The Investment Years (U13-U18)
THE INVESTMENT YEARS
At Park Slope United our players have developed more quickly than players at other clubs. A large part of this is our innovative coaching philosophy emphasizing dynamic environments and constant decision-making. But even more, has to do with the way we are structured to create a positive developmental environment.
Our philosophy to field two even teams from U8-U13 has worked--we are structured to help players focus on getting better every day both to challenge themselves and to help their team. Our players are part of a motivating context within their teams and within the whole Travel Program, and with our mixed-age pickups and our Soccer Lab opportunities, each player’s level is only determined by how hard they work.
Once players reach the U13 age when they are playing 11v11, they enter the final stage of the youth soccer development process. In order to develop players that are prepared to succeed in college, in the workforce and in the pros, they must be in an environment where they learn the tools they’ll need once they get there.
With this in mind, we are announcing a new team structure for our 11v11 teams U13 and above. Though this structure is not typical in the United States, it is a global best practice and put in practice at nearly every soccer club in Europe, large or small. In designing this structure, I have drawn from my 19 years coaching youth soccer, experience as a DI, DIII and Juco college coach, coaching for a professional team (NY Red Bulls), living, researching and playing at a global soccer destination (Dinamo Zagreb, Croatian FA and NK Maksimir), and my Sports Psychology graduate work.
*Please note that the structure below only applies to age groups (boys or girls) that have two teams. Those age groups with one team (currently 2006 boys and all girls age groups) will continue fielding one team.
Instead of deciding on an “A” team and a “B” team before each season, with players coasting because they made the “A” team or becoming disheartened because they made the “B” team, we will form one large group of 36 players and field two teams each weekend. We will enter these two teams into two separate divisions each season. These teams will be called the 1st team and the reserve team of each age group.
The two coaches who currently coach in each age group will stay with these age groups, as long as our leadership determines that there is a healthy working relationship with the players. At practice, there will be two practice groups that train at the same time, next to each other. Unless otherwise notified, players who played the previous weekend on the 1stteam will train with the 1st team coach and players who played the previous weekend with the reserve team will train with the reserve team coach.
Players will be moved between each group fluidly based on performance, effort, return from injury, and attendance. Each player should aspire to play for the 1st team each weekend, and put in the extra effort at each practice with this goal in mind. In the latter half of the week, we will send out the roster for the 1st team and the reserve team based on the coaches’ evaluations.
Each season (fall, winter, spring) the two coaches will switch between who is the head coach and who is the assistant coach for each team. For example, the head coach in the fall of the 2007 1st team will become the 2007 Reserve team head coach in the winter, back to being the 1st team head coach in the spring, and the Reserve team head coach in the fall, etc. This coach would have the additional responsibility of being the assistant coach for the other team in the age group that they are not leading that season. Both coaches are responsible for collaborating and presenting all players in the group with a unified yet individualized coaching approach.
Players will be evaluated for participation in the group throughout the year on a rolling basis.
We will field one State Cup team for each age group. There is a maximum roster of 26 which must be set at the beginning of the year. This roster of 26 will be chosen during the summer with a maximum of 18 players chosen for each game.
We will enroll both the 1st team and the reserve team of each age group in tournaments.
Steps are being taken to field a team in the Cosmopolitan League adult league, which will give our high school-aged players needed exposure to high-level adult soccer. Players will be chosen for this PSU adult team based on merit and physical readiness.
In this stage, we will advocate for and tap into our relationships so that our most committed and ready players are able to make the jump to top high school and college programs, as well as professional clubs such as NY Red Bulls, NYCFC, and top clubs in Europe. Though we believe that we will field some of the strongest teams in the United States, we will continue to measure ourselves by the development of players and people.
We believe that this structure stays true to our principles of creating a fair environment based on hard work, merit, and the togetherness of the group.
We are excited to build on the strong foundation we have all worked hard for and get to where we are going: being the best amateur youth soccer club in the United States!