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Club vs. High School conflict heats up (A view from the NSCAA)
by Mike Woitalla, September 29th, 2011 3:06AM

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TAGS:  high school boys, high school girls, youth boys, youth girls

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Interview by Mike Woitalla

More than a third of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s 30,000-plus members are high school coaches. So we spoke with NSCAA CEO Joe Cummings about the tug-of-war for players between high schools and elite clubs, who often urge their players to skip scholastic ball. The conflict intensified when the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, which is comprised of 78 clubs and includes more than 3,000 of the nation’s top boys players, announced that about of a third of its clubs have moved to a 10-month schedule this season and by fall of 2012 it expects all of its clubs to do so. Cummings' career in soccer has included high school, college and youth club coaching, as well as administrative positions at the pro level with MLS’s New England Revolution and WPS’s Boston Breakers.

SOCCER AMERICA: You’ve heard from high school coaches regarding the Development Academy’s move toward a 10-month season, which would keep its players out of high school ball?

JOE CUMMINGS:
Yes. High school coaches are one of the most active constituency groups we have.

They want to know, first of all, if this will be a topic at the NSCAA Convention [Jan. 11-15 in Kansas City] -- and yes, it was last year and will again be this year.

And they want to know what our position is.

We have a committee that has come up with a position paper -- it’s being wordsmithed now for the NSCAA -- relative to what we call “personal choice.”

It’s our position that players have a personal choice to decide whether to play for high school and youth soccer programs whenever possible, but we appreciate the position of the Academies as far as player development being at their core.

We appreciate and understand the Academy side of things, but we also appreciate and understand that our high school coaches would have some questions about this.

We just want to make sure that the decision being made by parents and players is being made so that the players’ personal, social and soccer development is always considered.

SA: Comments from some club coaches about high school ball is quite disparaging. They’re basically saying that spending a couple months of the year with high school coaches is a major detriment to a player's development …

JOE CUMMINGS:
I think it’s dangerous to make statements like that and make them sound like facts.

We [the NSCAA] this year put 7,000 coaches through coaching programs, residentially and non-residentially. Well, thousands of them are high school coaches.

We have high school coaches we feel comfortable saying have received a level of coaching education that improves their ability to present the game. And to say that that a high school coach isn’t going to help in the development of a player – that just doesn’t seem fair.

That’s why I have trouble with the statement that sending a player to high school program means he’s not going to develop.

If someone had ever said that about me when I was coaching high school, I would have been pretty upset, knowing all I’d put in to become the coach I was at the high school level.

SA: The less severe argument for keeping players out of high school ball is that it allows Academy clubs to spread their season out and maintain a more reasonable practice-to-game ratio …

JOE CUMMINGS:
It just may not be practical or possible for a young athlete to participate in multiple levels of the game. We understand that.

What we want to make sure is that as these decisions are being made, the players' personal development, social development and soccer development are being considered.

If that means 10 months a year in the Academy, we support it. If that means opting to play high school, we support that.

SA: While club coaches may say high school ball puts elite players in a sub-par, less challenging environment, high school coaches respond that playing at a different level can be beneficial. For example, an average player at an elite club could be a playmaker, team leader at the high school level. That he carries a bigger burden and that will help his all-around game ...

JOE CUMMINGS:
Yes, that could be the case. In my opinion, players should always have the opportunity to play at a level in which their development can be enhanced.

I also taught school for 21 years. I’m going to say this to you as a teacher, an educator and a coach: If a child has an opportunity to play, practice, train – no matter what their love for the game is – at a level that provides them with greater development, then I think that’s an opportunity they should explore.

SA: I have heard legitimate complaints from club coaches that high school ball sometimes doesn’t mesh well club ball. For example, a high school coach putting a player, fresh off a club season, into a rigorous preseason training regime the player doesn’t need at that point. Couldn’t something like that be solved with more cooperation between the factions?

JOE CUMMINGS:
It’s definitely possible when the coaches on both sides of the player have the player's development as a key concern.

