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Why “competitive” soccer isn’t so competitive.


Why “competitive” soccer isn’t so competitive.

In youth soccer’s beginnings, only the most elite soccer athletes played competitive soccer. There was just one “Classic” or “Premier” team per age group, per club, and if you were on one of those teams, you were good. Of course, nobody really knew much about soccer, so the fact that you were actually good at it usually went unnoticed by everyone… except those in the soccer community.

Today, ANYONE can play competitive youth soccer. Soccer clubs have created 3, 4 and sometimes as many as 9 tiers of “competitive” soccer for every single-digit age group, in a half dozen local, state and national leagues (National Premier League, ECNLUS Youth Soccer National League, Super-Y League).

Yes, NATIONAL youth soccer leagues.

So, while local soccer clubs compete in 3 to 9 competitive teams per single-digit age group, the recreational leagues average one team per single-digit age group, per club.

Competitive” soccer is now “normal” soccer, with up to 6 competitive teams for every 1 recreational team.  ONE RECREATIONAL TEAM per age group, and 6 competitive teams?

In the grand scheme of soccer development, shouldn’t the recreational teams feed the competitive teams? Aren’t the competitive teams supposed to be the best-of-the-best?

So if everyone’s a “competitive” soccer player, then, really, NO ONE is.  And what does that make “recreational” soccer?
(Click here to skip the rant and go straight to the list.)

Competitive soccer money grabMONEY MOTIVATED CLUBS

All it takes to play “competitive” soccer is MONEY, and apparently we Americans have a lot of it.

“Competitive” soccer costs 5 to 10 times more than recreational soccer, but the number of regular season games are about the same.

But even if you’re willing to pay the money to play “competitive” soccer, how many of those “competitive” soccer players will play in the pros?

  ZERO… or darn close to it.

“What does $5 Billion dollars get you?”)

More than half of the English Premier League is comprised of foreign players, yet only 3 Americans actually play in the league.  The German Bundesliga is 60% foreign, yet again features only 9 Americans in their league – and most are the offspring of American servicemen, born in Germany.

The U.S. has 3 million kids (aged 4 to 18) enrolled in soccer every year, and about half of those kids are playing “competitive” soccer.  In theory, we’re training 1.5 million kids with pro potential RIGHT NOW.  So, why is it that we can only produce ONE WORLD CLASS player every 4-5 years?


Hispanic kids playing soccer in the streetIt’s common knowledge that pro soccer players in Europe and most industrialized parts of the world are of a lower socioeconomic demographic who see soccer as a way out of poverty.

In theory, American youth soccer competitive programs should be seeking out and training the most qualified and deserving athletes who can most benefit from organized soccer. The side-effect of that would be that we create high level athletes who can compete on the world stage.

We’re training the wrong kids, though. Instead, American youth soccer is FAILING U.S. Soccer by training ONLY kids of high-income earners in our competitive programs, and economically BLOCKING the athletes who could most benefit from a career in sports.

So, let’s ignore the socioeconomic failures of our current system of development for a moment, and theorize that American soccer is actually doing a great job of developing players for our pro leagues. If “competitive” youth soccer were indeed creating very talented, high performing soccer players, then we need to stop production NOW, because there aren’t enough professional soccer teams for all of the great players we’re producing.

There are over 9,000 soccer clubs in the United States, training about 1.5 million “competitive” soccer players – 1.5 million potential professional soccer players… for only 2,000 pro league spots… that earn an average of $11,000 annually.

And where do all of those players go when a pro soccer career doesn’t materialize for them?  You’re witnessing it NOW!

Youth soccer clubs today have MILLION dollar budgets for youth coaches, administrators, directors and consultants,  perpetuating a youth soccer PONZI SCHEME that is forced to create more competitive soccer programs to make way for all of the pro soccer wannabe’s it’s creating.

But it’s even worse than that.

Competitive Soccer CoachTHE COACH IS MIND-F***ING YOUR KID

Every week – at training and at games – you hear youth soccer coaches yelling at their players to “be more aggressive“, “get your head in the game” or “stop being a pansy“.  Not only are there way too many competitive youth soccer players being coached by way too many unqualified coaches, trying to produce way too many pros, but this system is MIND-F***ING our kids in the meantime.

