On The Wrong Path: Why The USSF Needs New Leadership & A New Direction

Let’s start by using Iceland as an example with a population of just 329,000. You can make the argument that Iceland has brought their national team program to a level equal to that of the USA in a very short period of time. How could this happen? Iceland’s Coach doesn’t collect a multi-million dollar salary and nobody would probably recognize his name in the soccer world; yet his tactics were far superior to our “Big Name” Coach. If you dig deeper you will find that Iceland has built an excellent soccer education infrastructure, which included having a massive amount of coaches receive UEFA licenses. Iceland doesn’t treat soccer as an elitist game, compared to the “Pay to Play Model” in the United States. If “Pay to Play” wasn’t bad enough in the USSF, now we also have a “Pay to Coach Model” as well. USSF under President Sunil has just rolled out a new licensing structure that will eliminate many talented coaches from ever taking a course! Why is that? The first issue is the ridiculous pricing structure; it also includes multiple travel requirements, which further adds to the costs that will be between $3,000 – $5,000 for a C,B or A coaching license; this is all in a country that needs to develop coaches! Sure you can take the online F License for free, but that’s not a license, it’s a youtube video! This pricing will ensure that only the wealthy clubs will be able to pay for their coaches to get licensed, which is exactly what the USSF administration wants. Those wealthy clubs will be the ones that will promote players to the national team and the controlled environment will continue to stay in place. The USSF says, the new licensing should increase the meaning of each license by making sure the licenses are accessible only to the right level of coach; meaning the courses should be harder to pass. What does that actually mean?? Your charging thousands of dollars for licensing for hand selected coaches and you also want failure rates to increase?  Sounds like the USSF needs to feel important.  One of the architects of the new USSF courses says, “I think there is this solid basis when you’re looking at the things we’re doing in this nine-day period, but it’s almost impossible to change behavior, It’s the same with your players: they won’t change their soccer behavior in nine days of training … so we mustn’t think we can change the behavior of coaches in nine days.”  Ok, follow me on this one, in that statement the USSF Official is saying that their Elite Licenses don’t really mean anything anyways.  If the USSF really cared about soccer development, they would price the courses well under $1,000 and provide them in every state, then put all the content of the courses online as a video education series, they should do everything they can to get the best information to all the coaches in the USA at the lowest cost possible.  Ever try to sign-up for a course over the last 3 years? It was impossible; every B & A course was sold out almost immediately, no doubt it was filled before it was even posted by the wealthy clubs who sent their priority lists!

Lets be very upfront and honest here. A license does not make a coach qualified and capable. I personally do not think our National team coach is a top-level coach and he is the USSF Technical Director and holds the highest license. I have long advocated for soccer to become like the computer industry. Just make a very detailed and comprehensive test for people to become certified. They can purchase the materials and sign-up for testing in their state. The testing shows they have an understanding of the subject but what really matters is how well they apply the knowledge on the job. That same USSF Official also says, “coaches should be expected to take some ownership of their own development outside of their coaching courses as well. Any license in itself means little when it’s not coupled with a willingness to continually learn.” Well if it means little, why are you asking for coaches to spend well over $10,000 to get something that means little?  I didn’t even mention the number of Head Coaches who have been hired in the MLS who only have a License and no coaching experience. What message does that send?  Would Manchester United hire a player with no coaching experience and just a license to manage the club?

 

The bigger message here is that the USSF has consciously made an effort to make soccer an elitist sport in the USA. It is no secret that soccer is big money & big business, the USSF wants to keep that money within its private wealthy club family. The USSF does very little to grow soccer in the lower income communities, they might say they do but they don’t. My opinion is, share the knowledge for cheap online and in every state, give real licensing opportunities to all coaches, rich and poor, don’t take pride in high failure rates for the courses, instead put some real effort into getting 100% pass rates in all courses, acknowledge the USSF is not a soccer god and the all-knowing. The word humble needs to sink into the USSF, because the word arrogant and monopoly are all that I can see in the USSF at this point. I personally have been coaching for over 25 years and played at a decent level; the first thing I will tell you is that coaching is a skilled craft that requires a lifetime of passion and learning. Nobody is the perfect coach or finished product but the USSF needs to realize what their true mission needs to be: become a friendly organization, humble organization, enable affordable playing & licensing opportunities to all, promote the game and afford resources across all economic communities. Thats the first step in turning soccer development around in this country.  There are many more steps but thats my rant for today!

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