Competitive Soccer Guide for Young Players & Parents

Competitive Soccer Guide for Young Players & Parents

How to choose a competitive soccer team for young soccer players is a common question for parents new to youth competitive soccer. We’ve tried to put together a checklist of things to consider when choosing the best soccer club for your kid.

We do have an in depth guide to choosing the right youth soccer club for your son or daughter but its not specific to young players who are potentially moving from recreational soccer to competitive soccer, which is what we’ll talk about today.

What often happens is a coach has been with a group of girls or boys for a few years and decides to move them into a competitive league. You as the parent are then asked to join a soccer club and you have to decide if it’s the right thing for your child. If you’ve done it before then you probably have an idea about the pros and cons to rec soccer vs competitive soccer but if it’s your first kid then hopefully we can help you out.

Recreational vs Competitive Soccer

There are a few questions you can ask to help figure out if your daughter or son would be ready to join a competitive soccer team. How much do they enjoy soccer, are they challenged on their current team, would they welcome playing more soccer each week, and how is their competitive spirit on the field?

We ask them in that order because how you answer the first or second might seal the deal and you don’t even need to consider the rest of the questions. We’ll take a look at each one.

Do they Enjoy Soccer?

Does your son like going to practice? Does he want to stay and play afterwards? When you get home does your daughter want to kick around in the backyard?

If you’re having to talk your kid into going to practice or kicking the ball around at home then they’ll have more fun in recreational soccer next season. One mistake parents sometimes make is getting talked into moving into a competitive league by a coach who wants to take a whole team competitive even though the kid doesn’t love it enough to play on a team of kids who are more passionate about soccer.

Just because they’re a good athlete doesn’t mean that they should play on a competitive team. Now if your kid really likes soccer then move onto the next question.

Are They Challenged?

If soccer practice and games are “easy” then your kid is probably ready for a new coach. For example if they’ve mastered the technical skills the coach is working on at practice then they’re ready to learn new ones. However recreational teams are often composed of kids with a range of skill levels so it can be tough for a coach to challenge everyone on the team equally and devote time to the players who really struggle or really excel.

Soccer Training & Games

If your daughter is able to use the skills that her coach is teaching at practice but the coach isn’t encouraging your kid to do more then she might be ready for a bigger challenge.

Or if your son is dribbling through all the kids on the field on game day and scoring at will then he’s probably ready for a tougher challenge and you can move onto the next question.

If they are being challenged at practice it could mean they have a good coach and a team of good players and doesn’t mean they’re not ready for competitive. However, if they are behind the rest of their team and they struggle in most of the games against other teams then they might be better off staying in a recreational league for a while.

Consider the Commitment
So we’ve covered how kids who love the game and are ready for a bigger challenge might want to play competitive soccer. Kids like that are more likely to welcome multiple practices a week and want to play during the off-season. The next question for you is how you think your son or daughter would feel about practicing two nights a week and how that would fit into their other after school activities?

Playing More Soccer

Coaches of young teams understand that there are weeks where family or school events will take the place of soccer practice but in general the expectation on a competitive team is that players will be at most practices and games and show up on time.

Also, kids that really enjoy soccer don’t want to stop playing once the season has ended so many of those teams continue to practice and play during the off season. They may practice and play less often because kids might have other activities and off season play can be optional at young ages. So playing soccer doesn’t mean they can’t do dance, or play basketball, softball, or join the swim team. However, it might mean you’re juggling two sports for a few months a year.

The commitment that comes with a competitive team isn’t a negative thing as long as the coach or club you play with understands that your kid has other interests and isn’t going to just play soccer. Playing with a group of kids and families that really enjoy soccer is a fun experience, just be aware that it does require extra commitment.

There’s also usually an additional cost for things like uniforms, leagues, and field rental. At young ages the cost shouldn’t be that high but it’s something else to consider as a parent. We cover competitive soccer costs in more detail a little bit later.

