|Go to the Guides||"Soccer camps" are an
American phenomenon. They began as a type of
summer vacation experience to improve the skills of recreational or
"travel" team players. Camps were also started by high school
and college coaches to identify and develop potential players, but also
for coaches to earn a little extra money during summer. In recent years,
soccer arenas, Adidas, Nike, and MLS have invested in integrated
player development systems. Rather than a soccer "camp"
experience based on the idea of free play, these "academies" are
more like the soccer schools associated with European football clubs. For
various reasons, the academy concept is growing in popularity.
Nevertheless, they owe their existence to the coaches and camps that have
been able to combine fun and skill improvement to make playing soccer an
It took a while for the soccer camp boom to catch fire.
On the East Coast, Skip claims to have influenced other folks, such as Larry Boff (www.coerver-coaching.com/world.htm) and Robbie Stahl, associated with Ohio State Youth Soccer, who once ran the Goal-to-Goal clinics. According to Roderick, Hubert Vogelsinger once observed Robbie conducting a finishing clinic that the former German player praised as the "best I've ever seen." Years earlier, Vogelsinger had launched his Vogelsinger tape series and Vogelsinger Soccer Academy, which has now evolved into the Nike Vogelsinger Soccer Academy.
Also on the East Coast, Walter Chyzowych founded,
organized and promoted the first nationwide soccer coaching education
program. In 1975, he accepted the then new position with the United States
Soccer Federation (USSF) of director of coaching. In so doing, he helped
developed college, USSF, and camp coaches, such as John Kowalski and Joe
Some U.S. camps call themselves a "school" or
"academy", but they aren't in the European sense. In Europe, soccer is big
business. So, for example, the Ajax youth training programme is a full-day, year-long
academic and soccer school that can be attended by invitation only (www.ajax.nl).
The Development Academy is the USSF's latest attempt to improve player training. Alliances are formed with qualified clubs that follow the Best Practices used by the U-17 U.S. National Team Residency Program.
Full time, professional-level U.S. youth instruction is available at the IMG Soccer Academy in Bradenton, FL.
In general, the emphasis on fun and skills provided by U.S. soccer camps is a happy combination.
It's a low-pressure, mentor-peer, uncle-nephew neighborhood experience.
This environment encourages developing players not only to play the game, but to love the
sport. This attitude, absent in most parent- and coach-driven programs, is the key to
arresting the tremendous U.S. player drop out starting at age 12.
As long as soccer camps provide a relationship-based and
not just a performance-based soccer experience, they remain part of the solution for U.S. soccer.