Alphabet Soup – Sport Business before Youth Development

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It is very confusing for parents in today’s youth soccer culture, as a focus has come onto the league and bracket. Sadly, youth soccer is now seen as a marketplace, and the US is the only country in the world which sees it this way, and it’s having a detrimental effect on youth development.

NPL, ECNL, EA, GA, MLS Next, and many more, are all name of leagues. They are all business opportunities competing against each other to say they have the best players. It’s all built on an opportunity for an adult somewhere to make a lot of money from FOMO and clubs within them to market. They all sell the structure of ‘merit-based competition’, i.e. winning. All of this goes against the science which supports development as a process, the psychology of open mindset and nurturing confidence, and the social support of belonging (players are used as they see fit to continue the winning). When youth soccer becomes a ‘merit-based’ structure, you prioritize outcome from younger ages, negatively affect individuals’ confidence through their perception of worth against outcome they cannot control, and burnout from the pressure and ‘performance’ coaching through their younger years.

A players learning is dependent on the learning experience the club creates within training, the psychosocial support of creating an open mindset to taking risk, and social support of belonging. All of this is in contrast to what is now expected in youth soccer, which has become a business before sport culture. Sport pedagogy relies upon 4 components of coaches, players, task, environment, meaning coaches as lifelong learners, players as committed learners, tasks to challenge players, and an athlete centered environment. Unfortunately, this is not a consideration in US youth soccer, with no objective measure for clubs’ effectiveness.

Throughout the world, clubs/academies, are measured on their structure and organization, and the athlete centered environment that’s created. We are very proud that we stick to these principles and continue to support the players deep learning and not be led by external outcome gratification.

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