Entering the Twilight Zone of H.S. Soccer

Discussion in 'High School' started by RunSudoSane, Mar 20, 2012.

  1. RunSudoSane

    RunSudoSane Member

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2011
    I am normally an ardent supporter of H.S. Soccer, but I just returned from a parents and players meeting with my son's high school coaches. (We play high school soccer in the spring here, location and school not important, don't ask)

    I would like to say the meeting was a run of the mill, get the info the parents need into their hands, and say a little about the program and coaches' philosophy.

    Well, the info part was run of the mill. Boosters, fund raiser, fees, etc.

    The philosophy and stated emphasis of the coaches has me feeling like I just finished watching Rod Sterling, and an episode of The Twilight Zone. I almost can't believe what I just heard. I will try to coherently lay it out for you, and then I will tell you what two other parents, who have experience (this is our first year) in the program told me afterward.

    First, all of pre-season training is uber focused on fitness. We are a week or so into this so I was not surprised by this info. More so I was surprised that the coaches were so blunt about the focus. Now, I know that fitness and agility are important aspects of soccer, but great players, and even good players, spend a huge portion of their training time until the age of 18 on skill work, technique and small game play. Heck, even after 18, much time is spent with the ball.

    Second, the kids were not encouraged to play pick-up together prior to the season. In fact, the coaches said it was counter productive, because it's not organized enough. What? Isn't that the point, to get the coaches out of the way a couple times a week.

    Third, and this is where I talked with a couple other parents. These other parents, also former high level players, said that the coaches do indeed focus on pretty much only fitness. They went on to tell me that the practices during the season focused almost entirely on player positioning and what EXACTLY each players role is, at all times.

    I said that the kids needed to know what is expected of them. The parents told me that it's a little over the top; that the coaches just go over and over things like dumping the ball in the corner and trying to win the ball when the other team tries to move it up field. The parents said there is zero responsibility taken by the coaches to help the players get better individually.

    The coaches own statement on individual improvement is this. "The time to get better is in the off season." Again, what the heck does this mean. If all the coaches take this approach the only thing my son would be doing all year is running, and learning how to defend and trying NOT TO LOSE.

    So, I'm just a little miffed. My son loves the game. He stays fit on his own, he doesn't need a lot of extra running. That's kind of like a carpenter just sawing pieces of wood in half, over and over and never creating anything.

    I hope it's not as bad for the next three months as it sounds. I know my son, he will be bored and angry. He won't let on, but it will get to him. What a waste. Hours a day for three months. Playing a beautiful sport, but not really playing. I feel for the fringe kids who will go through all this running and mindless tactical bull, and not get to play in the games.

    Thanks for listening to my rant.


  2. SheHateMe

    SheHateMe Member

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    Club:
    Chicago Fire
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    United States
    HS soccer can be good with good coaches and it can be very, very bad. My son's freshman coach never left the bench during games or practice. Pretty much just sat there and threw out demeaning or sarcastic comments when he felt so inclined. The kids pretty much ran things.

    Public school teachers who happen to coach usually are either former players or just some stiff who wants the stipend and has no clue about the game.. won't even pick up a book. It may get better as your son gets older, but if your school is not a soccer powerhouse with a good program, it may be very frustrating.

    He can play at a higher level with his club team if he's been doing that , otherwise, soccer is a very skill oriented sport where the coaches expect the kids to already know what they're doing by the time they get there. They don't think they should have to teach skills or tactics to guys that age, they should already have thousands of hours of training. If not, then you need to find that training elsewhere.. camps, clubs clinics.. pick-up games.. where ever you can find the opportunity for him to learn and be challenged by better players.

    Good luck.. I feel your pain.
  3. RunSudoSane

    RunSudoSane Member

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2011
    SHM,
    thanks for the reply. My son has played his entire life. He has begun to work a little, wants the cash for dates and such. Go figure. He has a handful of good friends, and is forced by his evil parents to put oodles of effort into school. We truly are evil people.

    My point in describing my son is to paint a picture of what most H.S. kids are like. Time does not grow on trees for these kids. To present a program which kids choose to be involved in AND have to try out for, and then literally waste their time and effort is horrible. I understand the idea that he has to get the most out of his soccer environment outside the H.S. program, but I am currently looking for a better environment to REPLACE the H.S. program.

