Q&A With Tom Byer.
• Southern Soccer Scene: It is said by most knowledgable observers that Japan’s women are very technical and as a team possess the ball very well. 1). What do you attribute that to? 2). How much of the Courver philosophy impacted those skills.
Tom Byer: 1). Young Japanese girls play with boys up until the age of 13. The boys game is very strong and technically good, the girls get a bump from that. 2). When I introduced the Coerver Method into Japan it was a game changer for sure.
But it was the delivery of the Content through TV, Magazines, DVD’s, Comic Books, Events, Schools, Camps, Internet etc., which empowered Kids to practice on their own.
• Southern Soccer Scene: Before the last World Cup, Japan had not advanced from group play, but then won it all. How much do you attribute to the mental attitude of this group of Japanese players, including the younger players, who now believe they can win. Did that grow from within the players from leadership of individuals, or from outside the team (coaches).
Tom Byer: I think it was several different things. The Women had had a pretty successful Beijing Olympics and were gaining attention. Also, the Earthquake/Tsunami Disaster united the country during this time and everyone got behind the girls real early. But now that they’ve won the World Cup there is that belief that anything is possible with Japanese soccer for both the men and women.
• Southern Soccer Scene: What cultural differences between Japan and the U.S. Are advantageous to each of their national team programs.
Tom Byer: In Japan its easy to reach consensus and get everyone moving in the same direction. There isn’t much individualism and the Team always comes first before the anything else. Also, the discipline is a very strong attribute and lastly they Train much longer in Japan that in most Countries. In the U.S., I believe the biggest attribute might be that Fighting Spirit and never giving up until the final whistle. American believe they can Win every time they step out onto the Field. The U.S. has a very big Player Pool as well which I believe is beneficial.
• What are the different dynamics between soccer in Japan and China, given they are both Asian societies. Well, it’s amazing that 2 countries can live in such close proximity and be so far apart in culture. As you know, Japan is a very small Island Country, lack of space but their attention to detail is what makes them good. A country with almost no natural resources that has learned to find ways to succeed. There Soccer is very similar, Players that are not big or strong yet good technically and putting Team before anything else. China on the other Hand is a huge country with the Worlds biggest popularity, so we tend to see everything in China is of massive scale. With the 1 Child policy we also see that there is a “ME FIRST” mentality, which doesn’t encourage putting the Team first. Parents and Grandparents are expecting big things from the only Child so Education because the center of life as a way to climb the economic ladder and Sport is looked as a distraction to Education. So Kids are not encouraged to participate in Sport therefor the Player Pool is very tiny in the Worlds most populated Country. There is a new Program that has been put in place by the Government, The Chinese School Football Program, which I am the Head Technical Consultant/Official Grassroots Ambassador. This is to implement Football into the Schools System, currently 90 Cities, 4,000 Schools and approximately 2 Million Participants.
• What was your assessment of the U.S. Team in the Olympics and the U.S. U20 team at the U20 World Cup. For the Olympics I thought the U.S. was quite lucky to make it to the Final just barely getting by Canada. I believe there is plenty of room for the U.S. to improve, especially Technically. With perhaps the biggest Player Pool in the World the U.S. should be producing better Technical Players. I believe the problem is that although the Player Pool is huge, more Girls playing than any other country in the World, at the young ages Soccer is purely recreational. The U.S. has got to do a better job at the early stages of development. The gap between the very best Players and the very worst is way to big. In contrast, the Gap is smaller in Japan for both the Men and the Women’s Game. And for me, that is the only way to make a paradigm shift in a countries overall level. U.S. Players are consistently bigger, faster, and more athletic. The Japanese are technically skilled and tactically more sophisticated. And for me, the tactical sophistication is a byproduct of good Technic. So although the U.S. got the Gold Medal in the Olympics, I still believe there is lots of room for improvement. Same as the U20 WC that just finished. Congrats to the U.S. but again, squeaked by and beat the best Team in the Tournament, Germany on the Final day. I sit and watch the U.S. Teams and only think, “Oh my, if the Team had better Technical Players they would be unbeatable every time. But winning both the Olympic Gold and then the U20 WC, not a bad Summer for American Women’s Soccer!
• In the 90s it was the USA, China and Norway as the big three, then China kinda dropped off the top rung. Any observation about why that happened (that you would want to share at this point, on or off the record). I think a case could be made that everyone was way behind these 3 countries back in that day. I’m not sure if it’s the USA, China or Norway went down in level as much as there is more competition now. And my theory that the best way to make the best players better is by making the worst players better holds true for Teams and Countries. The only way to make the U.S., China etc., better is by making the worst Countries better, and we’re seeing that now by the emergence of Japan, Canada, Brazil, Germany, France, England etc. Countries that were not on the Map 10 years ago and are doing very well now.
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