Travel team questions

Devizier

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 3, 2000
14,748
Somewhere
My son (age 7) picked up soccer in a big way this year. He had been doing clinics on and off the previous few years but hadn’t started playing on a team until this spring. He had a good season and wanted to keep going. On a lark, he tried out for a local travel team. I sincerely didn’t think he would make it, until he did (today). It’s a great recognition of his effort and I’m proud of him. But… I’m a little on the fence here. If we tell him, he will be completely on board, and telling him is essentially agreeing to so it. On the other hand, I’m worried about the culture of travel leagues, the demands of the schedule, etc. My son is pretty sensitive and can be hyper competitive so I’m not positive this is the right thing for us. I also don’t love giving up a bunch of weekends. But I don’t want to deny him the chance at doing something he loves and is good at.

I know some of you all have (or had) kids in travel leagues and I’d love to hear your thoughts.
 

nayrbrey

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 20, 2005
1,456
Driving somewhere most likely
Hey @Devizier that's great he has taken an interest in soccer. My youngest is 11 and has been doing a town travel league since he was 8, and did an in town development league for 2 years before that. Travel in our league (Essex County MA) starts at G4 (3rd/4th grade) and 7v7, he now is going into his second year at G6 (5th/6th) 9v9. He loves it, and it is great experience for him and myself (I'm one of his coaches). Is this a club team or a local town/regional team? Usually in the G4 or lower ages there are no standings or stats kept by the league, although if its a club that may be different.

Depending on the league and the various towns it can get competitive at times, but other than a parent or two who thinks their kid is the second coming of Messi, we've had nothing but positive experiences with it. Games are usually on Saturdays with 2 practices a week, which can take up a chunk of time.

It has become a great bonding experience for us every weekend, something that, as they grow older, there will be fewer opportunities for.
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

Member
SoSH Member
Mar 26, 2005
23,411
My son (age 7) picked up soccer in a big way this year. He had been doing clinics on and off the previous few years but hadn’t started playing on a team until this spring. He had a good season and wanted to keep going. On a lark, he tried out for a local travel team. I sincerely didn’t think he would make it, until he did (today). It’s a great recognition of his effort and I’m proud of him. But… I’m a little on the fence here. If we tell him, he will be completely on board, and telling him is essentially agreeing to so it. On the other hand, I’m worried about the culture of travel leagues, the demands of the schedule, etc. My son is pretty sensitive and can be hyper competitive so I’m not positive this is the right thing for us. I also don’t love giving up a bunch of weekends. But I don’t want to deny him the chance at doing something he loves and is good at.

I know some of you all have (or had) kids in travel leagues and I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Sounds like my kid. Congrats on making the team.

Travel soccer certainly has its ups and downs but it sounds like it's going to be inevitable so I think unless you have a good reason for him not to play. Hopefully you will get lucky with your team. Our kid ended up playing on his group's "B" team, which was fine with me as he got to play more and the parents weren't as intense. Of course it also meant that he got blown out some times until his squad got built up. (Note: it's also meant fewer injuries as some of the "A" team games are ridiculous.)

And yes losing weekends to soccer kind of sucks but maybe you can find a good nearby restaurant with a decent drink selection. After a couple of drinks, I always wonder why I had to tag along with my Dad as he did the stuff he wanted while now I have to tag along after my son.

Good luck.
 

Mugsy's Jock

Eli apologist
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Dec 28, 2000
12,703
UWS, NYC
The "giving up all your weekends" thing was very real when my son was playing travel baseball, and hiding that resentment and fatigue took a lot of energy.

I think it'd be a good idea to get to know the other parents on the team as quickly as possible, hopefully you'll have some friends or friends-of-friends connections there. That can make all the difference in the world for your travel and endurance: "the McNultys will take you on the Allentown trip this weekend, and we'll take you and little Timmy out to Schenectady next weekend."

Also good idea to connect with the coach to understand his/her philosophy for the season. If the coach wants to try to win every game and develop the best players versus getting everyone a rotation, that's manageable so long as everyone has a clear take on that going in. Or if certain league games get treated differently than league tournaments. Just best to know where they're coming from.
 

Doug Beerabelli

Killer Threads
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Depending upon sport/team/level of commitment asked of players, you may find the schedule also includes summer. Probably not yet at this age, but something to think about going forward. I did the travel baseball coaching thing for 7 years, and it definitely limited our ability to go away for summer weekends, and plan some trips.