    Another aspect of the situation which may explain my concern is the fact that, I could care less if my son's team wins. Winning is a function of one of two things.

    1. A coach who runs a program which relies on the coach forcing the kids to play in a rigid, unbending way. This type of coach will usually rely on fitness and a simply structured, don't deviate from the plan, kind of approach in practice and games. This coach does this most times because he has a hard time dealing with others independent thoughts and decisions.

    2. A coach who provides a broad pallet on which the kids can create. This type of coach generally structures their practices around mutual respect, skill work, small sided intensely competitive game play, and perhaps most importantly positive reinforcement of individual ingenuity within an environment of quick one and two touch team play. This coach will most often be seen on the sideline of a game, watching closely, saying little and quietly, but directly, engaging his players in constructive discussion of individual player choices.

    Both approaches can win, but in my opinion only one is a winning approach, the second. The second wins even when your team doesn't win. The second definitely wins in the long run. The first losses in the long run even when it wins in the short term. The second losses mightily when it doesn't win in the short run.

    Given these approaches, and luckily having my son play for a coach of the second variety in club, I'm one of those parents who sits away from the rest of the parents at club games. I just want to enjoy watching the kids be creative. I want to see my kid and the kids on the other team play great soccer. I played myself and seeing the kids improve, individually, day to day is the coolest thing about the sport, to me at least.

    Well, that was kind of long. Sorry about that. Again, thanks for your reply, and here's to watching great kids play great soccer.
    Peter Bonetti repped this.
  4. oldntired

    oldntired Member

    Joined:
    May 3, 2011
    Club:
    Sporting Kansas City
    My daughters High School team has a new coach this year. They spend the vast majority of time running. I am guessing most the girls will have some kind of over use injury before to long. My suspicion is that the coach doesn't really know how to do drills and training. She has two hours to kill, so if she spends most of it running there is a lot less for her to do.


  5. de Kromme

    de Kromme Member

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    Location:
    Burbville
    Club:
    Arsenal FC
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    Netherlands
    Does your son have any club experience (sorry if I missed that somewhere in there)? I'd either stick with it if he does, and leave the HS soccer to those who don't see anything wrong with it, or find him a club. Not all HS programs are this bad, but many are. And not all club experiences are good enough to sway you in that direction, but again, many are.

    This experience right here is why the DA system has started, and why US Soccer has mandated that interested parties make an all-or-nothing commitment to it. People will see the value of playing HS ball (no matter the quality) because it is a sports-related social event, long a staple of American life. The decently-run programs (of which this clearly is not) make a better case for sticking with HS ball, but yours doesn't seem to come close.

    If your son wants to be a soccer player, and not just play "soccer", there's only one thing to do: run, quickly, from this situation. Your comments, understanding of the sport and commitment to seeing this situation for what it is (and hoping/planning for better) are awesome. I'm also one of those parents who sits away from the rest because most really don't get it. Luckily for us our daughter is only 12 and only playing club ball at this time, but unlike you the HS she'll be going to has a strong program (as does every other HS in the area, on both boys and girls sides.) Don't suffer in silence! ;) You know the story, and your feelings are spot on.
  6. RunSudoSane

    RunSudoSane Member

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2011
    oldntired,

    thanks for the thoughts on the subject. We are in a similar boat, second year coach. Fingers crossed that overuse does not rear its head.

    de Kromme,

    my son does play high level club. That is probably the reason for my agitation. His club situation is good, the contrast is amazing. The dilemma is that his club team doesn't play DA, otherwise the decision would be easy.

    He's going to play this H.S. season, next year if still with same club he would have to be creative and do individual training (expensive) and find other outlets if he doesn't play H.S.

    We'll see what happens. I'll try to post again.
  7. uvahoos

    uvahoos Member

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    Jul 8, 2011
    Club:
    Manchester United FC
    First, all of pre-season training is uber focused on fitness. We are a week or so into this so I was not surprised by this info. More so I was surprised that the coaches were so blunt about the focus. Now, I know that fitness and agility are important aspects of soccer, but great players, and even good players, spend a huge portion of their training time until the age of 18 on skill work, technique and small game play. Heck, even after 18, much time is spent with the ball.

