My oldest son is on a competitive youth club soccer team and my youngest son likes to play different variations of youth sports on recreational teams. For the purpose of this blog post I will tell you about my oldest and our experience with joining a club team. This is my opinion about some areas to consider before joining a club team.
How it all started…
When my boys were just starting school my wife and I decided we need to get our kids into some outdoor activity. My wife proclaimed no football, head injuries were a concern. So maybe it should be soccer. Guess who played soccer growing up. Not me. We joined a local recreation league and guess who became the coach of the team. Yep, you guessed it. Me. That is another story all by itself. Our first couple of years of soccer were at the recreation level. I was either the main coach or an assistant coach, and mostly every team was made up of volunteer coaches. Our first season in our first league we practiced twice a week which seems like a lot for a group of 4 and 5 year olds. Not really when I look back at it. It was just the length of the league play that was tough. Then we later did city league in soccer with both boys, the seasons were shorter but practice was once a week. The problem with the city league was that every season we were placed on a different team. We later went to another recreation league where we stayed with a lot of the same players and we had the same coach.
My oldest loves playing soccer and does not want to play any other sport unless he can also play soccer. My youngest, likes soccer, football, run club, and maybe even some cart racing. With the oldest, my wife and I determined he needed to practice more if he wanted to get better at it. Which eventually lead to the decision to join a club soccer team.
The question is should you join a youth club team. It does not matter if the club team is football, baseball, softball, basketball or soccer. Here are some things to consider before joining a club team.
What is Competitive/Club?
Club is often misused with the term competitive. No matter if you’re on a recreational team or a club team, it’s all competitive to some degree. Kids want to win. Parents and coaches want to win. It is competitive. We talk about wins and losses and how many times a person scores. It is all competitive. Our U6 soccer team was supposed to be non-competitive, no score, everyone plays. The kids knew the score. Club is typically considered one team, with different levels of teams throughout. A club football team might have six teams – one for each age group. Sometimes the teams are broken down between boys and girls. The club will practice at a regular field and will go to other fields on weekends and play against other clubs. All the teams in the club wear the same uniform. Most clubs are governed by a main governing body, such as a state association or regional association. Youth Soccer across the U.S. is broken down to clubs, state regions, state, region etc. They may have league play with different levels of competition. The general main difference between club and recreation is that clubs may have only one or two teams in an age group. They play most of their games going to different fields in a geographic region. Their season is long, and usually they practice more than once a week. Their league play is typically governed by a higher authority.
Do you have time?
Being part of a club can take up a lot of time. We practice twice a week with the team, additional individual training once a week, and at least one game almost every weekend. This also does not include weekend tournaments that can be as frequent as once a month. We have not traveled out of state, however, I have friends that have and it can be a taxing weekend. Our first year in club, the whole family paid. My youngest kind of got left out of things he wanted to do because we were all at the practice field, always at games. It can be a lot. You will have to decide if you have the time to spend for a good 10 months out of the year. Now we carpool with other families, and we have gotten comfortable leaving the practice field, doing errands and coming back. Also you can go for a walk or run while you are at practice.
Do you have the extra money?
Club soccer can be expensive. The cost can range from $600.00 a year up to $2000.00 a year. You will have to find out what the club is offering with their fees. Some clubs will offer a tournament or two for the season. They might throw in a summer or holiday camp. You need to ask what it includes. Uniforms and equipment are typically extra expenses involved. Also you might want to ask if the club team does any fundraising. Most of the time you’re opening up your checkbook. Cost is certainly a big difference between club and recreation.
Follow the team.
I highly recommend going and watching the team play a few times. This is a mistake I made. I did not go and watch the team, follow them and see how they were doing. For soccer, you can go to a this website Got Soccer and search for upcoming tournaments in your area. Find the link to the tournaments homepage and see when a particular club is playing. Listen to the coach, see how he/she interacts with the kids. Also see how the parents behave. Nothing stinks more than having to spend your weekends with a bunch of people you do not like. Take note if the parents are wearing spirit wear, cheering for the team, or they have a couple of screaming parents from the sidelines that are trying to coach the game. It’s no fun for you or your kids if you have a random parent screaming directions at the kids, especially if it overrules what the coach is asking them to do.
Does your child really want to play?
You might want your kid to play the sport you did in high school. Maybe relive some glory days. What you did not know is the only reason your kid wants to play is because you spend time with them at the park kicking the ball around. They don’t care if it’s a soccer ball or a football. They just want to spend some time with mom or dad. Is your kid a one man wrecking crew? Destroying the local competition in the recreation league. Sleeping with their soccer ball. Maybe not. Ask and find our what sports they want to play. Whether your child plays recreation or club, find out if your child is having fun. Here is an excellent post on Why Kids Play Sports, it is certainly worth the read.
Consider playing in a recreation league and doing some extra training on the side, such as Coerver Soccer. Additionally there are some private coaches you can hire. Share the cost with a friend or two and 2-4 kids can work out together and get some quality training. Talk with that trainer and get some feedback about clubs in the area. During the summer and holidays a lot of clubs will have skills camps. This is another great option to learn about the clubs in the area.
Weather you decide to do club, or stay in a recreation league the bottom line is your child will need quality coaching, and time to develop. Both mentally and physically. In the end if its not fun, you will have wasted a lot of money on poor coaching, poorly ran club, and a fit that is not. Be sure to ask a lot of questions and be sure this is a place your child will be happy playing and making new friends.