The U.S. Soccer Coaching Department continues to make improvements to the coaching license pathway and raise the standards of coaching in the United States. In January of this year, the department began a pilot program for the first-ever Technical Director course, a supplement to the current “E” through “A” license structure. This eighteen month course is the most advanced, intensive course the Coaching Department has offered to date.
Director of Coaching Development Dave Chesler explained the purpose of the Technical Director course and how raising the standards of coaching will affect players.
“The primary objective of all U.S. Soccer coaching programs is to positively impact the experience of the players and in turn to advance the sport. The Technical Director Course is designed to support and develop Technical Leaders and therefore improve the development of the game and the players. The structure and content of the course provides meaningful, practical experiences, as well as theoretical skills and methodologies that are necessary to lead positive change within our U.S. Academies, clubs and associations.”
The new Technical Director course is meant to challenge expert team coaches and help transform them into effective technical leaders. Ideal participants currently hold a position that requires technical oversight and possess a strong desire to advance into a technical leadership role.
The Technical Director course is divided into four modules: Technical Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Management, and Strategic Planning. Each module focuses on a different domain within the general responsibilities of a technical director and requires 40-50 hours of instruction, observation and project time. As part of the pilot course, sixteen candidates recently traveled to Germany to learn about the Deutscher Fussball-Bund (German Football Association) and their youth development process.
The specific targets of the international component of the course were to analyze the DFB structure for talent development and identification; understand the initiatives taken by the DFB; follow the DFB structure down to the Academy level; and analyze the program within two successful DFB Academies.
“The obvious objective of an international case study is to gain a direct and unfiltered perspective of the player development process within an Academy system,” said Chesler. “The ability to facilitate face to face observation, dialogue and interaction cannot be replicated in a distance-learning environment. Germany’s progress with player development is recognized widely as having improved dramatically over the past decade-plus.”
Course candidate and U.S. Soccer Technical Adviser Clint Peay felt that the purpose of the workshop was to gain ideas from the German system that U.S. coaches could consider for their own organizations.
“The purpose was to learn how the DFB has helped shape the landscape of German soccer as we know it today, then compare these findings to our system in the US to see if we can use what we learned to make our system better for long term talent development/identification, coaching development, and to improve our overall structure for a more effective pathway for players/coaches.”
The international component of the course began Oct. 13 in Frankfurt, where candidates visited the DFB headquarters for presentations from some of the German’s top leadership. While there was a great deal to learn from these meetings, Chesler noted several key points from his time spent with the DFB.
First and foremost, he observed that the development of coaches is a core value of the DFB and their Academies. In 2001, the licensing of all Academy Coaches and technical staff became a requirement for coaches for Academy certification. The DFB considers this a critical factor in the positive evolution of players and the sport in Germany.
Course candidate and Vice President of FC Dallas Youth Club, Chris Hayden, agreed.
“Coaching education is the key and they spend a great deal of money and energy in developing coaches who can teach the game. If we want to improve the quality of play and the quality of the players in the US, we need to develop coaches.”
Chesler also noticed that the standards placed on German Academies are extremely high. Each Academy is formally evaluated and rated once every three years. The assessment and certification is done by an independent source and requires a four-day on site assessment.
The German Federation also places holistic player development as a core value. Academy programs are evaluated on the support and programming that is provided for players’ academic success, as well as social support and development.
For Hayden, this core value was evident in the two clubs the group visited.
“Both Freiburg and Hoffenheim spend a great deal of energy on supporting the growth of the person as well as the player and spending the necessary time with each player to maximize their potential for success. Both clubs were much more interested in player development and promotion than on team success at the youth level.”
One way in which they accomplish holistic player development is through strong partnerships with German schools. Throughout the structure of the DFB, there are strong, meaningful partnerships with the German school system. The DFB has also implemented a highly structured Nation-wide Technical Network. They have a refined system of coaches and administration resulting in consistent delivery of standards and expectations from a National (Federation) level to a Regional level and finally extending to individual Academies.
The group followed meetings with the DFB with visits to two Academy clubs, SC Freiburg and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. The visits allowed candidates to observe
how each club applied the core ideas from the DFB and implanted them in their own environments on a daily basis.
For Chesler, several themes arose from the time they spent in Freiburg. First, the club maximizes its resources on talent development. While SC Freiburg has modest facilities and a low density of associated clubs, it is one of the leading teams in the Bundesliga for home-grown talent promotion to the first team.
Along the same lines, the club utilizes their training space and facilities in a highly efficient way. Four age groups effectively can train simultaneously on a single lighted turf field. Similarly, the club demands a maximum value from their Technical Staff resources. Most Technical Staff serve dual roles in training teams and scouting. Additionally, some staff members are used in a vertical integration model where they connect to more than one age group.
SC Freiburg is also unique in that the entire club maintains a consistent playing philosophy. All teams (exc. first team), technical staff and coaches are committed to playing the same style. They are persistent in this objective, even at the risk of taking goals or losing.
From Freiburg, the group traveled northeast to Hoffenheim, home to TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. During the visit, course participants saw presentations on the club’s Academy structure as well as their Talent ID, Player Development, and Coaching Development. The group also spoke with several youth coaches and observed their training sessions.
One unique feature of the Hoffenheim Academy is that the club has invested in four separate, specialized training sites broken up by age group. Each site is specifically designed for the age and developmental stage that it supports. All four locations have similar structure that helps create a controlled environment. In each facility there are constant reminders of the Academy objectives. Long-term development plans and the associated weekly plans and schedules are posted everywhere so that the messaging is clear and the Academy targets are reinforced.
Chesler noted other key items during the visit to Hoffenheim. Specifically, he pointed out their advanced coaching development and internal staff programs. The DFB licensing program provides the foundation for the Hoffenheim coaching staff while internally, the Academy Technical Leaders provide continuous coaching development programs through monthly seminars, peer mentoring, measurement of coaching competencies and individual development programs. Hoffenheim also has developed strong partnerships with four local clubs all located within a 10km radius.
The international workshop concluded when the group took in two Bundesliga games before flying back to the US on October 20.
While the international component of the U.S. Soccer Technical Director course was a success, Chesler says that the group still has to finish the Organizational Leadership module, which includes an observation and analysis of a week-long Youth National Team camp in the United States. This project will connect the directors responsible for elite youth development with the expectations and standards of the U.S. Youth National Teams.
For now, the group is reflecting on the trip and how they can apply what they saw. Hayden discussed how he will implement what he learned from the workshop back home.
“The trip to Germany has given me a great deal of perspective on the philosophy held by current European soccer academies. I plan on looking at all of the different areas that we are helping our players at FC Dallas at the youth level and comparing it to the academy structure that we saw overseas. During our continual review of programming, we will more than likely implement a few of the ideas that we were exposed to in order to see their effectiveness at our club. We are always open to changing or adding if we feel that our development environment has a chance to improve.”
U.S. Soccer plans to launch registration for the first open-enrollment Technical Director course in March 2014. Additional details will be available on ussoccer.com.