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What is Competitive Recreation Soccer

Posted November 12th, 2012 by Mike Slatton

Competitive Recreation

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

  •  Recreation
  • Competitive


In the competitive areas, you’ll see labels like


  • Classic
  • Premier
  • Academy
  • Competitive

The only difference in the competitive labels are the names. They’re usually determined by the geographic region and\or age group.
[/list_style_star] [/info]

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.

It just so happens that the better players all sign up with soccer clubs.  This system is actually good, in that it allows less athletic and less interested players venues like the church leagues and recreational leagues to be “competitive”.

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,, 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.

About Author

Mike Slatton is a 2nd generation American youth soccer coach since 1984, and the son of one of the nation's first female licensed youth soccer coaches (Anita Slatton, 1979). He's also a professional soccer scout, a player since 1977, and the father of three adult and teenage children who all play or have played the game. "My job as a youth soccer coach is to develop detail oriented problem solvers who can react quickly under pressure. This relates to life - not just soccer."


  1. Although no longer actively involved, I do tend to agree with most points in this article.
    It is hard to balance all the things needed to have a flourishing soccer club. I don’t want to get bogged down in things as competitive political parents who by the way are usually the same engaged people that are needed to run and support all the activities involved as referees, coaches, grass cutters soccer field builders and architects (building and painting the lines for training and game day). But rest assured that they all have to be addressed correctly and intertwined to be called a successful association.
    For any success at any level there first must come coaching training (development) as well as player development. But most importantly every association must have what I would refer to as instructional leagues as part of their beginning development of players, coaches, referees, officials and supporting cast members. This will build the basic foundation for all recreational and competitive play levels as well as community.
    There is such a wealth of talent in the United States in all of these areas but no connection and support as seen in the rest of the world at a world class level consistently. Having played, trained and coached at local, state and national levels (obtaining international FIFA certifications, USSF training and coaching license/s as well as state certifications as required) I found a large deficit of an actual national system that could tie it all together. The largest obstacles to this reveled themselves especially during my encounters and training in the national level coaching and development participations that I was privileged to experience.
    When participating in my second FIFA/USSF coaching licensing at the University of South Florida I not only enjoyed the opportunity to meet, train and play with professional players but also interact with coaches with the highest levels of international experience. The aha moment I remember best is that being a melting pot as the US is there was no continuity in the various “A Licensed Coaches” methods and training. They were all exceptional in their knowledge but the one thing that was missing was allowing the players to sort out resolve and apply successful creative solutions in playing conditions and then build on what those players brought to the table.
    World Cup: Total soccer as the Dutch played was contributed to their great players of that era and that it would never happen again! I think that Spain has built on the total futbol system using triangular support on and off the ball creating space with great passing and interplay. We need that genius in the game as Catenaccio was a creative solution to stopping other teams from scoring but also very boring and detrimental to creative play/players. Germany was very successful with the sweeper position with the great Franz Beckenbauer as a versatile player, who started out in youth as a striker then professional midfielder, but made his name as a defender. He is often credited as having invented the role of the modern sweeper who joins in not only playmaking but in scoring when producing the extra attacker (man up in numbers).
    Ajax dominated the domestic scene in the second half of the 1960s and won their first European Cup in 1971, Michel’s’ final year at the club. The 2-0 win over Inter Milan was seen as a victory for Total Football over Catenaccio.
    DEFINITION: Total Football

    • Thanks for your insight, George. If you’d like to write some articles for the Soccer Mom Manual, send a message using the contact form.

      We’d love to give you a forum to share your experience.

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