Where does Grassroots soccer begin? The U.S. Soccer Federation looks at grassroots soccer beginning at the college level, and bypasses the youth level, but, how can that be the grassroots for soccer? Can someone help me here? What we understand is that grassroots soccer starts between the ages of 5-8 years old and continues through to college. In the U.S. the highest level of grassroots soccer is the U.S. National U-17 team or the collegiate level? In the U.S.'s development of soccer when one sits and thinks about it, it seems to be many voids missing. For instance the clubs who have recreational programs. Who are these players? Nor do the coaches educate the parents about travel soccer. One reason for this is because the recreational players pay more money to play in the club than the travel players. The recreational players may pay $200, while the travel players pay the team, which is the reason why these clubs want to keep their players at the recreational level.
Travel team players pay for the registration to the club, but do not pay to play in a league within the club system, rather teams play in a travel affiliated league for the club. Players and parents have a difficult time understanding the roles between the recreational and travel sides of the club. As the club continues to grow, the travel side of soccer in the U.S. has grown tremendously. More players now want to play at the travel level, but lack the knowledge about the travel program. The process has not been taught to the parents as to how to move from the recreational side to the travel side of soccer. In some cases coaches on the recreational side of the club hold players that are good enough to play on the travel side of the club due to the fact that the club lacks direction. Only top level clubs in the country have a proper feeder program from the recreational to the travel side. Here is what I mean, as we see and look around the U.S., those clubs with a good program with Director of Coach, and Coaches running clinics for players between 5-10 year olds, are now turning out to be the better travel teams in the country. This is not the case in every club environment, however, some clubs must still locate the players to come into the different travel age groups from U-9 – U-19.
So, are our recreational player being helped to understand that there are so many different clubs that they can join and play, or, are we going to continue to hold these players hostage by keeping them playing on the recreational level. Are we providing our players with the information necessary to move forward. Many travel clubs do not have a recreational side, but, attempts to locate 20-30 five to seven year old children to train and continue in their program. Not necessarily the better players attend these practices, but parents who are knowledgeable about travel soccer. Why do the recreational programs have hundreds of players? Many of these kids are coached by parent coaches who just read a book and decided that they wanted to coach the players. Why? Soccer in this country is more developed than that. We are trying to create the best environment for players to grow in the sport of soccer and represent the national team one day. Is every kid getting that opportunity or feeling like kids all around the world that they have the opportunity to play in college or the professional levels.
At the highest level of grassroots soccer (College and/or ODP programs) we have seen a few exciting players. We are yet to create a player who dances on the ball, dribbles 2 or 3 players, and makes the crowd come to see him/her player which is a joy to see. When we read this article, are we beginning to see whether we have created this player, or is politics taking over the beautiful game of soccer.