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Choosing a Club for Your Child

Choosing the right soccer club for your child is often a daunting task and should not be taken lightly. Your child’s participation in any youth sport will help shape who they will become as young citizens. Children play sports to have fun. If they have fun, they will learn both the game and those life lessons best taught through sports. Here are some suggestions for choosing the right youth soccer environment for your child.
Buyer Beware
Youth sports is big business and clubs market themselves just like any other service-oriented business.  Everything said to players and their parents in the sales processs is to some extent motivated by the success of the business.  Be leery of promises and guarantees. Also be skeptical of the club that sells wins and championships. Take the time to look behind the curtain to see what your child’s potential club is all about.
Be Objective
Parents must enter the youth soccer marketplace with an objective view of their child’s abilities. Where do they fit on the talent spectrum? How important is the game to your child? If you shop for a club with blinders on, you are far more susceptible to the sales pitch. Travel, cost, commitment and the level of play are all factors to be considered in determining whether a particular program has value for your child.
Be an Educated Consumer
1.           What is the club philosophy?  Review the club’s mission statement.  Does the Club stress outcomes (wins, league standings and tournament results) or do they stress player development (the individual growth of each child).  An outcome-oriented club may sacrifice the personal development of players to achieve team or club success. These clubs sell outcomes not development. A club focused on player development allows players to develop at their most productive rate. They embrace failure as a stepping stone to success. These Clubs will talk about player movement between teams, trying new things and being innovative with your child’s development as an athlete.

2.           Who is the Coach?  At tryouts you should have a clear understanding of who your child’s coach would be. Attend a team practice or a game. Observe the coach, the players and the parents that attend.  Find out…

  • What coaching licenses does he or she have? A coach that diminishes the importance of coaching education most likely places their own ego and goals above the best interest of his players.  
  • What coaching experience do they have? Have they coached at this age group, gender and level of competition before?
  • What is their coaching philosophy? Do they scream instructions during play or do they allow the players to solve problems.
  • Is the coach a recruiter, a teacher or both?
  • Are they engaged in practices, excited, passionate about the game and are they attentive to each of his or her players.
  • Do they challenge players? Is their criticism positive and fair? Is their instruction productive and understandable?
  • Do they make the game fun?
  • Do they challenge themselves to be a better coach?

Be observant, objective and academic. Trust your own perceptions and instincts.

3.           Tournaments.  A club’s philosophy will also be reflected in how their teams approach tournaments. Do they approach tournaments as a chance to win a trophy or as an opportunity to enhance the development of each of their players?  Again, if winning is the primary goal, players will be coached to win not coached to learn. Also ask which tournaments the team will attend. If they are all Louisiana tournaments, tournament play will simply be redundant to league play. Ask about out-of-state tournaments and chances for the team to play opponents from other states. If teams stay in state, they never learn how “excellence” is truly defined on a regional and national level.    

4.           Facilities.     Learn all about the clubs fields and other facilities. Do they own or control the fields upon which their teams train and play. Do they have access to an indoor facility and fitness training facilities?  Do they have access to classroom and media facilities?

5.           Will your child be happy?     The most important factor is whether your child will be happy with the club? Is your child’s happiness paramount to all else to the Club or are the focused entirely on team and club successes on the scoreboard and in the standings? 7 out of 10 kids quit soccer by the time they turn 13 years old. Overwhelmingly the reason they quit is because the game and the experience is no longer fun. Find a Club that puts their players happiness, growth and development ahead of all else and you will find a Club and a team that your child will enjoy for years.