By Tim Bradbury, Director of Coaching instruction, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
With so many leagues, clubs, training organizations, Super This, Elite That and Pre-Academy teams - it has struck me how difficult it is for any parent to choose a place for their child to play. The headlines clubs, teams and training organizations produce are to lure you in. They claim that “this” league is superior to “that” league when in fact all leagues differ greatly by age and level. For example, Division 1 in one place may be Division 3 in another. Posts on social media highlight wins as the only key to soccer success.
First, take a deep dive into what you really want for your son or daughter and their experience in youth sports. Be brutally honest! If your ‘WHY’ is centered around sport for life, fun and enjoyment, long term athletic development, developing social and life skills - then this guide may help you. If your ‘WHY’ is just winning, collecting trophies and chasing a scholarships, the best advice I can offer is to hire a guidance counselor now!
To make a good decision about where your child should play, start with collecting some key information. This information should be readily available and in writing by your prospective club/organization.
Documents to Collect
1) Club or team teaching philosophy and long term aims.
2) List of the core values that they believe impact game day and training sessions
3) Qualifications and experience coaches in age group
4) Numbers playing in club at different ages and rates of attrition
5) List the club-hosted events that suggest there is a genuine attempt to involve a family
6) Attrition rate of coaches within organization
7) Example of teaching curriculum from age group to age group
8) Game formats adhered to (should be 4v4, 7v7, 9v9, 11v11)
9) Annual soccer diet expected by age--how many soccer games/practices are there each year?
10) Tryout process and method
11) Club hierarchy and lines of communication
12) Parent interaction and initiatives. Are you seen as part of the process or just the ATM?
Is the information you collected a living document or just empty words? To ensure that the information provided is based on fact and not fiction, I urge you to observe and meet with the following:
People to Meet and Things to Observe
Meet: Head Coach of Age group / Observe: Game and Training Sessions.
Parents within the club on younger and older teams
A Board Meeting – see how long before “player development” gets discussed
Meet with the Age Group Coordinator
If the club uses a training company, ask to see their curriculum and watch their staff train
Ask to sit in on the monthly coaches’ meetings
I truly understand that the above takes time and effort but given the importance of the decision, the increasing numbers of players leaving the game, the reduction of physical education programs in schools and the increase in childhood obesity, is there a better way to spend your time?