Soccer in the US is rapidly changing. When I played, we had AYSO, USYS Club soccer, and the Olympic Development Program (ODP). If you were one of the top club players in the nation you would get called up to the Olympic Development Program for a chance to be seen for the national team or as an upcoming professional player. Today, there is a new level of play. The Development Academy. Less than 100 clubs in the US have been designated Academy level teams. One of those is the Pateadores of Orange County, Ca.
Last month we attended a coach’s training in Irvine lead by Pateadores Club Director, John Szucka. AS Roma, the Pats' international partner, player Development Director, Guiseppe Giannini, was in attendance along with over 100 Pateadores coaches. The theme was “connectivity.” I asked Guiseppe about his thoughts on soccer and technology. "Technology is important, especially when it comes to organization. A tablet will not make a player better, but organized training will. The talent that I've seen out here is great and these systems should help even further," he stated about the subject and the Pats.
Coincidentally, the Dead Director, John Szucka, had coached me personally in 1995 when I played for the Irvine Strikers. Although I have a lot less hair than in 95’, John still recognized me. Now that’s a good coach.
At that time, the “Pats” had only 4 teams! In 2005, John Szucka started working with the Pats that had grown to 14 teams. Today, they are one of the fastest growing clubs in the country with 210 teams. As one of the top programs in the country would, they are thinking about how to improve on the status quo.
Every coach in attendance received a T-shirt, a Bownet Soccer partnership coupon, and most importantly, an Amazon Fire Tablet. “Everyone has a tablet now a-days, but a Club can’t force a coach to use it solely for the team’s purpose. By us providing a tablet for every single coach we can control exactly what is in the tablet and get every coach and Region on the same page,” John Szucka tells us. “The main point of implementing this program is connectivity. Connectivity between the program directors, coaches, players, and parents, all done through the tablets.”
Kevin Ellis, Director of the Irvine Pats' girls says, “…this is about organization and procedures. Improved organization and procedures will make us better.” Truth is, the concept isn’t rocket science. We have known for centuries that procedures and organization make countries stronger, companies more profitable and now we explore how tech can improve the level of play in sports. We asked John if getting everyone on the same page meant that every single one of the 210 teams would be running the exact same warm up, shooting drills, scrimmage styles etc. “I like to believe that a good soccer club is influenced 80% by the club and 20% by the coach. ‘we say we want ice cream, but they get to choose the flavor.’”
As far as portable soccer goals go, the Pats don’t question what product to use. Bownet soccer goals are a no-brainer when it come to their practices. Easy set-ups and take downs, soccer tennis warm-ups, and the use of Bownet Barriers to divide up the fields and catch missed shots behind goals.
The real question is; Will technology really change the game? Will a set of tablets to 100 coaches with organized training exercises, streamlined tournament info and game time communication really affect the end-all goal; improve development? Only time will tell. For now, we know that the Orange County, CA Pateadores are true innovators and game changers and are willing to take a chance and dance with technology to improve their coaching, players and overall club performance.