University City

Charlotte youth soccer chapter gets pro coaching partners

Heidi Pruess has been a coach for American Youth Soccer Organization’s Charlotte chapter for six years. She has also served the University City-based organization as an age division coordinator and as a game referee.

Still, Pruess feels she could learn a thing or two when it comes to coaching youth soccer.

That’s why she’s excited that leaders of AYSO 605 (the Charlotte chapter) are inviting members of a company that specializes in nurturing youth soccer programs to mentor its coaches and players this fall.

Two coaches from UK International Soccer will take up residence in Charlotte for an eight-week period in September and October and become fixtures at AYSO 605 practices and games at Mallard Creek Community Park.

Professional coaches will be leading UK International Soccer’s Coach Education and Player Development Program. The goal is for those coaches to complement the training that AYSO’s volunteer coaches receive and provide extra skill instruction to their players.

“It’s always nice to have an outside, fresh perspective,” said Pruess. “We (coaches) can train each other all day long, but having someone from the outside is nice, especially someone with expertise.”

Registration for the fall AYSO 605 league is still open. President Kathy Riley says the league had 80 teams last year ranging in age groups from under-5 to under-19.

All AYSO coaches must be certified through AYSO’s national training program, which includes instruction through on-field demonstrations, videos and other resources. The older the age group, the more comprehensive the training the coach receives.

UK International Soccer, an independent company, is the official player-development provider for AYSO National, which is headquartered in California. UK International Soccer’s coaches are recruited mostly from the United Kingdom and are assigned to mentor youth programs around the U.S.

Instructors serve as coaches themselves and possess English Football Association and U.S. Soccer Federation coaching certifications. Adam Gee, UK International Soccer regional director, says his company has been in business for more than 20 years and has been providing training programs for 10 to 15 years.

UK International Soccer has had a Charlotte presence for about five or six years, said Gee. Some of its coaches conducted an AYSO 605 camp at the Mallard Creek fields July 22-26.

“We try to deliver the best soccer experience for children of all ages,” said Phil Dickson, a Nottingham, England, resident, who coached at the AYSO 605 camp. “… Just to bring soccer and enhance it in the U.S., to bring something that we have at home and try to take it a little bit further and advance (American) kids.”

UK International Soccer will assign two of its coaches to work in Charlotte this fall. AYSO 605 leaders do not have a say on who they will be. The coaches will stay with host families on a weekly basis.

Leaders of the Coach Education and Player Development Program emphasize that UK International Soccer coaches will be working directly alongside the volunteer AYSO coaches. It’s a unique approach compared to the classroom-based instruction most coaching certifications are limited to, including AYSO’s traditional training.

“Despite the fact that you learn from the book and video training,” said Pruess, “… every team has its own nuances. The players have their own makeup each time and I am excited about learning how to put the players together in a way you are not taught with the basic skills.

“I also think it’s very likely there are techniques we haven’t taught amongst ourselves, things we might be able to add to our toolbox.”

AYSO 605 will have a final day of registration on Aug. 5 at Rita’s Italian Ice at 2015 E. Arbors Drive, suite 250