Rec soccer and “development”: At what point can we just stop?

Preseason coaches’ meeting. It’s always more of a lecture than a “meeting.” There’s absolutely no reason an email wouldn’t suffice. The in-person “meeting” would be much better reserved for a training session with a lot of small breakout groups.

But anyway …

The Important Person In Charge (IPIC, as in “I pick what we’re doing”) reminds us of the importance of “development” instead of “winning.”

In U19 recreational soccer.

I would’ve asked what we were “developing” these players for at this point, but I didn’t want to prolong the meeting. So I’ll ask here …

What are the developmental goals of recreational soccer for kids who are never going to play at a higher level? 

These kids aren’t going to make their high school teams — most of the travel kids won’t make the high school teams. Simple math. This year, I’ve seen a lot of kids from “A” teams who don’t make the JVs at their local high schools. The sweet spot for high school play in our region is the level immediately below the Development Academy — and bear in mind that a lot of kids may ditch the DA their senior years to get in that one season of playing with their classmates.

(Quick aside: I’d love to see youth clubs list the players from their clubs who make local high school teams. Or I’d love to see parents crowd-source it so we can see which clubs really are getting kids to their high school teams. Let’s fact-check the coaches who insist their players can go play wherever they want. We’ll get back to that.)

At U14, rec kids can still make the transition to travel. They might even be raw talents who play a lot of pickup soccer and can still “develop.” It’s rare at this age, but it can happen.

By U19? Aren’t we basically “developing” the next generation of adult rec players?

They may turn into parent coaches one day. They might even sign up to be referees. Great. Let’s keep them in the game.

IMLeagues

But the next level as a player is basically adult league and/or college intramurals, where I really wish I’d seen the matchup of Christian Pu-LAW-sic vs. Game of Throw-Ins.

So why aren’t we letting high school kids do the same thing? Why are we running high school rec soccer through parent commissioners and coaches who oversee practices at which they might get 3-4 players on a given night? Why are we trying to “balance” these teams instead of letting a group of friends play together and figure out which level to enter?

If some of those friends want to practice once or twice a week and have a coach, fine. They can enter the “Open A” division and play only with or against people who are just as interested in soccer as they are. That’s frankly a better option at that age than lower-level “travel.”

The kids playing U19 rec soccer have survived a decade or more of adults telling them what to do. Why not give them a little reward and let them make a fun transition to adult soccer instead of treating them like U9s?

2 thoughts on “Rec soccer and “development”: At what point can we just stop?

  1. Interesting idea. My idea (based on almost 10 years of coaching at the HS rec level) is that you can always teach them something else. My teams have 1 practice a week and I get about 50% attendance. But then in a game, I see the coaching points I made actually put into practice more often than not.

    I like that we have more structure than just having pick-up games.

    My goal with my teams is that I create a life-long love for the game and that they are wiling to coach one day. On one of my HS teams 8 of the 16 girls were coaching young yeams and I view that as a major accomplishment.

    To add more context, I work in a club that has enough teams so we can have 2 divisions in our internal league.

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    • Thanks for the thoughtful response, and that’s great to see so many players turning to coaching. We’re also developing the next generation of coaches!

      Ideally, we’d be able to offer a range of programs. Maybe at older ages, the more serious rec players and the less elite travel players could merge together with professional training available but mostly volunteers coaching.

      Then we’d have an “elite” tier that really merits professional coaches and long-distance travel, a large middle tier for people willing to make a commitment, and then pickup play just to keep people involved if they can’t commit to much.

      Like

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