It went just like the sports writers said it would go, the U. S. women’s team won the World Cup against Japan on Sunday.
Last week, Las Vegas Review-Journal sports writer Ed Graney argued that, “We shouldn’t lose at women’s soccer. Ever.” He said that in 2006 FIFA concluded that 270 million people in the world were actively involved in the game and that the U.S. “had more registered female players (almost 1.7 million) than the rest of the world combined.”
And this is how he came to his conclusion that our women should rule the game. I can see that. It is only logical that the country that has the most players playing the game should dominate the game in international contest.
The problem is we don’t. Saturday’s victory was the first World Cup won by the women’s team since 1999. Why is that?
Well, I guess you will have to look at who is playing the game in the U. S. and most of the people playing it are kids. Most of those kids probably don’t play it after grade school, but Graney argued that we also have the most women playing at the college level too. So why don’t we win at this level all the time?
As adults, we just don’t watch soccer on television regularly at the same numbers we do other sports.
Let’s look at Pahrump, which is a town that is proud of its girls soccer accomplishments with two recent state titles in 2011 and 2012. Pahrump has nearly 600 kids playing soccer and yet at the high school football is still king.
The numbers don’t translate into better high school teams.
Former assistant Trojans coach during the state title years Joe Sladek agrees that the youth participation is great but he says American Youth Soccer Organization, or AYSO, is just a recreational league. The girls need to be playing at a higher level if this town wants more titles.
Sladek knows this because he has been coaching at a higher level for club soccer teams for the past seven years and he is one of the reasons that our girls won the state titles we did.
The coach also agrees that soccer is the number one sport for women, but disagrees that this will translate into World Cup titles every time.
“To get better, coaches and girls need to be exposed to the highest level of play and they need to lose half of their games,” Sladek said. “The kids get this at the club level. AYSO coaches just don’t push the kids hard enough. Soccer is a sport of movement and the kids need to be constantly on the move.”
I once heard a coach here in Pahrump complain that the AYSO coaches in Pahrump needed to branch out and play more Las Vegas teams and even play in California more.
Sladek agrees with this statement.
“When I was an AYSO coach I didn’t know what I didn’t know,” he said. “We don’t have the generations of soccer coaches out here. Teams need to get out of Pahrump and see other teams from different states play.”
The intent of this is not to bash AYSO soccer. It is a great start for kids. It is a need and it is done well here in this town. I want to thank AYSO for its great contribution to this community.
Soccer needs coaches like Sladek to up the level of play. This is being done with almost all the sports at the high school, so why not soccer?
A good example of this is baseball. Brian Hayes and Connie Mack and before that, American Legion Baseball, provided kids at the high school level a competitive baseball league and the league is not all year long. Of course we also lost more than half of our games too. I am sure that will change though.
Girls who want to play in a highly competitive soccer league now have to go to Las Vegas and join teams there.
There is a need for this if we want our girls to be exposed to top-notch soccer players and if we want our girls to see another state title.
This doesn’t mean our girls need to play all year long. They just have to play club soccer because that is where the best girls in soccer play.
Sladek tried to start a club team here in Pahrump, but couldn’t do it. Maybe another AYSO coach who is willing to learn and to help out can aid Sladek.
Sladek and current head Trojans girls soccer coach Pam Larmouth were a good team and perhaps they could coach together again. He is by far one of the best soccer minds at the high school level that this town has to offer and for him to sit the high school season out is a waste of talent. He said he took last year off because he needed a break.
Sladek has since returned to coaching club teams in Las Vegas at the 13U division. He told me most of his team will be going on to play with Faith Lutheran and Bishop Gorman and that will of course not benefit us.
“I tried to get girls out here to start a team that will practice out here and play games in Las Vegas, but I got no takers so far,” Sladek said.
He knows our high school team will not be playing Faith Lutheran after next year and actually said this could hurt the girls.
“I know Faith belongs in Division I, but they are a great program and in order to beat the best you have to play the best,” the former coach said.
Larmouth said this also numerous times over the years. She always schedules Division I teams in the preseason to keep her girls sharp. It will be interesting to see how the girls do this year.