Soccer Training Trial

If you’re not really sure if your kid would be interested in competitive soccer one good approach is to try adding in one extra training a week while they’re playing rec. If they normally practice one night a week, sign them up for skills training another night.

We’ve done this with all our kids to see if they enjoy it. You can see if they want to go each week or if it’s a struggle to get them to multiple practices a week. If it doesn’t go well then they’re probably not ready for competitive soccer. This is a good test because you’re typically only committing to four or six weeks of skills training when you sign up rather than committing to a whole season of competitive soccer.

So if your player loves soccer, is ready for a challenge, and you’re comfortable with committing more time then you’re probably ready to dip your toe into the competitive soccer pool. The next set of questions will help you figure out where your kid could have the best experience playing competitive soccer.

Level of Play

There are a few things that could impact what level of competitive team could be right for your daughter or son:

  • their competitive nature
  • physical development
  • ability to focus and control their emotions

Bigger soccer clubs will have multiple teams at each age level and they organize the kids based on their technical abilities and also a mixture of the things we’ll talk about next.

Competitive Nature
When your son loses the ball do they run back on defense every single time and try their hardest not to let the other team score? Some kids do that and others might just watch the opposing team dribble down and score a goal. Just because your kid doesn’t have a strong competitive nature when they’re 7 or 8 doesn’t mean they won’t in a year or two but it’s something to consider when deciding what level of team they would enjoy and find success with.

If every other kid on the team would rather give up sweets for a month rather than let the other team score and your daughter isn’t too worried about the opposition scoring a goal how will that go over with the other players on the team? If everyone else is busting it to keep the ball out of the goal and your son isn’t hustling is it possible the coach will put him into the games fewer times and leave him in for shorter rotations?

If your kid isn’t super competitive that’s fine but it would be a better fit if they played with other kids that have a similar attitude.

Physical Development
I wonder how many soccer parents have posted to Facebook a pic of their kid on the soccer field next to a girl on the other team who’s a whole head taller? Kids develop at different rates and there’s always going to be someone who’s taller, stronger, and faster than your kid.

You don’t have to be fast to be a good soccer player and you don’t have to be big but if all the other kids on the field can push your son off the ball and he can’t catch any of them in a footrace then he might not have as much fun competing against them on game day. However, if he could play on the 2nd or 3rd team where the players aren’t as big or fast he might thrive in competitive soccer.

Focus & Emotions
Young players don’t do well with lines and lectures. Trained coaches know how to run a practice where kids are always moving with a ball at their feet and learn through playing small sided games rather than listening to the coach talk.

However, not all coaches are equally experienced and trained so kids that can’t focus and end up on a team with an impatient coach could be in for some unenjoyable training sessions.

Typically if the kids are frustrated or confused with the drills or games at practice it’s because the coach didn’t match the activity with the level of team development. However if all the other players are paying attention and your son or daughter is in their own little world that can cause frustration with the coach and teammates.

Same goes for control of their emotions. If a kid is unable to control their reactions to events or interactions at practices or games that could lead to them earning a negative reputation with their teammates or coach. Kids and coaches who are interested in getting better as a team and spending more time practicing and playing will likely have less patience for a player who is disruptive and constantly requiring interventions from the coach.

Level of Play Considerations

Not that any one of these 3 things individually would necessarily keep a kid from playing competitive soccer but if your child would be challenged in all of these areas that could be a sign they’re not ready yet. If it’s just one area it’s probably not a big deal.

For example we used to have a kid that would cry every time he was subbed out of the game, his emotions often got the best of him in game situations.  However he really had a competitive drive, he was good with the ball, and fast & strong so he played competitive and eventually matured out of his emotional challenges.

You don’t want soccer to be a bad experience – if you think your player is really passive, on the smaller side, and struggles to focus then you don’t want them playing on a team with kids that are aggressive, huge, and highly focused.

