How much soccer per year is ideal?

Discussion in 'Youth & HS Soccer' started by NewDadaCoach, Feb 2, 2020.

  1. NewDadaCoach

    NewDadaCoach Member

    Tottenham Hotspur
    United States
    Sep 28, 2019
    #1 NewDadaCoach, Feb 2, 2020
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2020
    Seems there are quite a few soccer parents and coaches here who have been through the "grind" and brought their kids up playing soccer. I am wondering if there is an optimal number of seasons per year that a kid should play.
    If we are looking at 4 "seasons" (put in quotes as seasons don't always align with soccer "seasons")... If playing purely for fun then obviously one season is fine. But if competitive play is the goal then I would think 2 seasons would be minimal, with some off-season exercising/other sports to maintain fitness. 4 seasons might burn the kid out (according to some). 3 seems like it might be optimal.
    Many of you have been through the ringer already; if you don't mind sharing your opinions/experiences on this, would be appreciated. Thanks

    Note: for us, for the next couple years it is sizing up as: soccer league in the spring, maybe a summer camp, fall league, indoor soccer in winter (one or two sessions, they are 8 weeks each so not exactly a "season"). And we play at home sporadically throughout the year.
     
  2. rustysurf83

    rustysurf83 Member

    Dec 30, 2015
    Club:
    Borussia Dortmund
    #2 rustysurf83, Feb 2, 2020
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2020
    The honest answer is probably most appropriately as much as the child would like to (vs. the parent). It needs to stay fun or they will lose interest sooner rather than later, so you can’t let parent desire affect how much they do/do not play. My daughter plays some semblance of soccer 52 weeks a year...BUT, BUT, BUT! Only about half of that is “competitive.” Some days she does 20 minutes, some days multiple hours. She does a lot of Futsal with friends, indoor with old rec teammates, school soccer, or individual training via YouTube or her apps. She also plays basketball, is a really fast 5k-half marathon runner, snowboards 50 days a year, and maintains top grades. Maintaining fitness as a kid is easy, just go run around with friends. If THE KID aspires to play at a high level, they don’t need much prodding. My daughter knows the second her grades slip, she is taking time away from soccer so she doesn’t need to be reminded to do homework, prep for class assignments, etc.
     
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  3. NewDadaCoach

    NewDadaCoach Member

    Tottenham Hotspur
    United States
    Sep 28, 2019
    Wow that is a lot of year round activity!
     
  4. rustysurf83

    rustysurf83 Member

    Dec 30, 2015
    Club:
    Borussia Dortmund
    I did a lot of reading and talked to her Pediatrician. It was actually her running that most concerned me. She is a really good distance runner with a marathon in her wish list and went as far as 18 miles at the age of 9. That alarmed me way more than hours of soccer a day. The feedback I got was: support don’t push, listen to their body (ie err on the side of caution with hurts), mix with other activities, and make sure other areas like school, sleep, nutrition are all solid. We do a small bit of dedicated fitness training disguised as CrossFit Kids to make sure she maintains appropriate strength and form to support that level of activity, but mostly doing that many different sports and activities keeps her well balanced.
     
  5. NewDadaCoach

    NewDadaCoach Member

    Tottenham Hotspur
    United States
    Sep 28, 2019
    Wow 18 miles at age 9 does sound kind of extreme... but it sounds like you had a sound approach with the help of the doc. :thumbsup:
     
  6. mwulf67

    mwulf67 Member+

    Sep 24, 2014
    Club:
    Chelsea FC
    Pretty much this as well…Spring and Fall, obviously; a lot of winter indoor, and some (a camp, a 3v3 tourney, beach soccer, etc), but not much in the summer…
     
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  7. jvgnj

    jvgnj Member

    Apr 22, 2015
    The answer to this will be dependent on the kid. My advice is to not just wing it season by season but keep in mind how much he'll be doing overall throughout the year. Some kids can't get enough, others need breaks. We screwed this up last year when my son was 10U. For some background, the Fall season ended and he immediately started training for the January 3v3 tournament at Disney. February and March were a bunch of local tournaments before the Spring season started. Then his club did Super Y for the first time as soon as the Spring ended, which ran into early August.

