Small youth soccer clubs are essential to the development of the sport as a taster, a starter. Basically to see if your child enjoys the game of soccer, without having to travel spend a lot of money. However, these smaller clubs must be quality clubs and unfortunately there aren’t that many within the 50 states!
Parents of younger athletes, typically, want to have the convenient side of choosing their children’s activities. Distance to the training fields is a huge factor in that decision. Thus, smaller clubs with a smaller geographic foot-print accommodate the parents desire.
In any case all clubs, regardless of their size, need to offer a great service/product. At the grassroots level, coaches need licensed and well trained in appropriate soccer techniques for that age group but also the psychological factor of the age group that they are coaching. Unfortunately that is something very rare.
Rare, but not impossible to find. In 2016 while I was the Academy Director of a local soccer club, at the field, along side our goalkeeper training was a 68 year old coach (fitter than any of the coaches 20-30 years younger than him), that had the most amazing impact on the Grassroots groups. Even though he was a CONCACAF A license holder and played professional soccer for 25 years (with over 80 caps with the Mexican National Team), he simply loved working with younger athletes. Unfortunately these kind of coaches don’t usually swim in the small ponds where they’re not appreciated or can cost a lot more than what the clubs want to dish out!
Many say that smaller club need to merge with other clubs that have access to ECNL, this also is a process and is extremely important for the development of their players. However, I’ve seen this miserably fail locally as well. In many cases the larger club sucks from the smaller club its best players, weakening even more the smaller club, but mostly it rarely works because “small town soccer” is simply SMALL, they don’t think big, they feel comfortable in their small ring.
Smaller clubs should at least try to have older age bracket competitive teams. In most areas of our great nation, there are very few local clubs that have teams to play at every level. Why? Well, the child grows, he/she sees their surroundings, nothing new, same coaches, same fields, same local leagues. No state or national tournaments to compete in.
They either get lost and leave the sport for something else or in many cases, they move on to a more competitive soccer club that offers ECNL and for the boys MLS Next. This season alone I helped place 14 of our Goalkeeper Academy students in larger-better clubs along with another 8 local field players. This is happening all over the country not just in Volusia County Florida.
Is there a place for small local clubs? Definitely! They are certainly not the Backbone of soccer (they’re far away from it), but they have their utility of making sure your child enjoys and wants to take the sport seriously, before moving them to a club that can develop them.