Lars Richters and Oscar Pareja Named Development Academy Coaches of the Year
CARSON, Calif. (July 14, 2009) – As the fifth day of Development Academy Finals Week is getting underway, U.S. Soccer has announced that Lars Richters and Oscar Pareja have been named U-15/16 and U-17/18 Development Academy Coaches of the Year. On Wednesday, the Development Academy will announce the Player of the Year for each age group, as voted upon by Development Academy clubs and U.S. Soccer National Staff Coaches and technical advisors.
Richters, head coach of the U-15/16 Derby County Wolves, led his team to a 24-4-4 regular season record. With his team having already clinched a place in the U-15/16 championship match on Friday, July 17, he has already achieved many of the developmental goals set forth at the beginning of the year.
Pareja, who coaches both FC Dallas Juniors teams that compete in the Development Academy, led the U-17/18 team to a 15-5-8 regular season record and a second-place finish in the Central Conference standings. He also led the U-15/16 team to an impressive 18-3-7 record during the regular season and an appearance at Finals Week.
“The first things you look at when you’re looking for a coach of the year are, how the team plays,” said Development Academy Technical Director John Hackworth. “Both Lars and Oscar exemplify professionalism and it is reflected in each of their teams and what the players do on the field.”
Winning aside, both Pareja and Richters have put player development at the forefront of their teams’ training regimens.
According to Richters, he and his staff try to view the Academy’s objectives from the perspective of the players to help them get the most out of training. Because the players are willing to put in the extra time and effort it takes for the team to succeed, Richters wants to make sure the experiences pay off.
“We’ve been lucky to have kids that have a commitment to always bring a high level, both in training and games," said Richters. “The nature of a competitive athlete is to want to win every time they step on the field. I think what we’ve tried to suggest to the kids is that winning is an important part of development. However, we’ve made it clear to them that we’re not going to go into a win at all costs mentality.”
Finals Week features the top 16 teams determined over the course of a nine-month Development Academy season. Eight teams in both the Under-17/18 and Under-15/16 age groups are battling through group play, looking toward the championship matches on Thursday, July 16, and Friday, July 17, with both televised live on ESPN Classic. For complete coverage of everything happening at The Home Depot Center throughout the week, including daily updates, streamed games, full episodes of Studio 90, photo galleries and game recaps, visit ussoccer.com.
The Development Academy was created to enhance the player development environment for elite youth players in the United States, according to U.S. Soccer Best Practices, with specific focus on increasing the number of training sessions, decreasing the total number of games while increasing the number of quality games and maintaining the highest level of coaching, refereeing and competition available in an everyday environment.
In its second year, the Academy program has already dramatically impacted the player development process in the United States. In 2008, more than 100 players from Academy clubs were included in U.S. Youth National Teams and almost 800 graduates from the inaugural Academy class participated in college soccer the following fall. Virtually all college programs use the Academy program as a scouting vehicle and the program has received increased attention from professional scouts representing domestic and international clubs.