Try to keep things fun for him as long as possible.
 

bankshot1

Member
SoSH Member
Feb 12, 2003
20,720
where I was last at
Congrats to your son. My daughter, now 25, played travel soccer and hoops, from about 7-13, (suburban NJ) before settling on tennis. Travel sports is a time commitment for everyone, mom and dad too. You will play a lot less golf (or tennis or) and watch a lot less sports on TV, as there are usually games on the week-end. But in general its fun for the kids. And its also a responsibility to be managed, kid and parents.

I had two unpleasant experiences, one with an over zealous loud-mouth dad who was coaching his kid from the sidelines, (a no-no, which most leagues make you sign a pledge not to do), and i suggested if he was a coach, he should cross the field and coach from the bench, if not, he should watch and enjoy the game. He didn't like my suggestion., but eventually he understood the point. I asked him if all parents should shout instructions to their kids? I thought I was going to get decked. But he shut up.

The other was with a soccer mom-team manager who took 10 YO girls playing a game far too seriously and I had to deal with a very upset 10 YO on a drive home who never saw the field that day. (another no-no).
Soccer-mom and i had a discussion after the game and she blamed the coach. The coach blamed her. Some parents can be assholes, but most are really good people, and I made some good friends. The positives far outweight the negatives. Go for it and good luck to you and your son and have fun.
 

Fred not Lynn

Dick Button Jr.
SoSH Member
Jul 13, 2005
4,947
Alberta
Be wary of any program that asks your child to focus solely on one sport year round. I couldn’t tell from your post if the program you’re talking about does that.

As far as “losing your weekends and summer vacation”, I never though of it that way when my son was playing baseball. Think of it as gaining something to do and people to do it with each weekend, and you’re going to have soccer vacations instead of summer vacations.

I do think that the whole youth-sports-industrial-complex needs to pivot away from true “travel” teams. There are enough players playing at a decent enough level in most sports to have competitive level play in most metropolitan areas without people needing to drive more than 2 hours to games/tournaments on a regular basis. I’d rather see the money spent on airfare, uniforms and hotels get spent on excellent coaching, facilities, officiating and management.
 

Devizier

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 3, 2000
14,748
Somewhere
Just for clarification, the league schedule seems reasonable enough:

Practice 2 nights a week, games on Sundays. Practices go from late August to November, with games beginning in mid-September.

They do have a spring travel league, but it looks like U9 are not included. Most of the travel is within <30 minutes. The furthest that I can see in the spring schedule is Butler, about 50 minutes away.
 

DeJesus Built My Hotrod

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Dec 24, 2002
35,829
I coached travel baseball for around eight years and the only points I would highlight are that ideally, the team has fairly transparent process for everything (development, playing time, timetables for player promotion etc) and that you stay on top of how your son/you are feeling as you go through this journey. We had a policy in our house where you had to finish any season you started, regardless of how bad it was (and there were some rough ones) but you could hang it up immediately after. The last thing you want to do is to drag a kid off to a travel game when neither of you wants to go.

That said, you are a sports fan and your son clearly has taken to soccer. I suspect like many of us who went through travel sports, the benefits will far outweigh some of the considerable costs. At the very least, you will have a ton of stories.
 

Foxy42

Member
SoSH Member
Mar 1, 2002
3,398
nyc
Just for clarification, the league schedule seems reasonable enough:

Practice 2 nights a week, games on Sundays. Practices go from late August to November, with games beginning in mid-September.

They do have a spring travel league, but it looks like U9 are not included. Most of the travel is within <30 minutes. The furthest that I can see in the spring schedule is Butler, about 50 minutes away.
This is helpful, ‘Travel Team’ is a very generic term these days (as is ‘Club Team’). My take would be that the time commitment is light relative to what I see for lots of other teams / club sports. One extra practice a week and a 20 mins more of a drive to get to the field on Sunday. My experience has been that it is all about the coach. Programs are often just logos. It’s the coach that matters to your kid (and the parents that matter a lot for you).

I wouldn’t think of quitting (outside of an abusive coach / similar type issue) as being an option going in as if he likes but doesn’t love it, he’ll still learn about commitment and balance and then maybe decides not to return in the spring.

