Club Soccer & Alternatives
By definition: A club is an association of two or more people united by a common interest or goal. A service club, for example, exists for voluntary or charitable activities; there are clubs devoted to hobbies, sports, social activities, political and religious clubs, and so forth. A soccer club is really just a group of people interested in soccer. “Club soccer” refers to the organizations and participants in certain leagues, tournaments and associations – essentially, soccer clubs.
While club soccer is the most popular and competitive way to participate in the sport in the United States, you’re not limited to soccer “clubs”. Kids can play organized soccer at the YMCA, church leagues and commercial recreational sports organizations like i9 Sports & National Youth Sports. These organizations offer kids a great place to play soccer with less stress and commitment.
Beware of any person or group that offers a sports venue that is “non-competitive”. Sports can NOT be non-competitive. Competition is what makes it a sport in the first place. However, organizations like those mentioned above cater to busy parents and less competitive children by offering same day practices and games (i9 Sports), or family oriented facilities (YMCA, church leagues).
The thing that makes soccer the greatest sport in the world is not the clubs or institutions that organize games and leagues. It’s the game itself. Soccer is a great way to keep fit and learn cooperation & teamwork. When enrolling your child in a league, consider what kind of environment you, the parent, want to be a part of. Church leagues and the YMCA are great examples of family oriented organizations that put more emphasis on participation and less emphasis on winning. If a more competitive environment is what you want, consider i9Sports or National Youth Sports, where the commitment is lighter than club soccer, but there’s still a certain level of competition available.
Time and Money
Lastly, if you or your child LOVES soccer, and you’re willing to make a substantial time and monetary commitment , club soccer is the way to go (*Read more: “Where does all the money go?“). But don’t waste your time looking for “the best” club in your area. Individual coaches are the difference in any club, and you’ll be hard pressed to find one club in your area that has ALL of the good coaches. When shopping for a soccer club, consider:
1. Price – Some larger clubs are so administration heavy that their fees can be 3 to 4 times that of smaller clubs, but the coaches are no better than a smaller club with volunteer coaches. Just because a club charges more, doesn’t mean they’ve hired great coaches.
2. Coaching Licenses – U.S. Soccer has a licensing system, used to train and certify youth soccer coaches to the AMERICAN way of educating players. Europe, Brazil, Argentina, Individual European nations, and just about every nation on the planet ALSO have certifications. Ask about licensing, and whether or not your coach has one (or multiple). You’ll be surprised.
3. Coaching Experience -A club is only as good as it’s coaches and good coaches usually have a certain level of playing and coaching experience. Ignore the club’s past accomplishments and trophy collection (a good indicator that you’re about to take a bath in fees). Instead, ask about the coach who will be DEVELOPING your child’s talent; what his/her philosophies of the game are, and their COACHING experience. Playing experience doesn’t count much for coaching experience, but it helps. Maradona was a great player, but not a very successful coach.
4. Location – Chances are that the soccer club closest to you is every bit as good as the popular club that appears to have all of the good players. The reason one club might appear to have “all of the good players” on one team is probably because they’ve been playing together for many years and just have chemistry. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the coach is any better than anyone else in the league. Convenience should really be your first consideration.