By Mike Woitalla
Imagine if cookbook publishing in the USA had the same approach that the soccer coaching industry has had for decades. You'd find mainly Northern European recipes at your Barnes & Noble. And you'd be a pretty limited chef.
In soccer terms, focusing so much on the Northern European methods is particularly stifling considering the USA’s demographics and the fact that Latin American and Southern European nations have been producing most of the great players and winning teams.
It’s been more than two decades since a Northern European nation, on the men’s side, has won the World Cup, 25 years since an Olympic gold, and 17 years since lifting a European Championship crown. It’s been 32 years since Northern Europe has claimed a U-20 World Cup title. Our neighbor, Mexico, has won two of the last four U-17 World Cups.
So Stan Baker’s “Our Competition is the World” passes my first test for a coaching book that offers examples from abroad: It presents models from nations that have been producing successful and attractive soccer.
We won’t be able to import any specific system that perfectly suits the unique U.S. youth soccer landscape, but this book by Baker -- an Oregon-based coach who is fluent in Spanish, has lived in Spain and South America, and besides his USSF A and Y, has coaching licenses from Argentina and Brazil -- goes deeper into describing the environments that produce brilliant players than any I’ve read. Barcelona and Spain figure prominently, as do Brazil and Argentina. Baker also conveys some of the best of what U.S. and Northern Europeans coaches have to offer.
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