Man on a Mission – Part IIColin Herriot, DOC at youth club Waldorf SC in Maryland, shares his developmental philosophy
by Ken Sweda | Tuesday, September 04, 2012
Continuing from last week’s discussion here is the second part of my feature on a progressive coach and club making a difference.
Standards and Responsibilities
Colin Herriot believes that even if a coach in his program is winning, if his methodology isn’t correct and doesn’t adhere to the mission and vision of the club, Herriot can’t allow his approach to continue.
“I would chat with him/her and again explain our goals, the focus of the club and the direction of the program. I would sacrifice a professional coach if he couldn’t buy into the nature of the club. If I allowed one coach to win, but doing things his way, what message would that send across the organization? I’m trying to create something of importance, this takes patience and everyone needs to be on the same page.”
On a related note, Herriot feels that it’s important that other clubs adopt the developmental ethos he has instilled at Waldorf SC.
He sees many clubs that are successful from U9 thru U12, who then disappear. He judges a club on the success it’s having with their older age-groups on a consistent basis; this tells him the foundation is solid. This ties into all the components he has already mentioned, but adds the idea of age- appropriate coaches.
“Don’t put the ex-MLS player with the U10 group just because. Find the strengths and weaknesses of your staff and assign them accordingly.”
Parent education has been an important part of reaching Herriot’s goal of becoming a developmentally-focused club. Appropriately, having a fantastic staff that continuously reinforces the goals to their respective groups has been key. The coaches constantly send out articles and any type of material that supports their focus from a developmental perspective. Herriot himself also occasionally attends team meetings to address any concerns or questions that parents have. The club website also has some useful links for anyone that’s looking to continue their soccer education.
The Developmental Process-Player Side
Waldorf SC’s approach to player development is simple: their main focus and goal is for the kids to manipulate the ball. Ball manipulation breeds and creates confidence; it also helps the kids fall in love with the game. Some of their coaches have created juggling journals for the kids as a tool to monitor player development over a period of time. Once the coaches create a technical foundation, they build off that platform and add other attributes to continue their development.
Watching soccer is an important tool as well. The club is affiliated with DC United and they encourage families to visit games as often as possible. Herriot and I agree that the visual content of watching a game is an underrated development tool. Anytime a major European club visits the area the club promotes the event, and the staff sends out regular updates of EPL, Champions League games and the like. The coaches also do a great job of using YouTube to communicate with the players; sending highlight clips of Neymar, Ronaldo or any player that might spark an artistic [pursuit].
For another example of how Herriot and Waldorf SC foster those artistic and creative traits in their players, take a look at the following video, which shows the use of futsal as a training and inspirational tool.
The Big Picture
While Herriot and Waldorf SC are doing a great job, their situation is, frankly and unfortunately, still somewhat unique. Asked whether he believes US Soccer holds clubs accountable enough to follow their Best Practices and Player Development guidelines, Herriot had this to say:
“There are so many individual organizations, leagues and tournaments; it’s almost become the Wild West in terms of the routes clubs are taking. Who do we begin to hold accountable for the direction of our younger players and programs? I’m afraid that there is so much money involved in the game at the youth level, that it won’t change anywhere in the near future. I understand the size and magnitude of the problem we are facing, but still believe improvements are needed.”
Herriot has high hopes for his program, but is realistic about the future of the sport in this country as a whole.
He acknowledges the game has drastically improved in his ten years in this country. He sees some top grade coaches, great facilities and some fantastic young talent within the game. However, he still feels as though the bigger clubs, with their direct access to an endless number of players, could really do much more to benefit the game within this country.
“I would love to see one of the top clubs in The States create a Barcelona approach to their club. Create a system, a culture; make it about the product and the success on the field. That would be a winning combination. I believe this approach could change the landscape of our working environment. [Unless this happens] we will lose players to the bigger clubs [for the wrong reasons], because the parent demands the success over the benefit of individual player development.
“If US Soccer decided today that this is the blueprint for the next twenty years, as the French and Spanish did in the 80’s and 90’s, this country would be a formidable soccer “powerhouse” for generations to come. I’m not suggesting we adopt the Spanish approach; we must create our own identity and combine the athleticism with technical brilliance. [But if we continue to change] at this current rate, I can’t see the US competing for a World Cup in my lifetime.”
And there you have it.
If passion, vision and execution can transform a single club, certainly there is hope that the sport can show a similar transformation across the country. But that will require commitment, focus, accountability and time. Only when US Soccer decides to do away with the fiefdoms that hold back the youth game here, and emulate men like Colin Herriot and his wonderful club, can we hope to move forward.