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Questions Parents Should Ask
by Michael Barr, June 25th, 2009 1:30PM
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By Mike Barr

As a parent, you are constantly faced with decisions that have a profound impact on your child's future. I believe it is important to examine some of these issues as they relate to youth soccer and all youth sports today.

The Formative Years
As a coach and educator for close to 30 years, I believe the coaches your child has at the younger ages are critical. Many clubs have begun to shift their focus from the older, travel ages to the young ages. Much as successful elementary school teachers provide the building blocks and love for learning, coaches in the ages of 6 to 12 can and should provide the same.

Questions for your club and their coaches during the Formative Years:

* Does your club have prerequisites for coaches who are involved with coaching players under the age of 10, and coaches who are involved with early-age travel teams?

* Do they place development above winning?

* Are they aware of the physical, social and cognitive stages of development for those ages?

* Does you child's club have a curriculum with exercises and activities based on age and development?

* Is my child's practice fun, and is every child involved?

* Are the practices organized, with a progression and theme?

* Does the practice facilitate learning?

* Does the coach recognize coachable moments to instruct?

* If there are travel teams for ages 9 through 12, is travel distance limited and are tournaments in which they participate played locally?

* If your child is involved with a travel team, is there a fair balance of practice time and matches (two or three practices to one match)?

* Does the coach of the travel team have a philosophy regarding the team that is shared with parents and players?

* Does the coach allow a player to miss practice due to homework, school functions, family outings, or priorities in other sports?

* If playing travel, is there considerable down time from the sport at certain times of the year?

I believe the answer should be, "Yes," to all of these pertinent questions.

(Mike Barr is the Director of Coaching of the Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Association and the head men's coach of Immaculta University. He coached the boys team at Strath Haven High School in 1984-2005, winning five PIAA state titles, six PIAA District One titles and 16 Central League titles.)

  1. Thomas Milbury
    commented on: June 25, 2009 at 1:34 p.m.
    Can you comment on the impact of committing to an academy program - is there a correct age for good athletes to specialize and play one sport; how about the dilution effect of club and odp play by the academies stripping top talent.
  1. Paul Giavanopoulos
    commented on: July 2, 2009 at 9:37 a.m.
    If there are travel teams for ages 9 through 12, is travel distance limited and are tournaments in which they participate played locally? While the Utopian answer is yes, the issue here is not black and White. 1) The team depends on the league that it plays in to be placed in the correct divisional play. When this does not happen , then the team and the players have to explore other options. i.e--If the team gets misplaced and wins games 5-0, 6-0 etc, then the players are not being challenged and will not improve. what other choice does the team have other than to look elsewhere to play meaningful games. 2) On the same issue above, what if the league makes a decision to allow teams from a far to play? The team has no choice then but to travel 2 hours away and play the league games? agree 3) the play other sports issue: here again the Utopian answer is yes, let them play. Great!!!! However, the state association we belong to Mike has their State Cup play in the Spring, in the middle of LAX and BB season. This causes lots of juggling and heartaches. Furher what do we do with the players that want to play year round and play the state cups?? The above causes even more problems, as those players eventually leave and go to super clubs that play year round, diluting the club team that they started with, creating a viscious cycle. You have lots of experience in the sport with many years and I am Privileged to know some of your x-players and coaches. can you comment on the above? thanks Paul

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