And the soccer clubs don’t care.

ALL youth soccer should be DEVELOPMENTAL in nature, yet 90% of “competitive” youth soccer coaches are unequivocally UNQUALIFIED to teach potential pros the game of soccer.

Still, we continue to throw money at them.

Competitive youth soccer coaches CONSTANTLY shirk responsibility, blaming the kids for the failings of the system. According to the coach, the reason your kid sucks is because he’s not dribbling through cones in the back yard or running around the block til he pukes.  Perhaps that’s what the high-paid directors and consultants tell them to say.

Apparently, that $2,000 in fees you just paid were little more than season tickets to the sidelines.

“But my kid wants to play in college.”

Well, here’s good news: There is a college team out there for your child. College soccer is not much different than youth “competitive” soccer. You just need to be willing to travel… and hope that you and your child’s coach haven’t completely burned them out on the game before they get to college.

Honestly, though – Why would you waste a perfectly good college experience playing soccer, when there are girls, fraternities, football games, sororities, beer and girls?


Competitive soccer is a MONEY GRAB for soccer clubs. Period.

The majority of youth soccer clubs are registered non-profit organizations, yet coaching, administrator, director and consultant salaries in the largest American youth soccer clubs (NOT affiliated with any pro teams) are hitting & exceeding $1 million annually, yet we’re only producing ONE high level pro every few years?

Nearly 5 BILLION dollars in youth soccer coaching, administrator, director and consultant salaries, training 1.5 million youth soccer players ANNUALLY – to produce ONE HIGH LEVEL PRO every 4 or 5 years.

$20,000,000,000, for 1 good player.

American youth soccer development looks a lot like cancer research… or political pandering: An obvious problem that NEVER gets fixed, because nobody wants to, as long as the money is flowing.


Now, you may look at the U.S. Men’s National Team and think that we have a lot of high level pros, but most of those players play in the MLS (equivalent in salary and talent to the English 3rd tier of pro soccer). We currently have 2 players actively participating in the EPL and a couple in the German Bundesliga, but most of them weren’t developed in the American Youth System. Even Brad Guzan, who plays GK for Middlesborough (the 2nd team he’s played for that’s about to be relegated) was a college bench warmer at the U. of South Carolina before becoming an MLS starter. He then went to Aston Villa in the EPL (England, and led them to RELEGATION) to sit the bench for 4 years while he learned to play high level soccer.


Soccer clubs make money by charging “coaching and development” fees, but after $5k or $10k of youth soccer related expenses, shouldn’t you see some REAL development? So, WHY IS YOUR KID STILL ON THE “B” (or even “C”) TEAM?!

Really, though:  How can a coach develop a high level soccer player in 3 hours a week , even if they were qualified?

The truth is, the American youth soccer system of player development has NO END GAME – and they don’t want one.  Nearly all of our youth soccer clubs don’t feed a pro team (though some clubs are now affiliated with MLS teams and a few NASL teams), so these clubs and players have no real purpose but to provide a pay check for those that run and work in the club.

That means the $2k or more you’re paying in soccer fees are NOT for developing your athlete, but instead they’re just to keep a past competitive player out of the unemployment line, by giving him a job as a coach, administrator, director or consultant.

… and the American youth “competitive” soccer PONZI SCHEME continues.

