Question for families in isolated or one-size-fits-all clubs

Discussion in 'Youth & HS Soccer' started by CornfieldSoccer, Apr 19, 2019.

  1. CornfieldSoccer

    Aug 22, 2013
    Looking for some feedback from people involved in clubs that try to serve soccer players of all levels (whether because the club is the only show in town or the primary club in relatively isolated area, like my son's club, or otherwise).

    Our club is starting to try to figure out what we should be (Emphasize competitiveness over providing a place for all to play? Have player cuts beyond a certain age if the alternative means fielding uncompetitive, very low-skill B teams or putting kids whose skills aren't suited to it on large-roster A teams to keep players on board? ...). I think the parents who've been around longer (five years or more) have a sense that the club has become less competitive in the name of offering more kids a place to play club soccer. And we don't cut anyone (though some kids at older ages may be steered toward being practice-only players).

    Do any of you come from clubs that try to be all things to all players, so to speak? If so, does it work, and how? Anyone here have kids who aren't DA types (or close to that skill level) who nonetheless play on clubs that cut players in areas where there aren't a bunch of alternative clubs to go to? There are a few smaller clubs near us, but the level drops off pretty severely.

    Any feedback appreciated.
  2. CoachP365

    CoachP365 Member

    Business Metrics SC
    Apr 26, 2012
    Parent coaches or staff(paid or volunteer) ?
  3. CornfieldSoccer

    Aug 22, 2013
    Paid coaches (two FT who run the club, others very part time -- most of the latter are college students, an issue because they turn over rapidly). The club charges less than most big clubs in major cities that the teams play against, but it isn't a low-cost club, either.

    Just as background, the club was formed decades ago by parents who did the coaching. At some point that changed, not sure when. It's a nonprofit, so no one "owns" it.
  4. VolklP19

    VolklP19 Member

    Jun 23, 2010
    If you take everyone/anyone, you will need to have enormously good coaches and an exceptional DOC who can outline a coaching plan that grows and is in sync with a common club ideology.

    This is really only attainable in many high priced or larger clubs IMO.

    The big question is what do you want to be? Make that choice and stick to it. If you want to be a club that has a place on the field for all players then recognize in many ocassions you may lose top players to bigger clubs. I would argue that having a good DOC who can manage the things I mentioned above - along with a willigness to bring the parents into the mix will help mold a family-like atmosphere that will help retain.

    I prefer the "everyone has a place on the field". I would not have said that years ago but I think the odds of D1 $ and going pro are so far out there that kids these days are better served playing multiple sports. Too many parents are focused on the end game and not the journey. Small clubs have a way of allowing players to be more involved with other activities and not so constantly worried about not making a top team.
    CoachP365 repped this.
  5. Terrier1966

    Terrier1966 Member

    Nov 19, 2016
    Aston Villa FC
    Been at clubs like this. Depending on numbers there are ways to do both...have everybody play and be competitive.

    The club should set a vision for what it is and wants to be and then hold to it. Nothing wrong with being either end or both of that is the plan and it is well executed.

    I think clubs need to be ready for a year or various years to be up or down. Don’t try to have 3 teams in an age group that is thin and be ready to support a team that is stronger than the average at the club.

    Then remember the “You can please all the people some of the time...” quote.
  6. CornfieldSoccer

    Aug 22, 2013
    These last two things you mention here, for me, are the heart of what our club needs to improve, what we consistently err in doing.

    We, 1), don't cut and seem reluctant to tell more than a handful of kids that they will be practice-only players, so the club bends over backwards to find teams for small groups of less-skilled kids or individual kids and, in the process, dilute or diminish the experience for kids with more skill (my son's current team is a product of one of these exercises -- it isn't all bad, but the gap between the top of the team and the bottom is wide). And we, 2), aren't well prepared to support stronger teams and provide them with opportunities other teams within the club aren't ready for (the club successfully resisted suggestions for my son's last team, which was pretty good, to scout around for more competition and more opportunities; on the other hand, we have one really strong team now that's a bit older than my son's group in which the parents did a good job of banding together and demanding more, very much against the desire of the club's coaching leadership to be, for a lack of a better term, fair and provide equivalent opportunities for everyone in the club).

    It's the vision and clear philosophy, I think, that we lack -- though I guess the current philosophy is what I just said, everyone gets identical slices of the pie. If we do want to continue to be all things to all people (cuts likely make us a very different and smaller club, which I'm not sure is financially sustainable), that flexibility to provide different experiences has to be part of it.

    Appreciate the feedback from both of you -- and would welcome more.
  7. Terrier1966

    Terrier1966 Member

    Nov 19, 2016
    Aston Villa FC
    Some clubs are so set in their ways nobody can change it but most are not that tightly aligned or run...change can happen
  8. Member

    Feb 8, 2018
    How many tiers are there for your club teams to complete in? It's not always possible that a balanced team will be put together due to numbers. Even if that is the case, IMO, all players on a team should get to play. On the other other hand, if the team is reluctant to cut players when there are stronger players available, that is wrong too. Really, I think number one priority for all clubs should be towards the growth of the individual and that means getting a chance to play. If the top team is made up of the strongest players in the club and turns out half the team is made up of A players but the other half are C players and combined clearly is not an A level team, then play in the B league. If a B team is clearly ready to make the jump, then move up to the A league. I personally believe this is the best model for not for profit community clubs.
  9. sam_gordon

    sam_gordon Member

    Feb 27, 2017
    I can't remember what age group you're in, but one reason to keep some kids that aren't to the level of the other kids is if you're still talking 7v7 or 9v9, you need more players to get to the 11v11 stage. It doesn't seem like it, but that is a big jump, and it doesn't help to alienate someone younger who therefore wouldn't stick around.

