Oglethorpe men’s soccer coach Jon Akin had an article published recently in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Soccer Journal.

Here is the article:oglethorpe

Youth Soccer Parents Beware of the Big Picture

Having spent 27 years in the game of soccer, playing at all levels: youth, high school, college, and professional, and now coaching at the youth and college levels, I see some serious issues that need to be addressed.  I have three children and they will most likely all play soccer. I know there is an epidemic growing that coincides with our American “give me options at every turn” lifestyle, but we can do something about it.  

I grew up in Pensacola, Fla., and played soccer there until I graduated high school in 1995.  This was back when your age group was your club and we were the West Florida Hurricanes (and we actually had two girls on our team). Our rival teams were Gulf Breeze (which was across the bridge from us), Mobile, Panama City, and Tallahassee.  I stayed with our team until I was a U-17 player and went to a team out of Tallahassee (North F.C. that actually won the ’95 State Cup and lost in the regional finals).  I fondly remember intense games and tournaments against all those rivals.  The main reason I remember that was because most of the players stayed on the same teams, because that is what you did; you played for your local team.  Well those days are gone from our soccer culture, and I can speak specifically of Metro Atlanta.  Our children will not have the opportunity to remember matchups and rivalries developed over years, because everyone’s roster changes drastically from year to year and let me tell you why.

It is because there is an epidemic of parents and youth players looking for the next best thing.    I am going to use my experiences at the club level during tryout time as an example.  Parents and players are frantically trying to line up the best situation for our kids and many people’s moral compass and the ability to see the big picture is going out the window.

Overzealous parents and coaches sell the opportunities that their club can offer over other clubs.  They entice with things like the tournaments they will attend and their coaching staff (which you may or may not get because the coaching turnover is almost as high as the roster).   So every year during tryout time, players and parents are looking for the next best thing.  It is a total zoo.  Players are going to three different tryouts on three different nights, setting up different tryout times so they can showcase their kids.  Kids are stressed, parents are stressed, and people are doing some really unethical things under the guise of “they are doing what is best for their kids”. 

Let me tell you a fact: You are doing the complete opposite with this nonsense. 

Parents, you are doing a few things.  First, you are putting an undue amount of stress on your child.  The game of soccer should be fun.  Secondly, you are creating an environment where your children are always looking for the next best thing. Instead of being happy where they are and facing the challenges and learning from that environment, you are swapping your kids around before they get a chance to learn anything.  Do you really want your children to live like that, later in life? They will learn to look for new jobs once a year, instead of mastering one.  They will change careers four and five times because they offer an extra weekend of vacation.  They will soon start to look for different boyfriends and girlfriends or worse, wives or husbands, because one is better looking or they have more money.  

And finally you are depriving them of fond long-lasting memories of rivalries that are some big reasons why they will love the sport for a lifetime.

I recommend you do a few things.  Play with your local club.  The time you save making these crazy commutes is valuable time that you can spend as a family, or it will give your child an opportunity to eat at home instead of fast food and do homework at home instead of the car.

Don’t believe that you’re missing out by not leaving your current club.  There are a lot of good coaches out there.  A few things you should be concerned about when it comes where to play:  Is your coach knowledgeable about the sport? Is your child learning?  Is your child being treated with respect? 

And how about the long-lost important quality of loyalty that has been thrown out the window as we shop for a better deal for our children’s soccer playing experience?   Teaching children loyalty will far outweigh the extra showcase that the new club is offering. 

There are a lot of good coaches out there and there are some bad ones, but if you use my advice above, you will be fine.  

I do not want to deny the fact that there are times to change clubs, but you should strongly consider the impact that will have on your child before doing so. 

If a child is not being challenged, that is a good time to leave.   Don’t leave because your child is not getting enough playing time, let your child deal with it, they will be better for learning how to deal with it.  At the U-17 and U-18 divisions, I think teams attending some showcases might be helpful although the Internet and a proactive approach with regards to colleges will get you just as far.

So the next time the team manager has a plot to take half the team to the cross-city rival, because they could make the best team in the state, rethink leaving because I honestly would want my three kids to be on an average team with integrity, rather than a state championship team without it! 

Let us all in the soccer community grow a garden of young players that are loyal and play with integrity and have fond memories of rivalries, not ones with a lot of trophies and blurry images of teammates.