    Individually, each of these extra things made sense. We live in the Northeast, who wouldn't want some Florida sunshine in January? The February/March tournaments were only 10-20 minutes away, so why not? They're doing mixed ages for Super Y and he'll get to play with a bunch of his school friends, so let's sign him up. About halfway through Super Y he started complaining about going to practice. He played hard in the games, but wasn't really that excited to go to them and basically was ambivalent about soccer, going so far as to float not playing that Fall. That's when we realized that, while each individual decision made sense at the time, collectively we created a situation where he had only a few weeks over the course of 11 months where he didn't have a game, practice or tournament and he was burnt out. This schedule may be fine for some kids, but not for him. He plays and enjoys other sports, all of which have a more defined season. As I put it to the head of his club (who was super helpful and supportive), he never gets a chance to "miss" soccer. It never goes away. This year we made his winter availability wholly dependent on his basketball schedule and already opted out of Super Y. The mental breaks will more than make up for whatever touches he misses.
     
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  8. VolklP19

    VolklP19 Member

    Jun 23, 2010
    Illinois
    More to it then time. The biggest factor IMO is fun. If the kid is having fun then they will want to do more. This means the right coach, player pool and overall environment. I don't think my 21 year old ever took a huge passion towards the sport - but there was a lot going on with her life back then. With my 14 year old, I think we nailed it with the 3rd club and a host of extra (non-club) activities that I have mentioned before.

    IMO the role of the parents is not to push but guide. Parents need to be honest where their players are in terms of talent and drive. There are great kids who would easily make a top DA or ECNL team but want to play high school. A good parent would support this and at least allow their player to try high school and then make a decision. A bad parent would refuse their child in doing so - out of fear that they may slip backwards and be less likely to get college $$$.

    Just one example but there are plenty of these (both) parents all over.

    My youngest plays in a boys league with mostly soph and juniors. She is still in 8th grade but is a starter in this league and one of 2 girls playing in it - the other is a Campton player from that really good u19 team. At the end of the game (we got killed), everyone high - fived each other and gave hugs. I love it that my daughter has an experience of playing with like minded players who love the game and respect each other so much.

    She also plays on a girls H/S team with soph/juniors who are at opposing local high schools. I am looking forward to the smiles, laughter on the field and post game hugs she will share with her winter mates when they play against each other in high school.

    Could I have put her in private lessons like so many others? Could I have jumped Sockers and went to Eclipse/FCU? Yup - but I think she would have quit altogether. I read my kid and figured out what was best for her - I would not change a thing!
     
  9. CornfieldSoccer

    Aug 22, 2013
    Eight years in (mine's a U15), this is where we've landed, entirely through trial and error. It's resulted in me doing some things I once swore I'd never do (we spent last weekend seven hours and three states away from home at a tournament with a team that isn't even his primary club team).

    But as long as he keeps having fun, keeps wanting to head to the local turf fields whenever he can to play pickup, keeps wandering around the house with a training ball (or a tennis ball or a balloon or a rolled-up wad of paper or ...) on his foot, I haven't seen too many reasons to dial him back aside from occasionally insisting he take a day or two off after, say, a game-heavy weekend.

    Now if I could do away with multi-game days or four-game weekends or (in high school) three-game weeks for kids as they get older and the wear and tear on their bodies gets more serious, that I'd dial back in a heartbeat.
     
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  10. mwulf67

    mwulf67 Member+

    Sep 24, 2014
    Club:
    Chelsea FC
    Absolutely…over the years, my son has had to make a few decisions as to where to play, who to play with, to choice between two clubs/teams…there were two specific times, that I KNEW there was a better choice, developmentally, opportunity-wise, but it would have been less fun to him…he went with the "fun" choices…I admit, I was silently disappointed at the time, but in hindsight, no regards…he 100% made the right calls.
     
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  11. sam_gordon

    sam_gordon Member

    Feb 27, 2017
    If your child isn't playing at least five hours a week for 50 weeks a year by age 6, they're behind. :p Just kidding.

