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Youth Soccer is Socially Retarding Your Child

If your child is “the best”  athlete on his or her team (relative to the person doing the assessing), then this may not apply to them.   This article is for the other 96%.

Of course, you – as a parent – won’t know the ramifications of your child’s sports career until they are well into adulthood.

Organized youth soccer is hurting your child’s abilities to be good friends with people of their own gender.

Tryouts and team sports do more to HURT relationship building than they do to HELP.  That’s because we teach our kids that – while this may be their “team” – they are in competition with everyone on that team for the opportunity to actually PLAY… with the team.  Of course, this not only destroys team chemistry, it also creates friction among individuals who might otherwise be good friends.

Is your job like that?  Do you go to work competing with everyone in the office for work hours?  Well, maybe at Taco Bell

Organized sports, which included youth soccer, are the #2 cause (behind TV advertisers) of social insecurities in children, because MOST children are not the BEST athlete on the team.

Do any of these sound familiar?

  • “You’re going to have to compete for your spot on the team and in the line-up.”
  • “If you don’t give 100% in practice, you won’t play in the game.”
  • “We’re only as good as our weakest link.”

The fact is that someone is always going to be the worst player on the team, so when the coach makes a statement like those listed, about 20% of kids on the team think it’s THEM the coaching is talking about.  For a roster of 16 kids, that’s about 3, and the only reason they think it’s about them, is because their teammates tell them.

Compound that by an overbearing parent, and you can imagine the outcome.

“So? It’s not my kid.” 

Maybe not, but your kid is still DIRECTLY affected.  Here’s why:

Youth Soccer is Dying in America

2018 will see the lowest youth soccer participation numbers in the last 20 years.  This is directly related to how coaches and parents present athletic participation to their kids.  This dog-eat-dog environment has driven kids by the millions to the world of esports (online competition video games), in which Fortnite is the current undisputed game of choice.  In order for physical sports to once again become America’s pastime, parents need to back-off, and coaches need to adopt an “equal playing time” policy for every player, no matter what their ability or interest.

*Coaches laughing out load.*

Sure, the only thing more unAmerican than soccer is equal playing time for everyone on the roster (regardless of skill and interest), but if you want your kid to have someone to play with next year, understand this: Statistically, every bench sitter on every youth soccer team will quit soccer this year.  Now that’s not a literal statement, but statistically, about 10% of all youth soccer players will quit soccer for good, and do something else.  95% of those players are the weaker athletes on their team.  So, if 10% of all players quit every year…  you don’t have to be Einstein to figure this out.

As a parent, coach and/or player, how much do you love the game?  Do you love it enough to let it live?  Do you love it enough to help it to thrive?  If so, then let your kid PLAY soccer.  As a coach, praise INTENT, and stop micro-managing the action on the field.  Tell the kids when they do something right, and IGNORE EVERY MISTAKE.




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. What do you suggest? Is your advice to stop playing altogether? Changing the system? I had this conversation with another coach friend of mine a couple of weeks ago…where is the line? Is there one?

    • Obviously the answer is NOT to stop playing (not if we EVER want to win a World Cup), but at the youth level, the coach must stop putting the focus on WINNING, but instead put it on player development. Winning and losing are benchmarks for player development, so they cannot be ignored. However, players who play less because they do not CURRENTLY have the best skills, will not improve by sitting the bench. Synapses are connected when adrenaline is flowing. That means that ALL players must play in high pressure situations (like games and tournaments) to really learn and improve. However, when coaches sit weaker players, it only creates animosity among players and then only the bigger and stronger athletes will improve, while the weaker ones will just quit. What you end up with is the best-of-what’s-left of those who didn’t quit, instead of the best-of-the-best that could have ever been. Jamie Vardy was cut from Sheffield Wednesday at the age of sixteen, because he was too small. HUGE fail by Wednesday, who obviously seemed focused on size rather than heart.

      • In my short experience I have been lucky to have parents who follow what we do and agree with that mentality. They support us, so that my coaches and I can work with the kids patiently. I have been preaching to them for over a year, development is all I care about (and if we win some games in the process all the better, as kids enjoy that naturally). How many coaches have this luxury? The Club (including mine) says they emphasize development, but do they? All I hear other coaches talk about it how many games they win, except for one coach, I never hear anything about how their players are growing and developing. No one wants to share experiences or ideas. Everyone knows everything.

        I try to put everyone in every situation (not always successful as people don’t show up, don’t feel like playing – I had a kid who was forced to come and he didn’t want to play).

        If you noticed the new licensing by the federation also doesn’t help in this endeavor. It’s an utter joke of a license and system they implemented (hope I didn’t just offend you).

        It wasn’t just Vardy…Scholes…Baresi was cut by Inter and kept his brother (he then switched to Milan’s youth, and the rest is history)…for years Baggio, Pirlo, Zola, were told to find playing time somewhere else…so many examples. It’s not a US only problem naturally, but it does seem to be a major problem here, as other countries have a system in place that is more conducive to develop (we can argue on how well they do it, as Italy, for ex has stopped developing technically savvy players…we don’t have a stud D-men anymore or midfielder…they stopped coaching them it appears)

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