Rec vs Competitive Soccer Summary

Youth Soccer Podcast

Remember that every kid develops their soccer abilities at a different rate so if you’ve gone through these questions and feel like your daughter or son isn’t ready to play competitive soccer yet that doesn’t mean they won’t be ready next season.

If you’re still on the fence take some time to listen to experienced soccer coach Tom Mura talk about what’s right for young soccer players. He runs the youth program at a large soccer club in the Midwest that has a great track record of developing players.

He also runs a podcast called Coaching Soccer Weekly. In Episode #178 he does an excellent job of laying out what kids at young ages are capable of technically, physically, and emotionally and what they should be learning to thrive as a soccer player (skip ahead to the 8 minute mark).

The trickiest situation as a parent is when your kid’s current recreational team is moving into a competitive league and your son or daughter just isn’t ready yet. If you’re worried that might be the case there are a few things you can try that might make next season go more smoothly.

Youth Development Program
Many clubs have a program where young players who are interested in playing more soccer but not yet ready for competitive can get an additional training each week and start getting coaching from trained or experienced coaches.

It might be called “Club Juniors”, “Youth Development Program”, “Futures Program”, “Pre-Competitive”, or something along those lines. Usually it’s for kids from around 6 – 8 years old and typically involves one night of training each week and sometimes also an informal scrimmage each week.

Playing Both
Some kids take the approach of playing on both a competitive team and a recreational team for the first year they try competitive. Some leagues have a rule you can’t play both rec and competitive soccer so that highly developed players don’t dominate the rec games and take away the fun for the other players.

If your daughter is at the top of her team or league then she probably doesn’t belong in rec and the competitive league would be a better place for her. However, if after going through these questions you’re on the fence then you could sign her up for both. Before you do, talk to both coaches to explain your situation. Let them know that she’s going to be playing in both leagues and that she might miss some games and practices due to conflicts. For example, she might go to one rec practice and one competitive practice each week. Most youth coaches at the youngest ages will be understanding and won’t care if they’re missing a practice or game as long as they’re still getting in touches on the ball.

Choosing a Soccer Team

One you’ve decided that your kid is ready to try competitive soccer there are a few important things to consider when choosing a soccer team and a soccer club.

  • Will the coach help your kid love the game?
  • Will the coach build their confidence?
  • Is there a community supporting the team?
  • Is your family compatible with the coach and club?

Love of the Game

The most important thing at a young age is instilling a love for the game. Your player should love going to practice, love playing games, and eventually love watching soccer.

What this looks like is different at every age but for the younger ages the most effective measure of success at the end of a season is if they love it enough to come back and play again next year. It’s not how many goals they scored or how many games they won, what matters is how many of the girls come back to the team the following season.

The way that coaches can keep kids wanting to come back to practice is by building fun into their training sessions. A good coach at this age group can plan a practice that helps kids develop ball mastery without even realizing it. The games they use encourage the players to use all parts of both feet to control the ball. A good coach doesn’t have the kids stand around listening to them talk and doesn’t have them standing in line. The kids have fun by always having a ball at their feet and moving around playing games.

Your kid isn’t asking “when is practice over”, instead they’re racing around the field and when they stop they ask “can we play this game or that game next?”. When practice ends they don’t cheer and race to the car, they frown and ask “please just one more game”. On game days, you’re not dragging them to the car. Instead they set out their clothes the night before the game and can’t wait to run onto the field and give their coach a high five.

Then you know that you’ve found a coach and a team that’s building a love of the game in your kid.

Building Confidence

Confidence is King

Confidence is vitally important for young kids, not just in soccer but in life. The confidence that soccer can create in a young girl or boy is one of the main reasons why we have our three kids playing soccer – particularly our two girls. A coach’s role in shaping your son or daughter’s confidence is crucial. They can build it up or tear it down so it’s important to find a coach who understands the impact they’re having on your kid’s young mind.