    I'll throw another vote to "let the child decide". When it's time for sign ups for the next season, ask them if they want to play. If they say yes, sign them up. If they say no, don't.
     
  12. Cantona's Eyebrow

    Dirty Leeds
    Togo
    Oct 8, 2018
    10 years of age and older, over the course of a year:

    30 week season (split 15 and 15), 10 weeks of training only, and 12 free weeks.
     
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  13. NewDadaCoach

    NewDadaCoach Member

    Tottenham Hotspur
    United States
    Sep 28, 2019
    I guess what I'm trying to find out is... how much soccer needs to be played to stay competitive? Does that make sense? I mean... if a kid only plays 3 months out of year and then goes to try out for a competitive club they will likely not make the team because they will not have the chops that the other kids have. Maybe those kids were playing 50-100% of the year.
     
  14. sam_gordon

    sam_gordon Member

    Feb 27, 2017
    Sigh. Here we go again.

    First, there are plenty of different levels of clubs and possibly different levels of teams in a club.

    Second, someone who plays 10 months out of the year WILL be better than someone who plays 3 months. But, the one who plays 10 months out of the year is more in danger of getting "burned out" than the one playing 3 months.

    BUT, if your child doesn't want to play, then what? Are you going to force him to? Again, when it comes sign up time, ask him if he wants to play. He'll tell you the answer.

    To answer your question, "how much soccer needs to be played to stay competitive?", competitive to what?

    There's nothing wrong with only playing one season a year (assuming they do something else athletic the rest of the time and don't just sit on their butt), there's nothing wrong with playing 10 months of the year (unless it's the parent forcing it), and there's nothing wrong with anything in between.
     
  15. NewDadaCoach

    NewDadaCoach Member

    Tottenham Hotspur
    United States
    Sep 28, 2019
    What I'm asking - what is the sweet spot of gaining maximum skills while not burning out? Let's assume the kid wants to play/will play as much as you sign him up for. Let's assume you have say the top kids in the area that are all equal in potential... if some kids do soccer 7 months while others do soccer 9 months will that create a separation over the years? Or maybe it won't make enough of a difference as there is not much gained in the extra 2 months. in other words, maybe there is a point of diminishing returns. I'm wondering this as I am trying to budget my time, energy, money over the next 5 or so years. Cantona seemed to quantify it so I think I'll take that as a general guide. Thanks for the feedback
     
  16. sam_gordon

    sam_gordon Member

    Feb 27, 2017
    It's different for each kid. You keep wanting a black and white answer and there's not one. Seven months of soccer a year might burn out one kid in three years, but another kid will do nine months of soccer for the next ten and keep going.

    Cantona can only say what works for him. That doesn't mean it works for everyone.

    If you want to budget for the next five years, assume you'll do twelve months of soccer. I feel it's always better to budget higher and not spend the money. But, how could you do an accurate budget for more than a year? Will you change clubs? Will you do bigger (or smaller) camps? Will the travel locations change?

    Once again (in my opinion of course) you're worrying about things too far in the future.
     
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  17. mwulf67

    mwulf67 Member+

    Sep 24, 2014
    Club:
    Chelsea FC
    There is no answer to your question…every kid is different and everything relative…

    I know kids that only played soccer part-time during U-littles, splitting time between many different sports, and still ended up being some of best players on the field by High School…

    I know kids that played soccer year round during that same time period, and while decent players, nobody would confuse them as, nor categorize them as anything special…

    I think/like to hope they all had fun with the paths they choose…

    I agree with Sam, stop worrying about thing so far in the future…things you really can’t control nor predict...
     
  18. jvgnj

    jvgnj Member

    Apr 22, 2015
    You seem to assume that the progression for "the top kids in the area" can or will be linear or that there aren't an infinite number of variables involved. There's really no way to answer your example. It's possible that some of these kids may progress more doing 7 months (or less) of soccer than the players who play 9 (or more) months for any number of reasons. I'd really caution against trying to plan out 5 years at this age. It's the middle of my son's 4th year of club soccer and the following has happened in 3.5 years:

    He's the only player left from his first team. 2-3 migrated to the B team when more kids joined the club, some left for other clubs and some left the sport entirely. And this is just between 1st and 4th grade. I'd expect even more turnover going forward.

