Is My Player Ready for Competitive Soccer? Part 2

Last time we looked at several topics I believe should be considered in determining if your player is ready for the jump to club soccer. Things such as whether the lifestyle of club soccer was a good fit for your family, if your player had enough passion for the game, and examining your own motives. You can see the entire article here. My list is by no means definitive, but I have been managing and coaching soccer teams for 10 years now and these are the most common mistakes I see parents making for their children. This time around I will wrap up with a few more hot topics for your consideration:

This has less to do with your player being ready and more to do with your bank account being ready, but it is still a major consideration so I wanted to touch on it. I am told that club soccer typically has a much lower price-point than other youth club sports, but a general rule is that you should expect to pay a minimum of $1000 per year. I have heard of some being as high as $3500.

Don’t Start at the Top!
Club soccer has various levels associated with its teams. One common set of designations runs inline with the Olympic medal structure: gold, silver, bronze. With bronze being the entry level teams and gold being the highest level of play. If you have a first year club player, trying out for a gold level team will probably be a waste of your time and end up leaving you with a sour taste in your mouth. Be realistic and start looking at bronze teams first.

Do Your Homework
There is no reason to jump at the first club you run across, be picky and find the right fit for your commute, budget, and most importantly the development of your player. In Southern California for example, there are over 200 competitive clubs, each with 5-50 teams of varying ages. Do the math, that should give anyone in this area multiple team options within a 30 minute drive. My city with a population of 150,000 has 4 clubs alone! Your area may not have as many alternatives, but do some research on the clubs you do have within your “striking distance” and pick a few to consider.

Once you have done your online research, I highly recommend you visit the team(s) you are considering in person; without your player. Observe the talent level of the existing players in relation to yours. Watch how the coach interacts with the players. Listen to what he/she is saying to the players. Watch the drills that the coach is having them perform. Picking a coach is a personal choice and provided he/she isn’t abusive, there typically isn’t a wrong answer. You should pick one that you feel is giving good instruction and that you believe your child will respond to. One thing that I personally look for in a good coach is avoiding “the three L’s”. No Laps, No Lines, No Lectures. The idea behind a good training session is to provide instruction and fitness while avoiding making it feel like a lot of work. A good coach should keep things moving and keep the kids from standing around and becoming bored.

After you have made your decision regarding a coach/team that you think will fit your needs, this is when I suggest you introduce your player into the process. Any earlier and I feel you open them up to more rejection than is necessary. By waiting, you can weed out coaches you feel may be too harsh, or teams you feel may be too advanced.

Rec is OK
There can be a negative stigma attached to playing “non-competitive”, or recreational soccer. I am here to tell you that there are some great recreational programs out there and that your child doesn’t have to play competitive soccer to be considered a successful soccer player. Pick the option that is right for you and your player. Especially at the younger ages (under 16), soccer should be fun and their experience should build their love of the game. Every player is different and club soccer isn’t for everyone, but soccer should be. Keep it enjoyable and let them play at their level for life!

Jesse Quijano is a freelance writer, photographer, and web developer living in Southern California with his wife and 3 children. Jesse is a rabid soccer fan (understatement) and has been involved (understatement) in coaching, managing, and refereeing recreational and club soccer for the last 10 years. All 3 of his children have played at various levels from recreational to competitive to high school soccer so there isn’t much he hasn’t seen… Although written from a soccer perspective, most topics covered are common to all youth sports. Questions and comments welcomed: [email protected]

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