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Development Academy Quote Sheet: Academy Moves to 10-Month Season


The U.S. Soccer Development Academy has instituted a 10-month season starting in 2012-13. U.S. Soccer and Academy coaches weigh in on the move:

U.S. Men’s National Team Head Coach JURGEN KLINSMANN

On the move to a 10-month season:

“If we want our players to someday compete against the best in the world, it is critical for their development that they train and play as much as possible and in the right environment. The Development Academy 10-month season is the right formula and provides a good balance between training time and playing competitive matches. This is the model that the best countries around the world use for their programs and I think it makes perfect sense that we do, as well.”

U.S. Soccer Youth Technical Director CLAUDIO REYNA

On the benefit of the 10-month format:

“Going to a 10-month season is an important step in the evolution of elite player development. The format provides the ideal platform to combine an increase in the amount of high value training on a regular basis with the opportunity to play in quality, competitive games throughout an extended season. This schedule puts our elite players in line with kids in their age group internationally and places the appropriate physical demands on them at this stage in their development. The addition of as many as 50 extra training sessions per year will greatly enhance the ability of players to work on individual skills and receive advice and instruction from coaches. Along with the support of our membership, this move has been greeted with enthusiasm from soccer experts from around the world.”

U.S. Soccer Director of Scouting TONY LEPORE

On the benefits of the 10-month season:

“Moving to a 10-month calendar of training and matches is an important next step for the most talented players who are ready to commit more time in the best everyday environment s . For them, the benefits are unquestionable. Our Development Academy membership should be congratulated for all of their hard work and effort to overcome various challenges to help make this happen in the best interest of elite player development.”

U.S. Soccer Technical Committee Chairman and D.C. United President KEVIN PAYNE

On the implementation of the 10-month season:

“We’ve made a lot of strides forward with the Development Academy since 2007 when we began this new approach to developing our best young talent. The move to a 10-month season and the focus on an increasing number of high-quality training days for our players is a logical next step and an important one which we believe will bear fruit for us in the future.”

On the benefit for MLS clubs:

“Obviously there’s no real magic to the process of developing talent. There’s a fairly simple equation of the higher number of quality training days that a player puts in in a given year, the greater the results. By increasing the number of days in which players are training with their peer group and under the best training environment, it will logically help those players to improve.”

CLUB COACHES AND DIRECTORS

Strikers FC Director of Coaching DON EBERT

On how the 10-month season creates a better path for player development:

“It’s a better learning environment because it’s not as rushed. In the old system we were playing games almost every Saturday and every Sunday for a few months in a row. The kids weren’t able, at that age, to play two games and train at a high level and continue that process without breaking down. From a development point of view, it was holding us back. But the 10-month season allows us to spread out the games and now we’re getting a good amount of quality practices every week. We can up the load and the players are now getting the reps and touches they need. That’s where we really test the kids and now we’re able to do it at more practices for longer periods of times. It’s changed our team completely. It’s going to work in the favor of player development and will work out better for all the coaches and players.”

On how adopting the 10-month season has impacted his team thus far this year:

“Players aren’t as fatigued and the pace and intensity of training compared to the last four years is like night and day. We’ve had far fewer injuries, much better training and also the games have been better. They have much more energy, they aren’t on back-to-backs and everybody is able to have their best players on the field. The level is way up compared to the last few years.”

On the choice the players have to play in the Development Academy and how it can benefit those players:

“The Academy isn’t for everyone, and what I really love about the 10-month season is it’s a choice. If your dream is to wear the jersey, get paid to play as a professional and represent your country, then this is a different avenue. It’s more demanding, it does take 10 months and you do train three times a week, but it’s a choice. We finally have a vehicle for the first time for families and players to choose what’s right for them. The kids who are playing in the Academy are as committed as ever because they chose to go down this route.”

Crossfire Premier Coaching Director BERNIE JAMES

On the key to player development:

“The key to development, to me, is playing against quality players in practice. I think if you’re with a group of good players that are pushing each other, and you have that for most of the year, then I think it’s bound to be better for development.”

On the long-term benefits that the 10-month season will bring:

“I really think you might not be able to measure the benefit right away. But I think if you encourage younger players to be involved in the program, then those players get maybe four or five years of this, and I think that’s where you’ll see the difference. The program over the long-run will definitely be better.”

On the Development Academy clubs driving the push for the 10-month season:

“I don’t think there’s any question the coaches of the clubs are excited about it. I can’t believe any club or any coach wouldn’t be excited about having more time with their top players in this training environment. The reason most of the guys coach is because they love the game, and they like trying to help young players reach their potential. I think having them for 10 months at the highest level in youth soccer is a positive, and we’ll see better things out of them. Ultimately, the more players we put in college, the more players we get in the professional ranks, the more satisfaction we get. We have a better chance of that if we can work more concentrated and a longer time with our players.”

