How the U.S. develops its most promising young players is not just different from what the Netherlands and most elite soccer nations do — on fundamental levels, it is diametrically opposed.
Americans like to put together teams, even at the Pee Wee level, that are meant to win. The best soccer-playing nations build individual players, ones with superior technical skills who later come together on teams the U.S. struggles to beat. In a way, it is a reversal of type. Americans tend to think of Europeans as collectivists and themselves as individualists. But in sports, it is the opposite. The Europeans build up the assets of individual players. Americans underdevelop the individual, although most of the volunteers who coach at the youngest level would not be cognizant of that....
Americans place a higher value on competition than on practice, so the balance between games and practice in the U.S. is skewed when compared with the rest of the world. It’s not unusual for a teenager in the U.S. to play 100 or more games in a season, for two or three different teams, leaving little time for training and little energy for it in the infrequent moments it occurs. A result is that the development of our best players is stunted. They tend to be fast and passionate but underskilled and lacking in savvy compared with players elsewhere. “As soon as a kid here starts playing, he’s got referees on the field and parents watching in lawn chairs,” John Hackworth, the former coach of the U.S. under-17 national team and now the youth-development coordinator for the Philadelphia franchise in Major League Soccer, told me. “As he gets older, the game count just keeps increasing. It’s counterproductive to learning and the No. 1 worst thing we do.”
Newsflash: Avon HS JV Boys Coach Will Brisco joins DFA coaching staff. See below for bio: Will was born in West Hartford, Connecticut and has lived in Avon, Connecticut his whole life. Will has been playing soccer since I was 5 and have been fortunate enough to have his own soccer field in his backyard. Will was a captain at Avon High School in his senior year also earning the All-Conference award. Will went to Elon University in North Carolina, for a bachelors in Finance. Will has been the Junior Varsity and Assistant Varsity coach at Avon High school the last 3 years. Avon recently were Champions of Class L in 2014 and 2015.
Amy Van Oostende NtpOk - kids and sports and nutrition. Junk food at practice, Gatorade during games, doughnuts after games, pizza parties?!? This is one of the worst! The mentality seems to be 'Oh, they'll run it off.' Or, 'They're active, they can eat anything.' So, clearly most parents are referring to CALORIES and/or getting FAT. Because you most certainly do not *run off* bad nutrition and furthermore, just because someone isn't 'FAT' doesn't mean they are healthy! In fact, this mentality is quite the opposite of what is true. Kids playing sports need to pay MORE attention to what they are eating, not less! Let's face it, as parents you are asking your child to perform at a level beyond ordinary. In some cases, soccer for example, at very intense levels of activity. And you're trying to fuel that activity on pizza and doughnuts?! This is not a good idea, plain and simple. And the only person who benefits from Gatorade is The Pepsi Co.
See below for complete DFA article that will be published in the April edition of Valley Press
Soccer ‘The Dutch Way’
Simsbury-based football academy teaches hardcore program
by David Heuschkel
Valley LIFE Staff
The Dutch Republic Lion is
a symbol of national pride
and appears everywhere in
the Netherlands, Rens van
Oostende said. It is emblazoned on
the left breast of his black Adidas
jacket. The lion is orange, the color
synonymous with the Netherlands,
and appears to be in either an attack
or defensive mode.
“I like the lion,” van Oostende
said. “It has spirit. It has aggression.
When it comes teaching or
coaching soccer, van Oostende is
hardcore. The word represents one of
the five principles of the Simsbury-
based Dutch Football Academy CT
(DFA), a soccer program van
Oostende and Farmington native
Todd D’Alessandro started in
February for youth ages 6-18.
Then added to the other four
principles – discipline, unity, technique
and conditioning – you get
the abbreviation D.U.T.C.H.
On the soccer field, van
Oostende believes attacking is the
best defense. It is the underlying
philosophy to what is known in
international soccer circles as “total
football.” To van Oostende, it is
known as “The Dutch Way.”
“It’s all about attacking, in your
face. You lost the ball, you win the
ball back,” van Oostende said. “You’re
not looking at your teammates,
you’re not lazy. You play with a good
dose of healthy aggression.”
Starting in late February, DFA
began holding indoor training sessions
on Monday nights at the
Premier Sports Complex in Winsted.
