Jacob Daniel has been the Georgia State Soccer Association Director of Coaching for 23 years. Last year, he was honored by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America with their Charlotte Moran Long-Term Service Award. He has been a witness to a great deal of growth in soccer in the state of Georgia, and he has been a key figure in facilitating much of that on the youth side.
Coaching education has been an area of emphasis for Daniel since he joined Georgia Soccer. He told Dirty South Soccer:
“In 1992, we had 250 coaches attending coaching courses and by 1999 the number increased to 2,500 coaches at courses. This means that while our membership has doubled, our course enrollment grew ten-fold. Georgia Soccer has licensed more coaches per capita than any other state.”
While that growth has been substantial, Daniel is not stopping there. He said:
“In addition to the formal certification courses, we offer our members a menu of educational programs: free clinics on a variety of topics, opportunity to bring the State DOC to a club to do staff evaluations, workshops for club staff, training of state instructional and ODP staff on the latest coaching methods, creation of coaching manuals and articles available to our membership, bringing foreign coaches to conduct clinics and symposiums, hosting special courses from US Soccer and other organizations like US Youth Soccer and the NSCAA, and assisting clubs who want to implement a club-wide curriculum and playing style.”
Daniel has seen soccer in the state change a great deal during his time with Georgia Soccer. The early 1990’s for soccer in Georgia were a completely different time from today. Daniel explains:
“There are so many signs of soccer growth and development around the state over the past 23 years. In 1993, there were only two full time youth coaches. Now there are hundreds. In 1993, we had 35,000 registered youth players and now we have over 80,000. We now have thousands of licensed coaches with at least 2,000 having a national level license. The amount of soccer complexes and facilities have increased exponentially, although the membership growth means we are still in need of more facilities. The technical level of the players has increased significantly which is a result of the improvement in coaching standards, access to high level international soccer via satellite, and a recognition that professional soccer is a viable option as a career. We now have kids as young as 4 or 5 watching Messi or Ronaldo on TV and eating, sleeping, and breathing soccer 24/7.”
A recent development is the launch of Atlanta United. He is excited to see the impact the MLS club will have:
“The impact of Atlanta United will be huge. It will raise the level of interest in soccer by everyone, from media to corporate to civic to schools to park and rec programs. Our youth players will see a clear pathway to the top. The pro club will convert many new sports fans into soccer fans. More soccer facilities will be built to meet the growing demand and the level of the game will improve. National and international soccer will come to Atlanta more often.”
Daniel has faced challenges along the way in his role. He said:
“In 1993, our top players were not training enough and playing enough games. The seasons were too short and the quality of coaching was poor. So my biggest challenge at the beginning was to convince coaches to get certified, convince youth clubs to implement small-sided soccer for the U6 to U12 ages, and convince the membership to vote for mandatory licensing. Over the past 10 years, the pendulum has swung to the other side, with our elite players playing too many games and tournaments and the emphasis too much on winning. So our challenges now are to change the culture of youth soccer from a short term approach, tournament oriented, result oriented sport to a long term philosophy of player development.”
There are some things that Daniel would like to see change in youth soccer to make it a better experience for the kids. He said the sport needs:
“Less emphasis on winning, find ways to reduce the cost for participation, and bring back sanity to the schedule so that our elite players don’t get burned out.”
Another area that is close to Daniel’s heart is increasing diversity in Georgia Soccer programs. He said:
“There are already some initiatives towards diversity: building mini soccer fields in inner city and underserved areas, providing scholarships, working with organizations such as Soccer in the Streets to deliver coaching education at reduced cost, identifying coaches from the ethnic or African-American areas to help us access the players and help create youth clubs. Some of our member clubs are also doing outreach programs through schools or churches.”
Jacob Daniel is the longest serving Director of Coaching in the United States. He has placed Georgia among the national leaders for licensed youth soccer coaches, overseen an increase in Georgia players selected to regional and national ODP squads, and even implemented region wide training and playing style curricula. His accomplishments are vast, and the launch of Atlanta United will give him an even larger platform to use to grow the game in the state of Georgia.