How to identify the youth soccer club that can be called the “Perfect Fit” for your child…

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The question of whether or not to change youth soccer clubs is something I know is in the minds of a lot of parents every off-season. I was just talking to one parent at a restaurant yesterday afternoon and she was explaining her deep concerns. However, it seems like such a simple and direct question for a parent “should I move my son/daughter to another club�?

I can speak for myself, but only locally. That’s why I always talk with my fellow J4K coaches that are spread all over the country and often I bring up soccer clubs in general and not only goalkeeping and goalkeeper academies. I would say that 85% of the coaches in my ring see it the same way I do, when it comes down to the “perfect fit soccer club”.

How can we identify the perfect fit for your son or daughter? Well, it takes time, the best option is not going to fall on your lap, you need to fish and find and sometimes listening to other parents can help, but only to a certain extent.

Most players between U-9 and U-12 if the player is the first one in a family to play travel soccer, will switch club in 75% of the time. This is because parents can be excused for making the wrong initial decision after buying into a sales pitch from a Director of Coaching or a Board Member that actually have no idea what they’re doing.

My son so far has played competitive soccer with two local soccer clubs, the first one was a total disaster from day one. My wife and I noticed right away that there was an unjustified bad-attitude from the board members that we encountered. That was the first red flag. Then when we noticed that it wasn’t just us that witnessed this wrongful way of treating parents. It was a matter of fact that many parents pulled their children from that club because of this. The Core Mission and Purpose of this youth soccer club had been totally forgotten… Totally!

If youth soccer club directors and parents approach their interactions full of integrity and therefore align their values and their actions, then we will realign our cultural norms so all soccer playing children can thrive and not just the ones that this club wanted to. But yet again, this did not happen, the club directors would feed us with different stories every day, the DOC would say one thing and a board member would say something else and if we would ask for clarification, they would go all on the defensive, turn their back and walk away. It was truly an ugly environment.

They found a way to get rid of my son and that to be honest was the best thing that could have happened right then and there!!

I spoke with a friend (that is also the VP at a local soccer club) about this situation and he invited me to bring my son to their club. It seemed like a temp. idea, I would have placed him there for training only as I was already in the talks with another youth soccer club for the 2018-19 soccer season.
Well it turns out that they didn’t want my son to train there, because “For all the things that I have said about their coaches in the past”, those words came from the clubs DOC, he claimed that he had just gotten off the phone with the club’s Executive Director and they decided that my son was not welcome. He was most probably referring to a coach that he previously worked with, a coach that got himself into a LOT of trouble with the law.

So there you have another red flag, directors of a club that exclude a child because of what a parent said about someone that had nothing to do with that specific club in the first place.

I was at a youth soccer club meeting just a few days ago, at that meeting were a lot of club coaches, the DOC, the DSO, a board VP and the president of the club. It was a very constructive meeting, no sloppiness, everything was in order and everyone that had a role in the club was very competent. But the thing that struck me was when the Director of Soccer Operations said: “We are not a corporate, a chain or a franchising, we are an independent youth soccer club and it is all about the kids and their development and not how to make lots of money!”

My son is now at that youth soccer club. Every time that I’m there either watching my son scrimmage or working with a group of goalkeepers, I look around and see present the Director of Coaching, the Director of Soccer Operations and at least 1 board member, they are present, they move from field to field, they talk with the parents and are open to answer all questions.
Up to date I have not heard of complaints, all the parents I interact with are very happy to have their children placed at the club. They can talk daily face-to-face with a club director. In most cases it’s the directors that approach the parents.

However, this is only a “PART” of a perfect fit…

Let’s go back to the first club where my son played competitive soccer. My son’s team in 4 1/2 months changed 5 coaches, I kid you not… “FIVE COACHES”. One of the coaches was very young he was playing kids in the same position every game, my son for example never got to play at all on the field and was stalled in goal all the time. He was not keeping playing time from “top to bottom†within 15% variance, he never worked on set-plays, offside traps, and formations. This is a huge red flag, because it will stall the child’s soccer development in all ways.

My son now at his new club gets at least 10 minutes per game on the field and in many different roles (then a full half in goal). At practice he is taught Cooperative attacking and defending, continued development of the basic skills: passing, dribbling, shooting, ball control, and then he is placed in a goalkeeper group training session led by me.
This kind of coaching is not an “option” it should be this way at every competent soccer club.

Deltona Youth Soccer

Teammates and parents
You’ll notice right away if kids have an ego, they usually take from their parents, if they have an attitude the kids will be on the same rail. Kids are an open book, you can figure out if a team is united or if it has trouble makers among it right away. Kids that answer back the coach or walk when told to run are the direct problem. In that case we have a lot of little red flags that if put together makes a real big one… GET YOUR KID OUT OF THERE! They could follow the example of the bullies on that team and grow an attitude as well.

On the other hand, my son’s new team. No team leaders, they’re all friends, the go to birthday parties together, they stay after practice to play shots on goal. Even the goalkeeper that has seen he time on field cut in half because now my son joined the team, so they share 50/50 game time, has no problems, he is a good friend of my son and welcomed him in right away. That is
atypical for a young boy, it’s rare to have an entire team being friends. This is another huge slice of finding the “Perfect Fit”

In every pack of team parents there is always the ass, in the case of my son’s new team that would be me 🙂
Parents play a huge role when it comes down to finding the perfect fit, like the players, if they get along then you have the perfect team environment.

An independent club with strong non-commercial values, that work for the kids and their development, creates a happy coaching environment, that will lead to the “Team-of-Friends” and not just teammates. Once again if the coach is happy and treated with respect by the board of directors, he will work happy and will not be distracted by barrel scratching and money making club policies. If the coach and kids are happy the parents are even more happy.

If that’s the case you found the perfect fit for your child!

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