SA: High school sports in America have traditionally been considered an integral part of the elite athlete’s development and I’m not aware that other high school sports, such as basketball, are under fire the way high school soccer is. Any idea why high school soccer is considered by many a weak link in an elite youth player’s development?

JOE CUMMINGS:
That’s an interesting question. Do they question high school football? Do they question high school hockey, high school track & field?

That’s a great question. Perhaps it’s because our sport is perceived to be playing catch-up internationally.

SA: Even if the nation’s top 3,000 boys players opt out of high school ball, it’s not as if the USA has a shortage of soccer players. Could the case be made that the opportunities they open up for other players raises the overall level of players?

JOE CUMMINGS:
I would agree with that. A high school that loses its top two players for an Academy team will still be represented by full rosters.

A boy or girl who was on the junior varsity team -- they have an opportunity to play on the varsity. They are going to be challenged to improve.

In theory, it makes sense -- like moving a child up to an advanced class knowing they’ll be challenged to work harder and keep up with the material.



34 comments
  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: September 29, 2011 at 3:58 a.m.
    All of this is fine and good for the sport. However, there is no mention on how the California schools - public, private and parochial - deal with soccer, in that in some of the regions or "section" soccer is not played as a fall sport, i.e. at the same time as football, instead the soccer season kicks off just before Thanksgiving and runs through early February. This is problematic due to the inclement weather, as well as the holiday season and other national holidays that can in fact and deed wreak havoc in the playing months. As for the Club/Academy concept here in Southern California the more serious player will opt for their club team eschewing the high school program. What is also detrimental, now during the age of shrinking dollars for high school sports, soccer players must also involve themselves in fund raising and share a large burden of the cost of purchasing uniforms, chip in for travel to aways games (or be charged a specific fee by the schools) which in turn only serves to convince players to devote their time to their club/academy team. So, at least in this neck of the woods it is a matter of "six of one and half dozen of the other" dilemma.

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: September 29, 2011 at 2:32 p.m.
    Yes Ric, not to mention the terrible bias coaching that is seen maybe even more in High School to go along with terrible run n gun soccer.

  1. Ryan Giggs
    commented on: September 29, 2011 at 2:32 p.m.
    A core problem with high school soccer compared to academy club is that ANY John or Jane Doe may be assigned as a coach and schools couldn't care less. The primary position of that soccer coach is NOT a soccer coach, but classroom teacher. This person may be an assistant football coach who gets stuck there, or someone who just happens to have some soccer background (played when was a kid or coached child's rec team). However, there are often many HIGHLY qualified high school coaches who do more for a player (soccer and personal life) in a few years than an average club coach could dream. A core problem with academy/club coaches is that they can be arrogant pricks who are really just washed up players who couldn't make it pro and don't want to wear monkey suits or sit indoors all day. The fact that they were an all star in college and played on that semi-pro team for a couple of years makes them too good to even look at much less speak to a lowly high school coach. However, there are many good club coaches as well, and academy-club can/should in general offer more consistent level of competition, development, and coaching. Here's something to consider. Which is the better experience? Playing FOR yourself ON a team full of all-star players at a deserted academy game in the middle of nowhere. OR Playing FOR school & community pride on a team full of good to average players, in an emotionally packed stadium. OR Some degree of both?

  1. David Whitehouse
    commented on: September 29, 2011 at 2:36 p.m.
    The ONLY High School sport that is integral to an athlete's development is football, which is a completely atypical youth sport. All other sports - basketball, volleyball, track (AAU), soccer (USSF), tennis (USTA), golf (USGA,etc. ) are developing the Elite sports outside of schools and it is where the student athletes are looked at - not school teams. I live in Michigan and most definitely feel High School sports need to "dial it back a notch" - in particular, schools should never tell a player he or she must choose between a school team and a club team. The local travel league (Grand Valley Soccer Association) has 6000+ players and never has told a child he or she cannot play elsewhere at the same time, but the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) forbids school players from playing on club teams. When he was 14 my son was told he could not play on a Co-Ed AYSO team (which did not have much to do with soccer, but certainly had a lot to do with meeting girls) since he was playing on a school team.