We’re members of a Facebook group of soccer parents from around the country and we’ve heard story after story of coaches that crush a kid’s confidence and in some cases cause them to quit the sport. That’s not what you want for your daughter – so how can a coach create confidence in your kid?

Soccer Training

Practice Plan

To begin with they create practice plans that allow each player to get a little better every practice. Every coach is going to have a range of players in terms of how developed they are with their soccer skills. A good coach will run practices that allow both the top player and the bottom player on the team to improve. Putting the players in a situation where they learn and can have success is critical to building their confidence as a player.

When they leave the field kids shouldn’t feel frustrated, confused, like their teammates don’t like them, like the worst player on the team, or as though their coach is mad at them. When coaches get frustrated with young players at practice it’s often because the coach set up a training session that wasn’t appropriate for their level of soccer development. If some of the players come away feeling like they’re the worst kid on the team it can have to do with how practice was set up and executed.

At younger ages each kid should leave the field feeling like they had fun and got better. This is very intentional and it takes a coach who understands the level of development of all their players. It takes planning from the coach and usually comes a lot easier to coaches who have training and experience.

When you’re watching a practice where all this is falling into place you probably won’t realize it’s because the coach set them up for success with her session planning. It’ll just look like a group of kids who are working hard and having fun. However it’s pretty easy to spot when the practice wasn’t planned out well for the specific group of kids. Some red flags to look for are if your player:

  • Does a lot of standing around
  • Isn’t touching the ball much
  • Doesn’t come off the field breathing hard & sweaty

Then on the ride home you can ask:

  • Did you have fun?
  • Did you learn anything new?
  • How was coach?

You want a coach who is helping your kid continually improve at the fundamentals of soccer without your son or daughter even realize that they’re working hard and getting in many repetitions each practice.

Soccer Games
You don’t want a kid who’s sobbing on the sidelines or after the game because their coach didn’t play them. Kids just want to play and the fastest way to kill their confidence is to pull them out of a game after they make a mistake or even worse not give them much playing time.

We’ll cover this more later on but at young ages in competitive soccer a coach who doesn’t play a kid many minutes because they’re not as good as the other players on the team is not a coach you want for your kid. Even if your daughter is the best player on the team right now you don’t want that coach.

What happens in a year from now when the other girls catch up with her or she goes through a slump and suddenly she’s not getting to play? Confidence can be a tricky thing to build and an easy thing to crush so a coach who doesn’t give all their players an opportunity to play and use what they’ve been learning at practice is a coach to avoid.

Confidence Builders

A coach is only going to have about two hours a week to help your kid learn and build their skills. There’s only so much they can do in their short time with your child so ideally you’ll find a team and club that encourages your kid to build their confidence outside of practice.

Soccer Training Programs

Some teams have contests that encourage kids to work on their foot skills or juggling at home. Some will have apps like Techne Futbol, RISE Futbol, or Dribble Up that motivate players to get out and play and get touches on the ball during the week or weekends when they’re not at practice.

Other teams will have extra technical training offered by the club on nights when they’re not practicing or programs like Renegade Soccer Training or Beast Mode Soccer that have team options where the whole team can train on their own. These are all great examples of ways that a team can help your player build up their confidence away from practice.

There are many coaches who suggest that players work on their foot skills or their weak foot at home but giving them tools that help motivate them and track their progress is that extra kick that some kids need to put in the time and build their confidence.

There will be times when you can tell your son or daughter may be behind the other players on the team in certain areas and they can probably tell as well even if they don’t talk about it. It can be hard to make up that gap at team training but if the team has a way your kid can get better in those areas on their own it can be a huge boost to their confidence.

Supportive Soccer Community

If you took a survey of really successful youth teams over the years one thing you’d likely find in common is that they had a consistently supportive group of coaches, parents, and administrators working on their behalf.

