USA hoping homework pays off

Millions of parents and teachers across the world will certainly testify that it can be fairly difficult to persuade teenagers to do their homework. However, the USA U-17 team seem to be the exception that proves the rule. US Soccer runs a residency programme for the U-17 side, and for those not based at their Florida headquarters, the coaching staff ask for regular updates on their training exercise and match-time, to monitor their fitness levels ahead of their own training camps and games.

“What I do is reach out through email, phone calls, texts and usually they check in with me every other week,” Pete Calabrese, assistant and fitness coach for the USA U-17 side, said in an exclusive chat with FIFA.com. “They’re actually pretty good at getting back to me! You’ve got to stay on top of them every once in a while because they are still kids. They give me a pretty good detailed breakdown of what they’re doing in training and then we have to do evaluations with them when we see them, from their match performances, to see where they are.”

All of this data is vital for the man at the helm, Richie Williams, who will be leading the squad at the FIFA U-17 World Cup. More and more USA players are being picked up by club sides from a younger age, meaning Williams and his coaching staff need to work hard to keep tabs on his youngsters, some of whom are based in Europe.

“I think is for the better because it means our younger players are developing and are being identified by foreign clubs and MLS sides at an earlier age,” Williams said. “For us, we would love to have them with us full-time day in day out, because they’re going to help the players in residency. But we know that when they’re with professional clubs, they’re training in a great environment.”

You find that kids have a little quicker recovery time. We do a very rigorous recovery process with them.

Playing at a professional level means facing up to and playing with senior players. How does the preparation for the U-17 side differ from the ‘grown-ups’ that some of them have been pitting their wits against at club level?

“You can push some of the kids a little harder, based on their recovery times,” Calabrese, who has worked with senior players at Major League Soccer side D.C. United, revealed. “With the older players there’s a really fine line due to the speed of the game, the intensity of the matches and training sessions. You find that kids have a little quicker recovery time. We do a very rigorous recovery process with them as soon as the matches are over, to have them prepared for the next one.”

Doing the maths Their preparation and recovery will have to be precisely calculated in Chile, with the side drawn into a tough Group A against holders Nigeria, serial talent-producers Croatia and hosts Chile. Williams is optimistic despite the daunting draw.

“We’re here in the World Cup so our goal is to win it and that’s the message for everyone,” Williams said. “I don’t know what the definition of success would be but we’re going to go out there, play the best we can, look to get to the final and win the tournament.”

Williams, Calabrese and the rest of the USA coaching staff will be hoping that preparatory homework for some of his players results in a good final grade on 8 November in Vina Del Mar.