  1. Dawn Nelson
    commented on: September 29, 2011 at 2:39 p.m.
    What Academy coaches seem to be forgetting is FUN! These are high school kids, and sometimes it's just FUN to play with the school friends that you grew up with (even if you grew past them in soccer). It's making a different kind of memory, and being able to show off your skills to your school peers, it's being one of the school group for a few weeks.

  1. Alan Brown
    commented on: September 29, 2011 at 2:42 p.m.
    The allure of high school soccer is the opportunity for elite players to receive some public acclaim and glory. Otherwise, they play in relative anonymity in front of family members and coaches scouting for college talent. There is no doubt that opting out of high school (and for boys, most college) programs is the better path for technical development, but club and academy soccer do not provide kids with the thrill and satisfaction of playing for school and friends. Teen-agers don't feel this tug in the rest of the world, because club/academy soccer is the only option. Klinsmann recognizes this and may not like it, but understands it's the U.S. paradigm.

  1. Ron R
    commented on: September 29, 2011 at 3:02 p.m.
    i'm certainly not opposed to a longer club season but I am opposed to the lumping of high school soccer into a second tier coaching environment. In most states, it is difficult to find a high school coach who doesn't coach in the club environment as well. If the high school athletic organizations would eliminate the conflict of interest clauses they push on players and coaches, we could move closer to a common training environment across club and school and build in the high school season on what is developed in club. I believe that a good player becomes a better player by playing, and in some cases an even better player by helping to develop other players who are not at their level. This is not a black or white issue but as in most issues these days, you have to take a side when neither side is 100% correct. We have a strong encouragement from US National Coaches to develop a 4:3:3 system in order to feed the same structure through all development stages. What prevents us from building a club scheme in high school? Football coaches in small towns everywhere in the nation have huge influence on the formation and playing style in the little leagues that feeds the high school... It works really well when a community gets together and supports their kids and it typically works really poorly when they work to separate the kids and create classes. I would hate to be the best soccer player in my school and tell all the kids in my class that the reason our team isn't any good is the best players will get cut from their club teams if they help their HS team win a state title. Kids have enough problems these days wihtout adults being selfish and creating indentured servants. My final commetn is to Follow the Money on this. When a kid hits HS ages, the club fees are cut substantially becasue they don't pay for the off season club schedule any more. At our club the older players pay about 60-65% of what the younger player pays adn the motivation to play 10 months is, in at least some way, corrupted by the coach compensation issues. Jusy sayin'

  1. Max Moss
    commented on: September 29, 2011 at 3:13 p.m.
    It comes down to the accademies position that "no one can coach and develope an elite player like we can". The key point is a need for cooperation between the clubs and academic programs and not a competative environment to see who can keep the elite player. AAU basketball does not try to restrict their players. Instead, they work closely with the high school coaches. The USA still produces more elite basketball players than any country. The NSCAA could learn from this. If the goal is to promote soccer to the same level as the other big 3 US sports, it will have to come through the high school and college programs and not by side tracking them.

  1. Brent Boone
    commented on: September 29, 2011 at 3:23 p.m.
    Let me first start by reminding everyone that the US is not Europe or South America. Our education system is different, and has for years included the social and emotional attachment of playing for your high school. I had a parent mention to me their son was at his high school game where close to 500 people were there with faces painted, cheering them on. You don't see that at an academy game. The academy is basically telling these high school kids that they are losing that opportunity to play in front of classmates and peers. Next, the ego of academy coaches needs to disappear, there are a number of academy coaches who are high school coaches, there a ton of high school coaches who are more than qualified to develop players. To tell a 15 year old boy that he is not going to continue developing if they play high school soccer is absurd. The two groups need to work together. There is no need to make a teen give up a high school soccer career. I would be willing to bet that at least 85% of academy players, if polled, will tell you that they still would want to play for their high school team if afforded the opportunity. The plan first starts with the high schools. Each state high school athletic association needs to get on the same page and make soccer a fall sport. From there, the academy needs to have a season that runs from November 1st thru June 30th. The boys would come to the start of their academy season fit and ready to go. The academy teams will still continue to develop players, even if their boys are playing a high school fall season. Let's not make these teenage boys have to make a decision they really don't want, or need, to make!!

