July 15, 2011
Youth soccer is a journey, not a destination: A coach’s take by Edwin Torres
"Life is a journey, not a destination." Ralph Waldo Emerson
These wise words apply to many aspects of life, including youth soccer. Soccer is a long journey for children in the United States. Focusing too much on the destination will lead to regrets and lost time. There are many reasons why you should focus on soccer as a journey, not as a destination. Let kids enjoy soccer and their childhood.
Let your child enjoy soccer and childhood. Youth soccer starts at a young age. In my town, recreation soccer starts at age five. Travel soccer starts at age seven and continues through high school. The older kids get, the more time they spend on the soccer field. High school soccer players practice and play games six days a week. As you can see, soccer takes up a large part of childhood. That's why it's so important to make soccer enjoyable for them. If not, they will look back on their childhood with regrets. That's something no parent wants.
Have realistic expectations for your child. I looked at a 2001 team photo of the first soccer team I ever coached. The kids were just five years old. There were twelve players on the team. Only three of them are still playing soccer. When kids are young, they are still figuring out if soccer is for them. Let them discover the game and enjoy it. It may turn out that they don't enjoy the game as much as you want them too. Even if they continue to play soccer through high school, don't expect it to continue in college. Less than 6% of high school senior boys who play soccer for their school go on to play in college. That equates to about one or two players on the high school varsity team.
Remember the valuable life lessons soccer can teach. There are many lessons to be learned during this long soccer journey. Players learn about commitment and discipline. They learn that achievements only come after hard work. They develop relationships with other players, coaches and trainers. They learn time management skills; juggling soccer, schoolwork and a social life is no small task. Don't underestimate the importance of these lessons. These teachings will help with not only soccer but also life.
If all you want from soccer is a college scholarship for your child, you are setting yourself up for failure. Chances are your child won't even play in college. Remember that there's more to soccer than reaching the highest levels. Let them enjoy their childhood. Give them a chance to develop a love for the game. Allow them to learn valuable life lessons. This is what you want from soccer. If they make it to the college level, great! If not, they still had the journey of their lives.
Check back next week for another great article.