Soccer Coaches
Having multiple coaches at younger ages is helpful so one coach can give one-on-one attention to a player while another coach keeps the training session going. This often means one head coach and one or more assistant coaches. In addition to having multiple teachers at training another benefit is having coaches to cover when the head coach has a conflicting commitment. If your kid is only getting two hours a week of practice you don’t want them to miss out on one because the coach has something going on.

An additional benefit is that other coaches on the field can provide feedback or suggestions to the head coach during games or practices if things aren’t going as planned or if the head coach isn’t aware of a situation at training or in a game.

As long as the coaching philosophy is similar it can also be good for your player to learn from different coaches. Every coach has a different way of working with kids and your player may response differently to each coach.

You should also ask if the club has an age group director to coordinate all the coaches in the same age group and gender. This person’s role is to make sure that kids are placed on the right level of team for their current abilities and also to help the coaches collaborate and support each other. Some clubs will have two or three teams from the same age group practice on fields next to each other on the same night and the coaches/players combine and collaborate during the sessions to get to know each other and to help establish a club identity and camaraderie in that age group.

Soccer Parents
Another important part of the community are the parents of the other players. Are they enthusiastic about soccer? This doesn’t mean how loudly they cheer on the sidelines but rather if they bring their kids to all the practices and games. Ideally they’ll be parents who understand that being successful means the kids need to spend time together – which means coming to all the practices and maybe even showing up when the coach schedules an extra pick up game or kick around session.

You’d also like parents who cheer in support for all players during games but don’t yell and holler at the players or referee. Part of being on a team also means attending events like beginning or end of the season team meetings or parties. As a parent it’s one more thing to put on your calendar but those are good chances for the kids to bond outside of a structured practice environment.

Basically you want to know if the parents will support the coaches and the players – a team that has a good community of parents can be successful not only in winning games but also in developing kids that love soccer.

Soccer Admin

Soccer Schedule Emails

Having a good team manager is one of the secrets of a successful youth team. Team managers make sure schedules are up to date, necessary games are re-scheduled, players have the right uniforms, coaches have player cards, teams are registered for tournaments, team lunches are planned, team building activities are setup, the list goes on…

Not every parent has the personality of a team manager. The best ones are organized, persistent, good planners, reliable, and good communicators. If those things come naturally to you then being a team manager could be a good way for you to contribute and help feel a part of the team (it’s also a lot of work!). Some clubs and coaches also offer discounts on club fees for team managers.

If that’s not your cup of tea then hopefully someone who is well suited for the role is a parent on your team because a good team manager makes the whole season go more smoothly and can help build with creating a sense of team unity among the parents.

In addition to the manager is the club registrar. They support the coach/manager in getting your team registered and carded for leagues and are able to help when your player has an opportunity to dual card with another team or guest play. It’s crazy the amount of paperwork that young kids need to play in games these days but an experienced registrar knows which form to fill out and which youth soccer rules you need to follow.

Coach & Club Compatibility

Often what happens when a family is looking into competitive soccer is that they’ll be asked by several coaches or clubs to come check out their program. Your job as a soccer parent isn’t to find the best club in the city but rather the best club for your kid.

A lot of that depends on the personality of your player, the goals of your family for competitive soccer, the available coaches at your kid’s age group, and the philosophy of the soccer club.

Soccer Coach

Every coach has their own unique style of teaching and connecting with players. Each kid responds in their own way to different styles, a lot of that has to do with the personality of child.

During games some coaches sit and watch on the sideline quietly and make their coaching points individually to players as they come out of the game. Other coaches pace up and down the sideline the whole game shouting and yelling instructions so everyone on the field can hear. Will your kid be intimidated by the coach’s personality or will they welcome the enthusiasm?

Some coaches hand out compliments like candy while others limit their praise to situations where the player really excels. Does your kid do better with constant encouragement or are they motivated by other things?

One style of coaching, sometimes called joysticking, is attempting to dictate to each player what they should be doing while the game is going on. The opposite approach is giving the kids a chance to solve the problems on the field on their own and only stepping in with comments if they continue to see the same patterns repeated and no learning taking place on the pitch.

