THE CRAZY SEASON
Austin Daniels, Arizona Youth Soccer Association (AYSA) Technical Director
The crazy season has arrived on the Arizona youth soccer scene... It's tryout time!!! What is it about tryout time that makes normally professional adults act immaturely and unprofessionally? Why does this time of year change adults? Are they like this all year round but hide it during other parts of the season? It's a question I ask myself every year around this time. It seems during the tryout season that many adults, coaches, and parents turn to have all the worst qualities that we dislike; greedy, selfish and unreasonable behavior.
Is the grass always greener this time of year or is it greener all year but this is the time they can find that greener patch?
Most people know what I'm referring to. If you don't, it's the perpetual searching for the perfect coach and the perfect team that will win every game and get every player a full scholarship to play in college even if they are 7 years old. Where did this craziness come from?
I'm afraid to say it came from us, the adults. The kids didn't create this environment. The adult coaches, parents and administrators have. We all have had a hand in creating this type of environment... It is something we need to change.
How do we as adults change this environment that we have created?
First we need to take a step back and take a realistic view of where we are in the big picture. This is youth soccer not the professionals. Most players are playing to have fun, be with friends and improve and learn. Ask most players if they would rather play in games and lose or sit on the bench and win championships most players will opt on playing. Of course they all want to win but playing is the upmost importance.
Most of the players will not be receive a college scholarship. Many will not even continue to play in high school. Almost no one will make it to the professional level. So why do we treat every game as if it's the final of the World Cup?
Coaches need to understand that we are not at the level of Jose Mourinho or Alex Ferguson. We are at the level of the local school teacher working hard every day to make sure the players are as successful as they can be. If we can create an open fun and learning environment we would be amazed at how much better players will be.
Parents keep in mind why your children play. Understand that you can't solve every problem that arises in your child's life. Your child needs to learn how to solve problems on their own. They may need help on how to solve issues that arise, but let them work on their problem solving skills; it will help them in the long run.As administrators we need to constantly look at the competitions we've set up and determine how much emphasis we put on wining. Every player strives to win whenever they step on the field. As adults we have to watch that we don't over emphasize the winning of a competition so not to put too much pressure on players.During this tryout season take a look at your current situation. It may not be perfect but can you help make it better by staying? The solution is not always moving to the next imperfect situation.
Hopefully everyone can analyze where they are now and make a non emotional decision on what is best for their child. Keep in mind each club and team should be striving for a positive, creative, learning environment that is fun. At the end of the day soccer should be and is a fun game. There isn't a player out there that goes to work soccer; the players go to play soccer. Have fun and enjoy the summer.
How soccer parents can avoid the trap of "the next big thing" (Extract from Jon Akin - US Men's National Team Scout article in NSCAA Soccer Journal)
There is an epidemic of parents and youth players looking for “the next best thing.” You see it day in and day out at the club level during tryout time. Parents and players frantically try to line up what they think is a better situation for the coming season – the one that might give them a chance to make regional teams or get more looks from college scouts or just bragging rights with the other parents waiting in the school carpool lane. And many people’s moral compasses, and their ability to see the big picture, go right out the window.
Overzealous parents and coaches sell the opportunities that their club can offer over other clubs. They offer enticements like the big-name tournaments they will attend and their high-powered coaching staff (which you may or may not get because the coaching turnover is almost as high as the roster turnover). So every year during tryout time, players and parents are looking for “the next best thing.” It resembles a zoo: players go to three different tryouts on three different nights while parents set up different tryout times so they can showcase their kids. The kids are stressed, the parents are stressed and people often do some unethical things under the guise of “doing what is best for their children”. For parents who play these games, allow me to make an observation: you are doing your children a disservice.
First, you are putting an undue amount of stress on your child. The game of soccer should be fun. It should be about working together and overcoming obstacles as a team.
Second, you are creating an environment where your children are always looking for that “next best thing.” Instead of being happy where they are, facing the challenges and learning from that environment, you are swapping your kids around before they get a chance to learn anything.
In my opinion, children in this prolonged environment could, later in life, learn to look for new jobs once a year in lieu of mastering one. They might change careers four and five times because one company offers an extra weekend of vacation or another doesn’t offer immediate advancement. Worse still, they may soon start to look for different boyfriends and girlfriends or, perhaps, wives or husbands, because one is better looking or has more money. These outcomes may seem extreme but they should also come with a measure of credence: if the child is taught the grass is always greener on the other side through their youth soccer experiences, what prevents them from taking the same tract in more impactful life decisions?
Also, what about the time-tested, all important quality of loyalty that gets thrown out the window as we SHOP for a better deal for our children’s soccer playing experience. Teaching children loyalty will ultimately far outweigh the extra showcase that the new club is offering. Finally, when you drag your kid from team to team, you are depriving them of fond long-lasting memories of tight friendships – and intense rivalries — that are some big reasons why they will love the sport for a lifetime.
I recommend you do a few things. Play with your local club. The time you save by not having to make a crazy, 90-minute commute to be on the team that’s “the next big thing” is valuable time that you can spend as a family. Or it will give your child an opportunity to eat at home instead of forcing down fast food and focusing on doing homework at home instead of distractedly doing it in the car. Don’t believe that you’re missing out by sticking with your current club. There are a lot of good coaches out there. The things that you should be concerned about when it comes where to play are simple: Is the coach knowledgeable about the sport? Is your child learning? Is your child being treated with respect? If a child is not being challenged, that is a good time to leave. But don’t leave just because your child is not getting enough playing time. Let your child deal with the situation. They will be a better person for learning how to deal with that adversity. And don’t buy into that old line that “If our U-14 team doesn’t get into the Upper Saskatchewan Mid-Winter Snow Frolic College Showcase, he/she won’t get the looks from scouts and will never play in college.” At the U-17 and U-18 divisions, it might be helpful for teams in the top divisions to attend some showcases, but having your child work the Internet and take a proactive approach in contacting college coaches about his interest in their school – and letting them get to know him — will get your kid just as far.
Your son or daughter will most likely end up at the level of soccer that they deserve based on how much time they put into the game, which is a strong contrast to the belief that a coach or an environment will get you where you need to go.