If those aren’t clear arguments for not playing competitive soccer, here are…

10 Reasons Why NOT to Play “Competitive” Soccer

  1. BAD COACHING – Oh, so your child’s coach has an “A” license? Ha ha ha ha! Well, U.S. Soccer has just stopped tossing those out like Mardi Gras beads. 99% of “highly qualified” youth soccer coaches have little to NO EXPERIENCE with children, beyond coaching soccer and raising their own kids.
    “Just because you can speak English doesn’t mean that you’re qualified to teach it.  The same goes for soccer. Just because you played or watch soccer on TV, doesn’t mean you’re qualified to teach the game.”
    Our youth soccer coaches have almost no experience in child psychology, childhood education, or game theory.
  2. ECONOMICS – Your child will NEVER make a living playing soccer, learning the game in our youth system. Even if they do somehow manage to overcome all of the roadblocks to become a pro soccer player, they still have a very limited window of opportunity, and the wage just doesn’t justify the opportunity.  USL and NASL players make about $1,000/weekly… for 20 weeks.  They need to get an education… in something useful.
  3. OVERPRICED – College tuition is cheaper than a childhood of competitive soccer fees. You will spend $40k to $50k over the next 13 years of youth soccer, but a GOOD college soccer scholarship is only worth about $10k (max.). Girls Scouts, Boy Scouts and Chess Club all look like more lucrative options. Participating in a tournament at Disney‘s Wide World of Sports is more expensive than just going to Disney’s Magic Kingdom, but at the end of the day, both will leave you exhausted and vowing never to go back.
  4. SELF ESTEEM – Your child will feel like crap MORE than they will feel good about themselves. Competitive soccer is a verbal, physical and psychological beat down, and your yelling and screaming from the sideline doesn’t help. Nothing is ever good enough, yet you send them to practice week-in and week-out. It’s a grind, and the reason every athlete – including pros – quits. Few adults work that hard, yet we force it on our kids without blinking.
  5. TIME CONSUMING – You’ll spend more time driving than your child will spend playing. Games are played in a 3, 4 or 5 county region, and you’ll be blowing money on fast food, tournament fees and hotels, while your child really just wants to hang out on their mobile device.
  6. REGRET – You will regret it. No matter how much you spend in soccer fees, you will NEVER feel that it was worth it. In the end, you’ll have a college fraternity intramural SUPERSTAR, wishing they had an academic scholarship to the engineering program.
  7. STRESS – You’re child’s teammates are actually his COMPETITION. It’s that way in the pros, too. Players are ALWAYS competing against each other for spots on the team, positions on the field and playing time. ALWAYS. Imagine going to your own job knowing that EVERYONE you work with is working harder than you to get more work hours, and subsequently, a bigger paycheck. (Ok, so maybe that does go on at your job. It still SUCKS, though.)
  8. JUDGEMENT – You and your child will be judged by the other parents. At every practice and every game, the other parents and other players will compare their family to yours. That’s not paranoia – that’s a FACT. Your player’s skills, attitude and appearance will be a continuous topic of conversation, during other’s car rides home. Sometimes it will be good, but the conversations in the other cars will determine how your child is treated by his peers. YOUR conversations will also determine how your athlete treats their peers, but you ALREADY know this.
  9. STIFLING – “Competitive” youth soccer is NOT the best-of-the-best soccer athletes. Instead, it’s the best of those who can afford the fees. Most of these kids are well-mannered people-pleasers who will follow the direction of the person who yells the loudest. The American system of “player development” aims to teach kids a method of play that actually undermines creativity and sucks the enjoyment right out of the game.
  10. THEY’LL QUIT – The more competitive the league, the higher the burnout. When your child is old enough to make their own decisions, they will quit soccer. If you push back really hard, then it may not happen until they’re in college, but if they’re not having FUN, it WILL happen. If you DO actually want them to play in college (or even the pros one day), they need to take regular, seasonal breaks from “competitive” soccer.  Let them play other sports, and even recreational soccer. Let them have some fun.
Mike Slatton is a nationally licensed youth soccer coach and owner of the GK Glove Company.

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 confident, detail oriented problem solvers who can react quickly under pressure. It's important that players NOT be afraid of making mistakes, to encourage an appreciation of failure as a learning tool. This relates to life - not just soccer."


  1. Mike, I agree with >90% of what you wrote, but I don’t see many other options. I’ve kept coaching my daughter in rec through u12, but the rec system is compete grab ass. No organization. No investment to educate the rec coaches. Age groups that are too large where 10 years olds are playing 13 year olds. My team of 10 year olds is ready to quit. It just seems pointless.