    Any good coach, hell even an average coach, should know and be able to incorporate fitness into the actual training sessions which includes a ball. I do not know what this coach's idea of fitness is, but a soccer game does not involve running a sustained mile- it involves numerous starts, stops, sprints, some walking , some running. Fitness is a waste of time- a demanding training session prepares players for games.

    Second, the kids were not encouraged to play pick-up together prior to the season. In fact, the coaches said it was counter productive, because it's not organized enough. What? Isn't that the point, to get the coaches out of the way a couple times a week.

    This is assinine, stupid, idiotic- add whatever you want to this.

    Third, and this is where I talked with a couple other parents. These other parents, also former high level players, said that the coaches do indeed focus on pretty much only fitness. They went on to tell me that the practices during the season focused almost entirely on player positioning and what EXACTLY each players role is, at all times.

    You are in soccer hell- I'm sorry- you need to move.
  8. GAZZA821

    GAZZA821 Member

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    Apr 6, 2011
    Club:
    Chelsea FC
    As a HS coach myself, I don't find what the coach said too far-fetched. I think the point he was trying to make, possibly with poor word choice, is that we don't have time in our two month season to worry about fitness, improving individual player technique, etc.

    The players should be coming to tryouts already fit. They should have been working on fitness all summer.

    The players are now 15, 16, 17 years old. As far as I'm concerned, they are past their prime in terms of developing their technique. By now they have already formed their good (or bad) habits and it most likely will not change. Sure I will show a kid how to properly strike a ball if he's having difficulties, or how to drive a ball across the field, etc. But at this point and this age, I don't have the luxury of time to overhaul every players' technical deficiencies.

    My job is, in the two months, to take the talent (or lack of) and figure out the best way to organize them to be successful.

    My point is, perhaps THIS is the point your coach was trying to make. I have been very successful both as a HS coach and a travel coach, but they are two different beasts. While I do spend time during pre-season working on fitness, and every session begins with some sort of technical warm-up, I truly feel as if I shouldn't have to.

    It hurts me to think about some of our league foes who get all of their players coming into pre-season fit and technically sharp. These coaches are allowed to immediately start focusing on their team shape, tactics, etc.
  9. uvahoos

    uvahoos Member

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    Jul 8, 2011
    Club:
    Manchester United FC
    With all due respect, this is what is wrong with most HS coaches in all sports. Your players are not at the peak of their technical development , and I would expect any HS coach to further a player's technical development and just accept the status quo.
  10. RunSudoSane

    RunSudoSane Member

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2011
    Gazza821,
    thank you for the reply. I respectfully disagree with most of what you say.

    On one point I will agree (maybe?). That is the fitness point, but I continue to read and watch, and fitness at 15, 16, 17 is about being healthy and active. Fitness improvement at these ages is about slow steady progress over YEARS, if talking about speed, endurance and strength. Any quick fix, re: over a three to six month span is detrimental unless it is due to that mercurial thing we parents know as puberty, hairy balls, smelly armpits and the like:eek:.

    Where I disagree. First, high school soccer is different from club in one unique way which is rarely discussed, and it is a huge positive in HS soccer's favor. High School soccer is ON SITE! I cannot overemphasize this point. The kids are right there. The kids walk out of their school and onto the practice "pitch" (if I may). The kids at any serious soccer school practice six days a week, twice a day, for almost three weeks before their season even starts. Once the season starts, most teams play twice a week with one or two weeks having three games. Two games per week out of six active days leaves four training days. Focusing on tactics, shape and fitness is doing the development of serious players, and there is no other way to put this, a great disservice.

    This next echoes UVAhoos' point, and is related to the first point. Technical development (read skill and flare, or class and individual personality) continues up to, through and past puberty for any player dedicated to becoming a unique, well rounded and dynamic player. This can mean it continues for some through 16-17, and even these kids can improve through their adult years. Don't we all strive for this, even us fifty-year-olds? :cool: For some kids these years stretch all the way to nineteen years old.

    Another point. Many school teams have access to lockers, practice fields, a weight room, and equipment that isn't carted around in a van or car trunk. These facilities are there for the kids year round. They can use them in some regards any time they wish, for things like pick-up with high school buddies, or coach supervised things like lifting, speed and agility training.

