WHY SOCCER IS NOT PROGRESSING IN THE US: ONE BASIC ELEMENT
Presented by Meeroff JC, Meeroff DE, and Meeroff DH from the Lauderdale Soccer Club, Florida USA
The answer to the question why soccer development is delayed in the US is a very complex one since there are multiple factors contributing to this serious problem.
Here we want to call attention to one important and many times neglected aspect that is the infatuation with “instant (immediate) gratification”, a drawback that poisons our already fragile soccer culture.
“Instant gratification” is a distinctive feature of our inadequately educated, extremely materialistic society. “Instant gratification” is a term that refers to the tendency, to relinquish a future benefit to obtain a less rewarding but more immediate benefit. “Instant gratification” is the need to experience fulfillment without any sort of preparation, delay and/or wait. “Instant gratification” signifies done one second before now. Instant gratifiers don’t understand the meaning of ground work, long term goals and/or planning for the future. For instant gratifiers when things don’t happen right away, they develop extreme anxiety and fly away. Resisting short-term reward in favor of a long-term return requires a capacity to envision the distant future. Furthermore, for young adults having a vivid view of the future is a sign of social maturity. Education is crucial to enlighten a person with regard to the value of deferred versus current gratification. Higher intelligence is associated with a more future-focused tendency. Future planning involves the executive brain, which is linked to intelligence through the function of the prefrontal cortex.
Definitively we are living in an era where instant gratifiers are leading the way. Millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000) are now in control and that is their signature.
We are going to review how the instant gratification system pollutes soccer in the US.
In a country where unfortunately, there is an artificial and abysmal separation between youth and adult soccer and many cities and municipalities discriminate against adult participation in organized sports a common scenario for youth soccer is as follows. A group of frustrated parents, usually recent immigrants, coming from countries with strong soccer cultures, who never succeeded as players and/or positive fans, get together to form a team for their kids with the idea of creating new Messis, Ronaldos or Mbappes who will soon be receiving gazillions amounts of money to play pro soccer. Those parents easily find a self-invented “guru coach” who will lead the group. The “guru-coach” is usually an individual of similar origin as those parents, with very little formal education in soccer coaching and absolutely no knowledge of the structure and goals of US soccer. Additionally, most of those “guru coaches” have little interest in devoting effort and time to help developing the sport in our country, but rather are there to earn a generous income. Consequently, an age appropriate team is formed by recruiting and or stealing players from other teams to complete the roster. The new team is then registered to compete in leagues and tournaments. The parents spend an enormous amount of time and money during the season to buy fancy uniforms and gadgets, to pay for “extra training”, for referee fees, to provide luxurious travel arrangements, etc. Now everything is soccer for them. They claim their unrestricted “love” for soccer. During the season, the team produce a fair amount of low level victories that stimulate the believe in instant greatness. Then, the “guru” coach have no difficulty in convincing the parents that it will be beneficial to travel outside of the local area to play at “higher level of competition” and to expose the players to recruiters and pro coaches. At this time, the parents spend “obscene amount of money” to send the team to regional and national competitions and “show-case tournaments” where they confront teams that have better structure and preparation. As expected, at that level, the team in general don’t do as well as before. In addition, no top-class coach demonstrates any interest in recruiting the players. Therefore, no more instant gratification and soccer start to become a “bad idea”, a “foreign sport” leading to the inevitable lack of relevance by parents and players. After a year or at the most two years all the initial unrestricted “love” for soccer is gone and the team folds. But business is not gone for the “guru coach” since he/she will soon find another group of parents ready to support (and pay for) a similar adventure for another year. It will be redundant to say that this system is harmful for the development of soccer in the US.
THE POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS
To overcome the problem, we must engage in the habit of delaying gratification, a mechanism that helps strengthen the mind and shape the character of players and parents. It will build self-control and willpower, reinforces self-discipline, and teaches the value of patience. It’s the one habit that determines how successful individuals and groups will become and how much they will ultimately achieve.
Soccer is a game, but it is also a philosophy and a way of living. As FIFA proclaims it is “the game for life”. “Games provide players powerful opportunities for learning and enjoying safe sports. “If we want players to continue their involvement in soccer and unlock their potential, we must use games for learning”. But when clubs place an emphasis on winning at all cost as the goal, children bear the burden of adult egos in detriment of their personal development.
Before everything else, parents must be educated about the significance of sport in society and about the life lessons that soccer can teach them and their kids. Fortunately, the United States Youth Soccer Association in connection with the Positive Coaching Alliance has taken leadership and provides very important information in this regard. The problem is that very few clubs, very few coaches and very few parents follow their advice.
We strongly believe that to develop soccer in our country we must put emphasis in teaching the meaning of soccer, a game that will be played for life without any concerns about instant financial rewards, a game that helps modeling personalities and assist in having happy and productive lives. At any age, there are multiple options to participate in soccer (as player, coach, administrator and/or fan) and enjoy it thoroughly. Then we need to create associations, leagues and solid clubs were short term gratification is eliminated and delay gratification pursued.