Starting on Sunday, July 29, U.S. Under-14 Boys Technical Director Manny Schellscheidt will conduct the weeklong Under-14 Boy’s Identification Camp in Concord, Mass., where 119 players from all four regions come together for a training camp. Before kicking off the camp with his assistant coaches, Schellscheidt talked with ussoccer.com to provide his thoughts on the camp environment, the players, how he evaluates the players, the coaches’ ideas on training and teaching and the physical differences between players at this age.
By Manny Schellscheidt
What I like about this camp is that the players are a fun group to work with. They come out to Concord with an open mind and as coaches we try and treat them that way. One thing that we always try to do is make sure we as the coaching staff remember that these players are still kids - they are still 14-year old kids, and we are not treating them like they are 25 years old.
One thing we have always tried at these camps is to make the game itself the teacher. We let the game and the situations guide the teaching. We don’t have preconceived notions about what we need to break down into lessons and teach every day. We try to make everyday as big as we can make it and involve the players and the coaches. That is the beauty, that it involves everyone. We only have one thing in mind, and that is to make the soccer the best we can make it. We start out thinking that everyone has a gift, and we want to help the players and make them able to find that gift.
The coaches do a wonderful job of selecting players, and the soccer that is played by the kids is always fantastic and I don’t expect anything different this year. It’s always amazing to see the talent of some of these 14-year-olds. At first they are usually a little nervous, but that goes away quick with the staff putting them at ease.
We as coaches are not here to bomb the players with our wisdom; we are here to listen to the players’ stories, who they are and where they are within their game. They always make a great account of themselves, because we give them a chance to do so. In too many other situations, coaches come in with a certain agenda and all the kids are stuck doing exactly what the coach wants, which is not always what they need. In this environment coaches and players are free to experiment with this game as they get to know each other.
All the players need to do at this point is get a little bigger and a little stronger and let nature take its course. The basic trademark of a good player is already in place.
I’m expecting we’ll see players that could very well amount to something on the attacking end of the field, some that can take play in the midfield and some that can play defense. In every department I’m hoping we’ll find players that can step up and come forward, and we are very comfortable that the likelihood of that is very good due to what we’ve seen in the past.
If we bring in 120 or so kids to this camp – as we do now – there will always be a group of the top 20, then the next 20 and so on and then it tapers off at the end. The ones that are at the tail end of that group, we don’t consider them failures or think that it was a mistake to invite them to the camp. In many ways it is just a situation where they can’t compete physically, and it is too early to say what it will be like in a year or two.
At the end of the week you have the better kids playing on one field and the others on a field next to it. And at times it looks like you are watching two different age groups because of the size of the players, but their soccer is very good on both fields. If the littler kids had to compete against the larger ones at this age I don’t think they could do it.
That said, I’m sure at the end of the week I’ll have nothing but compliments for the players and the staff for combining to create such a great event.