I’m often asked by parents about how to select a good soccer club for their son or daughter. There are many variables to consider when choosing, and it pays dividends in the long run to take your time and carefully evaluate the clubs you’re considering.
Here are my top 10 things to look for when choosing a club & coach:
About The Organization:
- Is the club well established, or are they a club that bounces around from affiliation with one larger club to the next, using each larger club’s name as a means to recruit? A club that has a history of frequent name and affiliation changes may be an uncertain and unstable environment for a young player.
- Do they have field space for playing with the proper permits? Look for a club that has permitted fields which allow a guaranteed practice and game space, plus often it allows the club to maintain the fields at a higher level of safety for playing.
Coaching – Experience and Licensure:
- Do the coaches have the appropriate experience? Experience playing in college or overseas does not guarantee good coaching skills. Not every great player becomes a coach. Coaching education is very important. Is the coach you’re considering a USSF licensed coach. Is he familiar with an established training curriculum.
- Likewise, don’t put your faith in a foreign accent. There are many excellent coaches with an European, Latin, Middle Eastern, or other accent, but it’s no guarantee. There are many others with those accents who are coaching here because they couldn’t get a coaching job at home. Again, look for genuine coaching credentials.
- Do they have experience working with young players? A teaching credential, experience as a coach at a local high school or after school program, or even having kids of their own are good indicators that a coach knows the need, abilities and temperaments of younger players. If a coach has none of these, don’t let your player be a first-time experiment for them.
- Teaching the basics. A coach should have a well-established curriculum for younger players that is loaded with teaching of the fundamentals. The coach must be able to demonstrate the basics to the players.
- Does the coach encourage private lessons? As a general rule, if the coach is doing his job, no private lessons should be needed. If you do feel that your child would benefit from some one-on-one time, be sure to choose a coach other than his/her team coach. It eliminates any “favorites” on the team and gives your child experience from a different coaching point of view.
- Is the coach someone who screams at players to get results, or is he/she an instructor and teacher? Worse still, is the coach a baby-sitter who recruits to get paid? Look for a coach who has solid teaching skills and can get his/her message across to the team without yelling or bullying.
- The team existing or new? Neither one of these in inherently good or bad, but there are considerations for each of them. New teams may start at the bottom of the rankings as they have no games played, and thus no record. However, opportunity for players is the same for each of the players on the new team. Established teams may have a track record and may have achieved a certain level of playing within a league, but it may be harder to break into a certain position or be accepted socially.
- Is the primary emphasis on winning? Winning at all costs often comes at the expense of development. Certain players may be favored while others get less experience. If the focus is on the long-term development of well-rounded players with solid fundamental skills and age-appropriate learning, then winning will come in time. A focus solely on winning loses sight of the bigger picture.
Lastly, be very careful selecting a coach who continually changes clubs and drags kids with them. Experience has shown these types of coaches are not professional and disappear over time. Further, it is not in the player’s best interest to have this inherent lack of stability. Find a club that has roots, and stick with it. Your child will benefit from such a grounded environment.
It is your money, apply the basic theory that you would to any activity for your child’s development. Do not compromise because a soccer ball is involved. Your child is giving up a large part of their life — it should be enjoyable!