* * *When you were growing up, what was soccer like in the United States? Did you participate in it as a kid?
Jim Cosgrove: Youth soccer when I was growing up was much different than it is today. All of my coaches, even at the select level, were volunteers. I played sparingly, because of participation in all sorts of other sports, until age 12 when I decided to focus on soccer. There were plenty of quality youth players, the likes of Dom Kinnear, John Doyle, Tim Martin, Troy Dayak, Paul Bravo, and Mark Dougherty, that I played with through the youth ranks, so the quality of competition for that time and place was quite good.
Growing up in California allowed me to play pretty much all year. There were definite peaks and valleys to the seasonal year which are not so evident today. I continued through playing through the U19 age group and then played in college.
Since your childhood, how much has soccer grown here in the United States?
JC: Extraordinarily! When I was playing, US Youth Soccer had less than 1 million players. Since 1999-2000, we have been over 3 million players per year.
What do you think has been the key to soccer's growth?
JC: Infrastructure, ease of access, and a quality experience in a relatively inexpensive manner. The game also tends to embrace all comers, in the sense that it does not take any specific physical attributes.
Indoor soccer with walls has been the traditional "default" winter activity for most youth teams. With the growth of futsal and Claudio Reyna's recommendation that teams play it more, how can USYSA encourage coaches to change their thinking?
JC: As with anything else in the game, education is crucial for development. As more become aware of the benefits of futsal, and for that matter small-sided games, their integration into the “tool kit” of coaches will continue.
The youth technical director of US Soccer, Claudio Reyna, has a very distinct vision of soccer in America, which includes focusing on training and technical skills. How is his philosophy being implemented?
JC: I am not aware of the specific operational plans of the Federation and Claudio’s vision. US Youth Soccer is fully supportive of the need for development in the youngest age groups, and has fully embraced the age and developmentally appropriate player-centered approach to youth soccer. This provides an in-depth look at that philosophy.
How does Jurgen Klinsmann's approach to the game correspond with what you're attempting to do at the youth level?
JC: It is my belief that it is congruent, while our approaches may be targeted in a slightly different manner.
What are the goals and expectations USYSA has for the near future? For the long run?
JC: This could be volumes! That said, we continue to rely on our mission statement as a guide to our short and long-term objectives: “…to foster the physical, mental and emotional growth and development of America's youth through the sport of soccer at all levels of age and competition.” This includes all players and those that support their participation, whether a TOPSoccer (a community-based training and team placement program for young athletes with disabilities) player, or one who is striving to play professional or internationally, and all those in between.
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