccer development in general. He wrapped up the session with a very good summation of one of our biggest problems in the US – we often push out exceptional players:

They don’t fit our system. Do have we want those guys who are attacking and dribbling? No, we don’t. We want big, strong, athletic kids. If you dribble too much, dude, you’re out.

Our system pushes the exceptional players out.

Would have Lionel Messi made it in this country? No. He wouldn’t have, because he’s short and he dribbles too much. He’s a ball hog so he doesn’t fit in our system.

As my kids have gotten older and played at higher levels, it drives me crazy to see how many coaches encourage (or at least tolerate) kick and run. A few will encourage diagonal passing and through balls. But diving in 1v1 to burn that last defender? Almost universally discouraged, often loudly, when they fail. So hard to watch a team dominate defensively and/or in the middle, only to try popping the ball over the back line over and over, hoping that a striker will manage to consistently gain control of the bouncing ball at a full sprint under pressure…