It’s that time of year when people start asking me how we choose where our daughters play. Of course choosing is a mutual decision between coach and player, but the following are ten steps you may want to follow when choosing a team/club.
A great place to start is to ask around. Ask friends who have kids who play soccer- club or otherwise. Where do they play? Do they like it? Why/why not? If you are currently at a club- are you happy? Do you feel like your player is ready to move up a competition level? Is there a certain coach that is well liked and respected? What would you like see in your child’s team/coach/club? If you are just starting out, read the post Picking a Soccer Club at U9 written by my dear soccer mom friend.
Check out clubs in your area…or not, as the case may be. Click here to go to the Cal South club locator. Google the clubs and check out their websites. How many teams do they have? Do they have multiple teams at each age level? What are the license levels of their coaches? How many teams do coaches have? Where are their practice fields? What leagues do they play in? (SCDSL, CSL, ECNL, Academy etc…) If you have an older player- what kind of college recruiting programs does the club have and how many players are going on to play at the next level? Do this for any club that you are interested in. It’s not the most important information, but it’s a good starting point.
Figure out what kind of club/team you are interested in joining. Be realistic- what is the skill level of your child? Are you looking for a very high level coach/team or are you looking for a fun and friendly local team to start your club journey. How far are you willing to drive? Does your child have friends on a certain team? Is your child ready to try out for an Academy (boys), ECNL (girls) or Premier team? Read about some of the different leagues here.
Find out when the open tryouts are for the clubs/teams you are interested in. Most clubs will have that information on their website. Also- there is no need to wait for tryouts if there is a coach/team you really like. You can always contact the coach directly and most will invite your son/daughter to a training session before tryouts begin. This is a good way for your child to get to know the coach and the team before tryouts officially begin. You may even get an early offer!
Attend the club tryouts. (Teams U15 and above don’t always have open tryouts- the instructions will be on the club website) Read my post Tryout Time for some tips on standing out at tryouts. Although it isn’t necessary to attend all sessions offered, if you are really interested it’s best to attend as many tryout dates as possible. Make sure you get information about fees if offered.
While your child is strutting his/her stuff on the field, you have an important job on the sideline. Please don’t yell things out to your child on the field!! (You definitely don’t want to be “that parent”) While watching is great, my best tip is to stay quiet and listen to what is going on around you and then join in some conversations with other parents. What’s the “buzz” among the parents? Do people seem generally happy and a bit nervous, or do they seem upset and on edge? Of course there are all different reasons for parents’ emotions, but it’s a way to get an insight into how people are feeling about the club and the team.
If you get an offer from a club, make sure that you know the specific team you will be on. Some clubs might try to give a generic “club” offer and ask you to make a commitment (pay $$$) before assigning you to a specific team. If you really like the club and don’t mind what team you are on, then this is fine. Personally, I really wouldn’t like this because I am the most interested in my child’s team rather than simply the club. Don’t despair if your child doesn’t get the offer they are hoping for right away. It might take a while to find the right team!
If you get an offer from a specific team and coach, make sure you’ve done your research. What level does the team play? (SCDSL Tier 1/2/3, Coast Bronze, Gold etc…) How many players is the coach planning on having on the team? How many players are returning from last year? How did the team do last year? How many tournaments is the coach planning? What are the fees for the club and the team? Where/when do they practice? How is playing time allocated?
If at all possible, attend a regular team practice. Watch how the coach interacts with the girls/boys and possibly more importantly how the kids interact with each other. Does everyone participate in the practice? Is there a lot of waiting around? Is the coach on time? Are the girls/boys focused? Does the coach encourage different groups to work together or is it all the same groups the entire time? What is the skill level of the other players? Ideally for development you want the skill level of at least half the players to be a bit higher than your child, but this may not be important to you. Talk to parents on the sideline about how they feel about the team. This is where you will get valuable information, but of course you have to take everything with a grain of salt. Parents may be overly enthusiastic about the team in an effort to get you to join, or not very friendly if they are concerned about your kid taking their kid’s spot! Both of my girls’ teams have wonderful families and coaches which made the choices easy for us. Don’t forget that you will be spending lots of time with these people! Our soccer friends have become like an extended family to us.
The most important factor to me is if my girls and my family are going to be happy with the team. We discuss things as a family, but we leave the final decisions up to them. Club soccer is a demanding and time consuming sport and kids increasingly have to make sacrifices (social time, sleepovers etc…) to participate. Everyone does things differently, but our main focus is that my girls are happy, thriving and learning. We haven’t had a major difference of opinion yet, but they are the ones who have to play on the team!
When BSG first started club six years ago we had no clue what was going on and she only went to one club’s tryouts and I’m embarrassed to tell you what she wore! When she made the team we just said yes without knowing anything- lol. Fortunately everything worked out well and she’s still at the same great club where we love her team and coach. With LSG we made an unintended late team switch two years ago based mostly on faith that’s worked out in some pretty amazing ways that we never planned. Her club, coach and families are all awesome. All that is to say that there are many different ways to choose a team and many different things that are the “right” choice. What’s important is making the right choice for your family and child.
How did you choose your child’s team/club?