Long-Term, Player-Centric Development
Choosing the right place to play youth soccer is rarely an easy decision – and the choice often involves elements of social pressure, fear of change, uncertainty of who to trust when rumors and marketing campaigns circulate incessantly, and questions about the promises given by coaches and organizations.
Two of the most common concerns in choosing youth clubs are: (i) the uncertainty of a new club or coach and the difficulty of “letting down” current coaches or teams when changing clubs; and (ii) determining whether the clubs you are considering can actually help the player fulfill their aspirations. Considering this, below are some suggestions on making this decision:
1) The most important focus in any decision in youth soccer should be the impact of the decision on individual player development. This is because, in youth soccer, team records and wins mean nothing in comparison to the degree and quality of individual growth. Youth soccer history is littered with examples of “successful” teams at young ages who fall apart at senior youth age groups, or who end up with few if any players moving on to play in college. The reason for these failures is almost always the same: there was no development and success in the young ages was phantom – either based on athletic differences created by early physical maturation or based on performances of 2-3 players that hid the reality that the majority of players were not developing properly. In contrast, true youth development is about the individual players and their individual growth and maturation over the long-term. This philosophy is referred to as “player-centric” - as opposed to “team-centric.” In a player-centric environment, every decision is made based on its impact on the individual player. In the long-term, player-centric environments develop great players ... and eventually they develop great teams. In contrast, in a team-centric environment, success early usually comes at the detriment of long-term success (both individual and team).
2) When you think of the legendary soccer players in women’s soccer over the past 20 years, names like Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, and Abby Wambach come to mind. When you think about the current generation of national team stars, Christen Press, Mallory Pugh, Alex Morgan, and more come to mind. Now ... consider a different set of questions. Do you know who they played for as youth players? Do you know whether these players won championships as U14s? Do you know whether they played on a team that won more games than they lost at U15? For 99.9% of the population, the answer to all the questions is the same - "no." And more importantly, the specific answer to each of these questions doesnt even matter - because even though you don’t know the answers to these questions about these players youth careers, you know the long-term outcomes of their decisions. These players (and their families) made the right decisions as youth players - (to work hard and train on their own, put themselves with great coaches, and put themselves in the most competitive environments possible). These decisions paid off when it really matters – when the player got to college and into youth national teams! Keep this fact in mind when you hear others focusing on wins and losses in youth soccer, "group" decisions about where to play, and rumors about coaches or clubs - especially around try-outs and when club choices are in play. Most of these issues are red herrings - and hide political decision-making or individual insecurity.
If you are focused on the long-term, wins and losses in youth soccer, decisions of other players and families, and rumors and gossip don’t matter. If you are focused on the long-term, only one thing actually matters – being in the best developmental and competitive environment possible. You find out which environment fits that description in one way: by doing your own research, testing the environment yourself, and seeing which club and coachs marketing is actually followed up with results!
FC Wisconsin is about player-centric, long-term player development. We want players that come early (the younger you are here and can start to learn the better!), stay for the long-term, and leave as U19s accomplishing every personal goal they set.
As a staff, our history of player development is not limited to 3-4 players in one graduation year that “made it” to college. It is not limited to 1 outlier team that vastly out-performed every other prior team. Our history is of dozens and dozens of players that “made it” to college from team after team after team, players that have gone on to be college All-Americans, captains, and more, and a few that have even worn the USA jersey as youth national team players or have become professionals. These accomplishments are the result of a player-centric, long-term focus.
We are excited for the future of FC Wisconsin players – and we hope you want to be one of these aspiring players. Join us and see the philosophy first-hand.