  1. Glenn Mcwilliams
    commented on: September 29, 2011 at 3:26 p.m.
    Ryan Giggs, Dawn Nelson, Alan Brown and Ron Richard have nailed it in their comments above. Is the game the best teacher? Or is the Academy Coach the best teacher? Seriously folks, check your egos at the door. If you are so fearful that 8 or 10 weeks of fun soccer with friends and screaming crowds of classmates and community members is really going to undo what you work on the other 40+ weeks of the year, it makes parents like me wonder if you are as good as you think you are. And, really, do High School ball and Club ball need to be mutually exclusive? Can't the Academy Club run a one-time-per-week session during High School ball just to keep your voice in their ears? Can you not figure out a way to allow our high schoolers to do both?

  1. ralph estevez
    commented on: September 29, 2011 at 3:28 p.m.
    So what would anyone suggest I do with my daughter playing JV soccer for high school? She plays on a club/travel team also that I help coach. She worked the entire summer with a trainer focusing on her abilities as a field player. The high school team barely had enough players for varsity & JV this year, after the first bunch of kids never came back after 1st day of week & 1/2 try-outs, conditioning, etc. This is the 2nd year now that she has played for the high school team. Her first year was spent moving her from one position to the next. This year, they are playing her as keep, which she has never played or trained for. The coaches do not work on development. She is miserable and wants to quit and stick with my club/travel team. I'm not worrying too much if she does leave the JV team because she is never allowed the chance to work on the skills she learned all summer. Plus, only 4 girls, including my daughter, on the JV team have knowledge of and played the game for many years. The rest came out of rec programs or had no prior playing experience. This may not be typical of other teams, but I think what's happening to her might be happening to others, hence the need for this article to be written.

  1. Earlina (Ernie) Yoder
    commented on: September 29, 2011 at 3:29 p.m.
    Allow our players to be exposed to all levels of coaching. In North Carolina there are some highly competative High School Soccer teams.

  1. Ron R
    commented on: September 29, 2011 at 3:29 p.m.
    Great comment Brent and I would add that the 15% that wouldn't want to play in HS have a probelm with that coach not being qualified. If we uplevel the quality of coaching in high schools and remove the rules that prevent a club coach from coaching high school age players that feed into their schools, we would have better coaches and mor econsistency in training. Then I gaurantee the number of players who want to be HS players would be 100%.

  1. John Klawitter
    commented on: September 29, 2011 at 3:33 p.m.
    This is so close to home it's not funny. My daughter is a freshman in high school and, for the first time since she was 4 years old, has had had to stop playing club soccer due to family finances and academic reasons. Immediately prior to making the tough decsion to quit club ball, her club joined the ECNL. The prior year, she had competed in the Premier League West and the Oklahoma Premier League (Don't laugh about it being Oklahoma as just one year higher, one of her club teams finished PLW without allowing a single goal and edging out eventual National Champion Sting and finished second Nationally to Sting - Also remember, our small population produced Joe Max Moore in the past and now, Zach Lloyd, who will probably challenge for being on the Men's National Team soon). Ok, make no bones about it, my daughter is not at the level to compete in the ECNL. However, my daughter was quite productive and a solid contributor on a team that would be considered to play at a relatively high level. She will play High School Varsity and I believe will be quite productive in doing so. But, the only reason she is not playing club will be the pay-for-play reality. The economy is tough and many of us who were active participants in this scheme have been forced out due to no fault of our children. My daughter also picked up volleyball this year and it is even worse than soccer. The expectation for playing club volleyball in Oklahoma is $8,000 a year. In my opinion, anyone who sides with club side of the equation, would gladly deny a Ronaldihno or even a Pele the opportunity to compete at the highest level. There is a real problem here and the last persons on earth who want to fix it or the club soccer coaches. They are doing well, want to continue doing so, and it has nothing to do with the well-being of the inidvidual ahtlete. There's good reason why my daughter's club is not a non-profit entity. And, while there are amazing coaches in the organiztion, there are those, my daughter's included, who are all about identifying and bringing in existing talent and not developing players. But these coaches have their allies in the club, because there has been no cross-over in coaching. How can the coach of the secon best team in the nation know that his good friend is far less passionate about developing players than he is. These are the problems I see. I may not be the most knowledgeable, but I follow both National Teams with passion and I long for the USA to be the place where a new Messi will thrive like nowhere else and I ask you, the clubs of the country, would you deny the next Messi if his parents were poor. Think closely about your answer, because I believe I have seen the one that is rooted in your action.

