For those of you involved in travel soccer in North Carolina, there are two very important proposals coming up for a vote at the next NCYSA Challenge Council meeting (June 9th, 2007). One of them proposes the elimination of the NCYSA Challenge Cup for U10, U11, and U12 and replacing it with a festival, similar to what is done for Classic (and now Rec).

I’ve written a number of posts about competition in youth soccer, so I’ll try not to rehash most of that here. But as long time readers likely expect, I think this is a mistake.

We are seeing the gradual elimination of competition for kids aged 10-12, because it is felt they can’t handle it. You often hear how if we eliminate competition "coaches won’t coach to win". Please. Coaches who coach to win, are going to coach to win until they’re taught not to OR are eased out of coaching. Why take away the thrill for teams that are ultimately successful because you don’t want to do the right thing and fix bad coaching? Do we honestly think coaches won’t coach to win in a festival? Of course they will.

Kids this age can handle competition and they should be allowed to compete. I’m so tired of hearing how we need to coddle 11 year olds because they might be upset of they lose a championship match. My kids have lost their share of tournament finals and they aren’t headed for therapy anytime soon. But they also had coaches who understood that the primary focus is development and losing a tournament final is not the end of the world.

Maybe I’m an exception, but I and my kids have have very good experiences at recent NCYSA State Cups, both Recreation and Challenge. I think a healthy dose of competition, sprinkled throughout their regular season where development is the focus, is a good thing for them. Do we honestly thing we’ll have the same level of participating and caliber of teams attending a festival? Yes, I saw teams coached ‘to win’ who could pass very well but lacked finesse with the ball. They may be successful now, but I wonder how they will do in the future lacking strong ball skills in 1v1 situations? But will eliminating the State Cup change their coaching? No. Their coaches will still coach the teams to win, regardless if scores or standings are kept.

I don’t want to see our kids quitting sports because of the pressure to win, but I think it’s naive to think removing competition from the game will somehow fix bad coaching and parenting. U10-U12 players should focus primarily on skill and gameplay development, but letting them show off all they have learned at a state wide tournament is a good thing.

Lots of additional debate on this proposal has taken place at the NC Soccer Forums.

If your league has a vote on the Challenge Council and you want to see the Challenge State Cup retained, please be sure to attend the meeting and cast your vote. If you can’t attend and wish to get your vote counted, I’ll happy bring your proxy to the meeting. I can be reached at [email protected].

UPDATE: The NCYSA recently sent out information regarding proxies and some parliamentary procedures that I thought was worth noting here. The NCYSA Proxy form is available here. Make sure your league’s voice is heard, regardless of which side of the issue you are on.