The U.S. Soccer Coaching Department launched its first Academy Director course last month to much success. The 16-month course that began on April 21 will run from April 2015 until July 2016, becoming the highest-level course offered for youth coaches.
A committee comprised of U.S. Soccer personnel carefully selected 20 participating candidates, all of whom are U.S. Soccer Development Academy coaches holding an “A” License.
“The quality of an educational environment will always be directly proportional to the quality and ambition of participants, commented U.S. Soccer Director of Coaching Development Dave Chesler. “In this case we have a diversity of technical leaders who bring a broad spectrum of skills and experiences in our Academy system.”
The first module took place from April 21-24 at the Nike Campus in Portland, Oregon, with candidates meeting for the first time to commence the course. The 16-month course is led by Dave Chesler and each module includes leading experts to teach different course components. For the first module Dr. John Cone, Vince Ganzberg and Dr. Greg Shelly lead the LTPD, Zone I methods of coaching and leadership sections, respectively.
“The course is founded on the integration of three principles,” continued Chesler. 1) First class instruction from recognized domain-specific leaders; all of our supporting instructors have a doctorate degree and they are active, high-level practitioners in their respective specialty areas. 2) A stimulating environment in which collaboration, conflict and challenge are an expected part of the culture. 3) Highly relevant projects that challenge our Academy leaders to grow beyond their current comfort zone.
The first module has proceeded with every indication that we are on the pathway of an exceptional course.”
U.S. Soccer Development Academy Director Jared Micklos also agreed that the success of the first module has offered an opportunity for collaboration and leadership.
“The first module of the Academy Director course delivered on the goals to educate and further develop some of our best youth coaches and directors,” said Micklos. “The course provides an environment for collaboration within the group to learn best practices from each other to become better leaders and take ideas back to their club and community.
“This group shared great ideas and their work during the course will be instrumental to furthering the development of the Academy as we begin Zone 1 programming for the U-12 age group in 2016.”
The Academy Director course will be sequenced into multiple modules that focus on enhancing leadership skills, providing periodization and strategic planning tools and collaborating on staff mentoring techniques.
Two of the participating candidates are Beachside SC’s Mickey Kydes and Kendall SC’s Matias Asorey, who both spoke with ussoccer.com to share their experiences, their thoughts on the first module and what’s next in this long-term course.
ussoccer.com: What does it mean to you having been selected for this course?
Matias Asorey: It's an honor for me as well as my club, Kendall SC, to be selected and have the opportunity to learn alongside some of the best coaches and directors in the country.
Mickey Kydes: The group of people selected for this course is very impressive. I am very honored and flattered to be part of this group. Additionally, the opportunity to exchange ideas informally with my peers is very useful.
ussoccer.com: What is the importance of the Academy Director Course?
MA: The importance of the course is to provide coaches with the resources to ensure development of world-class players.
MK: It’s only been one module, but in my opinion, leadership, organizational structure and the understanding of player development at various age groups is at the forefront of this course.
ussoccer.com: What were your key takeaways from the first module?
MA: Specific benchmarks that need to be met in certain age groups; leadership strategies; fitness, cognitive training and speed training guidelines and age specific windows.
MK: We focused on Zone 1, and I found the physical component of Zone 1 very interesting. Most importantly, I realized that while you can lead people and work hard in building a positive and developmentally appropriate soccer culture, you cannot do everything by yourself.
ussoccer.com How will this challenge you to further your coaching knowledge?
MA: I'm going to be pushed out of my comfort zone frequently, and I couldn't be happier because I know I'm going to be a better director/coach at the end of this course.
MK: Education is an important aspect to a person’s growth. Especially when it may be different than what you are used to. It challenges you to ask questions about how you are doing things and to evaluate what you do, which is a healthy process.
ussoccer.com: How important is it for other Academy directors and coaches to go through this same training?
MA: Other directors and coaches need to go through this course in order for us to produce elite players as a country. Everyone has to have the tools, and we need to all have the same goals.
