My Experience with Soccer Licenses
I can remember flying to San Francisco, riding the train to New Jersey, driving to Connecticut and taking the bus to Pennsylvania in my quest to accumulate my various NSCAA & USSF soccer licenses. Most of the licenses required at least a week of residency at each location along with hours of testing. The testing component was a bit senseless because 95% of the testing was the group playing as one coach at a time got tested, it also took up at least 50% of the total course time, never mind the testing was pretty fabricated and unrealistic as well. Let me get right to the point here, why did half of the course focus on testing one coach at a time? If you were an older or not so fit coach, you would be susceptible to injury with all the playing the group was mandated to do. Why did coaches have to actually play? Last time I checked, a coach doesn’t actually play in the games. I personally don’t believe a persons playing ability determines their coaching ability. Of course by having the coaches play it helps with demonstrations and some teaching points, but there is so much more that can be done in a classroom setting and on the field without requiring 6 hours a day of playing, like most of these course require.
The only courses I have taken are the NSCAA and USSF courses so I can’t comment on UEFA and others. Let me breakdown the two organizations quickly starting with the USSF. The USSF in my opinion isn’t looking at the game from an open mind; it’s the USSF Way or No Way. They come across very arrogant with absolutely no reason to be arrogant. If you ask to many questions or even worse try arguing a couple points, you will be in immediate jeopardy of failing the course! You will be seen as a defector or unstable intruder! My question to USSF in general would be how many elite world-class strikers has the US produced with your superior USSF methods? Have we won the World Cup? Is the USSF Men’s National Team better than the 1994 USSF team? Has there been any significant progress? Sunil thinks so, but he just gets re-elected by the board without anyone running against him. I say the USSF Mens team has not progressed in over 20 years. Does Americas professional league hire first team Head Coaches with zero or minimum coaching experience? Answer is yes. So, why does the license take so many years to get? Does that make sense? The USSF’s recent move to take away the B License course waiver from the NSCAA Advanced National Diploma is just one more arrogant move on their part to display their power. I personally view soccer as a beautiful game with many ways to interpret the game from a playing and coaching perspective. I love to hear other Coaches opinions and see their methods. The only thing I believe in strongly is, don’t try and sell me the “one perfect method” and the “best way” to do this or that. Everything is always evolving and there are many ways to do things, leave it up to me to pick what I value after being exposed to a variety of methods. This is partly why I get offended when USSF is empowered to be the final experts and the only ones to hand out licenses in America? Unfortunately FIFA gave the USSF the power to be the only organization to offer Coaching Licenses. Shame.
The next organization I took courses with is the NSCAA. This was a much friendly organization with instructors that actually welcomed questions and take the time to have some healthy debate about the game. I am not saying it was the perfect experience but the learning environment was so much better than the USSF. I am a tough critic when it comes to soccer instruction; the first thing I look for is if the learning environment is healthy, the content is good and if there is a sense of humility. The NSCAA delivered good value for me personally in terms of the instructors having humility, staff having open minds and the content was good. I would still change many aspects of the courses but in general I feel it was a very good experience.
My Suggestion for The Future of Soccer Coaching Licensing:
The licensing system needs to be changed. If you want to get a soccer license today be prepared to spend a lot of money, travel far and be away for at least 9 days at a time for years on end! I was listening to Steven Gerrard the other day comment about his desire to coach, he was saying that it would take him years to get all his coaching badges so he could one day become a coach. That sounded silly to me. Steven just needs to start in the academy at Liverpool or wherever and learn the craft. Does Gerrard or any coach really need to play and study for 9 days to get a piece of paper that says he his a certain level coach? Will anyone really learn that much in 9 days? I know some of the courses have hours of distance learning but to me good coaches are always studying and learning. Here is my idea: Offer testing for coaches. That’s it. The testing can be extensive with no room to guess your-self through. If you pass an intensive 5 hour exam or two 5 hour exams if that’s not enough, you get the license! Look at the computer industry. Want to become certified in “Cisco Systems” and work in the Cisco Computer Industry? Simply take the CCNA exam at a testing center near you and pass it, that’s it. Trust me you can’t pass that test without really knowing your stuff when it comes to computer networking and security systems. The industry doesn’t care if you sign-up for a $15k computer school and take CCNA prep classes; all that matters is you pass the CCNA exam. Anyone can walk in off the street and take the exam. If you Pass that exam and want to get another certification, take the next test. When you apply for a job the certification plus your resume in the computer field will make you marketable. If you have the certification and no experience, you will need to start at a lower level job in the industry. My point as it relates to soccer is this; the licensing course doesn’t make you a qualified capable coach. The best way to become a quality coach is go out and do it day in and day out. Go watch pro clubs, go to Europe, go to the best clubs in your area, buy soccer education materials, totally immerse yourself in the game, watch pro games and do everything you can to get better working in the field. The top coaches will always be the top coaches not because of the license, but because of how hard they work learning their craft on a daily basis. I say give every coach in every country the chance to take any license test they want. If they pass, they will have demonstrated a very solid foundation in terms of the game and coaching. That is just the beginning though, now go out and get better while working!
Think of what this approach would do. No more thousands of dollars spent, no more traveling the globe for that elusive piece of paper, no more silly unrealistic testing, no more politics, no more waiting for months or years to even get into a course that seems to always be full, no more Steven Gerrard having to wait years to become licensed.