US SoccerUS Soccer
Development Academy

U-14 BNT Head Coach Hugo Perez Discusses Youth Development, Past and Present

LAKEWOOD RANCH, Fla. (Dec. 4, 2012) – During his busy schedule at the 2012 U.S. Soccer Development Academy Winter Showcase and the Nike International Friendlies, U.S Under-14 Boys’ National Team head coach and U.S. Soccer Technical Advisor Hugo Perez, himself a former U.S. MNT player, discussed the current state of youth development in the Development Academy. The 2008 National Soccer Hall of Famer also touched on what has changed at the youth level since his early playing days.

On the Development Academy and the addition of a U-13/14 age group for 2013-14:
“I think the U.S. has taken a big step in not only creating the Academy league, but mostly in the development process. It’s going to be a big step in the future for the development of the players. Next year, we’re going to the Under-13/14 league, which is the most important for us because if we can get them as young as we can, then it’s better for the clubs and us in the Youth National Team programs to work with them.”

On the maturation of clubs within the Development Academy:
“The difference is now with the clubs that are integrated into the Academy program, they have to train more and the games are more competitive. Also, because they get evaluated, their work becomes more serious now. They have to prepare better and have better programs for their players, and that has helped a lot.”

On implementing an across-the-board development program spanning the U-14 to the Senior National Team:
“I think he’s [Jurgen Klinsmann] got good ideas. The senior National Team cannot be compared to any of the Youth National Teams. The Youth National Team is basically a job to develop players for the U-20s, U-23s and the senior National Team. Our job is to concentrate on finding talent first and working with that talent to develop them, in a couple years, to represent our country with the senior National Team. We want to develop elite players. With the program that U.S. Soccer came out with that Claudio [Reyna] put together, that is helping a lot. We have so much talent here. I’m with the U-14s and right now we have the ’99 group, which is an excellent group. The future is bright. We have to continue to work hard and make sure that we’re doing a good job as far as our development program. We’re not worried about results because, in the end, that doesn’t count. When the players get to the senior National Team, that is when it is going to be important.”

On how the new U-13/14 age group will help the U-14 Boys’ National Team:
“I think it’s going to help us because when they come to us in the National Team, we only have them for eight days and then they go back to their clubs. Now, with this age starting next year it will help us to have a clearer vision for them when they go back. They know exactly what we’re doing, so we want to transmit that to the clubs so after three months when they come back at least they have a general idea of what we do.”

On what has changed in youth development since his early playing days:
“Twenty  or 25 years ago, you didn’t have all these programs that U.S. Soccer is bringing now. With the programs we have now, we’re more accountable as U.S. Soccer and clubs to work better. The tools are here and we have to make sure the coaching education is getting better for our kids and we need to be patient with them. To build good players, you have to spend more time. It doesn’t happen in a year or two years. I think we’re making the right steps.”

On keeping open lines of communication with other YNT coaches and looking toward the future:
“With the other National Team coaches we talk a lot and, in general, try to make sure we’re doing the same things. We look at other countries that are being successful with this work and then you have to copy certain things that they’re doing because it has worked for them. I still feel that, in this country, we do have the players. I’m not worried about that. What I worry about is when they go to their clubs, their clubs provide what is necessary for them to grow. That’s going to be the whole key going into the future.”