I was recently at the IMG Academy in Bradenton Florida auditing my license. The coaches had the opportunity of observing the U17 National Team for a few days. We also spoke with the team coaching staff about their preparation for the upcoming qualifiers in Jamaica, the weaknesses of the players and the strengths of the players.
It was amazing to hear that what the coach cited was exactly what many current club coaches complain about.The first thing he said was that the players were spoiled. Some come from very privileged homes, so they struggle with the diet, training regime and the mental toughness required to succeed at the next level.
Players complained about having to eat fish and vegetables. Some complained about not being able to drink soda and not being able to eat what they did at home. It was explained to the players that regeneration is of the utmost importance and their bodies needed the proper nutrients for this to be accomplished.
He also cited that the players were physically gifted, but very unfit. They all came from clubs where training 2 to 3 times a week was the norm, so the coaching staff has devised a program to get them fit.
The head coach has also created an environment to toughen the kids. He explained that the boys lacked gamesmanship. Too willing to give the back to opponents when the ball went out of bounds. Not knowing how to use their bodies to their advantage when in possession and when defending in 1v1 situations.
The coach also mentioned that kids in other countries at this age face tremendous hardship already in their life, so they are so much tougher. He wanted the US players to match this if they wanted to have a chance to compete outside of the country.
The next area of concern was the technical and tactical weakness of the players. The players are simply not good enough in these areas. Coming from the club environment, where winning takes precedence over development, it is no surprise that the players are lacking in these areas.
The bright spot was that the players are eager to learn. This is conjunction with their superior physical attributes makes them very strong contenders. The coaches in attendance were asked to do a better job developing younger players, so that future teams come in with the necessary prerequisites already in place.