On Tuesday nights in March, DFA
was having sessions at the Ethel
Walker School gymnasium. There
will be four-day spring camps April
14-17. For more information, go to
“We’ll get anywhere from 35 to
40-plus kids for training sessions.
That’s not bad,” said D’Alessandro,
DFA’s director of girls soccer and
the girls soccer coach at the Ethel
Walker School. “The kids enjoy
themselves. The parents see the
kind of training we’re trying to give
the kids. I think everyone sees the
value in it.”
On Feb. 26, van Oostende and
D’Alessandro hosted an information
session about DFA at the Ethel
Walker School. The presentation,
attended by about 25 people,
explained the history of total football
and the meaning of D.U.T.C.H.
“Hardcore is my favorite one,”
van Oostende told the group. “It’s
simple. We do things the hardcore
way. We train hard and we play hard.
Don’t be lazy. Don’t let your teammates
down. Don’t take anything for
granted and think, ‘I’m tired today.’
No way. There is no escape.”
He adds, “I don’t take prisoners.
I cannot stand players that train
weak. If you train weak and you
don’t train with the right intensity,
we will be on your tail.”
In the early 1970s, the Dutch
began playing what van Oostende
described as a revolutionary style of
soccer. He said defenders were
attacking, attackers were playing
defense, and midfielders were overlapping
the forwards. The only player
on the field who didn’t stray from
their position was the goalkeeper.
At the 1974 World Cup, the
“total football” style was showcased
on the biggest international stage as
Netherlands advanced to its first
final. The Dutch lost 2-1 to host
The total football system
deployed by Netherlands four
decades ago is used by Barcelona
and other international teams,
D’Alessandro said his girls team
at Ethel Walker is working toward
playing that demanding style by
always pressing hard.
“It’s hard because you have to be
really fit,” D’Alessandro said. “But
we’re focusing on having players who
have the ball skills to play attractive
soccer like that, to keep their fitness
up to play like that for 90 minutes
and keep the pressure up for the
Being from the area,
D’Alessandro was well aware of the
stronghold the sport had on kids in
the Farmington Valley. A couple of
years ago he met van Oostende when
both were working at the Pro Soccer
Experience (PSE), a premier club that
was launched in 2010.
“We just kind of have like
minds in terms of playing soccer
and coaching,” said D’Alessandro,
who played for Farmington High
School and later at the University of
Connecticut in the 1980s. “The idea
[to start a club] kind of took hold
Growing up in Netherlands –
where soccer is without question
the top sport – van Oostende said
he was always intrigued with
America. His grandfather used to
travel to the U.S. on business in
the 1960s and ’70s. Upon returning
one time, he told his grandson
that he saw some kids playing soccer
and how the sport was gaining
popularity on the other side of the
“It was almost like listening to
Mickey Rooney,” van Oostende said,
recalling the conversations he had
with his grandfather. “He was an old-
school guy, but he was wearing these
khakis pants. He looked American.
He always came back with great stories.
Needless to say, if you were a
young kid you were like, ‘Hey, I want
to do this myself.’”
Starting in 2001, van Oostende
spent his summers working at
Winning Mood soccer camps in
Colorado, Wisconsin and New York,
teaching players “The Dutch Way.”
He flew back and forth between the
Netherlands and America for seven
years, using a U.S. work visa that
allowed him to stay in the country
for eight or nine months at a time.
He worked at fall camps in Fairfield
County for a few years.
In 2006, van Oostende’s 83-year-
old grandfather’s health was failing.
Before he took his last breath, Henk
van der Klei told his grandson to get
on the plane and don’t look back.
“He passed away one week after
he told me to follow my dream and
don’t come back to Holland if something
would happen to him,” van
His dream has taken him to places
like West Lafayette, Ind. He met his
wife there while working as the director
of coaching for the Tippco Soccer
Club. It has taken him to Texas, where
he was the head coach for the Houston
“Great contract, great club. But
my wife couldn’t stand the heat,” van
Oostende said. “It was 107 degrees
and you had scorpions in your yard.”
His dream took him Kingston,
Mass., where he was a technical
director for Paul Turner’s Ultimate
Soccer Academy. Last year it took
him to Avon, where he and his wife
settled and started a family.
“I got to continue to do this
and make my grandfather happy,”
van Oostende said. “I’m glad I did
that because it brought me a lot of
Rens van Oostende
“We do things the hardcore way.
We train hard and we play hard.”
–Rens van Oostende