David Falk has followed soccer in the Puget Sound region since 1974. This blog covers Sounders FC, local college soccer, Seattle Wolves FC, Tacoma Tide FC and Kitsap Pumas. Send tips or comments to: goalseattle@gmail.com
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Seattle Soccer Examiner

Seattle Soccer Examiner

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Talking Sounders FC youth system with Darren Sawatzky

I recently exchanged emails with Seattle Sounders FC Youth Development Director Darren Sawatzky. I contacted Darren to talk more about SSFC's youth plans after his recent interview on The Seattle Soccer Show.

To better frame our conversation Darren sent along the Major League Soccer public document on their youth initiative. You can read it in the SeattleSoccerTalk.com forums.

Here is our exchange:

On a recent Seattle Soccer Show podcast you talked about how it is going in developing the Seattle Sounders FC youth soccer pyramid. You mentioned that some players are already in training. Could you tell us more about that? What age level are they? How did you pick them? Why start training so soon?

"Currently, we are holding training sessions with Sounder reserve players and a select group of local players headed to college in the fall and some who are home from college for the summer. This is a great opportunity to get a very good group of players together to train and monitor their progress. The training also gives these players a competitive place to prepare for the fall. "

There has been some talk in our youth soccer community about the relationship Seattle Sounders FC would like to have with existing youth clubs. How would you describe what the Sounders would like to do with and for these clubs?

"The Seattle Sounders FC, with the help of Washington Youth Soccer, wants to work with all youth soccer clubs in ways that make sense. There are good soccer players in every club and there are players that aspire to be professionals. Having the best players train and compete together helps in their development to become players at the highest level. Identifying these players and working to create environments that help foster their growth to get to the highest level is the goal. There are a lot of youth clubs doing an excellent job of developing players, Seattle Sounders FC wants to support these clubs."

How many youth clubs will Sounders FC eventually field? At what age levels? In which leagues?

"Major League Soccer has a youth initiative that mandates a youth system for the full MLS team. Each Major League Soccer team does the "youth system" differently. At this point, Seattle Sounders FC has not made a decision on whether to field teams in the Academy League that two Washington youth clubs have teams playing in at the U16 and U18 age groups. With Washington Youth Soccer and the Olympic Development Program, Seattle Sounders FC wishes to help the local clubs that are doing a great job developing players. As the organization develops, Seattle Sounders FC will chose leagues and competitions that make the most sense in developing players for the highest level.

There is an excellent core of coaches within the local soccer clubs, college programs, and professional and semi-professional organizations. Through the new WYS ODP programs, coaches can apply to train and coach these elite youth players. It is important to communicate a quality curriculum through different high level coaching voices to maximize the development of players."

The New York Red Bulls offer their academy training for free. Are Sounders FC planning on also do it that way?

"When you use the word "Academy", it can mean many things. For this discussion, Academy teams mean the U16 and U18 teams that play in the US Soccer Development Academy. When the decision is made as to which league or competitions the MLS Youth Teams will play in, the players will play on these teams without incurring the cost. The very best, most committed players will receive an incredible opportunity to train and play with the best every day."

Crossfire and Washington Premier currently have U-16 and U-18 club programs in the US Soccer development academy leagues. Will Sounders FC also create teams at this level, or will you work with them...or perhaps both?

"At this time, Seattle Sounders FC has not made a decision either way on playing youth teams in the US Soccer Development Academy. There will be youth teams in these age groups (U16 and U18), but each MLS team runs there youth teams differently and Seattle Sounders FC will chose the opportunity for these players that makes the most sense in the development of players for the full team. Currently, you have MLS Youth teams that play in the US Soccer Academy and you have MLS Youth teams that play in local men's leagues, travel to other countries to play professional youth teams, and there is a multitude of training regimens."

Will Sounders FC have any residency programs?

"The Seattle Sounders FC has a great ownership group and they are very passionate about the game of soccer. Residency is an effective tool for development because you have the players 24 hours a day but this would only happen if it made sense down the road."

Will Sounders FC have a USL club in the Premier Development League, similar to the Tacoma Tide?

"The Tacoma Tide FC and the Seattle Sounders FC have a great relationship. Tacoma is doing a great job with a good ownership group and they have a great head coach. Tacoma Tide FC offers a venue for the local college and developing young players to play competitive games which is needed in these age groups. The Seattle Wolves are also doing this at a different level. At this point, we are helping train these players as described above. Again, Seattle Sounders FC will make decisions based on what is best long term for producing players for the full team."

Please give us a short description of the 'development pyramid' for Sounders FC.

"The development pyramid looks like this:
MLS Full Team

MLS Reserve team

U23 Training group (Summer and Holiday training)

MLS Youth teams (U16 and U18 with possibility for others)

WYS ODP and Jr. ODP training groups and teams (male and female)

Youth Development Program (weeknight training programs to supplement youth club development-position specific as well) (male and female)

WYS/Seattle Sounders Summer camps/clinics/recreational programs (male and female)

*WYS ODP and Jr. ODP training groups will incorporate training starting in the fall 2008 after ODP coaches have been picked in late summer. These groups will be brought together one weekend a month to train with the new ODP staff. Coaches can apply by going to www.wsysa.com and submitting a resume to Dave Schumacher, State Coaching Director."

Will our U-23 team be the MLS "Reserves" side?

"No. The MLS reserve questions will be better answered by Chris Henderson, Technical Director."

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