    • Those disparities in age grouping are only going to get worse, as more kids quit the game. 2018 will show the largest drop in youth soccer participation in the last 2 decades, and 2019 continues the decline. Youth sports are dying, and video games are taking their place. In fact, ball-sports are dying a slow death at all levels, and digital sports will completely eclipse them in jobs, revenue and participation, in the next 15 years. In 20 years, professional athletes will be replaced with avatars, controlled by avatar jockeys. Google “NBA2K pro league” to see what the future of sports will be.

      So, to respond to your statement: It IS pointless, if your goal is to develop players to play professionally, as ball-sports are slowly being replaced by eSports. However, if your goal is just to get your kids out of the house and to be part of their lives for as long as they will let you, then ball-sports is a great tool for that.

      Just give the girls 15 minutes before practice, to get caught up on the gossip.

      • I only have one goal: keep my kids and the kids i coach playing the game I love. I’ve been adamant that pushing kids to academy would just make them quit for all the reasons you listed. But the rec league continues to be an unorganized mess and kids are on the path to quitting because of it.

        Your blog is pretty explicit about what’s wrong with soccer. What are suggestions for managing this mess of a system? How can we get better?

  2. One of the biggest problems with soccer in the US is the top athletes are not playing it. They are playing football, basketball, baseball, hockey and competing in track. There is no doubt club soccer is about money and winning, but I believe we as parents need to approach it according to the child. Also from what I noticed in club soccer there is no off the field training, such as strength, speed, agility, conditioning and injury prevention. One approach may be to allow the child to play rec soccer, participate in off the field training, attend youth and college ID camps throughout the year and also play some pick up soccer against older more experienced players. Pursing a variety and allowing the game to be fun can create passion, creativity and longevity.

  3. Wow — I have to say this just hits all the notes. I’ve been trying to decide (and feeling bad about) pulling my son out of “competitive” soccer after we are about 3/4 way through the season. Select soccer is such a cult in my area, but I feel like the parental and teammate pressure are making him hate the game he used to love. He’s not having fun and is burning out. Plus, he’s a goalie and gets blamed for every loss, even though his “save” rate is about 83% (which is awesome). Thank you for putting into words everything that is bouncing around my head.

    • ANNA

      It just happened I responded at the same date as you 🙂

      I also feel like pulling my son out so badly. He is hesitated about giving it up to recreational teams (he likes the “competitive” environments) However, I feel I couldn’t take coach’s way of lecturing (it is literally belittling)

      Does your child’s team actually rotate kids on playing positions? This is another pain point I have that my child is pigeonholed in same position for two seasons. After discussion with the coach I don’t see any improvement (yet with his commitment to all parents that playing position should be shuffled).

      I research around and found out, unfortunately all the clubs around us do exactly the same things. That basically left us little choice. This is hopeless.

      • My son does rotate some positions (he rotates between goal, defense and forward), but that isn’t true for the rest of the team. I would say he is the exception because most of the team plays the same position over and over. He has a lot of speed, so I think the coach moves him around more depending on the opponent. If their defenders are fast, he moves him to forward. If their forwards are fast, he pulls him back to D. And he always plays a full half in goal.

        I used to coach my son’s team at the Rec level (I played soccer for 30+ years at both the Premier (back when that had meaning) and Rec level). I don’t really think his “competitive” team is any more competitive than some of the Rec players out there. I think there is a more consistent level of competition (the Competitive teams are slightly more evenly balanced), but there are certainly rec players who are much, much better than many of the competitive players. And the parents aren’t crazy in Rec. I’ve never heard a Rec parent tell a kid that he didn’t play a good game — I’ve heard that many times at the Competitive level.

        I talked to my son about this and he actually wants to move back to Rec. The bonus is, at his level, we can request particular coaches. My goal is to observe the Rec teams this Spring and help him pick the team we think he would be the best fit on (and than request that team for the Fall). To me, the “end game” is whether he is having fun. My goal is for him to play into adulthood and love it (which what I did). That’s not going to happen if he stays in “select” sports.