Coaching Observation

Some coaches use a mixture of these methods and come up somewhere in the middle of those two. Every kid responds a little differently to those various coaching styles so it’s good to know which one is more compatible with your player and family. If you can it’s helpful to attend a few practices with a team your child has been invited to join so they can get a feel for the personality of the coach. It can be hard to make the time but it’s also a good idea to watch a team play in a game before committing to that team.

Not only do you get to observe how a coach behaves during a game but you also get to see what style of play a team uses. At young ages a team won’t have established a clear style of play but you can look for things like:

  • Does the coach encourage players to try things in a game or does he/she jump on the players when they make a mistake?
  • Does the goalie punt it every time or does the team try and pass it up the field?
  • Are the players trying to dribble and keep possession of the ball or do they just kick it up the field?
  • Does the coach rotate the players evenly?
  • Do kids only play one position on the field or do they get to play different positions?
  • Do the players get along on the field or is there arguing?
  • Do the kids arrive early and warm up as a team?
  • Or does everyone straggle in at the last minute and rush a team onto the field?

Soccer Club

Your job as a soccer parent isn’t to find the best club in the city but rather the best club for your kid.

Some soccer clubs have been around for decades and have established identities while others are just getting off the ground and only have a few coaches and teams. Each club has its own advantages and disadvantages, you want to pick one that best fits the needs of your player.

The most important thing to research is how the club supports the coach and player with things like facilities, coach’s training, age group directors, player curriculum, and skills training – we look at them more in depth in the youth soccer club guide. One thing to consider, the more support and resources the club offers the higher the club fees will likely be. We’ll talk more about that in the next section on costs.

In addition to what the club has to offer players and coaches you also want to research the philosophy of the club. Most clubs have a mission statement and some club values on their website but the best way to uncover their actual core values is by talking to parents of kids who currently or previously played for the club.

For example, what is the club known for? Do they have a reputation for good foot skills, as cheaters, tough competitors, whiners, playing direct (kick and chase), passing up the field (building up play from the back).

One commonly discussed differentiator is whether a club values developing players or winning games. At the younger ages some coaches believe the emphasis should be on letting the kids play – allowing them to make mistakes and learn from them. With this approach a coach who is losing by a goal with a few minutes left won’t sub out their weakest players and play their best players just to try and win the game. Instead they’ll play each kid relatively equal minutes of a game, rotate them to different positions on the field, and focus on the process of learning and playing. The emphasis is on getting better, not on winning. 

The opposite of this approach is that a coach always fields the strongest team possible even if it means some kids don’t get many minutes on the field. There can be other side effects of this approach such as playing in divisions that aren’t challenging enough for the kids in order to win the division. Or the coach not encouraging trying new things or being creative on the field for fear of getting scored on. Sometimes coaches keep kids only in their best position in order to compete so if they’re a good defender they may never get to play offense or vice versa. Our advice is to avoid coaches and clubs with this philosophy at young ages.

Of course there is a middle ground and a coach’s approach could change somewhat from game to game and the philosophy of coaches in a club can vary as well. These are just things to consider and ask about when choosing a soccer club to play for.

Soccer Club Costs

As we mentioned earlier each soccer club offers varying levels of options for the players depending on how organized and comprehensive their development approach is. The cost of joining a club is usually reflected in the quality of the club. That doesn’t mean that because the fees are high the club is a good option, there can be expensive clubs that aren’t very good. However, it usually means that if it’s a quality club the fees aren’t low.

Here’s a pretty common breakdown of your costs for competitive soccer from soccer families around the U.S. The one difference for the youngest age players is that the travel costs are usually pretty low or even not much of a factor at depending on where you live. If you’re in a big metro area with lots of close by competition you won’t have to travel much but in a less populated region you might need to travel farther to find other competitive teams to play.

