The Development Academy looks forward to the 2016-17 season with high expectations and a strong commitment to raising standards to create a world class environment focused on holistic player development. This positive learning environment thrives through stable club leadership that includes responsible staff and coaches focused on developing players, both on and off the field.
In the 2015-16 season, the Academy launched our "United Against" respect campaign to create an Academy-wide movement against discrimination in all its forms (racism, sexism, homophobia, hatred, etc.). This campaign will progress into the 2016-17 season, and will continue to combat issues that hinder the personal development of our players. To learn more about our "United Against" campaign, watch the official "United Against" video and visit our Twitter and Instagram #UnitedAgainst.
While the "United Against" campaign encourages players to respect and lead each other, we also ask Academy clubs to uphold these ideals and complete a critical self-examination. Our clubs receive formal feedback and a performance review on "8 Key Performance Categories," one of which is "Always and without fail, respect player, staff members, referees, and all opposing team members." Our review of each club's commitment to this category is highlighted annually in our Final Academy Discipline Report for the 2015-16 season.
The top ten U-15/16 and U-17/18 teams for the 2016-17 season are as follows:
New England Revolution
Solar Chelsea SC
Charlotte Soccer Academy
Real So Cal
Capital Area Railhawks - CASL
Of these teams, six teams competed in the 2015-16 Academy Playoffs: New England Revolution (U-15/16), Real So Cal (U-15/16), Capital Area Railhawks - CASL (U-15/16, U-17/18), Georgia United (U-15/16, U-17/18), and Philadelphia Union (U-15/16, U-17/18). For a complete list, please view the 2015-16 Final Academy Discipline Report here.
We took the opportunity to speak with two clubs whose leaders embody these qualities, Steve Klein, Academy Director of PA Classics, and Bryan Scales, Academy Director of the New England Revolution. Both clubs continually serve as worthy examples of elite play and exemplary discipline records, proving that high standards off the field produce success on the field. The New England Revolution have appeared in the U-17/18 Academy Championships Semifinals, and PA Classics have reached the U15/16 Academy Championship game and appeared in the Academy Championships Semifinals the following season.
When describing PA Classic's approach to developing the individual person not just the player, Steve Klein emphasized the role of character as an important part of a child's development. "Kids are more consistent when they're mentally strong, and part of that is focusing on the things that they can control." Bryan Scales echoed the same sentiment, touching on the important component of managing one's emotions. "First and foremost, there's a real correlation between managing your emotions and discipline on the field. Players need to be able to play under pressure in an important game (playoff game, qualifier, or a major tournament) and still do their job and not lose their emotions."
Klein pointed out one of the best examples of a successful player who showcases respect: Christian Pulisic, a PA Classics Development Academy alum and U.S. Men's National Team player. Pulisic "is known for having a great attitude. Considering the pressure he is under as a player, his character is a big reason why he's been able to do what he's done so far."
A collective team approach to behavior and discipline also "creates a good environment where kids are a tighter group as a team," says Klein. "If we don't have good team chemistry, that can create turmoil within the team. Part of our success and ability to compete is having a good solid foundation as a team."
Although discipline takes a vital role on the field, Scales discussed how discipline starts with the coaches and staff. "Number one, it comes down to modeling the type of behavior you want your player to exhibit," Scales said. "It's no coincidence that our disciplinary record on the field is very good, and that starts with our coaches and our technical staff. It really does start from the top. You have to have someone leading with the right values."
To commit their players to these values, the New England Revolution established their own leadership committee composed of and elected by the players. The committee holds meetings throughout the year, and the majority of the committee consists of seasoned, older U-17/18 players. Although the committee is still in its first year, Scales notices an immediate improvement, stating, "When you have older players who are good role models, you see younger teams hold up these players as models for behavior. It's worth more than words."
As the Academy prepares for the 2016-17 season kick off on September 3rd, we expect all coaches to be positive role models and all clubs to incorporate respect and discipline into their everyday environment and club philosophy. The Academy is specifically targeting improvement in:
Conduct of staff in the technical area during games
Offensive, insulting and abusive language towards players
Dissent and verbal or physical abuse towards referees
Sideline conduct of staff, players, and parents
The Academy is committed to upholding the highest standards and creating awareness that respect is valued. We expect clubs to educate their teams, coaches, players, and spectators as part of a collective approach to respect in the game.