    • My son was told today he has the slimmest of chances making the next level team. I guess that’s what happens when the coach has been a total disaster. On what planet does the goalie get to play forward when he has absolutely no skill in that position. Meanwhile my who is the leading goal scorer gets placed defending mid most of the time. 3 wins in 9 months says it all. Time to forget about travel soccer

      • Mike Slatton on

        If it’s not fun, then find the activity that is. Most coaches are there for themselves, but also have to appease the administrators of the club and the parents. The kids, are just a means to get what everyone else wants: Money & trophies.

  4. Hi Mike

    I’ve read this article so many times. I’ve witnessed all the situations you mentioned yet I feel powerless. My child really loves the sport but refuse to leave his current team even though I don’t feel he is truly happy. (we’ve just passed his first year in the club team). I feel we parents are left with very little choices. To be supportive we can’t really take him out of his club team. On the other hand, we are also constantly annoyed by how abusive the coach is. How annoying those sidelines yelling or the languages used (parents or coaches)…

    • But you do have a choice! Pull the schedules of other teams in your area and go check them out. If you search under GotSoccer — events — most leagues post their schedules online. Find a better team, even if it’s at the Rec level. More than likely, your child will have friends on at least a few of the rec teams.

  5. You eloquently make some very important arguments and I really like this article. Can you provide some of the sources that you used to pull together the numbers about costs, coaching, etc?

  6. WOW! Right on! Thank you for writing this. My son has been playing since he was 8-years-old and that is absolutely all he/we has/have seen. At some point my wife and I did a similar analysis and moved him to a different, much smaller (only one team per age group) club expecting something different. It was not; it ended up being the same thing with different coaches. Now he is playing in his freshman year of high school and it is a little better. Still a lot of games (enough to burn a kid for ever… 34 games from Dec through march), same criticism, same parents involved. A little less aggressive because they don’t pay the coach. But I still see parents fighting on the sidelines with their kids (awful to see really). I constantly tell my boy that he can quit when he wants and that he does not have to play college to go to school. We keep him involved in other things (music, he plays piano really well and loves it); but they are non-soccer related. We watch at home a lot because I am a fan and he has becomes one as well; but going to practice in the club became an absolute crazy grind for both of us. I find the clubs to be exactly what you call it, a ponzi scheme. I am not sure why the government still permits them to be a non-profit organization.

  7. I found your article difficult to read. DIFFICULT because you are 99.99% correct, (I had to leave some room for error!) I have 2 sons. One played in the DA through senior year and is happily in the engineering program at Berkeley. He is not playing soccer! So much of our life AND my son’s life was wrapped up in soccer. The long distance traveling for games is ridiculous and he missed so much of normal High School Activities. Soccer basically leaves no time to pursue any other extracuricular activities. He was actually going to play at Cal Tech but then decided against that after he was accepted to Berkeley,(without soccer). By the end of senior year, my son hated soccer! He and our family gave so much to that sport. The games aren’t even fun. The fun was long gone. Now I have another son in the program. Today we were informed of a 10 month program in Germany starting in August. Seriously? Train and go to school in Germany for a year? What’s next?
    Your article took years to write. You have to live the life to understand how this system works and how complicated decision become for the parents and children. Soccer is unique in that the boys in the DA don’t play high school. Who does that benefit?

    • You are right – I lived it as a player and a parent. I grew up poor, with soccer as my only outlet, and dreamed of raising club soccer kids who looked like the rich kids I admired when I was playing. I did. Same results though. My 3 kids all pretty much hate the game, but 1 still plays. Even he has to be dragged to practice.

      2018 will see the lowest youth soccer participation rates in the last 20 years. The most dramatic numbers though, are from BOYS quitting the game. Think it’s an uphill climb for the men to win a World Cup? We will not qualify for another World Cup (on merit) for at least the next 50 years.

