Developing Soccer Players Vs. Coaching to Win


Youth Soccer Development

We see, experience, and hear about different coaching techniques daily.  If you play or have ever played soccer, coached it or have a friend or child that plays it you may have an opinion about player development.  Different academies teach different methods, but we can agree on the fact that most coaching is based on winning.  Winning is good, yes, but some say winning isn’t everything.  You may disagree just hearing this because success in sports does come from winning, but the truth is that a player may grow up on a losing team simply by the luck of the draw of his or her teammates.  This same player may have excellent developmental skills, hop on another team at a different stage of their career and start winning.  Perhaps that player goes through losing teams for quite a while but their developmental skills may end up landing them playing soccer in college and even on the professional level. 

We find this specific subject of coaching to be fascinating across all sports for obvious reasons.  Today we dive into the subject of youth development in soccer.  We decided one of the best people to talk to about this was the Vice President of the United States Technical Championship, Kevin Butler.


USTC Pictures 


The Meulensteen Method and the United States Technical Championship


Bownet:  Kevin, tell us about your early days.  Did you always have a passion for soccer?


Kevin Butler:  That’s an easy yes. But the question is more suitably answered by Meulensteen Method’s founder, Erwin Van Elst. Ever since being a young guy in the Netherlands, soccer was all we did. There was a love for the game and for the environment that was created. It was simply a lifestyle for us. I was blessed to play at a professional level in Holland. Becoming a player, transitioned to becoming a coach, but I saw a problem. We are over coaching and there is too much focus on winning over developing at the younger most important ages.


Erwin Van Elst


Bownet: This is something we are starting to hear more lately.  The dilemma between coaching to win vs. player development.  Talk to us about it.

Kevin Butler:  Coaches say they are “all for development” but their actions speak otherwise.  The players end up losing. Too many are leaving soccer because they’ve fallen out of love with the game or have become burnt out. That’s our fault, we created that problem and Meulensteen Method wanted to change it, to share the journey of developing as a top player. Fast forward, our good friend, Rene, has become one of the greatest trainers in the world, we partnered with him to bring his philosophy and training methods to players here in America. We are more than a soccer company. We have a mission to develop creative confident players with a love for the game, and help them reach their potential. This is what do and we are very passionate about it.


Bownet:  When did you become involved with USTC and how?

Kevin Butler:  The USTC idea came to Meulensteen Method from a mutual international partner, SportPartners NL, owned by, Fons van den Brande. Fons had been running a similar program under the name NTK (Dutch Technical Championship) for 7 years at that time. Fons worked hand in hand with Rene Meulensteen to develop the program for players in the Netherlands, where it became very successful. In a country that is one fourth the size of the state of Michigan, the NTK had more than 30,000 players participate over the first seven years. So we looked to bring a similar program to the US three years ago.


Muelensteen Method



Bownet:  What exactly is USTC?  How does it differ from other academies?

Kevin Butler:  The USTC is an incredible program. Genuinely, one of a kind. I should first say that Meulensteen Method exclusively represents Rene Meulensteen’s (former 1st Team Coach at Manchester United and current Manager at Maccabi Haifa) player development philosophy in North America. So it is Rene’s philosophy and theory on player development that is used throughout the USTC event.


The US Technical Championship celebrates the player. We introduce participants to the 4 different 1v1 situations, incorporate passing and finishing, and play in many different small sided games. The focus is on quality, challenging training, with positive reinforcement. The purpose is to identify several top players in each age group that are creative and confident on the ball, not afraid of failure, can dominate the 1v1, and change the game when they’re on the pitch. Most competitions have tangible things you can count, how many juggles, lifts, different moves, or how many goals. Ours is more subjective. We want to identify top talent at different ages that display the qualities of a world class player.

The competition is held either within camp programs or as single day events. Players that are identified at our USTC regional events are then invited to compete at our National Finals.


USTC Trophy

USTC Championships


Bownet:  The following diagram is displayed on your website and relates it to your philosophy.  Please tell us what the main gist of your overview development model is.


muelensteen method diagram


Kevin Butler:  At our core, we believe the following:

  • Every child deserves great training to help them become the best he/she can be
  • We must create the right environment in training for the player to become successful
  • We must challenge the player and have lots of repetition to create success
  • We must coach the positives
  • We must coach in age and stage appropriate levels for the player to get the most out of the session
  • We must properly train technique, the right move, with the right timing, in the right moment
  • We must develop players to recognize and dominate the 4 different 1v1 situations

    o    We must develop players to be creative and confident on the ball, without fear of making mistakes

    The diagram is one part of illustrating that belief and how we accomplish it.


    2016 United States National Championship


    Bownet:  What are you expecting for this year’s USTC championship?

    Kevin Butler:  Incredible talent! We are in our third year here in America, and could not have imagined how it would take off since our first final. We are so excited for this year’s USTC National Final. 182 players from 30 states across the country, and two provinces in Canada are coming to compete. Our final spans 3 days, December 19-21, at Lakepoint Sports, an absolutely incredible facility just north of Atlanta, where some National Team training has taken place. We have some top players from across the country, coming to see how they stack up individually against other players in their age group. We expect to see a wonderful display of talent. I’m sure picking our winners will be no easy task! People can follow us on FB (US Technical Championship and/or Meulensteen Method) or our website,, to learn more about hosting or participating in 2017 USTC events or other Meulensteen Method camps and coach education programs.


    USTC Program Kids


    The Best Portable Soccer Goals and Soccer Tennis Nets


    Bownet:  Bownet is excited to take part of this year’s US Technical Championships.  Tell us what you find to be special about Bownet after having years of experience with other portable soccer goals.

    Kevin Butler:  The decision to use Bownet goals at this year’s USTC National Finals was easy to make for several reasons. We’ve been using Bownet goals for years now and we can rely on the quality of the Bownet brand. We use Bownet goals year round and the goals stand up to the abuse of training, camps, and competitions, both inside and outside. Bownet goals are portable, as many other brands are, but they are easy and quick to put up and take down. We used them at a USTC event we had with Indiana ODP this last summer. Several ODP and other high level coaches commented on how easy the goals were to work with. We also appreciate the different sizes Bownet goals are available in. Small goals to big full size goals, short and wide goals to soccer tennis nets, backstops and more, Bownet provides solutions for our training needs. Bownet goals provide quality, ease of use, and training solutions. It really is a great fit for our programs.


    Bownet Soccer Family


    For more information on the 2016 USTC you can register on their website!



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