Is My Player Ready for Competitive Soccer? Part 1

This is a question every parent should be asking themselves BEFORE they bring their player to a club (“travel team”) tryout.  I have seen time and time again where parents bring their player out to one of our practices and the player is clearly in over their head and not ready for the challenge of playing on our gold-level team.  You can help avoid confidence crushing rejection – and rejection will happen at some point, no matter how good your player is – by taking your time and considering the important issues I will be covering over the next two articles.

Does Club Fit the Family?

The first thing to decide is whether the soccer lifestyle is one that your family can live with.  It is definitely a way of life that will see you spending a lot of time in your car getting from match to match and looking for healthy “fast food” between games.  Club soccer typically runs all year, every year, FOREVER – well, at least until U19.  There is a Fall season and a Spring season with tournaments sprinkled in between.  This is a big time commitment and one you should make sure the entire family can support because it will impact them.  There are times when my family will go months straight without a free weekend.  Granted, my son plays on a fairly high level team and our coach has us playing more than most teams, but there will be stretches of time, even on lower level teams, where you will be required to give up the better part of your weekend for long stretches.  Being on our third, and last club soccer player, we are accustomed to being constantly on the go, but as our first player made this transition it took some adjusting for everyone.

In addition to the games, most club teams practice a minimum of twice per week for one and a half hours each practice.  Some teams will practice 3 times per week, and/or work in film sessions.  You could realistically be doing something soccer related 5 days per week!

I am not trying to scare you off, on the contrary I am a soccer advocate and believe every kid should be playing The Beautiful Game.  My aim is just to prepare you for the commitment levels and expectations of soccer at the next level.  Whatever the actual number of games you play or what your practice hours are, your coach will expect you to have your player there EVERY time, ON time.

Passion for the Game

Does your player have a true passion for the sport of soccer?  Do they play soccer outside of their weekly practice(s)?  Do they watch soccer on TV?  Do they have a favorite professional team?  A player they idolize?  If you answered no to any one of these, I suggest you seriously consider waiting to transition to club soccer.  With the amount of commitment required of them, your son or daughter should absolutely love soccer before they embark on their competitive journey or they will burn out very quickly.  My youngest son, now 13, has played soccer since he was 4; he began playing club soccer when he was 8.  Every year before the new registration period I sit down with him and ask him if he wants to continue – does he still have the desire to play at this high level.  I look closely to see if he’s telling me what he thinks I want to hear, or if I still see the passion in his eyes.  As soon as we don’t see the fire, or he wants to stop playing, he will transition to something more appropriate for him.  It’s his journey and it should be an ejoyable one.

Examine YOUR Motives

Too often the driving force behind putting players into club soccer is the parents. They live vicariously through their children and push them beyond what is healthy and into activities that they don’t support or even want to participate in, see Passion for the Game above.  Be honest with yourself and your motives for wanting to put your child into competitive soccer.  If you are more excited than your player for practice or the next game, club probably isn’t a good fit for them.  If your kids are anything like mine though, sometimes they do need a nudge in the right direction or to have the benefits explained to them.  I recommend you discuss it with them, regardless of their age, and look for any signs of hesitation.  If you see them, save yourself the $500-$2500 (or more!) per year and just wait.

In part II of this article, we will look at some of the playing levels of club soccer and suggest which might be right for your player, touch a little on the costs involved, plus take a more in depth look at how to find an appropriate Coach/team.  Until then, Happy soccer-ing!

 

Jesse Quijano is a freelance writer, photographer, and web developer living in Southern California with his wife and 3 children.  Jesse is a rabid soccer fan (understatement) and has been involved (understatement) in coaching, managing, and refereeing recreational and club soccer for the last 10 years. All 3 of his children have played at various levels from recreational to competitive to high school soccer so there are a lot of experiences from which to draw… Although written from a soccer perspective, most topics covered are common to all youth sports. Questions and comments welcomed: [email protected]

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