As we concluded in the last post and confirmed from about 95% of the comments here and on Facebook, U9/U10 travel tryouts that segregate “travel” and “recreational” (“House”) players are something no one likes and everyone does anyway. Realistically, we’re not backing away completely from elite-ish soccer at that age.
So what are the alternatives? I’ll toss out a few:
1. Part-time travel. We’re already doing it at U8 in my region — at least, we’re supposed to be, but some clubs treat it as U8 travel in everything but name. Your club’s serious U8 players sign up for a program with extra training sessions under a pro coach’s watchful eye, and they play a couple of friendly games against similar teams from other clubs.
U9 and U10 are the perfect ages to continue a program like that. That’s where we move up from the 4v4 or 5v5 games into full-fledged soccer games of 7v7 or 8v8. Clubs can monitor all their players as they make that transition.
Players and their families would get to keep a foot in each world. Players can face diverse competition, challenging themselves against the elites while gaining confidence to try out what they’re learning in a more relaxed recreational setting.
2. All-Star tournaments. We already have these for House leagues — starting at U8 in our region. One postseason tournament each season. Maybe we could have a couple per season and rotate the “All-Stars.”
3. One season for House, one season for travel. Some players — please sit down so you can digest this — don’t want to spend the whole year playing one sport at age 9. And countless studies suggest it’s a pretty stupid idea to do that, anyway.
So why not offer House in the fall and spring, giving everyone a chance to play one sport per season and still sample different things, and offer travel only in the spring? You’ll have a good House league in the fall, a mix of players that includes your travel-quality players. Spring-only travel will be more affordable. Plenty of advantages.
4. Open travel to everyone. Why segregate into “House” and “travel” at all? If someone wants to get good coaching and a cool jersey at an age well before we know anything about their future athletic careers, why not let him or her do it?