    That being said, I think there is good in A, B, and C teams, AND "practice only" players. Hopefully the practice only ones are charged a greatly reduced rate. I also agree making sure teams are put into skill appropriate leagues and tournament levels is huge.
  10. Member

    Feb 8, 2018
    Prior to it being mentioned on this thread, I had never heard of "practice only" players in youth soccer. Yes, some players from another team gets invited to practice with a higher level team on a consistent basis. But, are there really players who pay just to practice with the team. Do they play on another team and just it for supplemental training?
  11. VolklP19

    VolklP19 Member

    Jun 23, 2010
    PDA players from Sockers (06/05) get opportunities to participate in DA sessions.

    In this case it's a good thing for the player and for the business (retention).

    In this case the lower skilled players are left out - but that's life IMO.
  12. CornfieldSoccer

    Aug 22, 2013
    I think there are always a few in our club, usually plays who under other circumstances might be cut, I think. I'm not certain of this, but I don't think the club does this below middle school ages (those families pay a lot less). Occasionally there's a player who chooses practice only.

    I know at one point the club tried out a what were close to practice-only teams at a couple of ages where there were really large numbers of kids with a bunch of low-skill kids included. Those kids were assigned to teams that, if I recall correctly, only played in our club's two tournaments and otherwise just practiced in an effort to improve and get ready for tougher competition. It was also a lower-cost option, but those families generally hated it (no more than eight games a year, and the implication that your child isn't good enough to handle "the real thing") and it was scrapped after just a year or so. That said, that was a few years ago and a number of those kids are still around. My son is friends with one who hasn't quite made it to a true A team yet but probably ought to be on one.

    Re Sam Gordon's comment above about the age groups, mine's a 2005 but, yeah, there were three teams in his age group at 7v7 that gradually became two for the first season of 11v11, and they needed essentially all of them.
  13. Cantona's Eyebrow

    Dirty Leeds
    Oct 8, 2018
    There is a simple, but effective model to follow when running this type of club.

    For example:

    Pool of 30 mixed ability children (lets say 2008 date of births)

    Once per week, all member of the squad must attend session focused on technique and individual skills. This should allow the whole squad to train together, but allows them to develop at their own pace.

    The second session of the week, all players must attend. However, the session should be split by ability into 2 or 3 stations that focus on either dribbling, passing/possession, shooting, or control.

    The third session, should be split into a first team and a development squad. It should focus on 1v1/2v1/2v2etc attacking/defending principles, tactical situations and most importantly team shape and patterns of play. This should be coached depending on the ability of the squad and could be on separate nights.

    On match day, players play in their respective team within the squad. These teams should be fluid to allow players who are developing well to make the step-up to the higher team, and vice versa, players who are struggling can have pressure taken off by allowing them time to find their feet again in the dev team.

    This model promotes the ideal of one club/one squad, challenges players individually and collectively. Further it gives players goals to work towards in reaching a higher team as well as a safety net for young players if things start to get too demanding.

    It's not rocket science.
 repped this.
  14. Member

    Feb 8, 2018
    When our club was came out of merger and reorganized years back, this was the plan that they presented to the parents of the players that were selected for the development program.

    However, it never quite came to be. I think they tried at first, but coaches (parent volunteers) had their own ideas. A bit of a clique between parents determined who the the top players should be. And I believe moving players from the A squad to play on the B squad also was a problem when it came to league rules because team rosters had to be provided at the start of the season.

    Lastly, I think some of the pro coaches who ran the academy sessions were just there to collect a pay check and they did not run stations. Also, they did not rotate the two or three groups between coaches during the year so if unlucky, one group gets stuck with an unmotivated (to put it nicely) coach.

  15. CornfieldSoccer

    Aug 22, 2013
    Our club uses a version of this, too, in part for the reasons you mention here re club unity/identity (our DOC is big on trying to build that, with limited results). But also for practical reasons: If a given birth year or two years are short on players (at younger ages, anyway), the pool allows for players to float between teams on game days as they can and provide full rosters.

    In short, parents and kids seem to hate it. "We want to be part of a team." "I want to play with my team, not the other team." Plus, as Puma mentioned, egos get bruised as A players are asked to shuttle down, B players cycle up. ... Problem seems to be particularly acute on the girls' side. I guess none of that is anything more than the usual drama, but the club has to -- to some degree -- placate the families, particularly at this size of club.
  16. Terrier1966

    Terrier1966 Member

    Nov 19, 2016
    Aston Villa FC
    The various stories remind me how different all of the different experiences are...also points out why DA was started to try to get more consistency, at least at the “higher” levels.
    CornfieldSoccer repped this.
  17. sam_gordon

    sam_gordon Member

    Feb 27, 2017
    Must be nice. My local club (DD plays in) MIGHT have 30 try out for select at the U8/U9 age group (and that's boys and girls). By U12, they're probably down to 20. Not really enough for two teams (at 9v9), but would be a great number for 11v11. They'll be at ~16-18 at U13, and then usually have around 14-15 if they have enough for a team at all.

    Why does the number drop? Kids get involved in other activities, the better kids move to larger clubs (that's what we did with DS). others get frustrated with getting beat up on, others decide travel ball isn't for them, etc.
  18. CornfieldSoccer

    Aug 22, 2013
    The pool system I mentioned our club using above was put in place in part to address just that -- not enough girls across two of the 9v9 ages for two teams, but too many for one single team. By u13 they'll likely form one team, some playing up out of necessity.

    The club loses some girls to a smaller nearby club with some decent history on the girls' side that happens to be cheaper, and girls tend to move in groups (occasionally some less-skilled boys players defect to that club or another, even smaller and even cheaper local club). Club volleyball also seems to pull a number of girls away. It can be frustrating, for sure.

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