    The truth of the matter is, a high school soccer season encompasses as many, if not more, hours of training time than does a typical club season. When you factor in the above aspects, plus things like less travel time, players being more comfortable (it is their school) and the potentially positive, if approached with the right attitude, aspect of a diverse group of players (different ages, skill levels, cultural backgrounds, etc), you have the ingredients for a good coach to focus on all the aspects of the game in the best possible environment.

    Lastly, and I don't want this to sound derisive, I believe the game is about the players FIRST, MIDDLE, and LAST. I believe the approach of running, running, running, positioning, positioning, positioning, tactics, tactics, tactics is the last bastion of a coach who is either unable to understand and create an environment where the player, his skill, attitude, and creativity are tantamount, or the coach is just plain LAZY. Of course it could be a combination of both.

    That was long, sorry, but again thanks for your response.
  11. SheHateMe

    SheHateMe Member

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    Chicago Fire
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    United States
    Very well said and very good points. I'm so glad I don't have to have to spend 4 hours going to and from a practice and waiting for it to be over. Now that he can drive, he can decide how much time he wants to spend travelling to practice, and with girls, part-time jobs and school, I can tell you its not much. There's a wide range of public/private school programs, and its the luck of the draw, but if you're public school has lousy coaching and a lousy program, you can always find a private option. And if you're kid is good enough, you can get scholarships to the HS too.
  12. tottsBALEout

    tottsBALEout New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2011
    Unfortunately this is the situation in America.

    I'm 22 now but grew up with a similar situation. I played high level club soccer with great coaches...We were even one of the best club teams in California. It was overall a great experience.

    High School was a whole other story. Coaches are generally horrible, and high school soccer quality is almost equally horrible. Sometimes I wondered whether the coaches realized it was soccer they were teaching, not cross country...

    I started for one of the better Club soccer teams in my state. Not fantastic but pretty good. I didn't even make the Varsity soccer team until halfway through my Junior year. I had parents and other coaches wondering what the hell the deal was. Even had a referee at one point come up to me and ask what the hell I was doing playing JV (lol). I couldn't make a team that was worse than the other one I was starting for. The coaches response when I confronted him about the situation. I was too small and not vocal enough. He even admittedly said I was "one of the more technical players"...My mind was full of f*ck...

    Anyway, moral of the story...High school soccer is a bit of a joke unless you play for a reputable high school soccer program...And there isn't really much you can do it about it.

    I hope this changes soon, but it seems all of soccer's developmental resources go into the club system, because that's where the money is. High School is obviously state funded, so there is no reason for the good coaches in America to get into High School soccer. As they'll be making far less money...

    And we all know quality always follows the money, especially in America...

    Good luck to your son and I hope he fares better than I did in high school. I went from a little prodigy in my younger years (state ODP, etc) to a kid with no confidence towards the end of my High School years. Sounds a bit melodramatic but High School soccer sucked the life out of me. Took away years of development and drained me of my confidence.

    I bounced back a bit and eventually played college ball. Something needs to change though, I feel a lot of good players like myself fall through the cracks. Not to say I was on my way to the pro's, but it made getting into a College program difficult for me...

    There just isn't a direct enough pyramid to the top level of soccer in this country, it's slowly changing though.
  13. chinaglia

    chinaglia Member

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    Florence, SC USA
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    Motherwell FC
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    United States
    Sounds like my daughter's high school career through 11th grade. Thankfully (?) we moved before her senior year to another state and she made the varsity team, was named captain and is on her way to all-region honors on a team that is ranked #14 in the state. Oh, btw, her new high school coach is nowhere near as knowledgeable as her old high school coach. But, I think in the long run that was a positive because she could see that my daughter could play the game well and held no grudge or bias toward her.
  14. RunSudoSane

    RunSudoSane Member

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2011
    I'm sorry your high school experience went the direction you describe. I hope that my sons does not take the same trajectory. I am not worried about my son reaching the top of the pyramid as you put it. I just want him to have a good "soccer" environment to play in whenever and wherever he chooses to play.
  15. RunSudoSane

    RunSudoSane Member

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2011
    For now we are sticking with the school my son attends currently. He has friends, other interests and feels good where he's at. I know exactly what you mean about the age where driving begins. It's a bit of a mixed bag. Worry plays a part, but if your kid is reasonably responsible the choices it allows them are infinite. Of course as you said the freedom it gives us parents is nice:D too.