One of my kids is doing ‘club’ hockey in addition to his town team and some other sports (soccer and flag in the fall, soccer and lax in the spring). I realize it sounds crazy, but it works for him. He’s got a non stop motor and complains when he has five minutes of no activity. His brother on the other hand is ‘full’ with just one team to focus on and wants his down time to do crafts, read, chill, etc. which works for him.

My overactive guy just broke a bone in his left hand tubing on vacation and we have an ortho appt tomm (X-ray showing the fracture was today). I’m guessing we will be cancelling his camps for the summer and dealing w a stir crazy kid. Fingers crossed for good news tomm.
 

troparra

Member
SoSH Member
Jan 3, 2007
1,838
Michigan
We were pleasantly surprised by the culture of my son's travel team (lacrosse, not soccer). It is a regional team, so there are kids from something like 7 or 8 different school districts. The coaches are college coaches who are doing side work in the summer. They lay out what the program is about, what to expect, what happens regarding playing time, and so on. They offer a lot of individualized feedback, they offer suggestions on what to do to get better, and they overall are very supportive and positive. It has been a far better experience than anything we have experienced locally.

In our experience, the culture problems manifest themselves on school teams. So many parents are desperate for their kid to make varsity or to start or whatever, it gets a little nuts. Some of these parents are always in the coach's ear telling them god knows what. You (the coach) have to be a pretty strong person to be able to withstand the onslaught. We've had good and bad experiences playing lacrosse locally. But on the travel team, it has been nothing but good.
 
Last edited:

Deathofthebambino

Drive Carefully
SoSH Member
Apr 12, 2005
34,697
I could probably write a couple of books about this. Let's just say sports now are nothing like they were when I was a kid. When I was a kid, you played a fall sport, a winter sport and a spring sport. For me, the spring sport was baseball, and that morphed by the time I reached aged 9 into March-September. We played about 100 games per summer from age 9-15 or so. The only reason we did was because we had a coach in my small town who loved baseball, had no kids and would enter his "all star" teams (he coached probably 8-10 different teams and age groups in town per year) into every tournament, league, etc. he could find. By the time I was 12, my parents would drop me off in the morning at the field, we'd get onto the bus (he bought a bus that was solely dedicated to little league, and was painted in our town's colors) and whenever we got home after playing 3-4 games around the state, our parents would pick us up. There is a very well known little league here in Eastern Mass. that is now named after him.

When my son turned 7, and was playing baseball, it was made very clear that if you didn't start committing year round to a sport, you'd never have a chance to play varsity at high school. I live in Andover, which has a massive D1 sports program in almost every sport, and if the town didn't have about 1,000 high school aged students who left for private schools (including mine now), they'd dominate everything. Instead, we now have kids that get recruited by private schools starting in middle school and by the time they get to high school, they leave.

But it was shocking to me. I decided early on that I wouldn't be a "manager." I got sucked in year after year to be an "assistant coach" in which I was basically just a cheerleader and the guy who kept the book on Gameday, mostly because I was one of the most knowledgeable parents about the sport. I loved being involved and going to games (my son was/is pretty good, which made it a bit more palatable) within the town, and some of the local summer travel stuff, but for a couple of years, we also had him playing club baseball, throughout the year. That was miserable, for him and me, because you basically paid a ton of money to spend 6-7 months practicing baseball indoors and then when the spring came, it was always "Matt can't pitch for his town team tonight, we need him on Friday for the club team and vice versa..."

My son turned 13 this past February, and that's when he was supposed to make the move to the big diamond. I told him it was time to hang them up. He's a swimmer, he swims 6x's a week, 2 hours a day and just got a varsity letter as a 7th grader. He loves the meets, hates the practices, but he's really good at it. He also loves golf, and is now playing 2-3 tournaments a week through the state Junior PGA program, and then practicing at the range, etc. every chance he gets (which is walking distance from our house). We had to cut something out, and whereas baseball is my first love when it comes to sports, it was an easy decision. His swim practices are local and my wife handles all of that, his meets can be upwards of 2 hours away, but they are only once a month or so. I take him to all of his golf stuff.

My 10 year old daughter is a synchronized swimmer. That's it, year round, 4x's a week, 3 hours a day, but she's on a plane on a monthly basis once the pandemic is over. Don't even get me started.
 

