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On the Field - by Manny Schellscheidt

This week, U.S. Under-14 Boys Technical Director Manny Schellscheidt evaluates the recently completed Under-14 Boy’s Developmental Camp in Concord, Mass., where 120 players from all four regions came together for a training camp from August 5-11.  What follows are Schellscheidt’s thoughts on the weeklong camp and the players.  Manny talks about the camp environment, the players, his impressions of the players, the coaches’ ideas on training and teaching, the physical differences between players at this age and more.

Evaluation of the Under-14 Boys National Team Camp
by Manny Schellscheidt

What I liked about this camp is that the players were a fun group to work with. They came out here with an open mind and as coaches we treated them that way.  One thing that we always had to make sure was that the coaching staff remembered that these 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 did a wonderful job of selecting players, and the soccer that was played by them was fantastic.  They played some games that were so enjoyable and so competitive.  Just to see the talent of some of those 14-year-olds was amazing.  At first they are 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 made a great account of themselves, because they had 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. The soccer itself was at times quite brilliant.

I thought we saw 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 we found players that stepped up and came forward, and we are very comfortable that if we had to go to competition right now we would acquit ourselves very well.

If we bring in 120 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 can’t compliment the players or the staff enough for combining to create such a great week.