    Thanks for the response.
  16. RunSudoSane

    RunSudoSane Member

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2011
    Short update.

    Preseason was almost all fitness work. A small amount of juggling and keep away was included.

    In season: Practice usually starts with a jog around multiple ball fields. I would guess about a mile or so. Some stretching and some basic passing drills, and then straight into positional instruction.

    The positional instruction takes up the majority of practice. Usually this is in the form of starters on one end rest of team on other. Ball is played into specific space and players are instructed where to be and when to be there.

    Lots of talk of getting ball up field quickly, and into corners. Lots of talk of pressuring in the other teams defensive third.

    This positional work continues every practice for at least two thirds of the 1 1/2- 2hrs of practice. Shooting drills usually finish practice.

    My son, knock on wood, had no issues, besides being bored out of his mind, with all the running. Other kids, guessing six or seven on varsity, had varying degrees of repetitive injuries. Some are still an issue; torn quads, hamstrings, hip joint problems, and knees.

    Overall I would say the experience has been good in terms of time with friends. Of course, he could do that with his free time on his own.

    In terms of soccer... He is bored out of his mind every practice. Very little high pressure small sided play is included. Very little attention paid to technique. The things that every soccer player knows, intuitively, makes them better individually are largely ignored.

    My son and most of his teammates, after about two weeks (maybe less), fell into the category of show up, have fun with friends, go through the motions, play the games.

    Definitely a waste of time from the stand point of individual improvement. I can't stress that enough. A WASTE OF TIME! Twelve weeks, three months, a quarter of the year learning to kick the ball down the field, hustle to win it back, maybe string two passes together, and then somebody tries to beat two or three defenders on the dribble. Lose the ball, and do it again.

    With the passing of each day, the statement "The high school season is too short to spend time on technique. The time for players to get better is the off season." rings more and more in my head, and it is not a good kind of ring. You know, like chimes in the gentle summer wind. No, more like angry car horns, or giant swarms of hornets buzzing as they chase you through that idyllic gentle summer wind.

    If I hear that rotten "EXCUSE", from one more coach, one more time, I may be pushed to violence. :) Just kidding, but wow, what a load of crap. One quarter of the year, gone!

    Sorry that wasn't short. Oh, well.
  17. strikerbrian

    strikerbrian Member

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    Queensbury, NY
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    New York Red Bulls
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    United States
    RunSundoSane

    Sorry to hear about the poor experince your son is having.

    I've been a coach at a local high school for 13 years along with doing club at all levels (u5-u19) and they are different beasts. However it is possible to not only improve technique and skill but to make it the focus of training during a high school season. The thought that coaches don't want the kids playing pick up is very disappointing ,and the uber focus on fitness is too.

    Our kids are expected to come ready to go fitness wise at the beginning of the season. We provide them with a training program in the spring and meet with them to show them proper training techniqus and support when needed.

    We also organize open pick up sessions at a local city park twice a week from June through August. Most of the time a coach is around but we make it a point not to instruct the kids in any way unless specifically asked. The focus is on them being creative in a free flowing soccer environment that puts no results based pressure on the player.

    When the season starts we do do some fitness tests and may do some increased fitness work but it is always worked into drills or small sided games. The focus of training for the rest of the season is to make each player better by the end of the season. We work with each individual to create goals and then meet them by seasons end.

    A lot of coaches spend a lot of time worrying about getting wins and I won't say that isn't important. We play the game to win. But if you train the kids in how to play the right way and you give them the technical tools to make that easier, the wins do come your way.

    I hope your sons experience is better in the future. Maybe a new coach will come along. There are coaches out there that can make a difference in the few months provided to them during the high school playing season. Until then keep him positive and keep him playing. Maybe he'll learn something, even if it's how not to do something.
  18. BUSA Bulldog

    BUSA Bulldog Member

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    New England Revolution
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    Most sports should be taken out of school or at least more inclusive and less elitist.
  19. strikerbrian

    strikerbrian Member

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    Explain please.