Doug Beerabelli

Killer Threads
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
I've had a "near-Death" experience with my now 16 year old son (lol). I Asst coached baseball travel team from 7-14 years old. I was probably simlarly involved as Death, and I was the book guy, but also did a lot of team travel planning for tournaments, and our CT team hit MA, RI, PA, NY, NJ, MD and DE over the years. He played basketball and soccer for bit, when it was easier to fit in, but was all baseball late. But he was golfing the whole time, did jr clinics and then PGA Junior league at our club, and started playing in some the CT Jr PGA tour events in eighth grade. Alas, the baseball swing and golf swing did not co-exist well for him and he decided after 14U baseball he wanted to dedicate himself solely to golf. It's been a great choice for him. He'll be a junior next year. After a good first HS golf season this spring (his frosh year got cancelled), he's doing a combo of tournaments on the CT Jr PGA tour, the CSGA, and some of the regional tournaments like Hurricane Tour and US Challenge Cup this summer and fall.

And for a Death's daughter analogue, my now junior in college daughter did competitive dancing from about 8 through HS graduation. Competion season was spring, and the wife and I would oftensay "see you Sunday" most weekends. She wasn't as successful as your sychronized swimmer, but has traveled to MA, NJ, and FL for competitions, as well as to Germany for a worldwide tap dance competition. I never caught flack for expensive baseball bats because the total annual baseball cost soup to nuts was about 20% of the annual dance costs.

All that said, travel was an overall wonderful experience with great memores, although there was certainly a strong dose of ridiculousness and stupidity underlying the whole experience. But that comes with the territory.
 

Foxy42

Member
SoSH Member
Mar 1, 2002
3,398
nyc
Just got the draft practice schedule for my kids club and town hockey teams. They 100% overlap unless he makes town A team (probably a 50/50 proposition). I won’t be telling him this pre tryouts (9/1). If he doesn’t make A, then he has to tell the town team he can not make any of the practices (club practice is mandatory), which sucks and I hate the message it sends.
 

BaseballJones

ivanvamp
SoSH Member
Oct 1, 2015
13,193
Be wary of any program that asks your child to focus solely on one sport year round. I couldn’t tell from your post if the program you’re talking about does that.
Late to the party here, but this is great advice. I coach high school volleyball and I absolutely want our kids to be multi-sport athletes. It's good for them socially, it's good for them athletically, it's good for their bodies, and even college coaches VERY much prefer that high school kids are multi-sport athletes.
 

Humphrey

Member
SoSH Member
Aug 3, 2010
1,632
Late to the party here, but this is great advice. I coach high school volleyball and I absolutely want our kids to be multi-sport athletes. It's good for them socially, it's good for them athletically, it's good for their bodies, and even college coaches VERY much prefer that high school kids are multi-sport athletes.
I think soccer's the worst in terms of trying to force kids to play all year round.
 

troparra

Member
SoSH Member
Jan 3, 2007
1,838
Michigan
I think soccer's the worst in terms of trying to force kids to play all year round.
This may be true. We moved to a new town when my son was in 2nd grade. He was playing rec league soccer, and I noticed another, more advanced league of little kids playing on an adjacent field. I asked one of the parents what it was, he said it was a local travel team U8 game.
I looked that team up, and all kids were required to play year round.

This wasn't the case for other sports my son played as a kid (baseball, lacrosse, basketball).
 

Fred not Lynn

Dick Button Jr.
SoSH Member
Jul 13, 2005
4,947
Alberta
I think soccer's the worst in terms of trying to force kids to play all year round.
The fundamental problem is that the guys running the program have to pay rent and buy groceries year round…fix that and you’ll fix the “early specialization” problem!

(I actually DO think a certain amount of year round stuff is ok, but periodized. Maybe baseball three days a week in summer, but just once a week in winter, switched off with hockey, for instance. That way kids don’t have to actually re-learn every new season)
 

Doug Beerabelli

Killer Threads
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
The soccer coaches at that age are probably part time, and have other jobs. Maybe the overall league director for all age groups is full time. This might not be the case for the really top end programs.

If enough parents says “no” to year round participation at the younger ages , it would work itself out. Very few do, and I think part is that reason is parental fear that not sticking with the year round program in 4th grade or whatever will materially and adversely impact their kids’ soccer careers in their teens. I’m not against year round stuff at that age if the interest and demand is there, but I agree it’s a bad idea to specialize too early, and also hope parents can gain an early enough perspective to mix up the sports or skip seasons or summer stuff.
 

