I’m hoping Richie Williams tenure overseeing Bradenton Residency is short-lived. No, that is not a cheap short joke about the diminutive former Men’s National Team and New York Metrostars midfielder. I have no problem with Williams being appointed U17 Men’s National Team Coach, and if anything a rare case of a professional soccer veteran being shorter than me is a good thing. The choice from USSF makes sense and I think Williams fits all the requirements of a young coach with knowledge of the U.S. system and top-level playing experience. I hope his tenure as leader of this team is a long and successful one – a tall one even.
But Bradenton Residency, I’m hoping we do away with soon.
A decision is due sometime this spring as to whether to continue the program located on the grounds of the IMG Sport Academies in Bradenton, Florida. It’s a beautiful campus and prior to the reign of the most recent U17 MNT coach, I used to visit there quite often to watch some of the best and brightest of American elite youth soccer. I’ve walked with my head down past court after court of Russian tennis prodigies, past the alligator-infested ponds and to the soccer fields at the complex to watch matches and training of some of the top players in Ameircan soccer over the past several years. I’ve even delivered vital products like cookies and Afro-Sheen to some of these players as a favor to the parents whose homes I was driving by on my way to Florida.
While the soccer advantages of training every day at such a nice facility are numerous, I think they are outweighed now by two major factors: 1) The setup does not serve the holistic needs of the players well enough and 2) The USSF Development Academy is progressing to the point where the players will not be losing that much by not being herded together for two years away from their families.
I know the staff down there does their best to make it a good experience for the players, but I think they have a pretty impossible mission. I always hear about a weekly trip to Wal-Mart as being the highlight of a social calendar (save the odd disciplinary issue where a few kids from previous cycles may have burst out of the confining elements with a rules-breaking binge that left them in academic and soccer limbo).
So when the current World Cup cycle is complete, I hope USSF scraps Residency and just has periodic camps the way it works for the other youth national teams, and most U17 national teams around the world.