  1. John Klawitter
    commented on: September 29, 2011 at 3:48 p.m.
    One additional comment to my prior statement. The coach for my daughter's High School coach last year is not her coach this year, beacuse he was hired aas the Men's coach for a university in town. He is also a club coach. In our region, I know of very few High School coaches who are not club coaches as well. But when making comparisons between soccer and other more established sports like basketball and even baseball and softball, whether it be the level of sponsorship and funding or whatever, there is no comparison to the level of scholarship available for less than affluent athletes. If you are a talented basketball player from the inner-city no matter which part of the country you are from, you are going to be playing whether your parents can afford it or not. People in soccer inner-circles do not like to come to grips with that stark difference. We won't develop the best players until we are allowing the best players to play regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds. As much as I love soccer, there is no doubt in my mind, like volleyball, that its biggest problem is that it is at this juncture still somewhat elitest.

  1. Jens Jensen
    commented on: September 29, 2011 at 3:53 p.m.
    First time I have commented on this site: I am a High School coach, former college player, and former club soccer referee. I just want to say that I am sick of this discussion. Parents - ignore this nonsense and let your kids play High School if that is what they want to do. It is fun - you play for something real - you play with and in front of your buddies, the community, and the ladies. If that means the club drops them - so be it. In the end, if you are good enough, it really doesnt matter where you play because talent always trumps a resume. Coaches - GET OVER YOURSELF. You play a minor role in the development of a player. Great players become that way almost totally on their own because they have the talent, put in the time, and have the passion to be the best. Our job is to try not to screw them up. College Soccer - in general, I feel you need to get your head out of your ass and start looking for talent outside of the system where you spend all your time patting each other on the back. There are great - even exceptional players in the system, but it is laughable how you ignore potential genius because a player is left out of the system because they lack the parental support, financial means, or the proximity to a major market. Why dont you write and article about all the international players who dominate the game who would have less than a snowball's chance in hell of getting seen and included in the current US system? Bottom line - this is a tired argument and it is simply people posturing as part of a financial turf war and battling egos. It is dumb and I am sick of it. Build partnerships - not walls.

  1. Kent James
    commented on: September 29, 2011 at 3:55 p.m.
    A number of people have highlighted the significant issues: sometimes less is more. Less competition can mean a bigger role for a player, allowing them to develop different skills. Less pressure can mean more fun (and less burnout). High school soccer can be an important component for the player to develop socially. It's also a means for soccer to attract support from the main stream, since this is how most sports in America are experienced. Taking out the best players can dramatically weaken a team (especially when the differences are large). Sure, there are lousy HS coaches (but there are also lousy club coaches), and a few months of bad coaching shouldn't destroy a player's development (and may also help them appreciate good coaching, potentially improving their attitude). HS soccer has it's flaws, but in the current American sphere, it has an important place. Clubs and High Schools should work together the enhance the experiences for the players.

  1. lorenzo murillo
    commented on: September 29, 2011 at 4:54 p.m.
    How about the USSF stop giving out cheap licenses, and convert to a 2 or 3 year educational program that produces educated coaches? The problem is not HS vs Academies. Is the lack of education the US Coach has. I laugh all the time I am told of these "awesome" coaches, and when I go watch him/her train, can't even carry out a decent warmup routine and all they do is keep away drills. (In case you're wondering about my background, I have B license, where I learnt nothing, but do have a BS in Sports & Fitness, and certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association).

