B.J. Snow: “We have had a lot of firsts for these players over the last few months. Almost every experience they have had has been new. They have played their first international games, taken their first international trip, been a part of their first international tournament and they have put on the USA jersey for the first time. All of these experiences stir up emotions that you cannot replicate. We have tried to make our schedule as difficult as possible, not only to bring about all these emotions, but more importantly, to discuss them so we can prepare ourselves as well as possible for what the future has in store.
“A huge part of their personal evolution has to do with confidence. They all have very special traits that helped earn them the opportunity to come into a training camp in the first place. Throughout this process, it is very easy to have your confidence be tested, and we have continually focused on trying to help them become self-aware and acknowledge the moments that challenge them. We always want them to know their best qualities, and when they come into a National Team setting we want them to focus on showing us what makes them special.”
As a coach, how do you approach creating a good team chemistry and spirit while the players are simultaneously competing for roster positions?
Snow: “Part of my job as a coach for the National Team is to make sure that the players have perspective while also understanding the context of their involvement. Whether they are chosen for the roster or not, they need to understand that this is not the final destination in their soccer careers. Every camp, every conversation and every game gives them a snapshot of where they are developmentally. We always tell them, ‘to get to where you want to go, you have to know where you are.’ All of these situations provide them the opportunity to know where they are at in the developmental process.
“There are hundreds of thousands of young players across the country that would love to have the chance to be invited into a National Team camp. The truth is, very few will be given that opportunity. An even smaller number will have the chance to be part of a qualifying tournament or a World Cup. The players who we have had in are naturally competitive; they have to be in order to make it to this level. However, when you put on the shirt with a USA crest, it has a natural unifying affect. You immediately know that you are playing for something so much bigger than yourself. This is not just something we talk about. It’s about testing their perspective and giving them opportunities to feel the emotions of their involvement. As long as they can keep that perspective, they can compete for spots while at the same time understanding the big picture.”
The top teams in CONCACAF seem to be improving at the U-17 level, and the mid-level teams are also making jumps as well. What do you expect from the
competition in Jamaica?
Snow: “The international youth game is evolving at a very rapid pace. There has been tremendous change even since 2008 when the first U-17 FIFA Women’s World Cup was staged. The game is faster with more technical players all over the field. Teams are tactically sophisticated and organized. Most of all, there has been a huge investment by countries all over the world to put resources into their organizations to help develop the future stars of the game.
“This is a very exciting time for our sport at the international youth level. The progress forces teams and players to evolve in order to compete at the highest level. We expect World Cup qualifying to be no different. The competition will be strong across the board and this is a great sign for the future of the CONCACAF region.”
When you compare the current pool of U-17 players to what you’ve seen in the past, are American women getting more technically proficient?
Snow: “There has been a huge emphasis on improving the technical proficiency of players across the United States. When I go and watch players compete across the country, it is remarkable to see the technical gifts that a lot of players have from a young age. That being said, we are still evolving in this capacity. The gold standard has been set by the countries that have been able to have the most success at the U-17 international level. France, South Korea, Japan, North Korea have all proven over the last six years that their technical adeptness has been the primary factor for their success. This has had a transformative effect across the world. It is no longer a luxury to have technical players, it is a requirement to compete at the highest level.
“When assembling the players for this team it was important to develop a philosophy for how we want to play and then identify players who have the ability to embrace and execute the philosophy. Technical ability is not the only thing we look for but it is a big part of this equation, and we feel that we have as technical a group in all positions on the field as we have ever had. This is a credit to the youth coaches across the country that are embracing the total development of the player and making technical training a priority. However, we still have a ways to go to develop the type of comfort on the ball that is now required in the international game.”
What is the message to the team in regards to how you want them to play and how have they bought into and adapted to that coaching?
Snow: “Like I said earlier, it is the coach’s job to develop a philosophy of how we want to play and to identify players that have the ability to do that. The next phase requires us to teach them the objectives and expectations, and then commit to that philosophy. It has been important to stay committed to the philosophy we have in place. We have made it a point that we are in the process of building layers for how we play, and in the midst of building, we are going to have challenges and set-backs. However, it is important that we stay the course and remain committed to our overall philosophy.
“The players have far exceeded my expectations from day one with their ability to retain information and execute the plan. We have certainly had some moments that have challenged their commitment to stick with the philosophy, but that’s exactly what we wanted to have happen. We want them to feel uncomfortable with certain situations. Ultimately that is the only way they will grow. The entire pool that we have since January, which consists or more than 80 players, has shown a remarkable eagerness to learn and an extraordinary focus to want to improve every day. It has truly been a pleasure to work with every one of them.”