For today's youth soccer player in the United States, there exist two prevailing systems under which their sporting experiences take place. One can be referred to as the institutionalized or organized approach, where the athlete plays and trains under the direct supervision of coaches and administrators.
The other system is the unorganized or street-sport system, where there is no formalized coaching or administration. As a graduate student pursuing my Master's in Sport Psychology and a longtime soccer player and soccer coach, I've decided to pursue a research project comparing these two systems.
The environment and culture of youth soccer in the United States has been chosen as the main area of focus due to the stark experiential contrast that exists in the experiences of youth under either system of play.
Youth soccer in the United States has become predominantly focused on the use of soccer clubs and academies to teach, train, and oversee the playing experience of its participants. These institutionalized settings can be generally characterized by their participants being grouped according to playing age, abilities, and gender.
Practices, games, and scheduling are all overseen by paid or volunteer coaches, as well as administrative governing bodies.
Unorganized soccer, also referred to as street soccer or pickup soccer, is a contrasting system of play that is characterized by the lack of structure and is participant-driven. There are no coaches, no leagues, no uniforms or referees. Players compete with one another across distinctions of age, gender, and talent.
There still exists a fair amount of pickup soccer that is played by youth in the United States, but it is found primarily within lower-income communities that have oftentimes been excluded from the highly organized private clubs due to the high financial barriers to entry.
Of course, these are both generalizations of the two systems and plenty of crossovers in their experiences and structures do exist.
There's much current debate over the pros and cons of either system of play for today's youth soccer player. I'm developing my thesis project to research the different effects that these two systems of play have on the development of youth soccer players.
First, I'm examining the background literature of youth development theory, as well as studies and opinions on organized and unorganized sports. I'm then conducting a quantitative study on the opinions of soccer coaches to determine what effects these systems have on the physical, social, and psychological development of youth soccer players.
Below is a link to the survey for the research. If you are at least 18 years of age and have coached at least one season of soccer then you qualify to participate in the study.
The survey will ask background demographic questions, then a series of questions about your opinions on youth development in soccer. This is entirely voluntary, anonymous, and will not be compensated.
Click HERE for the survey.
(Nick Lusson is a graduate student at John F. Kennedy University of Pleasant Hill, Calif., pursuing his Master's in Sport Psychology, Sport Management and Sport & Exercise Science. He's the head women's coach at Holy Names University in the Oakland, Calif., and a staff coach for the Mustang Soccer Club and the Cal-North State ODP program. Nick also works as a coaching educator for CYSA Soccer and the Positive Coaching Alliance.)