MK: Anytime you can surround yourself with quality people in a collaborative environment can only be beneficial.
ussoccer.com: Have you implemented anything you learned from the first module into your club as of yet?
MA: The first module focused on how to train the youngest age groups, 6-12 years old, physically, mentally, technically and tactically. I came back to my club Kendall SC, and I was able to work with my younger teams in a completely different way and offer them a much better training experience. I have been coaching mostly Academy and older players for the last 10 years so now I have some information I can share with my coaches on how to make training enjoyable and meaningful in the Zone 1 age groups.
MK: We have started to video tape a few coaches, asking them to self-reflect and providing them with feedback, which has been a very good experiment. Going forward, clearly defining the club’s organizational structure and assigning responsibilities by the fall of 2015 is my biggest priority.
ussoccer.com: What are your looking forward to for the next module in July which is in conjunction with the Academy Championships?
MA: I would love to see Kendall SC U-17/18's in the final but if that doesn't happen, I'm looking forward to seeing our country's top teams playing at the highest level do so by playing attacking possession oriented soccer. That would make me very happy.
MK: Watching the Academy championships will be fun. We have educators, leaders and talented individuals from all over the United States in this course. Sharing our experiences and learning from one another is what I am looking forward to.
The full roster of candidates selected, as well as the breakdown of what the entire course entails can be found here.
On Feb. 9, 2013, the U.S. Women’s National Team kicked off the new year with a 4-1 victory against Scotland in Jacksonville, Florida. Christen Press, then 24-years-old, was responsible for two goals that day, scoring in the 13th minute and adding another in the 32nd to give the U.S. a 2-0 lead at halftime.
The early goal was Press’ first for the USA, coming in a match that was also her first cap.
Becky Sauerbrunn hugs Christen Press in the aftermath of Press scoring on her WNT debut.
Earning that first cap is special for any player, but a debut and a goal in the same game? That’s a rare feat. In the 30+ year history of the U.S. WNT 21 players have scored in their first caps.
NOTHING TO LOSE
Press’ path to that first game three years ago was an interesting one. In early 2012, she made the decision to move to Sweden after U.S.-based Women’s Professional Soccer folded. Press thought leaving the country might negatively impact her hopeful National Team career, but little did she know, it was only just beginning.
“I think just because I always thought that the National Teams would be watching the American league, I thought that going abroad was kind of like saying goodbye to my dream of playing for the National Team,” recalled Press. “I left around this time, in February, and I thought I would not get a call, I sort of thought that I would fall out of U.S. Soccer’s radar.”
As it turns out, head coach Pia Sundhage kept tabs on players in Europe, especially in her native land of Sweden. Press got off to a hot start with her new club, and it wasn’t long before she was on her way back home.
Press returned to the U.S. and joined the WNT in Florida in April during the final stretch of what had been an intense fitness camp. She kept to herself and tried to quickly learn as much as possible despite only being there for five days.
“I had nothing to lose,” she said. “It was my first camp, it was warm and I was so happy. I don’t think I spoke to anybody. I was not nervous, I was just happy to be in Florida and my dream was coming true. I’m always quiet when I don’t know my surroundings, so I just kept to myself trying to learn the rules, how to behave; it was all so quick.”
That short stint turned out to be the only one for Press before she was named an Olympic alternate in 2012. The following February, Tom Sermanni took over as WNT head coach, and it was then Press learned she would start against Scotland. Her chance had arrived.
“I went on the field, the crowd was so much bigger than I’d ever played in front of, and for me it was so much bigger than life,” said Press. “But I kept telling myself, ‘I’m not nervous, I’m confident, I’m a good player and I believe in myself.’”
Years and multiple goals later, plus one Women’s World Cup title to her name, the dream is alive and well for Press.
Press celebrates scoring her first World Cup goal against Australia in the USA's opening match of the 2015 Women's World Cup