How to navigate your child's path by Christian Lavers
February 22, 2011
The choice of where to have your child play youth soccer can be very difficult. Multiple clubs, “select teams,” or leagues will tout their services or programs, often with promises of glory down the road. There is no shortage of choices for where your child can spend the next year of development – and in the United States, parents have more choice than in any other country.
The number of choices can be overwhelming -- especially to parents without a soccer background. When there are different people selling different services, often in different leagues, and all emphasizing the importance of choosing their club, it is no surprise that people make choices that they will regret in the future. This raises a key question:
How do I choose a soccer club for my child? While there is no easy answer to this question, there is one key principle that should guide your decision: the single most important external factor in any player’s development is the quality of the coach working with the player on a regular basis. The impact of this individual, especially at U8-U14, far outweighs the league the team plays in, the success of the team, or any other factor. Quite simply, great coaches at these ages help motivated players maximize their ability. Because of this huge impact and influence, consider the following in trying to evaluate your options:
While these guidelines help narrow your choices, you may still have several options. If that happens, consider having your child attend a training session with the potential coach, and evaluate the session on the following criteria:
While the quality of the opposition in games and training gradually becomes more important as players age, (and is very important at U14 and above), these factors are far less significant when the player should primarily be learning individual technique and decision-making.
Unfortunately, no matter how much you research your decision, you may make a mistake -- the world is full of great salesmen. To minimize the impact of a bad decision, you must be able to recognize when the coaching your child is receiving is slowing their development. Without being a “helicopter parent,” be mindful when watching your child’s team play:
While the focus of this article has been primarily on coaching, it is important to realize that if parents do not encourage self-directed play in the hours their child is not with their coach, to some extent the selection of a club, team, or coach is a moot point -- the player’s ceiling is already established.