Once you’ve answered the questions of whether your kid is ready for competitive and which coach and club would be best for you the sticking point will almost always be the cost of competitive soccer. The most unfortunate thing about youth soccer in the U.S. these days is that some really good players miss out on competitive soccer because the financial commitment is higher than their family is willing or able to pay.

Many clubs do have scholarship programs so if you find a really good fit for your kid but the costs are too high definitely inquire with the club admin about ways to lower the fees. There’s a variety of ways this can happen.

  • Some coaches are able to waive their coaching fees making the overall commitment lower for certain players.
  • In some cases clubs won’t let coaches waive their coaching fee but the coach is free to spend the money how they like. So they may still collect the fee but then use it to pay for registering the team for leagues or tournaments, saving the players on those costs.
  • If a scholarship program is setup then they may be able to cover some of the costs as well.

We also talk about how to save money on kids soccer cleats and other gear.

Is the Cost Worth it?
For our first kid we went with an independent team for the first two years he played competitive soccer mainly because the cost was lower than joining a soccer club. Now that we’re on our 3rd kid in competitive soccer if we had it to do over again we would have gotten him involved in the soccer club from the start rather than waiting a few years.

One of the main reasons for this is that the early years of a child’s soccer journey are really crucial to developing skills that they’ll use the rest of their time playing the game.  It’s so much easier for them to learn and embrace the skills when they’re young than waiting until they’re older.

Of course that decision is different for each family but now that we understand the benefits to our kid of playing for a trained coach with a club that supports the players, families, and coaches we see that the value of the club is worth the costs. A common objection to this is that your kid is too young and you don’t even know if they like soccer enough for you to spend money on it. If you’re not sure you’re ready to spend money on the sport then go back to the top of this guide and answer those few questions again. Hopefully that will help you make the decision.

One of the ways that teams can save money on competitive soccer that happens quite often at the younger ages is for the recreational coach to make a team independent of a club and to become the competitive coach.

Pros & Cons of a Dad Coach

A mom or dad that coached their kids in recreational soccer and then takes that team competitive is sometimes referred to as a “Dad coach” or “Mom coach” in the youth soccer world.

There are both upsides and downsides to having a parent of a player on the team coaching a group of kids at a competitive level.

Benefits
Parent coaches care about the success of the team. They have a vested interest in the group of kids and will put a lot of effort into helping them grow and improve.

Kids enjoy playing for them. If your kid liked them as a rec coach then they’ll be excited to be part of the team. They’re more likely to enjoy going to practice and games.

Lower costs. If a parent is coaching an independent team they won’t have the club fees most competitive teams pay. Even if they’re part of a club some mom coaches are able to save the families money by either waiving their coaching fees or collecting them but then using them to pay for league fees.

Potential Drawbacks
-The flip side of having a vested interest in the team is that the coach can lose objectivity and some perspective during games or even practices.

-A related drawback is that the coach can be biased in favor of their own kid. For example they might run practices centered around their kid, play their kid all game every game, or let their kid get away with bad behavior.

-One of the pros is that the kids enjoy the coach but the related con is that players can get too comfortable with a coach. They may not take what the coach says seriously or not really listen to the coach.

-The coach may lack training as a teacher.  With a parent coach you might get an accountant, a nurse, a mechanic, or a doctor who isn’t trained to teach young kids. Imagine putting your kid’s dentist in charge of their 1st grade classroom and how that might turn out. It could be that a parent coach has a natural knack for teaching young kids or maybe it’s their 3rd kid and they’ve gotten training or experience as a coach but you can’t expect that to always be the case.

-Another common struggle for parent coaches is knowing when their team is ready to move on to a new coach. When you’ve coached a group of girls or boys for years it’s easy to be selfish and want to keep coaching them even though they’re ready for a new coach that would better serve in their soccer development.