Saints Rest

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
The fundamental problem is that the guys running the program have to pay rent and buy groceries year round…fix that and you’ll fix the “early specialization” problem!

(I actually DO think a certain amount of year round stuff is ok, but periodized. Maybe baseball three days a week in summer, but just once a week in winter, switched off with hockey, for instance. That way kids don’t have to actually re-learn every new season)
My friend is in the same boat I am, where his son is good enough to play travel soccer and travel baseball. His arrangement has typically been that in the fall, soccer comes first and baseball fits into the holes; in the spring, it flips.
Our travel/club soccer here requires that the kids only play that soccer team, but does not say no to other sports as long as the commitment to soccer remains high.
 

DeJesus Built My Hotrod

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Dec 24, 2002
35,829
In addition to the economic reasons, my sense is that club teams ask for full year commitments for other practical reasons.

First, you will simply have a more connected team that way as the group has self selected. This typically means better practices, team chemistry and hopefully results in better performance.

More importantly, its often meant to dissuade type A parents from signing their kids up for multiple sports at the same time. While I completely agree that playing one sport year round is not ideal for the players, there are people who want this experience. How fair is it to them when they are fully committed but practices are lightly attended or teams scramble to get a tourney roster together because teammates have conflicts with other sports? Having enough players for a game/tourney is a real issue for these teams too.

I cannot tell you how many unnecessarily stressed out kids and parents I have seen running around on their weekends because of over scheduling. I also have yet to see anyone successfully balance multiple sports but I know they exist...but my experience suggests that they are the exception.

If a parent feels like a club commitment is a chore, you have a parent. If a player feels similarly, you likely have a problem.
 

DJnVa

Dorito Dawg
SoSH Member
Dec 16, 2010
44,762
My 2 kids both played travel level soccer.

They both had 2 practices a week (my son's club added in a optional day at local sports trainer--optional, but it was included in dues) and played anywhere up to 3 hours away for league games, but generally not that far (and, of course, the tourneys which necessitated a weekend away). Luckily, it got so much easier once they could drive themselves to practices. And once they hit the U15 level, the club team only played in fall as school soccer was in the spring.

They both had a good experience though. In fact, my daughter decided to only play club her last 2 seasons, not varsity (although her junior season would have been lost to pandemic). It was interesting because her JV coach in 10th grade was also the varsity assistant and was her club coach the last 2 seasons--he really wanted her to come out for school but never pushed it. She was his captain and #2 scorer as sophomore but understood sometimes kids make decisions to move on.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 2, 2006
19,307
Philadelphia
In addition to the economic reasons, my sense is that club teams ask for full year commitments for other practical reasons.

First, you will simply have a more connected team that way as the group has self selected. This typically means better practices, team chemistry and hopefully results in better performance.

More importantly, its often meant to dissuade type A parents from signing their kids up for multiple sports at the same time. While I completely agree that playing one sport year round is not ideal for the players, there are people who want this experience. How fair is it to them when they are fully committed but practices are lightly attended or teams scramble to get a tourney roster together because teammates have conflicts with other sports? Having enough players for a game/tourney is a real issue for these teams too.

I cannot tell you how many unnecessarily stressed out kids and parents I have seen running around on their weekends because of over scheduling. I also have yet to see anyone successfully balance multiple sports but I know they exist...but my experience suggests that they are the exception.

If a parent feels like a club commitment is a chore, you have a parent. If a player feels similarly, you likely have a problem.
I think its also just a matter of skill improvement. Its hard to improve fundamental skills at a high trajectory in a sport like soccer or tennis if you're only playing 3-4 months out of the year. And given how competitive youth sports have become, when there are a bunch of kids out there hitting backhands or dribbling a ball 3-4 times a week all year, if you're only playing a few months you're going to fall behind. From an athleticism standpoint, it can be good to play multiple sports but athleticism tends to become less important vis-a-vis skills as kids play higher and higher levels of competition.
 

