Ranting Soccer Dad

Frank but fair conversations and occasional silliness about youth soccer.

October 18th, 2017    

RSD15: The clogged youth-to-pro pipeline, with Brian Dunseth and Chris Keem

Was Nik Besagno a warning sign?

The top pick in the 2005 MLS Draft -- ahead of Brad Guzan, Michael Parkhurst, Will John, Chris Rolfe, Bobby Boswell, Chris Wondolowski and Jeff Larentowicz -- had a very short MLS career. Perhaps not coincidentally, that’s when people started to wonder if the U17 residency in Bradenton was producing soft, coddled players.

Yes, the youth-to-pro pipeline is at the core of our national wailing and gnashing of teeth after the U.S. men failed to qualify for the World Cup. It’s a topic so big, we need two guests.

First up, player-turned-commentator Brian Dunseth talks about what happened in Trinidad (3:30), Olympic soccer and how much it hurt the men to miss out (5:00), losing players from youth soccer (9:40), the parental perspective when clubs start demanding your money (11:20), the importance of failure (17:00), whether players are too soft or coddled (20:15), MLS (27:15 and 33:10), coaching education (28:15), relegation from a player’s perspective (35:45), the Development Academy (39:45), and an easy solution to all of this (40:10). Then concussions (44:30).

Then it’s Chris Keem, a veteran youth soccer coach and administrator with experience in college and the NPSL as well, joins us around the 50-minute mark. We start out talking about turf wars and how they drive up prices in youth soccer, then move into dealing with the Development Academy when you’re running another youth club (53:45), addressing “pay to play” and how it works in other countries (58:00), getting a club’s coaches on the same page and poaching vs. development (1:04:30), what the NPSL was and what it wants to be (1:06:00), and why youth players may opt for other sports (1:17:30).


October 10th, 2017    

RSD14: U.S. Soccer presidential candidate Steven Gans

Steven Gans is running for U.S. Soccer president, and he has some bold statements. "Under my administration, nobody’s going to be ignored" (11:15). "The laissez-faire attitude (toward youth soccer) is troubling and would change under my administration" (29:00). The idea of having two State Cups in one state is "utterly ridiculous," and those who are not working for the good of the game for the kids are going to be "marginalized" (31:30).


If you're also running for U.S. Soccer president and would like to be interviewed on this podcast, please get in touch.

The podcast starts with a funny or cautionary tale from this weekend's youth tournaments.

(NOTE: This interview obviously took place BEFORE the USA was eliminated from the men's World Cup on Tuesday night.)


October 4th, 2017    

RSD13: Washington Spirit recap and why Vegas shouldn’t make us cynical

In the wake of the Las Vegas massacre, the podcast opens with a few thoughts on why we shouldn't give up on changing people and society as a whole, either on something relatively trivial like youth soccer or something horrifying like one man's ability to assemble the weapons to wound 500 people. Maybe we need a little less competition and a little more cooperation to make the changes we need?

Also, a quick recap of the Washington Spirit's season, in which the team fell from being 30 seconds away from a league championship to last place. Includes postgame comments from Spirit coach Jim Gabarra and the team's star attacking player, Mallory Pugh.

(Apologies for the drop in volume during the Pugh interview. Also, if you can't hear Gabarra's last two words, they're "No comment.")


September 27th, 2017    

RSD12: Is youth soccer doomed to suck?

Host Beau Dure flies solo for this edition, asking whether it's possible to turn youth soccer into an activity that produces good soccer players and good human beings. 

Crowd noise sound effect is from FreeSound user paulw2k under a Creative Commons 3.0 license. I hope Brentford won the game.


September 20th, 2017    

RSD11: Alexi Lalas on developing soft, tattooed millionaires

Alexi Lalas is a Soccer Hall of Famer. He’s also an entertainer, with interests in music as well as riling people up from a soccer broadcast studio. So when he rips the U.S. men’s national team as “soft, tattooed millionaires,” he’s drawing on both backgrounds.

In our conversation, Lalas explains that “tattooed millionaires” came from a solo release by Iron Maiden lead singer Bruce Dickinson (no, not the “More Cowbell” guy on SNL), and then we talk about whether everything from the now-defunct Bradenton residency program to the Development Academy is giving us a generation of coddled, entitled men’s soccer players.

We also talk about specialization, playing in multiple soccer environments (i.e., not just in the Development Academy), high school/college soccer, the Apollo Theater, diversity of playing styles, Michael Bradley’s understanding of livestock, and Brad Friedel playing basketball.


September 13th, 2017    

Ranting Soccer Dad, Ep. 10: Ronnie Woodard on youth soccer, women in coaching

Do women actually face more difficulty breaking into college coaching today than they did 15 years ago? Is youth soccer going off the rails?

I don't know. But Ronnie Woodard would. The former Duke goalkeeper went straight from the college field to the college sideline and had a strong career coaching at College of Charleston and Vanderbilt before moving to youth soccer with Tennessee Soccer Club and taking national honors, including the 2016 NSCAA Coach of the Year Award.

That's not all. She has a master's degree in counseling and runs a consulting service for female college prospects.


A few conversation highlights:

- 10:20: What’s keeping women out of coaching?


