Dutch Total Soccer’s Martin Van der Linden

Martin Van der Linden is a coach with Dutch Total Soccer NY, a Brooklyn-based youth Soccer program. 

Martin grew up in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, where he started playing soccer for the local soccer club FC Rijnmond at the age of five. After several years, he was transferred to the Youth of Sparta Rotterdam, a professional soccer club playing in the highest soccer division in the Netherlands. Martin gained a lot of experience as a player and had a great time playing, but he noticed he wasn’t the only player there with a lot of talent. During his time at Sparta, Martin also had an internship at FC Utrecht and PSV, both of which also play in the highest professional Dutch division.  Unfortunately, when he was 15 years old, Martin developed growing pains in his legs in addition to other injuries. At the end of the season, Martin was cut from the select team for the following season forcing him to think about his career and make a move to study Social Work.

Eventually, Martin followed his former neighbor Erwin Van Bennekom (Indiana University Head Coach) to New York City where he worked for Dutch Total Soccer.

What were youth sports like where you grew up, and how was that different from youth sports in the US – specifically in NYC?

We used to play a lot of street soccer, before, during and after school. Afterwards you went home to eat something and then you played outside till your parents called you to come inside the house at night. On weekends, we played an early morning soccer game with our team. After the game everyone stayed at the soccer club to play more pick-up soccer all day. Playing soccer is all we did. It’s pretty similar to how basketball is in NYC where kids play ball outside all day long.

What should parents consider when choosing the best program for their children?

Let parents take their time to do their own research on which sports and programs are out there before committing to something. The job of the parents is to bring their child to a safe and fun environment to explore and experience different sports. Once the child has picked a favorite sport, have them follow through so the child will learn to understand a commitment.

How would you compare NYC youth soccer players to ones of the same age in the Netherlands? 

I grew up in Rotterdam and I studied in Amsterdam for four years. In these cities, there are a lot of similarities as far as behavior of kids. They connect easy with others and the kids know how to stand up for themselves. Soccer-wise, I must say that there are many differences. In the US, organized sports activities are more business orientated. In the Netherlands, a lot of sports activities are free or low-cost/subsidized. Subsequently, almost every child growing up in the Netherlands is involved in sports activities, more so than kids who grow up in NYC. Also, I think that kids who grow up in NYC have a busier schedule. The school pressure here is greater and both parents are often employed full-time, which could contribute to why kids in NYC develop their physical skills differently than kids in the Netherlands.

What makes Dutch Total Soccer (DTS) different than other soccer programs in NYC?

DTS uses the unique Total Soccer Methodology developed in the Netherlands and now adopted by professional clubs worldwide. The platform for kids starts at 18 months old and runs through the age of 15. We offer an Academy travel team program for kids that want to play competitive games, as well as a soccer class program and summer camps to develop individual skills and to introduce the sport to beginning players.

What do you tell parents who feel their child is destined to be the next great soccer star?

We advise parents to support their children no matter what sport they choose. When kids are down, the parents should be there with positive words and encouragement to help their kid with any challenging situation they encounter on or off the field. I believe that the role of parents is very important for their kid’s development.

How do DTS summer camps help young players improve their skills/game? 

At our camps the players get a fun, challenging curriculum and they are making a lot of new friends. DTS offers full day soccer camps throughout the summer in the Tri-State area. Kids from all backgrounds come together at day camps and sleep away camps, getting exposed to various games, skills and drills. And of course, the more the kids play, the better player they will become.

Should young kids be heading the ball?

There has been a lot of commotion about heading the soccer ball in the US. I think players under the age of 12 should not head the ball at all. And, a smart soccer player doesn’t have to head the soccer ball often anyway.

What are some of your achievements at DTS that you are most proud of? 

We’re offering a soccer platform for every player at any level. I’m proud to see players that we train using more foot skills than before. I’m positive that their improved skills to beat another player becomes more natural for some players as they progress. Also, all of our DTS coaches are good soccer players as well and they know how to use different skills during the game themselves. The kids in our programs are definitely noticing the high quality of our trainers and you can see the players adopting the skills faster because of that.

What are the particular challenges of doing what you do in NYC?

Coaches who develop players the right way don’t have to choose between winning and developing a player. Winning and development go hand in hand, but first, all coaches are teachers as well and have to understand what “winning” truly means. For me winning matters, but development is more important. All kids enjoy the game when they win. I find it challenging sometimes when kids are just playing for fun. I think you should play every game to win no matter what. And if you didn’t, practice more you so improve to win the next game.

What was the best advice you got from a coach?

Follow your dreams, don’t give up.

What is your most proudest soccer achievement?

Playing in a professional Youth League and International soccer tournaments.

Favorite team?

Feyenoord Rotterdam.

Favorite NYC team (any sport)?

New York City FC

Favorite sports movie?

CR7 (about Cristiano Ronaldo)

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