By Tyler Isaacson for Soccer America
Coaches, parents, administrators and players often dread this time of the year. Rumors are flying of who is leaving, where they are going, and why they are leaving. Parents are dragging their child from tryout to tryout to make sure they have a team to play on. It is utter chaos for administrators who are trying to figure out if there will be enough players to form a team. Coaches are wondering "what did I do wrong to cause these players to look elsewhere?"
Unfortunately, this is what is going on now at many clubs throughout the country. All these factors work against youth soccer players and soccer clubs. Here are some ideas to help make this a better experience for everyone involved.
U8-U10. This is a critical age for learning and development. If you provide good training and a fun team atmosphere more often than not the majority of the team will stay together. Of course you will get parents who feels their child is the next Messi -- let them go. Your team will be better off in the long run.
U11-U13. All hell breaks loose. State-cup winning teams break apart and mid- to lower- level teams cannot seem to find enough players to keep the team together. In my opinion this is where surrounding towns need to work together in a collaborative effort so that travel players have a proper place to play based on their ability.
Most towns cannot offer a variety of different level teams in each age group to support the varying skill levels of every player. A town may have a strong team in one age group leaving out a few mid-level players that have been pulled along on this team for a few years getting minimal playing time.
There is a good chance a surrounding town has an appropriate level for the mid-level players to join. It is not about poaching players, it is about providing the correct fit for the player. I feel it is the responsibility of each club to make sure they help every interested player find a place to play.
U14 & Up. Middle school and high school soccer starts to interfere with the travel team’s fall season. Don’t fight it -- embrace it. The players love playing for their school team. Cut your travel practices down during the school season and limit tournament play.
At this point you should be working with other towns to keep the team together as players begin to focus on one sport or lose interest so you may need an influx of out of town players to keep the team together. You may even be joining forces with your archrival?
The tryout process will never be easy. By working together with the surrounding clubs in your area, you can provide the opportunity for players to play at an appropriate level, and both the club and the player will benefit.
(Tyler Isaacson is a club president, travel coach, recreation coach, youth player, college player and dad. He has 30 years of playing and coaching experience and is founder of youthsoccer101 a coaching development tool used by over 15,000 coaches.)