I spent the last two days in Gainesville with Bryson for Olympic Development Program try-outs. Bryson played well and made the cut earning the right to try-out at the state level in January. I tied Gator God Tim Tebow in banging chicks within the city limits tallying a robust zero. Happy times all around.
The tryout process entailed six hours of soccer scrimmages spread over three sessions in 6 v. 6, 8 v. 8 and 11 v. 11 formats. The scrimmages were monitored by qualified coaches who at 11:35 am this morning called out the numbers, including #537, of those that made it. During the scrimmages, coaches would occaisionally pull a player to the side and impart some technical wisdom, but beyond that no coaching was done.
The ODP representative addressed the parents and explained the process thoroughly. He advised they were looking for players, not positions or prototypes. They understood performance could vary with young players and that it’s important to the evaluate the players throughout the entire process, and not dismiss them on the basis of one spotty performance. He further conceded that additional scouting in necessary, and that players could improve or tail off dramatically between now, January and beyond. All proper things to say.
Having been selected, Bryson and others will have the opportunity to attend two training centers before the January try-out where they can receive coaching from ODP coaches.
Make no mistake, I am delighted with Bryson’s progress as a player, his selection at this try-out and beyond that the total experience of this process for him individually. To be fair, this process has much to do with the progress or lack thereof with US Soccer.
By tomorrow each of the players selected will return to their respective homes and resume training with their club teams. They will perhaps return with heightened confidence a likely continue as a top player for their club. They will not be in as competitive training environment again more than twice until the calender reads 2012. In European and South American soccer culture, players of promise are placed in competitive academies where they train with professional coaching and among other top players on a weekly basis. This accelerates the development of the player.
I know the US has some academy training, but with the vast geographical expanse of the nation, and limited space available our development of young players is exclusive rather than inclusive. Without the financial backing of professional clubs, ie Ajax, Everton and Barcelona, the training is cost prohibitive to the individual player/family. This all serves to limit and retard the pool of players the US has at it’s disposal.
The selection process takes precedence over the development process.