One of the most common questions that I have come across while coaching in youth soccer is from parents wondering which club team their child should play for. This is a very tough question that depends on a number of factors.
1. How old is your child?
If your child is young (8-12) then you should be looking for a club that isn’t as results oriented as it is development oriented. At a young age it really doesn’t matter if they win or lose. You want them to develop. Most parents think that the team that wins the most games is the best place for their child to be. I can assure you that this does not matter. You want your child to be in an environment that focuses heavily on developing the individual skills of each player. While these teams may lose a large number of games at a young age, but when they get to an age where results start mattering they will be equipped with all of the technical skills they will need in order to execute the tactics of the game.
If your child is a bit older (13-18) you want them to be in an environment that is competitive. I am not saying that they have to be on the best team, but that they need to be on a team where they are going to get a lot of playing time and be challenged. It is much better for a player to play 90 minutes every week on a team that goes 500 than to play 35 minutes on a team that wins every game.
2. How committed are you?
Many kids at a young age play many different sports. Whether it be basketball, baseball, hockey, or lacrosse, all of these sports take time and commitment. Personally I believe that children should play a number of sports to figure out which one they like most. If they do decide that soccer is the sport for them it doesn’t mean that they have to stop playing all other sports, just that soccer will take priority over all other activities. This is relevant to deciding which club to play for because not every club is ok with having their players play multiple sports. Some clubs and coaches believe that playing other sports takes the focus off of soccer which in turn makes the players struggle to perform at their highest potential. The solution to this is to have a conversation with the coach and figure out if this is something that is going to be acceptable or not.
3. What is the reputation of the club?
Certain clubs have a reputation for being all business. What I mean by this is that they do not care about how they win, just that they do. This relates back to the first question in that you always want to be at a club that values development. It is perfectly ok, especially as players get older, to strive for perfection, but you need to have a coach that teaches the players after a mistake has been made. I know that this might sound a little ridiculous, but I have seen too many coaches that will yell at a player and pull them out of a game after making a mistake without ever explaining to the player why.
In conclusion, each player’s situation is going to be different. As a family you must have a conversation and get your priorities straight, then look at all of the options and make a decision. Personally, I always value a teacher over a dictator, and believe me I have seen my fair share of both. In youth soccer you want someone that is going to develop your child not only as a soccer player, but as a person.