Pay to Play - A view from a Coach
In recent years, there has been an ongoing discussion about pay-to-play in youth soccer, and the role of coaches in this system has been at the center of the debate. As someone who has been coaching youth soccer for the past 25 years, I strongly believe that coaches should be compensated for their work.
Coaching youth soccer is not an easy job. A good coach invests countless hours honing their skills and has a significant impact on players' lives, teaching them not only about the game but also about important life values such as teamwork, resilience, and strong work ethics.
Coaching is not just about showing up to the field and running drills. It requires planning and developing a curriculum tailored to the team's needs, assessing players' progress, and tweaking training and game sessions based on their performance. In addition, there is a significant amount of administrative work involved, such as scheduling games, registering players, and communicating with parents and team members.
Coaches also make significant sacrifices to fulfill their duties. They often miss out on family events and social gatherings due to games and tournaments, which are often held on weekends. The job can also be emotionally challenging, as coaches are often criticized for their decisions, even when they have the best intentions to make the right choices. (A recent study by the National Alliance for Youth Sports found that over 70% of volunteer youth coaches report being subjected to verbal abuse by parents or players).
Admittedly despite the challenges, coaching can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Coaches have the opportunity to positively impact young people's lives and help them develop lifelong values that will serve them well beyond the field.
The cost of playing soccer in the USA is not high due to the salaries coaches receive. The cost is driven high by travel expenses. Regionalized leagues and interstate tournaments have become popular, leading to high costs. These competitions require overnight stays and, in some cases, flights that can drive-up costs of fees up to $20k a year.
To address these issues, we need to restructure the youth soccer system to be more inclusive and state-run rather than prioritizing regionalized leagues and tournaments that can run up costs quickly due to flights, hotels, meals, car rentals etc. By improving the youth soccer system, we can help keep costs down and ensure that more young people have access to the many benefits that soccer has to offer.
In conclusion, coaches play a vital role in shaping young people's lives through soccer, and they deserve to be compensated for their work. Parent coaches who volunteer their time and effort should also receive some form of compensation or reimbursement for their expenses, such as coaching education courses and travel costs. We need to recognize the significant contributions that coaches make and take steps to ensure that the youth soccer system is more inclusive and affordable for all families.
March 19, 2023
The Car Ride Home
During my childhood, I used to get a ride to games from a friend named Alex (not his real name). Alex's father, who had a background in playing soccer, would provide us with game advice and try to improve our understanding of soccer during the ride to and from game day. However, I later realized that his behavior would change significantly based on the game's outcome, and he would often criticize Alex's performance, teammates, and coach. Although I initially believed that such behavior was normal for some parents, I became increasingly uncomfortable and agitated over time.
Our team was competitive, and during a state cup game against one of the state's best teams, Alex played an outstanding game and scored two of the three goals that resulted in a 3-3 tie. However, during the penalty shootout, Alex's shot was saved, and we lost the game. As we walked back to the car, Alex was missing, and his father stated that he might have gone to the restroom. After waiting for ten minutes, I walked back and found Alex sitting on the outside of the locker rooms. He had tears in his eyes and told me he didn’t want to get in the car because he feared his father's words.
I comforted Alex, and he eventually mustered the courage to return to the car, but he requested that I sit in the front seat. During the ride, Alex's father pretended to be happy. He sensed something was amiss on this day but tried to reverse his past behavior (after a loss) and was telling us that we did great. I never rode in the car with Alex and his dad again.
Alex, one of the most talented players I have ever played with, quit the sport at the end of that season due to what I always suspected because of his father's demeaning rants. But I didn’t know for sure.
Years later, I connected with Alex at a wedding, and he thanked me for comforting him that day and apologized for quitting the team and never staying in touch. He explained how difficult it was to play soccer because his father would criticize him, find faults with his game regardless of the outcome, and even give him the silent treatment for days.
This true experience made me passionate about the car ride home. At every opportunity I caution parents that their post-game behavior can significantly impact a child's soccer career. Parents who criticize their child's performance may think they're helping, but almost every time it backfires.
Parents, it's crucial to remember that kids need to play and work things out on their own and that making mistakes and not winning every game is a natural part of the development process. After each game, your child needs comforting words, and a proud parent on the car ride home no matter the outcome.
March 18, 2023
As parents, we all want to see our children succeed on the field. Parents play a huge part in the development of their young athlete. Young soccer players, need to be delicately nurtured to reach their potential. Here are some tips for parents looking to support their young soccer players:
1 Help them fall in love with the game:
Get them excited about soccer. Show them how big the game really is around the world. Encourage them to watch games on TV or in person. Help them find a role model that will inspire and motivate them.
2 Help them find ways to play at home or with friends:
Help your child find ways to play at home, in the basement, front yard, back yard, driveway, garage. Buy rebounders and cones to help. Inviting teammates over is also a great way to devellop skills and have fun at the same time.
3 Echo the same messages as the coach:
It's important to echo the same messages and values as their coach. This means reinforcing the importance of teamwork, hard work, dedication, and emphasizing the value of practice when away from team training.
4 Help them embrace and learn from mistakes:
Mistakes are inevitable. Encourage your child to embrace and learn from their mistakes, rather than getting discouraged or giving up. Help them view mistakes as indicators of needed improvement.
5 Emotionally support them no matter the result:
Winning and losing are both part of soccer, and it's important to emotionally support your child no matter the outcome. Help them celebrate their successes and learn from their losses.
6 Extract life lessons that can only be found in sports:
Soccer and sports in general offer unique opportunities for learning and personal growth. Help your child extract life lessons from their experiences on the field, such as the importance of perseverance, resilience, and sacrifice. Use these skills to enhance other areas of their life and prepare them for the real world.
March 17, 2023
As tryout season is already here, I have been receiving inquiries from many parents who are looking for the next team for their child. I understand that finding the right club can be a daunting task, especially when there are so many factors to consider.
One parent wants to leave because their daughter's team is falling apart due to a bigger club poaching their players. Another parent thinks their son has outgrown the club, and a third parent heard that their son needs to play in a regionalized league.
To all three of these parents, I gave the same answer: Go where the best coach is. It's important not to follow the masses or be fooled by leagues. It's all about building skills and learning the game.
If your child is 17 or 18 and has developed their skills, then it's important to make sure they're playing in a competitive league. However, if your child is young, then the most important thing is to find a good coach who can help them develop their skills.
Remember, finding the right club is not just about being on the most popular team or playing in the most prestigious league. It's about finding a coach who is dedicated to helping your child reach their full potential. A teacher of the game.
So, do your research and make sure you find the right fit for your child.
Good luck to all the parents and kids out there looking for the perfect club!