  8. Brad – Nice work. I would add one piece of advice to any parent contemplating putting or keeping their child in travel soccer. There is a very simple test to tell if he or she is dedicated to the level that is worth the investment. Does the player spend every waking minute with the ball? And I don’t mean standing around in the yard, on the street, or at the fields chatting with friends while the ball randomly, occasionally, bounces around. I mean a thousand touches a day, dreaming up drills on her own, finding a wall and wearing out his ball on it, always coming back to the house from a self-directed workout exhausted from going so hard. Juggling any and every where. Finding a little spot to hit against in the garage when there is snow on the ground outside. Always badgering friends and teammates to play pick-up soccer when it isn’t a practice day. I submit that any player who is not devoted at this level of effort is really just a social player. We won’t have great soccer in this country until we have a bunch of kids with the attitude I just described, and the current club system will never produce that bunch of kids. Thanks!

    • One of the main problems with travel soccer is that everything goes through US Soccer. In reality you don’t have to have a class B C or D to be a great coach but without the license, you’ll get the chance to coach. As stated, most coaches spend their time yelling at the kids and have them run drills that have no bearing on the actual game.
      No one teaches how to play the game. Soccer is fluid and I see it time and again, kids just chasing the ball not understanding how the game works. If one chases, someone needs to cover for him. Similarly if a midfield player breaks toward goal another player should cover for him and return to position when the play ends or breaks up. No one does anything remotely to this style of play.

      I’ve coached a few times when our coach was late or couldn’t make it. I tried to explain to the kids how to think when they’re playing and not just react. Every kids does this one. When defending regardless of position, they run forward and lunge at the attacker to try and stop or steal the ball. 99% of the time the attacker simply steps around the defender and moves on leaving the defender scrambling to turn around and catch up. My son does what he should and stands his ground moving with the attacker forcing him to make the first move and not simply

  9. Low Key Soccer Mom on

    Thanks for your article. Our older son has been in rec for 2 years and recently tried out for a comp team locally. He was given a spot and we left the decision completely up to him (in fact, I love the parents of his current rec team so I would have been happy staying in rec), but he decided to join the competitive team. At the end of the day, he felt that the kids in comp are more motivated and have stronger skills, and he wanted to play with those kids.

    Unlike many parents on your blog, I have no expectations for my kids to become pro soccer players or even to get a college scholarship. I just want him to enjoy the sport, push himself however far he wants to go, and then decide what he’d like to do next. For kids who want more than their rec experience, if you don’t recommend comp, where do they go? Where can they continue to build their skills? In our area at least, you’re either in rec or you graduate up to comp….. It seems pretty binary.

  10. Academy killer on

    Thank you. Your a little pessimistic on some points you make but are deadly accurate on the club organization. The ponzi scheme. I wish you would have elaborated more on club association with overseas clubs like barcelona etc.
    United states doesn’t make great soccer players. They make the greatest athletes on the planet. Us soccer has no identity. We are not Europe.

    • Mike Slatton on

      I agree with you on the pessimism, but I’m still in it and I still can’t see any big strides in development for another 30 years. That’s because most youth coaches only coach while their kids are playing and then QUIT when their child ages out of the system. Personally, I can tell you that I was a bad coach for the first 20 years. That’s because for any coach to really become good, he/she has to see the players they’ve coached grow into adults. What kind of people have they become? Do they avoid you in the grocery store, or embrace you? Do they still play, or was the season with you their last? At 50 years old, with 30 years coaching, 40 years playing and over 20 years as a parent, parent coach and a coach with players on other teams, I’ve experienced every possible scenario youth soccer can offer.

      My biggest complaint is the insinuations and promises many youth soccer clubs make, while charging outrageous fees for a community service. The clubs ARE where our pros are coming from, but the overwhelming majority of these clubs are NOT qualified to train professional soccer players. The affiliations with oversees clubs are just another money grab for all of the clubs involved. So you end up with this community of parents who go from club to club looking for someone to take an interest in their kid. Meanwhile, the kid isn’t interested at all, becasue all he hears is that he lacks this or that. What everyone fails to realize is that the HERE AND NOW does not matter. What matters is how these kids play when they are 18 to 21 years old.

