The Starting Point for a New Development Model?

For those of you in the United States, have you ever seen a soccer scout?

Think about it for a minute.

Baseball scouts taking in a high school game?  Yes.

College football coaches coming to your local high school? Yes.

Basketball coaches coming to your school or watching AAU games? Yes.

A recent article about Boston Celtics assistant GM  Ryan McDonough details his contributions to their scouting department. Of note is his tracking 750 - 1000 professional, college and high school plaers at a time. The articles provides an example of a recent scouting trip where he takes in 4 games in 4 different cities in 4 days. Such are the lengths the Celtics go to in search of players.

In almost 15 years, I have seen exactly one college soccer coach at a high school match evaluating talent. This despite some excellent high school programs producing student ahletes who go on to play in college. I have never seen a "professiona" scout at a high school soccer match.  In nearly 20 years I have never seen a college or professional soccer coach evaluating talent at a club team league game. College coaches can be seen at a handful of major tournaments and at the popular showcase events where they invariably track the players on "elite" club teams.

For the most part, soccer clubs expect you to come to them. There is "poaching" of players from other clubs with each new tryout season, but even those players are usually identified by a team having played against them the prior year. I actively scouted nearly 100 players last fall for a spring roster of 18-20. I felt compelled to if I wanted to assemble a quality team.  I've been wondering for months why clubs, colleges and US Soccer does not scour the ranks of youth soccer to identify young players?

Let's pick on ODP for a minute.  If you coach or play club soccer ODP officials will use your contact information for a mass emailing announcing the ODP tryout and training schedules.  I do not know of anyone who has ever received a personal invitation to the initial process. They expect you to come to them. I have taken part in this process and it is ridiculous. Anyone from the lowest level of recreational play to eventual state or even national team players show up in droves. 

If we want to change the development model I feel strongly the place to start is with a scouting department in each "state."  We need scouts on the local level indentifying taent and reporting to a state level scout who comes out to the local pitches and scouts individuals more in depth. That state levl scouting director should be tracking a thousand student athletes each year in order to identify players with the potential to play on state and national teams. No stone should remain unturned in pursuit of talented players.

It's simply time for the tail (clubs) to stop wagging the dog.  Instead of parents paying for their children to play club soccer, clubs should be scouting / identifying players and then funding their development.  This is how it is done in baseball (college and minor leagues), in basketball  (college, D-League, overseas) and football (college). Youthful players are scouted, recruited and provided an education, room and board or are paid while they develop their game.  In soccer we expect people to pay to be developed. That's not working out real well for us, is it?

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