  1. Seth Feldman
    commented on: September 29, 2011 at 5:50 p.m.
    I am a high school, and club soccer coach; plus the a varsityTrack coach at my school in Northern California. Here are my observations: 1. Most of the club coaches that are part of my club (we are an "elite club") are not American and do not understand the psychological and social development that comes with playing for your high school. This is different than my colleagues in the AAU track programs who understand that high school track is about running, personal development and public recognition. track coaches know this---because they were once American High School Students and know the joy/experiences of having your classmates, teachers and faculty root for you and know that 25 years from now your picture will be in the gym showcase for winning XXX . Most soccer club coaches don't/can't think that long term because they won't be at their club in 20 years. 2. Club coaching is big business/high school coaching is part of my love for my school. Don't underestimate the allure of money in this debate. My club pays me substantially more than I will ever make from my high school and for some in our league/club that effects how they behave; their expectations and what they want from their athletes. I know many club coaches who won't let their kids play club ball because they fear losing a tough game to an opponent. I don't know of any high school coaches who fear losing their jobs because they didn't win the championship (maybe DeLaSalle is an exception)! 3. AAU basketball, track and swimming are extensions of the high school experience. The coaches are often intertwined with one another; they look out for the other guys players and act more collegial towards one another. This is opposite in soccer. My Club and High school colleagues move around a lot; thus there is little consistency and a different attitude towards one another and towards the sport itself. 3. High School coaches teach the game from the bottom up; club coaches manage the gamefrom the top down. We coach at the club level and teach at the high school level. This is often misunderstood by those less knowledgable, but I find my club players excel their next club season because they teach the new players the fundamentals---thus improving their own play. 4. Finally, as a high school coach I have a different relationship with my players--grades, GPA, college acceptances, personal growth, academic advisor. But as a club coach I have two main responsibilities: teach technique, put together a quality team. I love my club and I love my High School, but I also recognize the shortcomings of each. Interestingly, when I tell club coaches I am a high school coach they often assume that all I do is conditioning; and when my high school coaches find out I am a club team they expect a finesse team---neither understands what the purpose of the other organization is for and therefore they don't respect each other!

  1. Hal Hilger
    commented on: September 29, 2011 at 6:19 p.m.
    I was born and raised in Germany and started playing soccer as a child until I immigrated to the states. Our coaches had to be certified to coach, and since there are no sports in the school, other than one hour a week, we played in a city club, not associated with the school. It is one reason that Germany is one of the super powers of soccer in the world. Those children from age 5 until 18 play in youth leagues and advance according to their ability. It would be to their advantage to send selected individuals to europe, observe and have meeting with the head of their clubs and inform themselves what would be best in regard to this country. Take FC Bayern Muenchen or Manchester United for instance, they could gain valuable information and technics and bring them into our system.

  1. John Smith
    commented on: September 29, 2011 at 8:10 p.m.
    As I see it the conflicts between High School and Club could be lessoned if the High School season was defined for both boys and girls. We have Soccer in the winter months in Texas,Mississippi and California, soccer in the fall in Minnesota,Tennessee Ohio and a bunch more then in the spring for Wisconsin, South Carolina and Illinois etc. HS soccer is all over the place and would be a lot easier to manage if the season was consistent among all 50 states. Maybe something that the NFHSS could look into.

  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: September 29, 2011 at 8:54 p.m.
    High school coaches undercut their own credibility by making club players play 5 days per week, often with 2 or 3 games per week, for two months--same as the non-club players. Yeah, the kids like playing with their classmates, but how many high school coaches cross-train their players? None that I know of. And then they wonder why everyone picks up injuries. Maybe it's not all their fault, since HS leagues force them to cram everything into 10 weeks. But I have little sympathy for coaches that aren't looking out for the well being of their players. They talk a good game, but their kids are all practicing 5 days per week. It's unconscionable.

