Single-Digit Soccer: Time for parents to raise their voices

No, no — not talking about parents raising voices during games. We need to be restrained and supportive. If someone shoots video of you at a game and posts it on YouTube, it needs to be one of those videos that gets about 10 views, not something picked up on Tosh.0 or headlined “CRAZEE SOCKER MOM LOLOL!”

We need to raise our voices on the issues of youth soccer. We need to let coaches and clubs know what we need if we’re going to keep entrusting them with our kids.

Coaches are probably still thinking this idea sounds like an utter disaster. That’s because they already hear from some parents. They hear from the parents who are upset that their kids aren’t playing and winning for the Super Elite Red 04s or whatever. Not coincidentally, these are often the most ignorant parents.

We’ve all seen this, right?

(I still have no idea why Beijing’s Olympic Stadium, which is artistically displayed in the SportsMyriad banner, is the backdrop.)

No, we need to hear from the other parents. The ones who just want their kids to learn and have fun. Not coincidentally, those are the kids who are going to live up to their potential in this sport, whether it’s a World Cup appearance or good time in the local rec league.

Because one thing we’ve learned from the Great Age Group Kerfuffle of 2015 is that we parents aren’t getting much respect. Your experience may vary, but in talking about the switch to birth-year age groups with various coaches and administrators at many levels, I’ve found a lot of them don’t really care to hear what parents have to say about it.

And parents have legitimate concerns (some expressed in detail at SoccerParenting.com):

  1. They’re worried that their kindergartners will be in the minority in their age group alongside first-graders who are far more accustomed to a structured environment. (As it turns out, clubs have flexibility at this level, but that’s just being whispered rather than trumpeted.)
  2. They’re worried that their teams in the teen years may have half their kids in high school and the other half not, leaving clubs in the lurch when high school soccer is in season. (I haven’t heard a solution to this.)
  3. In general, they don’t understand why their teams of friends have to be busted up just so they can supposedly become better soccer players. How does that really help? And to what end?
  4. How is it any simpler for coaches, clubs and administrators to have birth-year age groups when the “season” is still a school-year season? (More on this tomorrow!)

The typical response: “Oh, don’t worry, it’ll all work out.” (How?)

And parents have other legitimate issues to raise and questions we should all be asking:

  1. Why do we have to drive all over creation to play games instead of playing the neighboring club?
  2. Why did you force my 8-year-old to play goalkeeper without even teaching her how?
  3. Why are you holding tryouts for 8-year-olds that put them on a “travel” track or a “rec” track, then offering very little for those on the “rec” track to catch up as they grow into their bodies?
  4. Why do you think U9s and U10s can’t pass the ball when we’ve been seeing kids from U7 on up spreading out and calling for the ball? Should they be playing U11 even though they’re about a foot shorter than anyone else in the age group?
  5. Why don’t we have better training for parents who want to be good coaches?
  6. Why don’t we have time to play multiple sports, when every reputable study on the subject and tons of world-class athletes say we should?

And maybe the biggest: Why does this cost so danged much?

These are just some of the issues Single-Digit Soccer addresses. And my hope is that the book starts (or at least contributes to) a movement in which parents become better-educated consumers.

So please check out the revised page for the book, which you can now access directly from singledigitsoccer.com. You can “like” the Facebook page and share the new flyer.

And check out some of the sites doing similar work — the Changing the Game project, the Aspen Institute’s Project Play, SoccerParenting.com, and surely a few sites I don’t yet know about yet. (Please tell me about them.)

We can take ownership of our kids’ soccer futures. We don’t have to go along with everything coaches and clubs tell us. Read up and speak out!

 

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2 thoughts on “Single-Digit Soccer: Time for parents to raise their voices

  1. Regarding number one: why are you worried about teams with kindergarteners? Seriously, kids shouldn’t be on organized teams until they are 7-8 years of age. Before that they should be attending skills clinics and playing 2v2 or 3v3.
    Secondly, regarding ages, this is a good thing, because the Sept-Dec kids will be with the natural age. If, and it is a resounding “if” they are good enough to move up the ranks to travel and academy teams and State/Regional teams, they will have to play against these kids anyways.
    Third point- high school ball, here in PA junior high also stops club ball in the fall, unfortunately. So splitting them up really causes no difference with late birthdays.
    4th point- you drive hopefully for better completion. If you are doing rec league or you have rec league mom mentality, then by all means play that level. But don’t hold other kids back because you are frankly lazy/selfish with your time. You make sacrifices, stop complaining.
    5th point- you are absolutely right about educating parents who want to be coaches. There are thousand of resources online including YouTube. Look up Tom Byer for some insight into youth development.

  2. 1. Excellent point. Kindergartners need that sort of environment. That’s all the more reason why we shouldn’t have club administrators checking their birthdays and saying, “oh, sorry, you need to play up at U6 or U7.” We really shouldn’t be calling kindergartners U-anything. Just get out and have fun activities for kindergartners and preschoolers. I address this in my book, thanks in large part to a great session Ron Quinn led at NSCAA one year. He showed U3s attempting to play an organized game. It was scary.

    2. I have a plan to phase kids from kindergarten soccer to birth-year age groups by U11, with some birth-year competition starting at U8. See http://www.soccerwire.com/blog-posts/dure-a-fully-legal-way-to-set-up-soccer-leagues-not-strictly-by-birth-year/

    (Some other clubs have already said they’re keeping their rec leagues by school year.)

    3. That just ratchets down the problem to sixth grade instead of ninth, doesn’t it? You’ll still have a team that has some elementary students and some junior high. So what do the elementary students do when the junior high kids are playing scholastic soccer? (I’m sure a solution exists, but it’s something that has to be considered.)

    4. In Northern Virginia, teams are driving when they don’t have to. We have U13 and U14 teams that lose in the first round of State Cup (or don’t play because they’re not at that level) that drive up and down the East Coast when they could be playing other first-round State Cup teams by driving one-third of the distance. And they’re starting even earlier. Here’s former USSF coaching director Bobby Howe: “There is no need for players under the age of 13 to play out of state.” (In the D.C. area, that’s not really literal — a McLean team’s closest game may be just over the river in Maryland — but you get the idea.)

    5. Definitely, and thanks for the suggestion on Tom Byer. I plan to put together a resource center for new coaches pretty soon. There’s some good stuff on YouTube and some not so good.

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