    As for inclusive, everyone is able to show up and try out. At some schools, the small ones, thats all you need to do to be on the team. Bigger schools are going to cut but at least you have the opportunity to show you deserve a spot.You can't have all 30 kids that show up for tryouts on the team. Someone has to go. Which means (hopefully) the best are going to stay. Does that make it elitist?
    SheHateMe repped this.
  20. BUSA Bulldog

    BUSA Bulldog Member

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    I know this is out of the mainstream, but the importance of athletics in schools is way out of proportion. Very few high school varsity athletes go on to play in college. For what educational purpose is supported by excluding some kids from a potentially positive activity and telling the remaining ones you are better because you can run faster or whatever?
    The ones that have the ability/interest/drive can play for a local club. The remaining kids who like sports can play a more appropriate version with their schools.
  21. keeper dad

    keeper dad Member

    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2011
    I think that you are painting a pretty broad stroke to apply this to all athletics. It may work in soccer where there is a robust club program but what about those sports without a strong club system? Say football or golf or water polo.

    High school athletics, for many sports, are the first opportunity for many children to compete in a team aspect either due to financial constraints or lack of youth programs. To take that out of schools, in my mind, is worse than to exclude those with less talent.

    At what point is it OK to say to a person, "not everyone has the same abilities and not everyone is successful or makes the team, in everything they want to do?" I would say high school is probably about as late as you want to start that discussion, otherwise you have people graduating from college shocked that they actually have to interview for a job, do well, and still be told they did not get it. The first time to be cut from something can be rough but I would think it is better at 15 years old from a high school sports team than at 22 years old and it be a career.
    strikerbrian repped this.
  22. SheHateMe

    SheHateMe Member

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    High school life is about finding out who you are, what you love and what you're good at, but its hardly fair. Nobody is entitled to play on a team, even when you're paying. Kids can join a rec team if they want, but you're talking nonsense. What do you think they should have a hundred kids on a basketball team or baseball. Some schools will have 100 kids come out for baseball and only 20-25 make even a freshman team. So what do they learn? That they have to work hard to accomplish something, to get better, to win and to work with others to accomplish something, regardless of the level. Don't be one of those helicopter parents who bugs the coaches or complains to the school because their little darling didn't get picked or didn't play as much as someone else or not at all. Tell them to figure out what they need to do to earn it. They'll be better off on the long run.
  23. BUSA Bulldog

    BUSA Bulldog Member

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    This made me laugh because I was the coach fighting the helicopter parents (and losing).
  24. RunSudoSane

    RunSudoSane Member

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    Nov 3, 2011
    Strikerbrian,
    could you move across the country? I know a high school that needs a good coach.

    Pick-up sticks in my mind each time I re-read this thread. Pick-up was the best of worlds for me when I was young. Both soccer and basketball players get their "soul" from games without adults anywhere near. My son likes pick-up but doesn't get the same opportunities in that regard that I took for granted. We live out a ways; not in a neighborhood.

    Thanks for the sound advice. Always looking for the positive.
  25. RunSudoSane

    RunSudoSane Member

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    This is an interesting topic change, and one I have great interest in. I don't mind my thread being derailed a tad bit. I will even add to the derailment.

    I have argued for years, ever since playing high school sports myself, that every kid in every middle school and high school should have the chance to play after school sports. What I would like to see is the facilities which we all pay for be used like an old rag. Intramural versions of every possible sport should be offered. In fact, they should be encouraged. I would go so far as to say that things like bike club, jogging club, fitness club should all be offered and available directly after school lets out.

    Too many kids don't find a fun outlet for fitness during high school. Why don't more schools do this sort of thing? The varsity sports should still be available for the kids who are driven that direction, but not having outlets for the less driven is criminal.

    Here's another possible thread derail-er. All sports and activities should share the FRIDAY spotlight that is high school's pre-eminate night. Each season the activities the students choose to take part in should rotate through the available Fridays. Band should get a night in the fall to play for two hours in front of a Friday night lights crowd. Track, baseball, soccer, cross country, tennis, volleyball, the academic clubs, all of them should be afforded one of the Friday night slots to shine in front of their peers and community.

    Each and every one of the kids who choose to put effort into things uniquely "them" should experience the attention, adulation and respect of their community. More kids feeling "included" in more meaningful ways can only be a HUGE positive for all teens.

    Thanks for the thought BUSA Bulldog. Got me going.

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