  1. Paul g Best
    commented on: September 29, 2011 at 8:55 p.m.
    HS soccer is a joke and no longer the gateway to college soccer. IMO there's no point of playing HS soccer by risking getting injured by a player on the other team who also happens to be a lineman on the schol footbal team. Most parents who support their childs participation at young ages are doing so in hopes of getting that all elusive college scholarship. This is all wrong and why risk it playing HS soccer when club soccer is more competitive all around? NCAA governed soccer is no guarantee of a professional career given all the mandated restrictions and stupid rules of the game. Most college coaches also recruit from observing players of club teams at a tournament where they can get the most bang for the limited recruiting budget. If the US mens national teams have any hopes of improving their standings and being taken seriously on the world stage, we need to change our tactics and techniques. This sport is the rest of the worlds game and we in the US need to apply the philosophy of 'When in Rome, do as the Roman does.' With the vast amount of resources we have in this country, it's really a shame our mens national team stinks so bad, loses lesser resourced CONCACAF teams, and hasn't done anything nor come close to accomplishing what the womans program has done. Why is that and congrats to them.

  1. la spence
    commented on: September 30, 2011 at 2:27 a.m.
    Mix money and innocence and get what we are dealing with now, politics. Remember sometimes the best things in life are free.We are pricing ourselves out of good talent. Soccer on a global level is a inexpensive sport,so why does it cost so much here ,ie club teams. If you think these high price club teams are producing the talent than look around. We need to focus on not discouraging the kid that has the talent, but not the money. On talking to real soccer enthusiast.They look at most clubs as rich kids trying to pay someone to make them talented.You can go to any lower level income place overseas and find high level talent, why for the love of the game.So you can have all the top level training you can pay for ,but unless the Kid I say again the Kid love for the game is their ,than we still will be playing catch up. Let the sport be what it was meant to be, the beautiful game. Let's have fun high school and club.

  1. Willaim Thornton
    commented on: September 30, 2011 at 1:31 p.m.
    I'm not sure where to start but I believe there is so much wrong with those who don't understand what the meaning and importance of the academy system is to youth soccer. Development is key to what will make us successful at the international level. In the big picture this is the goal, to be able to compete at the top level with better skilled players. The skill and development of these players start at the ages of 4-5 and must continually be nurtured by coaches and the willing effort of the player. Jump to the high school years/academy years, and where players need to be in order to compete at the next level, whether that be college or professional, as a nation we are not producing enough top talent. There will always be an educational aspect of American soccer, which differs from European(example)soccer that frames the American mindset on what it takes to develop top level players. High school soccer in general does not provide the daily training, nor the exposure to other high level players on a consistent basis. If you have never coach at the academy level, or been to an academy function, I encourage you to go watch a game, and understand that although everyone should be enjoying themselves, that the kids are there to take care of business. It's a vastly different approach to playing in front of friends and girls, these kids are motivated to do what it takes to play at the highest level. High school programs are not built for that level of commitment, as stated, they are to be fun for all, and just another source of physical fitness.

  1. Chris Morris
    commented on: September 30, 2011 at 8:07 p.m.
    The stated goal of the Development Academy is “to produce the next generation of National Team players.” Not college players, not MLS. National Team players. Certainly, it makes sense for the few elite players who will form that next generation to bypass high school soccer, as Bradenton participants do now. But what about the full-scale Academy program, which according to this article now includes 3,000 players. Since this represents a four-year age span, and assuming the typical roster age distribution, that means about 15-20 of these current players will get into the national team pool at some point in their career. Thus well over 99% of the Academy players will be expected to bypass high school soccer for the long-term benefit of a national team program they will never join. One could argue that all of the 3,000 have to be treated as potential national team players because we don’t know yet which 20 will actually get there. Or that we have to create the same developmental experience for all 3,000 so that the future 20 will flourish. We would all like to have an improved national team, but nevertheless I wonder why USSF has accepted without question that the only way to have a better group of 23 players on the future U.S. roster is to change the entire landscape of youth soccer for many thousands of players.

