In recent years the landscape of youth soccer, and youth sports, has changed drastically. Youth players are now expected to perform like professionals, following more vigorous schedules than their professional idols. An image of what we see on TV and in the media is being projected on to the youth player.
Appropriate, purposeful practice is a great development in the youth game, where players are involved in game specific practices, and no longer stood around in lines.
It doesn’t however take a ‘super club’, ‘foreign franchise’, nor an ‘Academy’ be it DA or by name, to provide this environment. This is determined by the club structure, and philosophy of the directors of each club, and a club that encourages development over winning and collecting trophies. An easy way to get an insight to the club is by checking their social media and website feeds, full of tournaments and trophies?
The importance and prestige now associated with youth soccer has led to a toxic environment, where clubs compete for players, ultimately working against each other at the grass roots level rather than working together, a biproduct of the influence of money is having on youth sports. The parent’s office talk becomes about the ‘bracket’, and ‘level of play’ in which their child is at with their club, or how far they travelled for a tournament. The conversation should focus more on the relationships built and the life lessons being learned, while specifically for soccer demonstrating individual skill and playing on the weekend with a smile with their friends. Ultimately this creates a fear of missing out. If someone is driving an hour to practice and traveling to different states for a tournament, then they must be getting a better experience! The travel is taking time away from a child’s education, social interaction, and time that could be used for physical activity. A tournament places a child in to a situation where they are now playing half a season over 3 days, that is insane. Clubs though will sell these as positives, will sell that they are a developmental club because they win and go to tournaments, and it’s easier to collect dollars than it is to educate.
Importance needs to be placed on the individual. Looking further ahead a recruiter for college will not be concerned about the team you come from, but the individual personal characteristics you demonstrate, and the individual ability you possess as a player. College ID camps will give players exposure to the right people, and limit the incredible stress placed on players through chasing down Showcases and playing up to 6 games in 3 days.
Please take the time to read through the following articles, incredibly important in understanding the current youth soccer/sports climate, and from a parent’s perspective.
We will continue to provide an environment that is best for the players welfare and long-term development.