Someone recently posted a comment on one of the older NCYSA Academy Proposal posts and it was excellent. I wanted to make sure everyone saw it because I think it’s a post in it’s own right on where youth soccer is today from a parent’s perspective. So I give you ‘Soccer Mom on Soccer’:

Wow, this seems like an extremely complicated way to build a "love for the game". Both of my children play soccer, one at U10 Challenge and one at U11 Classic. They play at this level because they are committed to their teams and to themselves to become better players. We as parents support them and encourage them and have found other sports that they can do on the side for fun that they can just show up to play or attend a practice as able. If they both decided tomorrow that they were tired of the competition that soccer brings and wanted to do something different, certainly I would be a little disappointed because I love soccer, but I would honor their decision. Parents should be able to tell when their child is in over their heads with competition and the bad stress that being in over your head can bring. Many parents bring this on their child by forcing them into soccer situations where the child can’t possibly succeed. I am amazed at how many children there are playing challenge that should be playing rec, but their dad cannot stomach the idea that his son plays rec, while neighbor boy Johnny is on the challenge team in the gold division. If clubs would be more responsible in selecting players for challenge and classic and truly put kids where their skill level and level of committment stand vs. filling in teams with warm bodies so they can have 4 challenge teams, 1 in the copper division who cannot compete with the rec team in that club. But, as usual money talks, and this drives revenue for the club. I’m all for building depth in a program as the kids age up and the rosters grow larger, certainly we need that base of kids at that age to move up. But, if only 70% of the kids on each team need to be there and they are forced to play with 30% who shouldn’t be there, who is the greater loser? …the kid who struggles all year and knows he’s out of his league or the kids who want to be better so badly, but can’t because they don’t have a full compliment of skilled teamates to make them better?

I think academy or pool training is a fabulous idea and both of my children have been fortunate enough to play for clubs that offer a 1 night per week consistent age divisional pool training that compliments their 1 night a week team practice. If done properly, skills/pool training can be not only valuable for the kids, but a lot of fun. They are still with their teammates, but also with other club players at that age. It builds club conhesion. It also is a valuable tool for the DOC’s and other club coaches to get to know one another and the children playing in the club….no not for recruitment purposes for next year, but so the leaders in the club know what they are working with. It helps them better plan for the next year. It also gives our children the opportunity to learn under different coaches and play with other talented players. Then, they still have the thrill of team competition in league and tournaemnt play. I see no purpose in creating yet another level of soccer play. We already have rec, challenge often with 4 differnt levels of play within it, classic A, classic B, premier, etc. When does it stop? If you create academies to exist alongside challenge and classic, you are asking to experience what I call "watering down" of all of the programs. I recall recently when NCYSA made the ruling that only a true U9 could play U10. They sited the number of 5 year olds playing U10 challenge across the state and it was ridiculus. I ask is a 5 year old truly going to be developed by playing with a 9 year old and is that even safe in a competitive environment?

One of the best examples I have seen of player development was in another state we lived in. There was no Challenge league. There was rec and then there was competitive. And in between for the 9 year olds, there was a juniors program that pool trained all of the kids in that age group who were showing signs of being ready for competitive the next year. These kids were divided into teams as well. They had pool skills 1 night per week and team practice 1 night. The DOC ran the pool training with the club coaches rotating through weekly to help. Within that age group, the players were allowed to guest play for each other’s team, and no, not for the sole purpose of letting star Johnny play every game, but truly to fill in when a kid was absent or to give Scotty a chance to play with Pete in a game situation because the DOC had noticed some magic between the two of them at skills that week. The same kids were not asked every week either. We tried to give as many of the boys an opportunity to guest play as possible without restructuring the teams. They didn’t keep score, which I think is sort of ridiculus because my son always knew the score. But, they enjoyed it and learned a lot and when tryouts came the next year, the coaches had a idea of what they had vs. seeing 60 boys for 1 1/2 hours on 2 nights run through some drills with numbers on their backs.

In case you can’t see my point in this verbose display, it is that soccer does not need to be made any more complicated. If anything it needs to be simplified. Keep rec, challenge, and classic. Clubs take resonsiblity in truly evaluating a kid and putting him on the team where he can be successful and help his peers be successful. Offer pool training at all 3 levels (separate levels-not together) 1 night per week to compliment the team practice. And then, offer some free kick arounds 1 night or every other week where kids just come together to play. Coaches or skilled parents play too to give kids a safe and encouraging environment to try out those new skills in a game situation. Say you’re going to play for an hour and if everyone is having a blast, stay another 1/2 hour and when everyone is tired, say last goal wins. This is what develops a love for the game. My children learned more about the game of soccer in these kick arounds with older dads who played and siblings and had a tremendous amount of fun. It means a lot when you nutmeg coach, the coach that you just saw make a beautiful run and score and you think, "wow, I might be able to do that too".

One more pet peve while I’m on my soap box. We need to stop feeding the cash cow that soccer has become for some "coaches". I have personally witnessed a semi-pro player charging $75.00 for an hour of individual soccer skill instruction. I’ve also had parents tell me that their child’s private soccer instructor told them that he was a natural midfielder because of his first touch on the ball. What???? How can you tell a 10 year old is a natural anything in isolation with no team to pass to and no pressure when receiving the ball and displaying that first touch. This is the kind of crap that further fuels the craziness of some parents who are somewhat in the dark about how to watch and enjoy soccer. They think they are helping their child by hiring a private tutor and then when their coach or child doesn’t perform in the way they expect, they are outraged because they dropped $150.00 in 2 weeks to ensure that their child was at the top. Let’s relax a little and let the game teach our kids. They can develop a lot by just playing. I don’t think some complicated administrative heavy academy is the answer.

Just my thoughts.

Comment by Soccer mom 02.19.07 @ 10:02 pm