We have certainly made some generalizations about mom or dad coaches but these are common pros and cons and things to ask/think about when considering what competitive soccer team your daughter or son will play on next season.

As coaches look to form teams for the coming season the best way for them to evaluate players is to hold kick arounds, pre-tryout camps, and then a few days of soccer tryouts.

Soccer Tryouts

Youth soccer tryout

As you get closer to the end of the season and tryouts begin for next year these are some things to think about.

There is no rush to play on a competitive soccer team. The main point is not to be competitive but rather to help your player continue to develop their love for the game and their skill of the game. Depending on the kid and the family a soccer club may be the best place to make that happen.

If you go through the questions above and it feels like your kid would be have the best season playing recreational soccer then that is the place for them. However if you go through the questions and it feels like your daughter or son might enjoy/thrive in an environment where they get to practice and play more then you should check out the different options in your city.

At the younger ages they should really call it an Assessment or Evaluation rather than Tryouts because typically a soccer club wants to provide a home for every kid that comes to try out or is interested in playing soccer. At younger ages it’s not a question of whether they make the team or not it’s more of a question of which team team would be the best fit for them. What the coaches do at tryouts is get an idea of how your player handles the ball and where they are in their development compared to all the other kids that are joining the club.

Soccer Tryout Strategies

Every parent approaches tryouts a little differently but at the younger ages an approach that has worked well for us is just to call it a soccer camp. Rather than talking about playing their best so they can impress the coach we talk about playing their hardest and having fun at the camp.

We use this approach so they don’t get worried and nervous. Playing with new coaches and a new group of girls at tryouts will make many kids nervous enough, no need to add the extra worry of them having to impress a coach. We’ve seen it happen where a young kid knows it’s a tryout and parents really emphasis making a team and then the player is stressed out and just doesn’t play like themselves. Kids typically play their best when they’re having fun and can just go out and give their best effort.

Your hope as a parent at a young age is your kid just shows up and plays their normal game, this will help the coaches figure out where they fit best in the club. Many clubs will have multiple teams at the same age group that all train on the same night on the same field or adjoining fields. At the younger ages clubs like to train all the kids as a group with the same coaching philosophy so they know all the players and coaches and can move between teams as kids develop at different rates.

Once you’re introduced to the coach that the club thinks is the best fit for your kid be sure to go through the questions we suggest in this article and also our soccer club guide to make sure you agree that the coach is the right one for your son or daughter.

Competitive Soccer Summary

Hopefully this has helped you with the decision about whether competitive soccer is the right thing for your daughter or son next season. If you’re a new soccer parent then it can be a lot to consider but we think it helps to understand the implications of your decision. We’ve been through it a few times and it got easier with each kid so thought we’d share what we’ve learned over the years.

The questions to ask are:

  • How much do they enjoy soccer?
  • Are they challenged on their current team?
  • Would they welcome playing more soccer each week?
  • Is your family ready to commit to more soccer each week?
  • How does your kid compare to other players their age in the following areas?
    • Competitive spirit
    • Physical development
    • Focus and emotional control

If you feel like your child and family are ready and excited for competitive soccer then we covered how to choose the right team, coach, and club for your kid. Those steps are important for them to have a good year of soccer so be sure to weigh your options, considering the various factors we suggested.

As we mentioned earlier, if you choose a good one your kid’s soccer team can become an important part of their life and a great community to be a part of for both your kid and your whole family. With three kids playing soccer we spend many hours on the soccer field each season. They love their teammates, coaches, and clubs.

We feel really lucky to be part of such great soccer families but it didn’t happen by accident. We took the time to look at the options and pick the best match for our kids. If you’d like to help your kid find the same thing and earn medals and smiles like you see here just enter your email below to stay up to date on youth soccer tips:

 

 

By |2019-05-06T18:35:10+00:00May 6th, 2019|

About the Author:

Soccer dad, coach, and fan. Sharing youth soccer tips and cool soccer tech to help your player and soccer family.

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