CHICAGO (January 25, 2006) - The U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team finished their first camp of 2006, which included 58 players getting instruction from head coach Bob Jenkins and his staff during a weeklong training camp at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
While having 58 players in camp was a bit larger than normal, the immediate objective was to begin looking at the majority of players in the pool early in the two-year cycle.
“We wanted to get these kids in a consistent environment where we would be able to evaluate them,” said Jenkins after the camp. “I think we really got a good feel for the top kids in this age group.”
Jenkins explained that while there were potential problems with having such a large group of players in camp at one time, the use of a great facility as The Home Depot Center and the quality of his support staff allowed everything to go smoothly.
“It was an excellent staff and we all shared the same vision,” said Jenkins. “We split into three or four groups, and the assistant coaches were on their own at times. I wasn’t standing over their shoulder. Between the eight of us, we knew every player very well. If I didn’t know a kid particularly well, I could talk to one of my assistants and they would know him very well. We sat down and talked about the players each night and by the end of the week we had a good picture of these kids.”
Along with the training they received from the U-18 coaching staff, the players also competed against each other in scrimmages and one squad even played a local club team. Jenkins said the games were important as it lets the best players rise to the top in such a competitive environment.
Overall, Jenkins believes having the large camp early in the cycle allowed him to “set down the blueprint” on how they will address everything involved with helping the players develop during the two-year process.
While there were a few things Jenkins would tinker with in future camps, such as providing an outside team for each of three of four groups the 58 players were broken into to play against near the end of the camp, he said for the start of the next cycle he would definitely consider doing another large camp.
The U-18s will hold their next camp in early March down in Bradenton, Fla. Jenkins will invite in 24 players, but the total camp will be about 34 players as 10 players in U.S. Soccer’s Under-17 Residency Program will also participate in the weeklong camp.
After that camp, a roster of 18 players will be selected for an international tournament in Slovakia in late April.