While soccer in North America continues to grow, the development of youth players lingers as a challenge.

Central to that challenge is coach and parent education. During a recent interview, Kevin Payne, CEO of US Club Soccer, provides the following answer to the question, "what is wrong with youth soccer?"

"We have created an economy around winning at the youth soccer level and, this is not conducive to developing good players. What I am talking about is coaches and parents with an obsession on winning the game at the weekend and not focusing on producing players.

If I had a magic wand, I would make soccer parents understand what a good soccer experience looks like for their kids.

Parents should not fall back on judging the experience by wins and losses. There are really good people who know what they need to do to develop good players, but the focus on winning has made it very difficult — because of the economics. Parents wanting their kids on teams that win makes coaches try to win at all costs.

Kids want to win – I am competitive as anyone – but we need to find the right way and the right time to win. We are working on trying to develop a different philosophy to begin to change the conversation with parents."

In a fantastic series of articles hosted by the Philly Soccer Page, Dr. Scott Pugh, a paediatrician and father of two footballing sons, investigates what is going wrong at the developmental levels - Youth Soccer: We're Doing it Wrong is a 7 part serial which can be summarized by the following:

  • Talent is not static. It is dynamic. Time on the ball, the freedom to make mistakes, and having fun are crucial for children to develop.
  • When clubs are focused on winning first, the development and enjoyment of the children suffers.
  • Players and coaches need to let children make decisions on their own during games to become more creative and to develop confidence.
  • Young players should receive equal playing time and rotate through all playing positions.
  • Tryouts should be used to match children with their best learning environment, rather than to maximize a club’s chance of winning games.
  • Friendly matches and soccer festivals should replace traditional tournaments that are laden with hazards for young players.
  • A child’s current ability compared to his or her peers will change. The relative age effect, experience and variable rates of physical and psychological development cause wide variation in players abilities at young ages that often bear no predictive value for future success. Therefore, all children who are interested and committed should be given opportunities to develop.