August 7, 2012
Early summer seems to be a time when parents and soccer players make decisions about playing club soccer, staying with town soccer, or combining to play for club and town programs. The decisions are never easy and require much thought and reflection.
Organized Soccer: The Dilemmas of Playing Club, Town, or Balancing Both
Tryouts are occurring all over soccer nation with many families making choices about where their son or daughter will be playing next season. Just a few decades ago making the decision to play for a club team or to play for your town team did not require much thought at all – most athletes played both! The time commitment and level of cost has increased over the years forcing parents to weigh the benefits of both programs in order to make the best decision for their children.
There are many pathways for player development in soccer and there are also many club programs trying to recruit and convert as many talented players as possible. The number of club programs has increased dramatically over the last decade and many towns are challenged to keep their high level players satisfied with playing for volunteer-coaches (often the perception is that club coaches are better than town coaches – we can debate that in another post).
Club programs may be able to secure better facilities and more tournament appearances over town programs. In addition, club programs are often times very methodical in their approach to developing their soccer talent. But not all soccer club programs are the same and each club warrants its own investigation by parents.
Many parents will ask me what their child should do: play club or stay on the town team? These are questions that can only be answered by the family. The first component of playing club is to determine if your child can compete at that level. If a club has tryouts be sure your child is prepared to go through the process and also comprehends that not all players will make the team. Second, be sure you have the time and the funds to support your child’s chance to play on a club team. There are a number of costs including tuition, uniforms, and tournament fees. Last, be sure you want your child to compete at the club level.
If your child is at the top of the town program they probably get a number of touches on the ball and have a sense of self-confidence since they are the “go to player”. If we take a player out of that situation and place them on a team where most players possess a higher skill level, parents need to think about how developmentally secure their child is to deal with that difference. It is powerful to have a player train with a group of athletes that are better so they can learn to play at that pace and develop their skills at a higher level. But we must also be aware of the psychological consequences of being a big fish in a small pond to being a small fish in a big pond. Many clubs do a terrific job addressing these challenges on an individual basis; this is another area that parents need to spend time examining.
In the end, there is no clear cut answer as to what decisions players should make when deciding to play club soccer, town soccer, or both. Parents need to be the gatekeepers in order to help elevate their child’s confidence, skill talent, and player development. No two programs are identical and when you find a soccer organization that meets your child’s need it will feel right and you can rest assured you made the correct decision.