The United States Olympic Development Program (US ODP) consists of tryouts to discover quality soccer players from each region. Once players are discovered, players may participate in regional and, in some cases, national training camps. Players are allowed to tryout starting at 10 years of age.
U.S. ODP programs are generally run well. However, I believe that through closer collaborations with participating leagues the ODP programs could greatly improve the overall quality of US youth soccer. The following modifications to the current system may help to achieve this end:
- Children under 14 years of age, who have not reached a high enough level of maturity, should not be sent for ODP select team tryouts. I have found that children who are too immature and are chosen to select teams become overconfident and tend to lose focus on their own development. Alternatively, children who tryout and are rejected sometimes become demoralized and disenfranchised from soccer. Some children develop more slowly than others and, if they become discouraged, will not fulfill their potential. As a consequence, players under 14 who show aptitude at an early age may not develop into quality players for emotional reasons. Hence, every effort to develop such players is wasted if children are sent to ODP tryouts before they are mentally prepared.
- ODP tryouts should not be advertised to parents directly, making it the parents’ exclusive decision to bring their children to the ODP tryout. Sometimes, parents do not have enough soccer expertise or are not in a position to make an objective decision to bring their child to the tryout. The decision should be made in consultation with team coaches. Tryouts are often flooded with players who should not be there, which contributes to wasted efforts. If parents disagree with the view of their child’s coach, then they should be encouraged to seek the opinions of other coaches of the club. If the parents still do not agree with the viewpoints of these coaches, then they should consider withdrawing their child from that club.
- For children under 14 years of age, player developmental roles should be left to the local leagues. Where players perform on a yearly basis, the focus should be on improving the quality of the overall league, not just specifically on improving the skills of a few elite players.
- The ODP role, in addition to sponsoring tryouts, should be to monitor league performances. If a particular league’s standards are not up to par, then the ODP should assist in the development process by running clinics to improve the overall standards of the participating league.
- ODP tryouts should not interfere or conflict with regular league games. The tryouts should be setup with floating dates to allow children to participate in both their league games and in the tryouts. Currently, players attending tryouts often miss important league games, to the detriment of their own development and to their club.
These are just a few points that might be considered improvements on the current ODP system.
If you have an opinion with regards to this article, I’d be happy to hear from you. Please send an email to :[email protected]
Dr. Gabriel Nigrin (DOC)
Founder, Silver Lake Soccer