Cumberland Blues

Dope
Dope
Sep 9, 2001
4,940
If a parent feels like a club commitment is a chore, you have a parent. If a player feels similarly, you likely have a problem.
This is spot on. Getting kids to all these various commitments is a huge time suck - it is a chore for parents. If they're doing it for any reason other than that their kid loves being there, they should stop. I only have one kid - but live in the middle of nowhere so every sport felt like travel given the drive times to practices/games...so we resisted the push for him to join an actual travel program until he aged out of Little League and the only way to get to play ball against decent competition was to try out for a travel team. I absolutely love baseball - but hate that it takes 40+ minutes (one way) to get him to practice. I do it because he loves it and thankfully we landed in a program that has a terrific group of kids and parents - so I grin and bear it while burning all my vacation hours on baseball transport. No way I'd do it though if my kid wasn't fully invested in it.
 

Devizier

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 3, 2000
14,748
Somewhere
We inked the commitment yesterday.

The sign-up required insurance information (okay...) and a birth certificate (!). I get that they want to avoid a Danny Almonte situation, but seriously, the kid isn't even 8 yet.

We also learned that our payment covers Fall and Spring, so I hope it works out.
 

Fred not Lynn

Dick Button Jr.
SoSH Member
Jul 13, 2005
4,947
Alberta
From an athleticism standpoint, it can be good to play multiple sports but athleticism tends to become less important vis-a-vis skills as kids play higher and higher levels of competition.
Not until they’re at least 13…and yes, early specialization does breed early competitive proficiency. If your goal is to be the best 12 year-old at your sport, early specialization is definitely the way to go - if your goal is to be a successful high school/college/adult athlete, having the discipline to let those making short-sighted choices get a bit ahead of you while you develop absolute athleticism will pay off handsomely in the end.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 2, 2006
19,307
Philadelphia
Not until they’re at least 13…and yes, early specialization does breed early competitive proficiency. If your goal is to be the best 12 year-old at your sport, early specialization is definitely the way to go - if your goal is to be a successful high school/college/adult athlete, having the discipline to let those making short-sighted choices get a bit ahead of you while you develop absolute athleticism will pay off handsomely in the end.
I can't speak for the sporting world in general but in the sports that I know best, (soccer and, to a much lesser extent, tennis), this just isn't true at all. In fact, it is the reverse. Oftentimes, kids with the best technical skills in soccer actually aren't the best 12-year-olds - at that age, differences in growth and physical development can swamp everything else and the best kid is some man child who just kicks the ball past everybody and beats them to it. But by 16 or 17 its the kids who have developed the best technique that have risen head and shoulders above everybody else and who have the brightest future ahead of them, and the only way to get there is to spend an ungodly amount of time learning to manipulate a ball with your foot from the ages of 5-15. There is a reason why the best soccer academies around the world don't have their kids spend half the year playing basketball.
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

Member
SoSH Member
Mar 26, 2005
23,411
I think its also just a matter of skill improvement. Its hard to improve fundamental skills at a high trajectory in a sport like soccer or tennis if you're only playing 3-4 months out of the year. And given how competitive youth sports have become, when there are a bunch of kids out there hitting backhands or dribbling a ball 3-4 times a week all year, if you're only playing a few months you're going to fall behind. From an athleticism standpoint, it can be good to play multiple sports but athleticism tends to become less important vis-a-vis skills as kids play higher and higher levels of competition.
Well the good thing about athleticism is that if a kid is talented enough, he'll pick up the skills pretty quickly.

I've posted before that I think kids would get more training playing an afternoon of pickup soccer on the weekends rather than whatever training they get in a typical week of two practices and one or two matches but alas, decent pick-up games among kids seem to be a relic of the past.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 2, 2006
19,307
Philadelphia
Well the good thing about athleticism is that if a kid is talented enough, he'll pick up the skills pretty quickly.

I've posted before that I think kids would get more training playing an afternoon of pickup soccer on the weekends rather than whatever training they get in a typical week of two practices and one or two matches but alas, decent pick-up games among kids seem to be a relic of the past.
I don't want to further derail this thread but I would actually argue the opposite. The biggest reason American kids are generally pretty terrible at soccer is because they don't spend nearly enough time working on fundamental skills and spend too much time playing matches. The skill level you actually need to be legitimately good at soccer just isn't something even a talented athlete picks up very quickly.

Small sided 3 v 3 or 4 v 4 pickup games are great as they help develop skills as well as basic game intelligence and understanding of movement and combination play. But 11 v 11 or 9 v 9 is pretty bad for skill development because you just don't touch the ball nearly enough.

To bring this back to the actual thread topic, there are lots of very good reasons for kids to play multiple sports during different seasons rather than concentrate on soccer. But becoming a better soccer player isn't one of them.
 