      Most youth coaches are recruiting the biggest, fastest players they can find to play kick and chase soccer against the other teams with the same strategy, because all of those coaches have never played or coached soccer in any professional manner. Real player development is left up to a hand full of parents who understand the system and what pro teams are actually looking for. That is: Speed, Finesse, Vision, Ball Handling & Decision Making. America produces some HORRIBLE ball handlers, because we teach our backs to clear the ball, and our forwards to chase it to the goal. Our decision making is also very weak, because everyone has been trained to react to the ball.

      Top level clubs in Europe and even Atlanta United and Toronto FC to an extent teach their system FIRST, then train the players around it. In the U.S., we teach our kids ball handling skills first, and due to time restrictions, NEVER get to the strategy part.

      The result is kick and chase.

      • I agree the system is like a ponzi scheme. My son has just joined a new team that’s half the price but will most likely get the same type of coaching. Win win. We spend a lot of time discussing strategies and thinking quickly as well as skills as I know they won’t get this from most coaches.

  11. I feel so conflicted about this article–my husband and I have insisted on staying rec but it seems everyone who is any good at all goes competitive. You wrote down what he and I have been thinking but I wonder how everyone else can be so wrong. How do we help our kids compete against other kids that get so many more touches without sacrificing our lives to the beast that soccer (really ALL sports) has become?

    • Mike Slatton on

      To develop an athlete, you want them to have the best competition available. The problem with “competitive” soccer is that the majority of youth players are playing “competitive”, and those who aren’t are the target of negative peer pressure. The truth is that your child is not going to learn how to be a pro in the American system, because those who coach are not interested in teaching your child how to be a pro. They’re only interested in WINNING. I just posted a reply with feedback to a junior college player who wants to “go pro” ( I told him everything that was wrong, as well as what was right with his game.

      For your child’s sanity, accommodate his desires, and if he wants to play “competitive” soccer, then do it for a year. You’ll find him much less happy and ready to go back to rec in a year or two. The good news though, is that he can still play in college SOMEWHERE, if he wants to later, because for every child who ages out of youth soccer, there is an equal number who quit or graduate college soccer.

  12. Stephen Giffen on

    100% correct. The challenge is that you need enough of the parents to not buy in to the sales pitch to actually have meaningful red leagues. Where we are my kids don’t want to play Rec because the skill level on the one team is so low. So we either pay to play with all of the pressure or play with the least skilled players. Really a no win situation.

    By the way is that a subbuteo astropitch in the background of your photo?

  13. Great article. Not only is this 99% true, it’s as applicable and real in girls club soccer as it is on the boys side. My daughter was scouted by multiple clubs from AYSO when she was 6 years old. She is now 13 years old and has played club soccer for 7 straight years, with all but her first year on top flight one teams. She currently plays at the ECNL level(highest level for girls, no Academy till next year) and starts on what’s regarded as one of the top clubs in the country with several national championships under their belt. If she keeps playing and maintaing her level of play, she should be able to play Division I, in college. Long story short, she is getting burned out and we as parents are getting burned out from everyhing mentioned in this article – the horrible bias coaching and politics, the judgmental gossiping parents and team mates, the cost that will likely never be recovered, the mental and emotional ramifications of all the above. One thing not mentioned is now the contraversy around concussions and ACL injuries in girls youth soccer. It’s basically the highest among all girls youth sports and only second boys football. If you play long enough, it’s not a matter of if, but of when, at least in the case of concussions.

    As parents, we have to step back and ask ourselves, is it worth it and reassess what the ultimate goal is with realistic measures.

    We’ve decided to let our daughter play out the remainder of this season, and for the first time in 7 years, we are allowing her to make her own decision in pursuing other interests that she never had time for because of competitive club soccer and the supplemental 2-3 days a week of additional training on top of practice and games.

    Hope this perspective helps some of you.

  14. I’m never going to Quit. Remember my name. ALBERTO MARQUINA, THE NEXT BIG SOCCER STAR. I will change the way the game will be. I will change how this article impacted me to not give up and train kids who have no money. Because I’m one of those kids. I am in a club FOR FREE!! Your article is correct on some aspects, SOME, not all but a tiny percent of what you said is true. But don’t forget who I am because I’m about to prove your article wrong.

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