Head Coach Steve Swanson to Present Lessons Learned from the U-20 World Cup Title Run
Sheer joy doesn’t always come easy. Sometimes, it takes planning. It takes commitment. It takes teamwork.
“What I will remember most about winning the World Cup is seeing the sheer joy in the player’s eyes after the final,” Steve Swanson recalls, head coach of the 2012 U.S. U-20 Women’s team that won the World Cup title this past September in Japan. “It was the culmination of an incredible two-year journey, full of life-changing lessons for both the players and the coaches."
Swanson will detail out many coaching lessons learned on the path to the World Cup title at the 2013 NSCAA Convention in Indianapolis, as part of a can’t-miss lecture on Saturday, Jan. 19 at 11 a.m. He promises to talk about the entire journey: the planning and preparations, the qualifying process, the style of play, the technical and tactical adjustments and some of the decisions that proved to be critical in the World Cup and even more how these decisions were made.
“It wasn’t easy. There was an extraordinary amount of hard work and planning down to the minutest detail."
Swanson, who doubled as the head coach for the Virginia women’s soccer team, wants to share those details in Indianapolis.
“For those that were part of our inner circle (players, coaches and staff), they know what the journey was all about, especially the lessons that were learned throughout the entire year,” Swanson said. “What we would like to do is share some of those lessons to other coaches in the hopes that they can benefit from some of our experiences both leading up to and at the World Cup.
“Truth is, I probably learned more than anybody, even our players. There is always more to learn, especially as our game continues to evolve. But the most important thing is sharing what we do know to others who are right on the front lines of coaching our youth players, so that we can continue to help develop our players. This will hopefully lead to long-term sustained success at all levels of women's soccer."
Swanson, who also previously led U.S U-16 and U-18 National Teams, credits the resources provided by US Soccer and the caliber of coaches and staff as the first key ingredients for success.
“From the very beginning, US Soccer provided us the resources that we needed to be successful at this event. Planning is one thing, but having the resources to fully implement the plans are entirely another. US Soccer gave us the resources to be successful from the start.”
Swanson credits the coaching staff, which included technical director April Henrichs, assistant coaches Janet Rayfield and Amy Griffin, and scout and performance analyst Jaime Frias, for its ability to collaborate for the U-20 Women’s team’s success.
“The best part about the staff was how much we trusted one another, which allowed us to challenge one another, which allowed us to feel confident about the decisions we had to make in preparing the team."
Together as one, Swanson said they went to work on the “planning cycle.”
“I think the best part of our annual plan is that because we did it over a year in advance. And because we had April, Amy and Janet's World Cup experiences, we were able to set specific objectives (technically, tactically, physically and mentally) in each camp and we did not overload our players at any one time with too much information.
“There was a great deal of thought and discussion during each phase of our cycles leading up to the World Cup. For example, we figured out how many games we wanted to play leading up to the World Cup using a training-to-game ratio of roughly 1-to-4. We set the intensity of those training sessions prior to each camp and we were able to monitor these loads properly with heart-rate monitors throughout our training camps. This was especially important since most of our players were also playing college soccer throughout the year.”
The planning worked and Swanson believes that kind of planning can make a difference at any level of soccer.
“There a lot of lessons that can transcend any age group or level of soccer in our country, but one of the biggest lessons is the importance of taking the time to plan,” Swanson advised. “Youth, club, high school, and even some college coaches, because of all the demands on their time, often do not take the opportunity to plan when they can or should. We hope to show through our program how important it is to take time to think about the level of players you are coaching, what the goals are, where you want your team to go, how you are going to get there with the resources you have, and how you can maximize the effect on the players you are teaching."
Swanson does admit, however, that even with the most detailed plan, true success comes from players that are willing to sacrifice for the good of the team.
“That was the true measure of our team. In the end, every player on the team was willing to serve the team and accept their roles for the benefit of the team. This was not easy since we had a very talented group who all were used to playing all the time […] but again this is what separates good teams from great teams, especially at the international level.
“Once you have that kind of commitment and sacrifice anything is possible and we proved that in Japan."
Swanson will also highlight some lessons that took place on the field at the World Cup and in particular, how the U.S. team persevered in Japan as they barely made it through to the knockout stage on goal differential and actually lost to Germany in Group play 3-0 before coming back to defeat them in the final, 1-0.
“One of this team’s greatest qualities was its ability to adapt and adjust to all the different styles and situations under the most intense pressure of a World Cup."