10 Rules for Soccer Mom Survival
(A Survival Guide for Navigating Youth Club Soccer in AMERICA)
I offer guide below in the hope of some semblance of reason can be restored the culture of apathy which has engulfed American parents especially those of female players with the astonishing explosive popularity of women’s youth soccer in the US. I hope it can be seen as a voice of reason and roadmap for others given what our family has learned over the course of 10 faithful years in the sport.
It is a set of rules or lessons we have gleaned amidst a sport that has become drastically over-professionalized, over paid, and over-hyped. Fundamentally, America is a competitive country and we should all strive to be our best. As parents who pays $3,000 – $5,000 per year per kid when you include all ancillary costs; we are by our nature A type personalities and generally the more successful and driven in the pack. As are our children!
Most players will tell you they play club to hopefully advance to a “D1 college program and/or scholarship”. The good news is any kid who plays soccer for any amount of time in any organized fashion can find a college program to suit their interest. This is still America you may not be headed to Chapel Hill but if you can kick a ball you can play somewhere.
The rules that are below are empirically tested and may seem counter intuitive to your protective nature you have with your child. Trust me they are constant, time tested and you player will benefit emotionally and psychologically.
1. You train You. Just because you have a “professional” Coach and I use that term loosely to mean “any coach with a foreign accent or any coach who is paid”. Does not mean you will be the next Alex Morgan. You get good at soccer by hours of solitary technical training with YOU – YOURSELF not a paid coach who may have gotten a brief tryout at some third rate club in the UK. There are many Youtube video’s for technical development. You need not pay hundreds of dollars for a private trainer when the same information and drill is free on the internet. YOU train YOU.
2. Family First. Be wary of a program, club or coach who consistently asks for your family to sacrifice holidays. Dallas tourny’s, trip to Disney, tourney in NC, tourney in Vegas. We all love the game folks, we would not do what we do as parents if we didn’t but when you can’t remember the last Thanksgiving turkey you ate at home – you need to stop and ask if you want to trade times at home by the fire with your daughter to pay $500-$600 bucks to freeze you stones off hoping and praying a college coach will notice your kid and shower her with scholarship offers. Sometimes socking away that weekend spend for tuition might be the wiser of the two options.
3. Be a Free Agent. When you to head off to a college combine to be evaluated or when you finally report to training camp as a Freshman College player, you likely won’t be playing with a single club player with whom you’ve likely played the majority of your life. A big problem with club soccer unlike the MLH or Major League Baseball is there is no dynamism on team composition. Club Coaches are scared to move players down once they are assigned to teams because the money is more important than the kid under her more often than not, so teams for the most part stay static – especially top teams. As a player you must be comfortable playing with different players consistently, not having that experience has impeded players on evaluation day more than you can imagine. Guest play with different clubs as much as possible. Do not let your current club discourage it.
4. Be your own Advocate. As players reach the high school age and recruiting becomes a factor. Your player is her own best advocate, not a club coach, not the record of your club team, not even if you won all your holiday tournaments. College coaches care about a few simple things – can they see you fitting into their line-up? Are you coachable? And do you have the technical ability. The competition for women’s soccer spots in college is more intense than the competition for male football spots. Selecting a college is a major life choice. Do not rely on a full time club soccer coach with a foreign accent and no college degree. It’s your future own it.
5. You are The Customer. It’s your money, your time and your player. Do not settle for less than you expect from a service standpoint. Many clubs and coaches forget that fact and are blinded by greed. I have seen many tactics many times by coaches and clubs to subvert that parental advantage. Its your kid. We send them to private schools and interview their teachers for preschool yet we turn our kids over to semi-pro has-been’s who care or know little about the psyche of pre-teen and teenage girls.
6. Play Sports be an Athlete. Many club coaches advocate not playing school sports. While this may be true for HS where the athlete should begin to focus on soccer…., our experience has been that kids, especially girls, see sports as a social activity. Most kids want to play and try other sports. In middle school especially we suggest this be encouraged rather than discouraged for a multitude of reasons – namely they are only 11 and 12 at this point and NOT being in school athletics puts them in a program with non-athlete’s where they can be exposed to elements you may not want them exposed too.
7. It’s the Politics Stupid. Be wary expressing any discontent towards your coach or club publically. Other parents are not your friends – even when you think they are. You will be ratted out in a heartbeat. Any chance they are offered to get an edge will certainly be taken. Pick your battles, and make them directly to the coach and a DoC in private with your facts and examples handy. Most club coaches do not understand the challenges we face as parents and are often disconnected and do not realize the magnitude of the impact their actions have on youth players.
8. Camps and Tournaments. These have value. However, pick the camps and tournaments wisely. Most overnight college camps are simply money making outlets for the head coach, generally accounted for in their coaching contract. The camps where they are actually “looking at players” come in the winter months and are not overnight camps. They are generally 1 or 2 day events with the designation “ID camp” and are limited to 40 or 50 players who are tested by staff and college players. Club Showcases are the worst venues for college recruiting and should be avoided. They are simply money making events for the club. Our daughter had success by way of attending the 1 day ID camps then “inviting coaches” from that camp to National Showcases like North Carolina and or Las Vegas. If they come see you play then, you have their interest.
9. High School Coaches are a resource. HS Coaches can be hit or miss. Our experience is they generally get to know the players better as they are educators first and coaches second. They care not about losing players and the tuition that goes with it and are generally immune to parental politics – unlike their counterparts on the “professionally paid side”. Use them in the recruiting process. Any college coach will tell you they take their opinions with high regard and they should not be overlooked, under-utilized or marginalized by club coaches.
10. It is Your kid. Most importantly the game should be fun for your player and your family. If it is not… DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. No coach knows a player as well as a parent. Protect them, advocate for them and ask the hard questions of your club and coach when it is warranted. You pay the salary of these coaches – demand respect and opportunity for your player and yourself. Do you let the mechanic who services your car tell you “you’re expecting too much from my services – I can’t fix your car go somewhere else?”. Then why do we let folks who would be working at Starbuck’s had they not taken a 2 week course to get a USSF coaching license have such an unchecked hold on us and our kids?
In closing, your kid, your time, your money – demand accountability, opportunity and fairness. It is after all what we are paying for…