FC DELCO Director of Coaching ALAN MEZGER

On the implementation of the 10-month season:

“We’re excited about the 10-month season. We think it’s another three months added to our curriculum and the development of our players, so we’re excited that U.S. Soccer has made the step. I thought it was a necessary step toward developing not only top-level, National Team-type players, but I think Division I players, future college players. They need more training and the training they get with a professional academy staff will be beneficial to the high-level players in the country. Hopefully down the road it has a positive impact on our National Team success in international competitions.”

On why those extra three months are necessary:

“All of our kids in the first four years of the Academy came directly from high school to play with us, and I felt like the beginning of the first month of the Academy season was basically dealing with previous injury and over-usage. It was almost like spinning our wheels in training. We did more rehabilitation than tactical and technical work. Now for us, we’re going to be able to hit the ground running in mid- to late August and start attacking the season that way and not have to worry about getting back from over-use or injury or developing bad habits or anything like that.”

Oakwood SC Coaching Director DAVE FARRELL:

On how the 10-month season is working at Oakwood:

“Four years ago, you trained one or two times during the week, and you went to a weekend tournament to play five games. Now you get to go over the science of coaching and determine the players’ room for growth. We’re training three or four times a week – five days a week right now because there’s no snow. It will be new for everybody, and managing the season takes work to provide that same mentality and that same soccer facility. It’s more work, but that is good. We like it. At the end of the day it is about the development of our players.”

PA Classics Director of Coaching STEVE KLEIN

On the implementation of a 10-month season:

“It’s obviously in the best interest for a soccer player, to get more training sessions during a year-round time frame. It’s going to be exciting. The Academy system is the best way to develop players.”

On the quality of play and benefits of a 10-month program:

“One of the issues of not being in a 10-month season is the back-to-back games on weekends, where during that second game your players are going on tired legs. That definitely contributes to injuries and oftentimes sloppy games. The overall quality of play will rise, players will be fresh during games, we’ll have more practices and the players will be healthier. The overall benefit of spreading things out allows you to really work on certain aspects within the team, rather than jam everything into a small window.”

St. Louis Scott Gallagher Metro Director of Youth Program Development-Illinois DALE SCHILLY

On how the switch to a 10-month season affects players’ development:
“The opportunity to lay out a year-long training program where the emphasis is placed on overall and sequential development of the player will be refreshing. Having players for 10 months will allow coaches to clearly plan. It will allow academy programs to be patient in the development process and not be forced to cram organizational information to prepare for an event at the expense of the building blocks that make a player.”

On how his players feel about the change to a 10-month season:
“Ultimately the guys understand that the shift to a 10-month season is nothing more than another step in the evolution of the game in this country. Not too long ago, players participated in their comfortable and convenient community-based travel teams but eventually left for the experience and environment created by paid professional coaching. That change from a community-based travel team to a higher level of competition and training took as much courage and foresight as the move from the traditional participation in their high school program to competing in the 10-month Academy environment.”

On how participation in the Development Academy provides athletes with exposure and opportunities for academic and professional development:
“Having an Academy schedule spread across a 10-month period allows for appropriate training plans to be developed. Appropriate training plans allow for a progressive developmental sequence to be implemented to produce a player who possesses a well-developed base to build on later in his career. Additionally, a 10-month season will allow for nearly 500 hours of competing and training in a high quality environment. Because of spacing of games, this is more than double the contact players have with a high quality environment in the current seven-month Academy program.”

Solar Chelsea Director of Coaching KEVIN SMITH

On the impact the 10-month season has had on his team so far:

“We’re already seeing the benefits. We’ve been together since before our season started in September and we’ve been going now for seven months. We’re into February and our kids are playing really well. They’re sharp and energetic. We’ve seen a bit of progression and we’re moving along nicely. We’re training all the time and the kids are able to play at that high level all the time. We’ve played quite a few games, as well, recently, so we’re in a good rhythm. Our players are training four days a week, so the players are together a lot. The chemistry of the team is great, and they’re all buying into it. There’s no question the player is going to get better and that’s why we’re doing it.”

On how the 10-month season can impact older and younger players in the Academy:

“If you’re a senior in high school going into college in August, then there will be a benefit as you get ready for college. You’ll be prepared to make that next step because of the environment you’ve been put in for 10 months. For the younger players, the elite ones will be in the Academy earlier and longer with the 10-month season, and that will allow them to develop even better habits earlier.”


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