More Than 200 Boys and Girls Get First National Team
Experience At U-14 Identification Camps
MIDDLESEX, Mass. (August 25, 2005) - More than 120 boys and 100 girls participated in U.S. Soccer's Under-14 National Development Program Identification Camps in Middlesex, Mass. over the course of two weeks in August. The boys' camp took place July 31-Aug. 6, and the girls' camp ran from Aug. 7 - Aug. 13.
The U-14 National Development Program was established in 1997 to introduce elite players to a level of soccer they would not otherwise see at such a young age and to identify and develop talented young players and provide an environment where they can learn about the game and improve their skills with a focus on playing.
"We want to make sure that we give them a good soccer experience at the national level," said U.S. Under-14 Boys' Technical Director Manny Schellscheidt, who oversees the 120 boys invited into camp. "It's a pretty big camp but we have a big country too, so I think the number is appropriate."
Participants are invited into camp based on recommendations by U.S. Soccer staff coaches and other scouts and coaches throughout the country. Coaches observe players throughout the year at various events and 25 to 36 players per region are invited to the national camp.
Players train twice a day at the national team camp. During the morning session, goalkeepers train separately, and field players are divided into large groups and train with two coaches. After lunch, the afternoon is spent playing matches against each other, with four coaches roaming the fields evaluating games and players.
"Most of our teaching is done through games," said U.S. Women's Region IV National Staff Coach Stephanie Gabbert, who oversees the girls' camp. "They're playing constantly in our training sessions. We don't do drills where players stand around in lines. The game is the best teacher and that's part of our format. The more players play the game, the better they'll be at it."
Both the boys' and the girls' camps follow the same format and are coached with the same philosophy: let the game be the teacher.
"There used to be a time when the coaches came in and hit them over them over the head with a manual that was made for adults and I think they should play like kids," said Schellscheidt. "We're not necessarily telling them what to do, we just give them little problems and let them solve them."
The goal is for players to develop and continue to move up the ladder of National Team programs. On the men's side, they may move onto the Under-15 Boy's National Team, the Under-17, Under-18, Under-20 and Under-23 Men's Youth National Teams. Girls can move onto the Under-16 Girl's National Team, Under-17, Under 20 and Under-21 Women's Youth National Teams.
Players who have been called into past U-14 camps include Men's National Team members Bobby Convey and Eddie Johnson, as well as Eddie Gaven, Freddy Adu, Benny Feilhaber and Danny Szetela, who were all members of the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship squad. On the women's side Women's National Team players Lori Chalupny, Stephanie Lopez, Amy Rodriguez and 2004 Olympic Gold Medallists Heather O'Reilly and Lindsay Tarpley all started out in the U-14 program, as well as U-21 WNT member Lauren Cheney and Ashlyn Harris, goalkeeper of the U-19 Women's National Team that finished third at the 2004 FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship in Thailand.
"My job to make sure that the kids learn the game so that when (U.S. MNT Manager) Bruce (Arena) calls on them, they have the tools to survive and the know-how to serve him well," Schellscheidt said. "At this point, we don't have to worry about winning or losing."
Schellscheidt said that the lack of pressure helps makes the camp enjoyable, as does some of the players' lack of size.
"We measure how much soccer is in them. It's not the pounds and the inches," he said. "They're still at a great balance because their minds are great while, later on, when they get bigger and stronger, traditionally they want to solve all their problems with energy. Then it's all about power and crashing into each other and macho stuff. We don't have to worry about this at this age. With them it's a technically intelligent game that is so much fun to watch."
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