CAYSA, working with the Directors of the Academy programs approved by STYSA for the 2019-2020 seasonal year, decided to make some substantial changes in the Academy program this year. We’ve been encouraging clubs to try things in different ways in their Academy programs over the past 3 years. We’re taking the positive results seen from some of those methods and sharing them with all of our clubs so all the players in the Academy program can benefit.
In Fall 2015 US Soccer started changing the Academy and other small-sided games programs across the country with their Player Development Initiative. The goal was to improve the development of each individual player rather than focus on the ability of each team to beat other developing teams. This resulted in more fluid rosters (so kids could be played in games which were best for their development that day/week) and a shift of focus to development (individual victories) rather than just winning games (team victories). STYSA made this available and In Spring 2016 CAYSA was one of the first associations to make the shift. We’ve been making adjustments each season as we’ve received feedback from clubs about what’s really improving the quality and number of players graduating from their Academy programs and moving onto their 9v9 and 11v11 teams.
This fall we’re trying something new. We’re giving club Academy programs even more flexibility in some ways and bringing all the teams together for some events in order to increase the variety of on-level opponents faced by each player. This should allow them to face more players with a larger variety of skills and approaches to play, giving each player more opportunities to play in their optimal learning zone. Ideally, coaches of “opposing” teams are working together to make the game as competitive as possible. That’s where the players are testing their knowledge and skills and learning the most from the game.
If your club hasn’t been very involved in adopting the new intent and methods of the Academy program as a whole, this could feel very different. Many people used to view the old Rec+ program as the junior version of select, where players were chosen based on existing skills and more or less started playing other strong players at a younger age. The new system is to develop both those already-strong players into even better players while bringing other players up to the higher level of skills and understanding. Better developmental environment = better players, and more of them.
On the “friendly” weeks below, clubs can choose whether to set up games against others or use those weeks for training or other in-house sessions.
Festivals will involve every team, so some teams will play against others they might not otherwise have seen.
We’ll also be adjusting brackets after the first Festival, so teams that, in the past, have been mis-bracketed and never had a close game (by wins or losses) will be moved to a more appropriate bracket. Big wins/losses don’t help any of the players on the field develop their skills as a player, so it’s to everybody’s benefit to better balance the games.
The second and third Festivals will be scheduled with the league games, so there should be 7 games against different opponents after any bracket adjustments.
|Sept 7 & 8||Friendly week|
|Sept 14 & 15||Friendly week|
|Sept 21||Festival at CAYSA; all teams participate|
|Re-bracketing of “teams” based on Festival performance|
|Sept 28 & 29||Training/friendly week|
|Oct 5 & 6||League play|
|Oct 12||Festival at CAYSA|
|Oct 19 & 20||League play|
|Oct 26 & 27||League play|
|Nov 2||Festival at CAYSA|
What it means for you
If your club’s Academy has been on the cutting edge, you’ll notice some changes in scheduling and Festivals.
If your club has been more conservative about adopting changes, you’ll find 2 games each day on Festivals, probably more coordination between coaches of “opposing” teams as they work together to create the most competitive game (balanced, so it’s testing every player on the field).
For everybody, the later start of the “CAYSA” games part of the season is new. There’s still room for clubs to try new things. More games or more training during friendly weeks? How much player movement between teams at Festivals? Generally keep a team structure or reset “teams” once or more during the season to give players experience with more teammates and how they play? Those are up to your club and Academy Director. CAYSA provides the format and structure within which as many of those approaches can compete to see which club’s system results in the greatest number of good players who love the game and their progress in it.