By Phil Rose
Organized youth soccer is usually dependant on a partnership between soccer professionals and volunteer parents to administer and run youth soccer programs. The combination of a partnership between professionals and volunteers is often a recipe for failure. The involvement of predominantly inexperienced, untrained, agenda driven, volunteer adults, who do not fully understand youth soccer is one of the many reasons why youth soccer is failing in this country. The impact upon the growth(or lack of) of youth soccer and the barriers built by misguided parents is a trend that we as soccer professionals have to reverse.
How do we achieve this?
We can only achieve this by the standards we set and serve to our soccer communities. The key to a successful youth soccer program is setting professional standards that are consistent throughout our profession. A soccer professional must operate within a philosophy and code of ethics that everyone agrees with and operates by. The philosophy and code of ethics MUST always benefit every child and be good for the game. It should be our mission and purpose to sell this philosophy to our soccer community. The rule of thumb therefore would require that anyone who does not believe in the mission, philosophy, follow the business plan or cannot operate and function within the code of ethics and professional standards should be encouraged to leave the program.
Here’s a good solution.
Professional standards start and end with soccer professionals. In order to raise the standards in our communities we MUST raise the standards in our profession. We, as soccer professionals, must embrace any and all professional developments or changing trends, that lead to better services offered and an improvement in the standards of youth soccer. True soccer professionals are developing all the time. There is no such thing as the finished article or complete package. A soccer professional is evolving and growing constantly. A coach who is the same coach as he/she was 3, 5 or 10 years previously is not a professional coach. A professional coach is always open to new ideas, methodology, current trends and business practices. Youth soccer is also a business. Bad businesses fail, good ones, with good plans survive and usually prosper. We are not only soccer professionals, we are also business professionals. We must encourage (and direct, if possible) our volunteer boards to run clubs like a business.
The purpose of leadership is:
To get others to share our mission, our philosophy, our ambitions, our dreams, our code of ethics, our methodology and our business plan.
How do we achieve this?
By setting and maintaining industry standards.

Remember we are community leaders
¢ Show the way forward
¢ Establish direction
¢ Positively influence
¢ Impact others
¢ Set standards
¢ Guide, direct and mentor
¢ Persuade others that what we do is good for the game
How do we do this?
First and foremost this can be done through Coach Education and Professional Development. There are year round opportunities, locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, for professional development, through coach education, seminars, conventions etc. We have no excuse for not evolving and growing as a professional coach. When a soccer coach fails in this it is largely through lack of ambition, motivation, commitment, or has an egotistical attitude or a general desire for unaccountability. We MUST adjust these issues positively in order to raise the professional standards.
Methods of Improvement
We can change the standards for the better by:
¢ Self Evaluation
¢ Increased accountability
¢ Through belief and perseverance
¢ Raising professional standards
¢ A commitment to do what we do better
¢ Whatever we do (and encourage others to do) is for the good of the game
We must have a plan, we must implement the plan, we must evaluate the plan and our
performance, and measure the plans impact on our community.
Our plan must include the following:
¢ Cooperation and support for our fellow professionals and business partners
¢ Flexibility
¢ Performance and impact evaluation method
¢ A deliverable and measurable program
¢ Achievable goals
¢ A mission, vision and philosophy statement
¢ A code of ethics for all that has consequences that are implemented
¢ Benefits to every player in the program
¢ Raises the level of play in the community
¢ Increases public image not only of our soccer program but also of our selves and
our profession
¢ Accountability
¢ Reward factor (i.e. job security and increased salary and income opportunity)

In order to raise the professional standards of our profession and reverse the trend of negative impact on the growth of youth soccer by misguided volunteer parent boards we MUST live by what we say we believe in and how we perform our duties(Consider this; Enron’s mission statement included the words respect, integrity, communication and excellence) A useful method of evaluating how your soccer club is organized and administered can be achieved by comparing your organization to a school program. Here’s a simple model:
Community Community
Business Leaders Business Leaders
Board of Directors School Board
Executive Director Principal
Soccer Director Athletic Director
Coaches Teachers
Sports Facility Classroom
Athletes Students
Administrators Administrators
Volunteers Volunteers
Parents Parents
It’s easy to see where everyone’s position is on the totem pole and the order of chain of command. In this model the trained professionals are nearer the top of the pole. It’s usual that the untrained people at the bottom of the totem pole, those with the least authority and who are outside of the chain of command, are directing, influencing and dictating how the program should run. Using this simple method it’s clear that if we want equal status and the same respect, stability and reward, as a school principle or athletic director, we must mirror their professional standards and that of business leaders. We are responsible, through our actions, public image and professional standards, for earning their respect.
Successful businesses are run by successful business professionals
Successful soccer programs are run by business minded soccer professionals and support staff.
The solution is also simple:
Raising the professional standards of youth soccer coaches starts with youth soccer coaches. It is our responsibility to raise the standards of our profession and therefore positively impact and raise the level of understanding of the game and improve the performance of players.
Phil Rose is a State Technical Director for the NSCAA and has attained the NSCAA Premier Diploma, as well as the USSF A License. He was recently a presenter at the NSCAA convention in St. Louis. He has authored numerous articles and was recently in charge of creating the curriculum for the NSCAA Advanced Youth Diploma.


One response to “Professional Standards and Youth Soccer”

  1. Aron says:

    He makes some very good points. It is more of a call to soccer professionals working with youth soccer. A good article for parents who are volunteer in a soccer club to read. There is two issues at heart. Soccer clubs hiring the right people and the club allowing the person to do their job. That person must do all of the things mentioned in this article. Too often wrong person is hired or is micro managed by club

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