It is coming to that time of year where anxiety starts to set in with many families regarding the upcoming competitive club soccer tryouts. There are obviously a lot of questions and insecurities heading into any tryout situation: what club should I try out for? What team am I going to make? Who are the coaches and what are they like? Will I do well enough to make the team I want to make? Should or can we even play this year? With all the questions and excitement surrounding tryouts, it is really important to keep things in perspective, stay calm and do your research; so you know that you can make an informed decision and put your child in the best possible situation. Many parents and players are receiving phone calls, emails or texts from coaches looking to recruit them into their club, letting them know how great they are as coaches or why their club is better than the other options and although these calls are very flattering, it is very important to look at the facts. When you are joining a club, you are making a year long commitment which will have a significant impact on your family in terms of time and money, so you want to make sure that you put your child in a situation that will have long term benefits. Too often people tend to look at the here and now, so pay close attention to what a club offers your player from now and beyond, as a club needs to be able to accommodate the growth and development of each individual player as well as the teams that they are on. Before making a commitment to a particular club, make sure to look at the following and get a true grasp on what the facts are about a club, before making a decision.
The rising costs of club sports is really starting to take a toll on many families, so this is an area that really needs to be looked at closely. It is important to definitely ensure that you get the most value for your money. Many clubs will advertise a certain fee structure for their program, but then once you sign your registration form, apply different charges throughout the season. Find out for sure what you get for your money before signing that registration form. Aside from the registration fee, ask the club if they have any additional charges for: Extra Training, Coaching Fee, Mandatory Camps, Goal Keeper Training fee, or other superfluous charges. In addition, look at what type of scholarship program the club has. Have they helped players out with money at all levels of play? What amount of money do they put into their scholarship program? The hard costs will definitely help you to make a better decision regarding what club to try out for, because again, you want to get the most value for your dollar.
When weighing your options, you want to make sure that you are joining a club that will be able to provide your player with what they need now and in the future. Why is the overall structure of the club important and what questions should you be asking?
- How many teams does a club support and why is this important?
- It is very important to have a club with the depth of talent to be able to group players of like ability, so that the individual player and teams are able to play at their most appropriate competitive level. If a club only supports one team per age group, then you are more than likely going to have players who are not similar in ability all grouped together. Therefore some players will not wind up playing at their highest appropriate level, while others will be playing at a higher level than is suitable. This situation does not provide either player the chance to develop and progress at the highest rate.
- A qualified coach or trainer is one important component in the development of a player, but players truly develop when challenged by the players around them. If an environment is too easy for a particular player, then they will fail to develop as they are not having to work as hard to be successful and will falter when being challenged at a higher level. On the flip side, if a player is not at the competitive level, they will not be able to have success in the training which will cause frustration and limit their ability to progress as a player.
- Players develop at different rates and it is important to be in a club that provides your player the ability to play at their competitive level now, with the opportunity to advance in the future. If a particular club has only one team in an age group, that team may be placed in a Classic or Challenge Level. A Premier level player should be playing at the Premier level, with other Premier level players. Without a number of teams in an age group, that Premier level player may never be able to advance to their appropriate playing level, unless the team manages to advance levels, which could take years or never happen. In this case, you will need to be changing clubs in future to have your player placed at the appropriate level, with the appropriate level players. Again, if a classic level player is placed on a classic level team and that player develops into a Premier level player, your club needs to provide the opportunity for that advancement and have a structure in place that allows for that.
- In keeping with the club’s overall depth of teams and players, find out how many high school age teams a club supports. If you are planning on playing competitively through the next seven years, then you want to ensure that the club you are joining has the ability to and is supporting teams at the older age group as this is where you will be at some point and again, do you really want to have to change clubs midway through.
It is very important to look at what a club has accomplished over the years, how long have they been established and what the longevity of the program looks like. A well established club will provide a player with stability, expertise through years of experience and a strong structure in which to develop. There are many off shoot or satellite clubs in the state. These clubs are affiliated with other clubs, but they aren’t those clubs, so definitely look at what the local club that you are looking to join has accomplished over the years.
- Take a look at the alumni page to see what players have and are currently playing in college or beyond club soccer. Does the club you are considering joining do a good job with guiding players from U11 competitive through U18?
- What team accomplishments does a club have? Are teams competing for state championships at the highest levels of play? Are teams advancing from challenge to classic level, classic to premier level or premier 2 to premier 1 level?
- Are players from the club representing the state, region or nation in different player pools at the highest level? Are players who have started on lower level teams getting the opportunity to advance to higher level teams as they develop and are there higher level teams for them to advance to?
At the end of the day, you want to pick a club that will provide your child with the best possible experience, regardless of what level player they are now. You want to put your child in a situation that allows for them to be challenged and grow as a player and an individual. A club should provide your child with the opportunity to advance levels of play as they develop, whether that is a Premier level player making the state ODP team or a Classic level player advancing to the Premier level team. The viability of a club is dependent on how many members they are able to have, but attracting members shouldn’t be the sole priority of a club’s coaches or staff. As a parent, take a look at a club that provides good value for your money, has an established structure in place that allows for growth and development and has a history of success in developing players and teams.
Tony Minatta – Assistant Director of Coaching