    Last Spring he was getting frustrated with some of his teammates being less competitive, then his club merged with a smaller, well-run club between the Spring and Fall seasons. This brought an infusion of solid players and good coaches, changing the dynamic of the team and making it more enjoyable.

    We learned that he needs breaks from the sport and can get burned out without them.

    And that's just some of the stuff off the top of my head. No way I could've predicted most, if not all, of this stuff happening when he first joined the club. I realize it's a sample size of one but I'm sure other on this board have seen this type of stuff plus a million other curve balls during their time. Trying to plan for 5 years at this age is a fool's errand. Take it year by year.
     
  19. sam_gordon

    sam_gordon Member

    Feb 27, 2017
    FWIW, our "club"/travel soccer doesn't even start until U8 (might get an occasional U7). There's just WAY too much that can (and will) change between where newdada's son is now and five years, much less 10 from now.

    Heck, a few of our HS players and some that are on my son's team didn't even start club until U10.
     
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  20. Iniesta62106

    Iniesta62106 Member

    Sep 17, 2018
    Self motivation and desire are the secret sauce for long term success. Developing that has nothing to do with the amount of training he does at 5 or 6. Or at any age, for that matter. And if you think he will develop it because he dominates when he is 8 or 10, that’s a bad foundation.
     
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  21. CornfieldSoccer

    Aug 22, 2013
    I'll follow all of the above comments that say, I think accurately, that there is no one answer, with an example from my son's high school.

    For one of the varsity players last fall, a senior who started as one of the two forwards, the sweet spot was apparently no soccer until his junior year of high school. He was a terrific athlete and a battler who picked up enough skill over those two years to become a dangerous, goal-scoring and assist-providing forward (the other forward will play at a DI college next fall, and together they were pretty effective).

    But the formula for him was, from what I can tell, multiple sports year round, and no travel sports or concentration on a single sport. In soccer terms, he would probably be lost at a higher-level club, but on a pretty good high school team, he was good.

    Now, he's clearly an outlier. Most kids couldn't pick up the sport at 16 or 17 and do what he did. Given his athletic ability and attitude, I'd guess he could have specialized in something and been really good at it. But would picking just one and spending all his time on that have made sports more like work and less like fun? Maybe.

    There's no one answer. Plan less and watch your child and talk to them more. See how much they can do without losing sight of the fun. And I say all that knowing full well that we haven't always done everything "right" with our son -- I've tried to do better along the way, letting him ask me to do more and taking my cues from him. Sometimes I even succeed. :)
     
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  22. mwulf67

    mwulf67 Member+

    Sep 24, 2014
    Club:
    Chelsea FC
    Newdad, sight unseen and I don’t need to know where you live or any other details…I will bet you 20 bucks your son ends up playing football in HS…

    And I really like my odds…;)

    That’s how predictable and foreseeable things are at you son’s age…
     
  23. pu.ma

    pu.ma Member

    Feb 8, 2018
    If possible, try to find good coaches for your kid to play for. Three seasons under bad coaches ... just think about it ;)
     
  24. NewDadaCoach

    NewDadaCoach Member

    Tottenham Hotspur
    United States
    Sep 28, 2019
    You're right, 5 years is bit long... maybe two makes more sense. I'm guessing for ages 6 & 7 he'll do fall, spring, winter... and then like a small one week camp in the summer. Then it may change from 8 on if he tries out for a comp club. Is that when the cost rises a lot? I guess in my mind I have various scenarios envisioned. The most ambitious would be he plays for a club somewhere around ages 8-12. Then he plays for an MLS academy. The more casual route is he plays club and plays for his high school.
     
  25. NewDadaCoach

    NewDadaCoach Member

    Tottenham Hotspur
    United States
    Sep 28, 2019
    So basically from ages 5 to say 8... it sounds like parents should take soccer quite casually. Why spend the money on classes/camps at this age? Every time I see an ad for a league/academy session/camp/class I don't know what to think. If we don't sign him up will he fall behind? Is it a waste of money because he can learn at home or he can catch up later, at age 9?
     

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