Mike Slatton is a 30+ year youth soccer coach, a professional soccer scout and a 40+ year player with three adult and teenage children who all play or have played the game.
From Oklahoma to Florida, Mike has been active in soccer clubs at every level, from coach to referee to club president, and has witnessed the evolution of American youth soccer from every perspective possible. His insider and outsider views give him an insight into youth soccer that the overwhelming majority of parents don’t have. Many of his personal articles have an “exposé” feel, as he breaks down the inner workings and failures of organized youth soccer in America.
As a “competitive” recreational youth player, Mike will tell you:
When I was 12, 13 and 14 years old, I was the worst player on the best team. For years, I won trophies from the bench, suffering game after game, wondering what I could do to improve my skills to earn a regular spot on the field. I loved practice, because we’d get to scrimmage and that might be the only time that week I’d get to play.
I can tell you today what my weaknesses as a player were back then, but it doesn’t matter now. 35+ years ago, I was a developing player who should have been taught the game – not punished week after week for not being able to figure out what my coach wanted from me.
Competitive recreational youth soccer (what the overwhelming majority of soccer clubs offer as “competitive soccer”) was one of the worst periods of my childhood. It damaged my self-esteem and hurt my ability to be friends with males. Decades of reflection on those miserable days though, have molded my views and eagerness to master the ‘art’ of player development. By “player development”, I mean teaching a child the game and it’s nuances, improving his/her esteem and confidence, and improving their fitness.
I fully understand that most of the kids I coach will not become professional athletes, but NOT because the competition is high – because it really isn’t (read my article on Athletic Potential). Most of the kids I coach won’t become professional athletes because communities need people to fill all kinds of roles, in order to function efficiently. We need teachers, coaches, policemen, firemen, doctors, clerks, pool cleaners, maids, financial advisers, waitresses, restaurant owners, car salesmen, bankers, etc. – and even politicians.
My job as a soccer coach is to develop my players to be detail oriented problem solvers who can react quickly under pressure. This relates to life, not just soccer.
Growing up, every youth coach I ever played under struggled to communicate. They were good with soccer strategy (I guess), but lacked the ability to really connect with and develop players. Therefore, I was forced to become a student of the game, to learn what I was doing wrong and teach myself (what I thought was) the correct way to play. I wouldn’t trade those traumatic experiences for anything, though. I’ve come to realize that that situation was, and is still, very common. Having lived it makes me a better coach and a better advocate for those kids who might be suffering the same way I did.
Chief Editor of The Soccer Mom Manual | Mike Slatton
Mike Slatton currently has two sons that play “competitive” recreation soccer in Tampa, Florida.
For money, Mike is an Internet Marketing Strategist for Monster Transmission – an International retailer of high performance transmissions, located in Brookesville, Florida.