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Sep, 2018

Q&A with Colton Bly on the BC United Player Development Program

Q: Will a player's experience in BC United differ depending on the coach they have?

CB: Absolutely not. The curriculum has been carefully crafted based on the experiences and views of myself and Technical Director, Walter. For example, take the 07 Boys and the 07 Girls. Week by week, those two teams are on parallel learning paths and are getting the same content. While coaches may have different teaching styles and methods, players who come through our program will receive the same BC United experience. 

It's very important that there an experience and expectation associated with the and not an individual Coach. Each child and parent's experience of the Club should be the same no matter who you ask.

Q: How is the curriculum structured?

CB: At coaching courses, you're taught to start big (the goal of the season) and from there, work smaller and smaller all the way down to an individual session plan. Training sessions shouldn't be planned in isolation. Each one is a process to achieve the benchmarks we set for each age group. Along the way, just like a school teacher would, the coaches talk with each other and reflect on the sessions we have run. We consider what went well, what didn't go well, so ultimately we can make tweaks or change the content so the delivery next time around is better. Sessions are progressive and we operate off of a 30-40 week curriculum, that takes us to our seasonal objectives for that team. 

Q: So how does the learning content change as the player gets older? 

CB: At the youngest ages, we're talking U4-U8, it's about FUNdamentals. Give them exciting exercises to develop ball familiarity but make sure they're having FUN! I've always thought the goal for this age is to make the training environment so fun and enjoyable, that when the child is home and wants to play, they choose on their own to play soccer. As they get older and enter that U9-U12 phase we like to call the "specialization" phase, then the goal is technical development with a dose of tactical development. To move to the next level of soccer, the full 11v11 game, we need to develop players who are competent on the ball and can understand basic principles. All sessions are taught alongside positional and game realism, but we don't dive too deep into tactics here because they can get all of that later (this is part of accepting short-term defeats to reap long-term benefits). And finally, when a player reaches U13 and beyond, the main focus is developing game understanding and the individual roles within a collective team game. 

Q: There's a lot of talk among youth soccer coaches in this country about "winning vs. development," what's your view on this?

CB: You can marry them, but one must not sacrifice the other. On one extreme, you end up with talented players who, let's say, go down a goal or two against an equal or better opponent and don't know how to react. The winning mentality hasn't been forged in them. In my training sessions, at any age in our academy, I try to make every game we play have a winner and loser while still coaching and teaching. Doing this not only forges winning mentalities but also allows me to eliminate any negative sporting behavior (blaming, quitting on teammates, etc) and praise the positive behaviors (leadership, encouragement, working harder).

On the other extreme, and this is something I see all the time, is that a coach has assembled a team of physically more developed kids. At U15 and younger, games can be easily won by having more physically developed players who hit long balls over the top and use their size/speed/strength to beat a more skilled, less physically developed team. Doing this comes with paying a price. Once the team hits U16 and everyone starts equaling out physically, the team and coach who threw proper development out the window in the formative years are now going to struggle.

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