Competitive Soccer is also known as “Club Soccer” and many of us like to call it Travel Soccer, however it is one of the same. This is for the aspiring young boy or girl who wants to take soccer to the next level, a child that has a passion for the game, that have a dream including playing one day in college and why not, even beyond.
Recreational soccer: Is that soccer program that is primarily devoted to the enjoyment of soccer players without the emphasis on travel or high level competition, it’s for fun, so that the child can run, move, kick a ball and make new friends.
Sadly today, ANYONE can play competitive youth soccer. Soccer clubs have created soccer for every single-digit age group, we have, state and national leagues (National Premier League, ECNL, US Youth Soccer National League, Super-Y League or for us in Florida they have the FPL as well).
I’ve seen this only in the US, but you can walk on to any youth soccer club field and place your son or daughter on a competitive/travel roster in minutes as long as you pay. Most youth soccer clubs overlook the fact that the child has zero experience of the game.
The club technical directors assign the new player to a “COMPETITIVE” team, the coach now has to give that new and Unexperienced player a minimum of 50% of the total game playing time!!
But let’s start saying: Does your son/daughter have a true passion for the sport of soccer? Do they play soccer outside of their club practice sessions? Do they watch soccer on Television? Do they have a favorite college or pro team? Do they know who De Gea, Ronaldo or Dybala are? If you answered no to any one of these, I suggest you seriously consider waiting to transition to club competitive/travel soccer.
It’s important that your son or daughter absolutely love soccer before they embark on their competitive travel journey, this is not for them that play other sports seriously, this is not for them that skip practice because they have a dancing class or a baseball/football tournament. My son, now 8, has played soccer since he was 4; he began playing club soccer when he was 6. Every year before the new registration I sit down with him and ask him if he wants to continue and most of all… “Does he still have the desire to play at this high level”. I look closely to see if he’s telling me what he really thinks and see the passion in his eyes. As soon as I don’t see the fire, or he wants to stop playing, he will move on to something more appropriate for him. It would break my heart but it’s his journey and it should be an enjoyable one.
You can win some and you can lose some, but you can’t lose them all!
Too often the force behind putting players into club competitive soccer is the parents, yes! Me and You!. They push their into activities that they don’t support or even want to participate in. These are boys and girls that will damage a travel team! Be honest with yourself and your motives for wanting to put your child into competitive soccer. If you the parent are more excited and thrilled than your child for practice or the next game, club soccer probably isn’t a good fit for them.
Usually the games are lost because the coach has no choice but to put on the field the players that are not at the same level as the rest of the team. Every team has a few of these players and many times we lose a game because of them. Many times I see teams lose game after game because of these less talented players. Parents will say however that their child will never learn if he is not placed on the team and given the game play. FALSE. You’re actually damaging him/her by enforcing them to play at a level they’re not.
This past Saturday I witnessed “Broken Hearted” my son’s team lose, lose badly, because of some players that are not supposed to be in that category, they shouldn’t be in competitive soccer. No one is saying that they shouldn’t play soccer, but wouldn’t it be better for them to start in a recreational league or an academy? So that they will then in the future walk-in to the competitive lever at a higher standard. The club where my son plays has a very competitive academy and that is where these boys should be right now.
It is not fair to the children that have a dream and a passion for soccer to be kept held down by players that use soccer for an alternative to what they already do. Parents should not be blindfolded and understand when their child is not at the same level as the majority of the team.
The process of getting better in any sport and not just competitive soccer requires a lot of critical feedback, a lot of messages to do it differently, do it a lot better, give a lot more, especially when standards are high and a coach (like my son’s coach)is gifted with making players as good as they can be. Some “so-called” experts will tell you to give five times as much praise and forget criticism. But how do you do that when there’s a lot of fixing involved in the roster? It’s a fact that all coaches discover after being on the fields that constructive feedback is the only way to make the team or single soccer players better!
Back to this past Saturday game, we were down 4-2 in the first half, goalkeeper and the 3 defenders were absent, it was like they weren’t on the field. The referee whistles the end of the first half and one parent says out loud “GREAT JOB GUYS KEEP IT UP”. This is permanently damaging to the child, you’re basically telling them to keep it up, keep what up? When maybe the best thing to say would have been: “FORGET ABOUT THIS FIRST HALF, IN THE SECOND COME OUT AND GIVE ALL YOU GOT”.
Parents that refuse to criticize their children, at least “Sandwich” the criticism you provide between a truthful, specific compliment on each side. In other words, the criticism is the meat, while the compliments are the bread. For example, say something like, “You’ve been exploding off the line great. You seem to get under the lineman’s pads almost every time now. Just make sure you keep your hands inside. If you combine keeping your hands inside with that explosiveness, you’ll be hard for anyone to beat.
If you can’t be constructive stay in silence and let the coach (s) do his job!