Fred not Lynn

Dick Button Jr.
SoSH Member
Jul 13, 2005
4,947
Alberta
I don't want to further derail this thread but I would actually argue the opposite. The biggest reason American kids are generally pretty terrible at soccer is because they don't spend nearly enough time working on fundamental skills and spend too much time playing matches.
I would counter that the reason the US isn’t as good at soccer as other countries (a slightly different thing than you said, but related) is that the best athletes in the US are choosing other sports.

I totally concur that there’s too much formal, organized competition, like tournaments and matches in proportion to practice - but I’d also say that there’s a huge UNDER emphasis on unstructured free-play. And of course THAT is because there’s no money to be made on the sandlot…it’s the endless afternoons of kicking, throwing, skating, shinny that really build life and sport skills!
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 2, 2006
19,307
Philadelphia
I would counter that the reason the US isn’t as good at soccer as other countries (a slightly different thing than you said, but related) is that the best athletes in the US are choosing other sports.
Honestly, this is just not the case. On a purely athletic level, the top US players have long been as good or better than any other country in the world. Where US players have tended to fall short (and this is now changing somewhat) is in technical skill and "soccer intelligence" or just instinctual understanding of movement, space, tactics. This isn't just my opinion, its a pretty universally held belief among people who follow this stuff.

I totally concur that there’s too much formal, organized competition, like tournaments and matches in proportion to practice - but I’d also say that there’s a huge UNDER emphasis on unstructured free-play. And of course THAT is because there’s no money to be made on the sandlot…it’s the endless afternoons of kicking, throwing, skating, shinny that really build life and sport skills!
I agree wholeheartedly with this. I think unstructured free play is hugely important, especially for building that instinctive understanding of a sport. Its also fun, which isn't necessarily true of just going through structured drills for hours on end.
 

troparra

Member
SoSH Member
Jan 3, 2007
1,838
Michigan
I can't speak for the sporting world in general but in the sports that I know best, (soccer and, to a much lesser extent, tennis), this just isn't true at all. In fact, it is the reverse. Oftentimes, kids with the best technical skills in soccer actually aren't the best 12-year-olds - at that age, differences in growth and physical development can swamp everything else and the best kid is some man child who just kicks the ball past everybody and beats them to it. But by 16 or 17 its the kids who have developed the best technique that have risen head and shoulders above everybody else and who have the brightest future ahead of them, and the only way to get there is to spend an ungodly amount of time learning to manipulate a ball with your foot from the ages of 5-15. There is a reason why the best soccer academies around the world don't have their kids spend half the year playing basketball.
Just going from my kids sports last year, there are some sports where advanced technical skills are important. As you said, tennis is one of them. My daughter was 1 singles on her HS team this year, and while she was really good, she played some highly ranked players that just demolished her. To beat those girls, my daughter would have had to improve her tennis skills (shot placement, more reliable serve, etc.).

My son, meanwhile, played JV lacrosse. One of his classmates was pulled up to varsity, and some of the parents were a bit surprised by this because he wasn't one of the star players through the years. But he was 6'1" or 6'2", 200+ lbs and really fast. He was good at lacrosse, but there were more skillful players in his grade (my son wasn't one of them), but these skilled players were all small kids.

In some sports size, strength, and athleticism may be more important than skill. Football is one of them, and I'm sure football coaches love multi-sport athletes.
 

Humphrey

Member
SoSH Member
Aug 3, 2010
1,632
Honestly, this is just not the case. On a purely athletic level, the top US players have long been as good or better than any other country in the world. Where US players have tended to fall short (and this is now changing somewhat) is in technical skill and "soccer intelligence" or just instinctual understanding of movement, space, tactics. This isn't just my opinion, its a pretty universally held belief among people who follow this stuff.

I agree wholeheartedly with this. I think unstructured free play is hugely important, especially for building that instinctive understanding of a sport. Its also fun, which isn't necessarily true of just going through structured drills for hours on end.
There's only so many places the ball can go. I can tell you that as a referee it's not that hard to figure out where the next play/challenge is going to happen. Doesn't mean you'll get the call right, but at least you can figure out where to go to see it the best you can. I wouldn't mind some commentator diagramming the action from a big game and telling the audience where the weaknesses in the opponent's defense are; but you rarely get that.