  1. michael cassady
    commented on: October 1, 2011 at 12:33 p.m.
    cannot the same crtique of highschool soccer be leveled at college soccer?both disrespect fifa,both play head baging,run and gun football,both have crammed ,shot seasons.college coaches just have more vested financial well being at stake.it is nice to see actual fans at highschool and college games(local rivals) v only a few parents at club games. not much can change though until we have unified,quality second and third division pro teams with local real rivalries.

  1. Bobby Pinto
    commented on: October 2, 2011 at 9:24 p.m.
    I've coached both High School and Club. I believe they should play both. During High School season we don't make the players who made the high school team train with the club team, it is their option if they want to. We continue the same training schedule in the club so if they want to show up they can and for the players who did not make the team or decide not to tryout they come and train either way. They still play on the weekends or in tournaments if it does not conflict with their high school schedule. Yes you have more exposure through club when college coaches are concerned but High School is an integral part of the social life of a player. For instance 20 years from now there will be a High School reunion not a club reunion it also prepares them for college being a Scholar Athlete which if you played sports in both High School and College it is not easy. And when they leave their club team which in most games is a better team then on their High School team they become the leaders on that High School Team. I as a coach would never tell a player not to play just High School or just Club. They should play both.

  1. James Madison
    commented on: October 4, 2011 at 1:51 p.m.
    Interesting that personal, social and soccer development of players should be "considered." In my world it would be "paramount."

  1. bruce wilden
    commented on: October 6, 2011 at 11:59 a.m.
    It is very simple. Compare it to Hockey. A good hockey player who wants to play at a higher level leaves home at an early age, 13 to 15, to pursue his dream. This has been going on for 80 years. Being from Michigan, hockey players have had to make this choice for years. If a young man is serious about making soccer a career, he has to make some tough decisions. Its their choice. The Academies are for the serious players. Michigan has two Academy Clubs. Every player from the Clubs U-18 last year is either playing in collage or over Professionally in another country. The system will work.

  1. clarence gaines
    commented on: October 10, 2011 at 11:53 a.m.
    Jens Jensen for President. You make a lot of sense. Great comments. Your first ever comments were on-point and special. Kudos!

  1. clarence gaines
    commented on: October 10, 2011 at noon
    Seth Feldman also making a lot of sense. No need for me to recreate the wheel with my comments;just need to point out the brilliance that has already been written. Value Seth's input because not only is he a club & HS soccer coach, but he's a coach of the mother of all sports in HS, track & field, & I'm certain that his track training makes him a better soccer coach.

  1. John Smith
    commented on: October 15, 2011 at 8:52 a.m.
    I agree that the players should be allowed to play both club and high school soccer, however some state high school associations have rules that prohibit or limit this opportunity and almost force players to choose. This is especially true for players from small towns that are limited. For instance this rule from our state. "A second rule during the school year is the preseason assembly rule: It is the philosophy of this Association that while athletes should not be unreasonably restricted, except during the actual school season of a sport, no activity in which they are engaged during the school year should resemble in any way a school team practicing or competing out-of-season. (ROE, page 37, Art VI, Sect 1, Par A) " We had a team of girls who play high school soccer in the spring. This team is from a small town and formed in the fall to attend tournaments out of the HS season to continue to play. To make sure they tried to abide by the above rule they had 10 incoming freshmen, 3 sophomores and a freshmen from another school 60 miles away. Even though those 10 freshmen had yet to try out and make the HS team they are counted as part of the HS team even though they have yet to step on the field in the spring. This team was left with the decision do they play HS Ball or Play club. Otherwise this team can't play together except during the HS season.

  1. steve funk
    commented on: April 27, 2012 at 2:59 p.m.
    Anyone (high school or club)telling a player where they can and can't play is making a huge mistake. You will develope better players in either situation if that is where the player wants to be. The best "players" with the most potential learning the most, are the ones playing around the goals after and between "official games" just for the fun of it. The U.S. is producing robots not players, afraid to make mistakes. Let them play wherever and whenever and just watch what they can do.


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