A common debate topic in youth soccer circles is the expense of club soccer and how it can exclude many children from getting soccer development at older ages. There is a gap between younger recreation teams and older school teams. Plus, school teams only have so many slots available. But what if we could leverage the existing school infrastructure with the need for more informal soccer activities in local communities?

Rob Saylor proposed an interesting idea on a local soccer forum recently. Since most schools have soccer programs, why not leverage those a bit to expand development opportunities for tweens and teens?

The high school teams could have “camps” if you will for the younger kids in the area, maybe even raise a little money for their programs. This too goes a long way in “giving” back some of their time and again, training our youth in soccer and our future coaches.

High schools also need to allow more teams, why can’t there be two girl’s teams and two boy’s teams for the full four years, versus stopping JV when the kids become juniors. If the interest is there, make more teams so more kids can play. Get them on the fields and keep them on the fields, more playing time for all. Middle School soccer, follow the high school model.

What do most neighborhoods have, a local Elementary school. I am certain that there are many laws about organized youth sports at the Elementary level, so I simply have no idea what all would be involved in this.

The question needs to be asked, why not?

Open the “your Elementary school name here” soccer league to all kids, have practice once or twice a week for the kids that want to play. Keep all of the games on Saturday 3v3 or so with pug goals, no off sides no score keeping. Have the games last 5/10 minutes or so then draw new teams and play another 5/10 minutes or so. Model it like “Street Soccer”. Keep it fun, keep it light and if the highlight of little Suzie’s day or little Jonny’s day is getting the juice box and cookies after the game, so be it. I believe participation would be overwhelming.

The basic idea is for a moderate increase in soccer program funding at area schools to do some additional community outreach and offer informal soccer programs. This is an interesting idea if it’s approached as a supplement to club play, or in areas where clubs are a decent distance away, a way for kids to play soccer locally. On the surface there seems to be little incentive for the schools to take something like this on, but it would help develop better players or at least a bigger pool of potential players.

Like most program proposals like this, it would come down to the funding and structure. If something like this were to get off the ground, it would need some direction from a national youth organization to help grass roots efforts get going.

What do you think? Despite the obvious hurdles/resistance to something like this, do  you think the school systems would be a way to help create a more informal community soccer program as a supplement or alternative to the club system?