I started as state Director of Coach & Player Development for Kentucky back in October 2005. One of my very first jobs was to deal with the Olympic Development Program and more specifically the try-outs which were scheduled to take place at the start of November. For many US Youth Soccer state associations the program has changed dramatically over the past few years but the concept still remains the same of attempting to find the best players that are available from the local clubs teams to go on and represent the state association and possibly beyond.
Following try-outs, I would always delight in receiving the phone calls from the parents that were disgruntled that their child had not made the training pool. How could this be the case? They are the best player on their club team; she can run faster than anybody else, he can kick it further than any player in the state. No matter how much I would try to explain that those elements within a player are not necessarily ones we are looking for, I would always get comments such as “you only select certain players from certain clubs” and “obviously the selection process is all political.”
For many years I would argue the case that there was nothing political about our selection process and even though we may not have the perfect try-out procedure, the door was never closed on a player. Of course very few people walked away satisfied with my response. After a few years, I will now agree that all try-outs for any teams (Select Teams, ODP State and Regional and even those for the USSF Academies) are political. It is political because it’s about opinions; and unfortunately in the opinions of the coaches making the selections they may feel that the player is not ready for the next step or suited for the style of play we are looking for.
Today, I will only accept phone calls from the players because they are the ones that I can help. That is our job as youth coaches to communicate with the players and give them feedback that they can use to develop. Players typically don’t use the excuse that it’s political but sadly very few will contact me to see what they can work on to accomplish their goals. Anson Dorrance, University of North Carolina Women’s Coach said “If you're a good player, you are going to make it. If you're marginal, it may be left up to politics (opinions). If you want to be assured of making a team, be one of the 'top three or four players.”
You can only be in the top three or four if you work at it and sometimes getting knocked down is part of the process. Perhaps if youth soccer players would take the mindset of those that ride skateboards we would have fewer players and parents making up excuses for their failures. If every kid stopped riding a bike or skateboard after they fell off then the world maybe without the likes of Tony Hawk and Lance Armstrong.
When you fall down; you get back up again and learn from the process. But as long as we continue to place the blame on politics we aren’t getting better. Don’t blame the politics of it because that’s just about the opinions of those making the selections.