Lauletta’s League Lowdown: Raising the Level

(See original article here: http://www.womensprosoccer.com/news/columnist/)

By Dan Lauletta – Special to womensprosoccer.com

A longtime rallying cry for soccer in the United States has been for longer seasons at the professional level. It was one of the first salvos fired by recently hired men’s National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann. A longer season for the women is farther in the offing than it is for the men. Youth and junior players are often able to find teams year round, but that setup sometimes lacks the consistency needed to continuously get better. None of which means there are not ways to improve yourself as a player, even during the off-season.
Enter Scott Leber. A former standout at Stanford who was drafted by the Columbus Crew and eventually played for the Long Island Rough Riders, Leber sought to find a method of improving the skill sets of the soccer youths of America, as well as a method of being coached online. The result was isoccer.org.

“The mission behind it is to fundamentally motivate players to want to spend more time with the ball,” Leber said. “It’s an assessment-based platform.”

The program is not so much a straight curriculum as it is a process for improving ball skills. Players begin by downloading tests and taking them to the field with them to get a sense of where they are with their skills.

“Players take the assessment, coaches do the assessment, and then based on their scores they can raise their level to higher and higher scores by say dribbling quicker or touching the ball faster, doing all different things that are based on our model.”

The program, thought up in 2008 and launched in 2010 and now calls former WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci a board member, is geared to players ages 6-18. The largest group to this point fall right in the middle of that age range, and female players make up about 55% of isoccer.org’s clientele (in most cases the scoring scales are different for female players). Leber said some of the country’s top youth players are signed up with isoccer.

“We have academy club players all the way down to recreational club players,” he said. “That’s the great thing about what we’re trying to do. A player that’s very good on the U-14 team, still needs to be sharper on the ball. A 6-year-old still needs to have a good time going from one level to the next.”

The program is also set up so that coaches can log in and monitor progress of their players, although there are no plans to stray from individual based training.

“That’s we’re called isoccer,” Leber said. “Our (motto) is ‘raising the level of the game one player at a time.’ We want every player to touch the ball more. We believe that as players touch the ball more at practice, more at home, the entire level of the game would be raised across the country.

“We have over 80,000 users and 500,000 assessments all the way from Maine to Alaska to international.”

Leber said the company needs more data before assigning certain scores to certain levels or age groups, but for now there is enough to let a player know how he or she compares to others around the country who have taken the same tests.

“The core of isoccer is for a kid in New York to compare his scores to a kid in California. It’s an objective measuring stick.”