For most of my life, I lived under the cloud of self-righteousness that club soccer promoted. Everything I knew about soccer was club related, and when compared to other organizations that hosted soccer programs, you could see a definite separation in the skill levels of the players.
[quote type=”center”] Club soccer was the obvious place to play if your were a competitive player.
[/quote] The truth of the matter though, is that most soccer clubs don’t offer any more than any other institutions that offer soccer as an activity. There really is nothing that makes “club soccer” better than the YMCA, i9 Sports or National Youth Sports. It just happens to be where the better players and more competitive athletes register; A collective thought process.
Levels of Competition
Soccer clubs offer different levels of competition, which is actually gauged by player intensity and interest – not skill level. For every child interested in playing “competitive ” soccer, there is a team in your area for them to play on. But don’t confuse YOUR interest with THEIR interest. Any coach will tell you that they’d rather have an eager, high energy player with raw talent than to have a low energy, disinterested player with great potential.
[info] The levels of competition in any club are usually labeled as
In the competitive areas, you’ll see labels like
The only difference in the competitive labels are the names. They’re usually determined by the geographic region and\or age group.
So, what does “competitive” really mean?
“Classic“, “premier“, “academy” and “competitive” refers to a higher level of interest and intensity of the players involved. For the most part, the coaching and instruction is no better than any recreational soccer program you might find at the Y or i9Sports, but the program will look like it’s better because the kids are more intense and competitive. That doesn’t mean that your children will improve just as fast playing at the local church league as they will in club soccer, though.
Remember: Kids learn better and faster from their peers. Playing with and against better players will make your child a better player.
The Value of “Competitive” Soccer
Most soccer clubs will lead you to believe that they offer more than other smaller, community programs. The truth is that all they really offer is higher fees. The overwhelming majority of youth soccer clubs are not directly affiliated in any way, shape or form with professional teams or the U.S. Soccer National Team program. Look closely at your local soccer club’s program and you’ll find that their coaches have limited coaching experience, are not licensed by U. S. Soccer and have no set of SOCCER DEVELOPMENT guidelines to follow (like U.S. Soccer best practices, Ajax club methods, etc.). Most coaches will have playing experience, and many will even have foreign accents, but real coaching experience will be limited.
[quote]Regardless of the fancy uniforms, the night lights, the intense player attitudes and matching coaches shirts, your soccer club is nothing more than a recreational outlet.[/quote] Regardless of the label your soccer club places on a team or group, if the organization does not directly or indirectly feed a professional club or the national team program, it is, by default, RECREATIONAL. With no end-goal or pinnacle of achievement for most American soccer players to strive for, the coaches get caught up in their own achievements. That means that trophy collecting takes priority over player development, and the least skilled players on the team get less playing time (read more: Youth Soccer’s Big Fail).
So, the point is… [attention]Unless your child really loves to run and WANTS to play with better players, theYMCA, Upward.org, i9Sports or similar organizations are probably a better option and will do more for your child’s abilities and self-esteem than an over-priced soccer club. [/attention]
Mike Slatton is a 25+ year youth soccer coach with experience in public schools, YMCA, i9 Sports and, of course, club soccer.