- 19:30: Balancing high school soccer and club soccer

- 21:00 Defraying travel costs


- 25:00 What’s worse in youth soccer today? (cough … parents … cough …)

- 27:00 What’s the case for pursuing college soccer when the cost of travel soccer will usually be greater than any available scholarship?

- 29:30 What’s better in youth soccer today?

And then I go on a rant about the first weekend of Northern Virginia soccer, including a coach's ejection. (No, it wasn't me.)


September 6th, 2017    

Ranting Soccer Dad, Ep. 9: Girls DA with Travis Clark

The podcast starts this week with a bit of a political rant. The news on DACA is hard to ignore, and we’ve had some ongoing overheated arguments in the soccer community.

The Travis Clark interview on the Development Academy starts around the 9:25 mark. A few landmarks:

- Will the NWSL affiliates dominate? (19:45)

- DA vs. high school (25:00)

- Can we tame the chaos and still have multiple development pathways? (30:30)

- A few clubs to watch in the DA (38:45)


August 30th, 2017    

Ranting Soccer Dad, Ep. 8: Kris Ward

Kris Ward is young, but he has a lot of coaching experience at every level imaginable, starting with rec teams in his teens, then high schools, youth clubs, a small college and ODP. He worked with the Washington Freedom before they relocated to become magicJack, then coached in D.C. United’s academy program and was one of the first assistant coaches with the NWSL’s Washington Spirit. He managed the rec operations of D.C. Stoddert, a large club in the nation’s capital, before moving to California, where he coaches both in high school and youth club soccer.

We covered a few issues in youth soccer at all levels, and then I turned it over to Kris for an extended meditation on the state of women’s soccer ...

4:00 Do the U.S. Soccer mandates apply to rec soccer? Should they?

6:00 How to coach that first rec practice.

8:30 How French coaches set up practice differently. Could a Development Academy coach use the French method?

17:20 What a “curriculum” really means. Is it dictating what you do from week to week?

20:45 The high school-vs.-Development Academy schism (Ward’s resources at his high school compares very favorably with any academy program).

33:05 How do you do “periodization” when you can’t even control what “your” kids are doing in PE class, let alone another sport?

39:15 “Pep Guardiola doesn’t believe in weightlifting.”

40:30 The state of U.S. women’s soccer


August 23rd, 2017    

Ranting Soccer Dad, Ep. 7: Skye Eddy Bruce

With all due respect to DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince (now known as Will Smith), sometimes parents DO understand.

Skye Eddy Bruce, an experienced player and coach, is now working to help parents understand youth soccer and then advocate for their kids. Throughout this interview, she and I talk about empowering parents. (And educating them -- the idea isn’t to have ignorant parents berating coaches all over the country.) We don’t need to let coaches push winning over development, and we don’t need to sign up for the league that travels all over creation.

A few highlights:

2:15 About the Soccer Parenting Association - seeking to elevate the game with a focus on educating, engaging, supporting and advocating for youth soccer parents. And Bruce’s bio -- including playing in Italy!

5:15 The stereotype of ignorant parents and how it’s changing. Includes a reference to this video:


12:55 Bringing up Bobby Warshaw’s concern about balancing “being a good person” with “being a good player.”

15:55 Putting too much of an emphasis on winning can drive kids away.

19:45 The true purpose of youth soccer

20:35 The proliferation of “elite leagues.”

28:20 The need to standardize our language -- what does “elite” mean? Or “classic” or anything else?

33:35 Down with specialization! (At least, parents should be able to say that.)



August 16th, 2017    

Ranting Soccer Dad, Ep. 6: Bobby Warshaw

Can you be a good soccer player and a good person? 

Bobby Warshaw wrestles with that conflict in his bookWhen the Dream Became Reality: The journey of a professional soccer player, and the push for meaning, purpose, and contentment.

We talk about that (around the 4:30 mark). And he responds to Yael Averbuch responding to his comment about learning to hate losing at an early age (10:05). 

Two quotes from the next 20 minutes: 

19:30 In the midst of a discussion on whether U.S. academy kids are coddled: “There’s no human being that came out of that Bradenton academy that was a regular person after that.”

24:50 A few thoughts on pro/rel and what it means to know other people may lose jobs if you mess up on the field. “Anybody who thinks they want to sign their team up for a relegation battle is out of their darn mind.”

Then, of interest to parents and coaches, we ask if youth sports are good for building character (31:00).

From 33:30 to 38:30-ish, we ask whether Americans' competitive drive is ruining the country, and we compare this to the Scandinavian mindset on work, sports and society. Along the way, I mention the book How the Scots Invented the Modern World, though I'm not completely sure it makes the point about guilt that I'm citing. Haven't read it in a while. 

At 38:50, Bobby puts me on the spot about parenting, and I explain why I quit USA TODAY (the year is garbled -- it was 2010). 

Then we talk about anger. Do women yell at each other and coaches in practice? How can Dom Kinnear be so nice to most people and then preside over a meeting in which a whiteboard was apparently broken? And we have to mention the 2007 Women's World Cup.

Apologies for some sound issues. I need to ditch my headset mic. But on the whole, this is some meaningful stuff. Enjoy.



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