By Tim Bradbury, Director of Coaching Instruction
Sometimes youth soccer appears to be just a collection of problems with several of the key groups often looking to blame each other for the next issue that arises. In my newsletter last month I took great care to both applaud soccer parents and try to help them understand how important their voice can and must be.
Youth soccer is an enormous multi-million dollar industry which, thanks to the wisdom of the godfathers at US Soccer now has more leagues, cups and tournaments than there are fans at the average Red Bull game. There are several key areas where this proliferation of governing youth bodies is generating more harm than good. Easily the most visible, understandable and simply ludicrous is in the number of games that a youth player is now expected to play in a season. Several teams within our state with uneducated trainers at the lead and slightly insane team managers ( the role that the parent coach really takes on) are now playing in the following this Spring season:
- Two pre-season tournaments - 8 games
- Local League or ENY Premier League or Sub Regional league - up to 8 games ... 9 if successful
- ENY - National Championship / Arch Cups - minimum of 3 ... Average for decent team 6
- Supplementary league offered by US Club affiliates - 10 games
- Supplementary cup offered by US Club affiliates ... 4 first round
- Memorial Day tournament - 4 games
For those of you doing the math, I understand you might need a calculator for the above! The total equals a staggering, mind blowing and deeply troubling 40 games this season!
In the hope of keeping this based around numbers for now let's add some more numbers for you. US Soccer’s best practices document recommends a ratio of 1 game for every 5/6 training sessions. Based on playing 40 games, in the right environment with ratios as above this amounts to a total of 205 soccer experiences this spring!
Looking at the sum another way, again using US Soccer and US Youth Soccer guidelines. After a game, a 14 year old player needs a 72 hour recovery period. This effectively means to play a 40 game schedule taking the minimum recommended rest would take a minimum of 4.5 months WITH NO PRACTICES. As no one who is playing the type of schedule above is giving up the minimum of 2 practices a week, a minimum of 10 months is needed if we keep to the minimum standards presented.
Okay enough of the math; let’s just go with common sense. Most premier league teams with fully grown adults who are paid thousands of dollars would run and hide from a 40 game spring schedule (they actually buy lots of players and try it over 8 months), that was spread over 4 months.
In any other country in the world if I suggested to a group of 15 year old players, who by the way also do 2 hours of High School sport a night, to play 40 games in 4 months I would be led away to a padded cell and the key thrown away.
We cannot keep hoping that someone else will stand up and say how crazy and cruel a 40 plus game schedule is. All they truly care about the world’s most popular game and our youth players must be singing the same refrain, STOP, STOP, STOP!
I humbly suggest to all the parents out there that your child deserves better and they need you to do what parents do ...love, protect them and speak up, even if it means, rocking the Premier team ship.