GoalNation Spotlight Series: Scott Snyder on The Importance of Development and AYSO’s NEW Online University
Scott Snyder is a leader in coaching education. Snyder works closely with U.S. Soccer and combines his professional experience with his passion for educating coaches, parents and players to instill a lifelong love for the game of soccer.
Snyder is the author of the updated AYSO National Coaching Curriculum and remains present in the community as a volunteer coach for his local AYSO United team. Here is an exclusive interview with the man who pioneered AYSO U — the new Learning Management System.
Related Article: AYSO’s Scott Snyder on the Challenges in Youth Soccer
Youth Soccer News: Youth soccer should be all about the kids and creating great memories on and off the field. To create this positive environment, Scott Synder engineers the delicate balance between the healthy joy of playing soccer and the critical need for competitive player development and coaching education.
Snyder serves as the Player Development Specialist of American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO), the oldest national youth soccer program in the United States. In addition to his work with AYSO, Snyder works closely with U.S. Soccer on youth player development and coaching education.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is happening in youth soccer today? How are we doing on a world stage?
Scott Snyder: It’s refreshing to see Christian Pulisic make his mark at Borussia Dortmund, but he should not be an anomaly.
Looking at the recent U17s’ performances under the guidance of John Hackworth, I feel confident that we will, sooner than later, start to populate more top teams in the world’s top leagues — indicating that the DA is now starting to reap rewards.
Our U17 Men’s National Team has qualified for the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup.
The team captain, Josh Sargent, is as good a number nine as I have ever seen to come through the U.S. youth system. Andrew Carrollton plays to entertain with plenty of freedom and expression. He is having fun and perhaps epitomizes the real progress of what is happening here in the U.S. and more importantly, what is needed to reflect the true talent of the American player.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is AYSO and the youth landscape doing to improve the situation?
Scott Snyder: Education! AYSO U — the new Learning Management System — has just launched. Since most of our coaches are volunteer parent coaches, we feel strongly about providing them with age-appropriate and current training in order to create a positive learning environment for the players.
What makes us different? Why is AYSO successful? It is the consistency of message, how we understand and appreciate that our volunteers are busy and time is an incredibly valuable commodity — with AYSO U, we focus on convenience to the consumer and provide an online, interactive model for training our parent coaches. Our volunteer parents have even less time than most paid youth soccer coaches, and we need to make our educational program work for them. AYSO U’s information is downloadable to your phone, so it transfers well to the field.
AT AYSO, we are moving the needle to help improve the playing and training environment in the USA.
Diane Scavuzzo: How do you take a soccer parent and turn them into a soccer coach?
Scott Snyder: Yesterdays parents are different from today’s parents. Many have played or at least watched the game before they arrive on the soccer field, wanting to volunteer. While other organizations might send a volunteer off with a bag of balls and cones, we know this can lead to a disaster. Once again, it is all about education. We can leave no stone unturned!
Our volunteer coaches are the building blocks of everything we do in youth soccer. Educating our parent coaches not only impacts the playing and training environments for our kids, but enhances their own experience.
AYSO is still the only national agency to mandate age-appropriate coach certification.
The new U.S. Soccer Grassroots coaching programs — currently in the final stage of design — are also a great testament to the focus on the youth landscape to improve the playing and training environments as well as the outcome.
The goal is to have happier and better players who stay in the game.
This is the new focus today — we want to crate environments that help players stay in the game.
Diane Scavuzzo: How does AYSO ‘enrich children’s’ lives?
Scott Snyder: By taking a holistic approach to the game and focusing on the child first, AYSO can ensure that we are living up to our mission of enriching children’s lives.
Certainly, the soccer part is important, as is their soccer development, but there is much more opportunity to educate and develop if you consider the whole child.
It is the world’s game for a reason and that reason is not solely because of cones, grids or league standings.
It’s wonderful when a player progresses through the system and makes college, pro or a national team, as many of our players have, but the vast majority play for the pure enjoyment of playing a sport with friends on a team.
Camaraderie. Fun. Health. Sportsmanship. Contribution. Effort. Performance. Fulfillment!
Diane Scavuzzo: How do you reconcile the American hard wired desire to win at all costs?
Scott Snyder: There is a business cycle that has become part of the landscape in youth soccer — and, this does not produce better players but players who want to step out of the game and may not come back in.
The challenge we face is balancing winning over develop.
It is a tough one because winning is as American as apple pie! However, there has to be a balance and a team’s win/loss record can often conflict with the child’s individual development. In the Zone One environment, the individual should take priority over team results.
Winning is in our American spirit and in our DNA. Creating this balance will be something that will be hard to reconfigure … but that’s not to say we can’t try!
As the global soccer community knows, at certain levels, such as Zone One, winning is not the only aspect we should prioritize.
I would like to take the time here to dispute one myth about AYSO.
It’s a myth that AYSO doesn’t care about winning.
Disclaimer: we want to win!
Results are just one indicator of performance and at the developmental stage, not the most important one! They’re a means to development. Scoring and winning are fundamental parts of soccer and we should, of course, encourage children to enjoy this aspect, but without making it the sole focus.
Focus should be on performance rather than outcome — favoring ball skills and creativity, quality technique, effort, decision-making, attitude as the means to find success, not solely the score.
Ironically, if we improve the individuals in our care, team results will also improve.
Diane Scavuzzo: Do parents really understand – do they get it?
Scott Snyder: If, as a parent coach, every individual improves, then team results will improve and once people understand this, they get it and it is not complicated.
A lot of people are quick to comment on how crazy soccer parents are in the USA, but a lot of it is that parents have not given a perspective on how this all effects the kids. Parent education is well over due and will help the game in this country.
If we care about developing soccer in the USA, we have to help educate soccer parents.