By Christian Lavers
US Club Soccer Executive Vice President
It wasn’t very long ago when technical leaders in the youth game had very little impact and influence on the structure and format of the competitions, leagues and events that their club teams played in. Rules and schedules were determined bureaucratically, suggestions from voices on the field were ignored and “change” was a four-letter word that was more likely to cause trouble than to provoke discussion. It was a static environment, with predictable results.
One of the fundamental purposes of US Club Soccer is to insure that the technical leaders in the game at the grassroots level have the ability to be heard and to positively impact the structure of the youth game. It is our belief that empowering coaches, provoking discussion and debate on difficult topics, and fostering club leadership and accountability will help improve almost everything about youth soccer – from the level and expectations of coaches to the format and structure of competition.
These are the beliefs that were fundamentally behind the creation of the National Premier Leagues (NPL). In its best execution, the NPL is a platform that allows club leaders to work together to discuss and create the structure that is best for player development in their city, state or geographic region.
It is a platform where like-minded clubs, with forward-thinking leaders, can establish proper training-to-game ratios, create meaning in weekly competition and integrate player identification and development processes into the league at no cost. When fully embraced and implemented, the NPL also that allows investment and participation in coaching and club development.
The youth soccer landscape is cluttered with acronyms, events and conflicting priorities and opinions. Every club, and every technical leader, must navigate this landscape when trying to improve their club, and hopefully when trying to improve the game overall. There will inevitably be disagreement in the process. But, in this process, for leaders and clubs with long-term vision and the willingness to work together, the NPL can be a tool to simplify and clarify the path – and a vehicle to implement the best conceived structures and ideas.
As we start this new season, hopefully your players and teams are excited to begin their journey towards the 2015 NPL Finals. Every year, NPL member leagues around the country are improving in operation and execution, and the atmosphere at the NPL Finals becomes more special.
Hopefully you are determined to work with the other clubs in your league to make the environment around every game top class, and to work collaboratively to make the league better every year. Working together, with voices that are respected and respectful, we can create the platform we desire. Eventually, we will change youth soccer.
ABOUT US CLUB SOCCER:
A National Association member of the U.S. Soccer Federation, US Club Soccer is an organization committed to the development and support of soccer clubs in the United States.
US Club Soccer offers youth and adult registration, league- and cup-based competition platforms at the recreational and competitive levels, as well as a variety of other programming, including the Olympic Development Program-sanctioned id² Program and Player Development Programs.
Through US Club Soccer, all of a club’s programs – recreational, competitive and adult – are able to be united under one organizational umbrella, creating a “members for life” culture within each club. US Club Soccer is sponsored by Nike and Army National Guard.