'Club Ball is a Business'

By Maret Maxwell

I was active with youth soccer for 15 years. During that time I was involved with several local clubs where I created, coached and managed programs for players who were interested in club soccer but were too young to join a team.

After I retired as a soccer coach, I went back to the parents I had met over the years and asked them to share their experience by telling me what they would want parents who are considering club soccer to know before they commit.

There are a two points made by these experienced parents that are relevant to the ongoing discussion in the larger soccer community around player development.

The first point is that the club soccer is a business and this has resulted in competition to get players involved with a particular club and to do so at an increasingly earlier age.

Soccer has become a continuous activity for team members. Additionally, clubs provide activities for players who are not yet old enough to join a club team that include skill sessions, indoor soccer teams, soccer camps, development programs, and soccer academies.

These year-round activities have made it financially possible to have professional youth soccer coaches. As one parent stated "Clubs are designed for Club profitability and positive exposure." What parents should know is that with this comes team turnover as clubs continue to recruit better players and release others to open spots on the roster.

It often feels to the parents as if their child is a commodity. At one end they experience pressure to commit and on the other selling approaches that can be unsavory and even dishonest.

The second point relates to player development. Parents are leery of clubs that represent themselves as being focused on player development but then display three behaviors that parents see as belying this commitment.

These behaviors are playing only their bigger and faster players so they can win games, taking guest players to tournaments -- not to make up for regular-team players who are unavailable, but to strengthen the team and use the tournament as an opportunity to recruit the guest players -- and building a team not by developing existing players into better performers but by recruiting players who are already better.

One parent put it this way, "Avoid coaches who claim to develop but past experience shows they play only their biggest and best players."

What parents recommend to other parents is caution. Prospective parents need to understand the underlying economic model and to be aware that what clubs do in the interest of the club may not be in the best interest of their child.

The challenge to the clubs is twofold and the first is to behave in ways that are consistent with their message. If clubs are going to promote player development then there has to be a path within the club for players that provides a real developmental environment.

The second thing that clubs can do is to educate parents about age specific player development needs and why focusing on winning games at a young age is not in the best interest of the player.

Overall the experience for most parents was positive. In the words of one ... "well, as I said in the beginning, there's a lot of politicking going on in club soccer. We have experienced some dishonesty from people we thought we could trust, but overall, we have been thrilled to be part of club soccer. For the most part, it's good kids playing a wholesome sport, and nice parents cheering on the sidelines," and that's the way it should be.

A full version of the report "The Ten Things Other Parents Want You To Know About Club Soccer" is available at

(Maret Maxwell no longer coaches youth soccer but he still coaches the games of business and life. You can find him at .


1 comment about "'Club Ball is a Business'".
  1. Soccer Coach, December 17, 2008 at 1:48 p.m.

    I could not agree more, it is not bad that Club Soccer is a business but moreso how the business is many successfull businesses would treat their customers like this...

    Hello Parents,

    After giving it some more thought, I am just going to keep the team together as is, and finish out this session. I will then re-evaluate the situation for next session in regards to having two teams or just one. Please do not call me about it, as I will not have any answers for you at this time. We will just play out this session and I will deal with second session when I get back from Florida.

    Obviously, there has been an interest from other players in wanting to join our team. We have added two of them. I want to welcome them on board. We are allowed to carry 18 on our XXXX roster and 26 on our US Club roster. I have also been contacted by a few other players and one of them has been showing up already at practices.

    I just want to remind everyone this is not a local club; it is premier club. There is no board. There are two club owners; which are Mike and myself. We will make what we think are the best decisions for the club and for our teams. Sometimes those decisions can be unpopular, but we do what we feel is best. As for the individual teams, we are always looking to improve our teams and certainly as customers you are paying money to be in the club. With that said though, no one is guaranteed playing time. The players earn their time and their spots by the way they perform in games, practices and the level of talent they possess. Please keep in mind, I know they are only U11 so I try to spread the playing time around to the best of my ability so all the players have a chance to develop and prove their worth. As parents, and of course your son, must understand that every time he steps on the field it is another chance for them to prove themselves to me that they belong on this team, should get minutes, etc. Certainly as parents you then have decisions to make based off how pleased or unpleased you are with your sons current situation. I understand this and respect it to the fullest.

    I will entertain questions/discussions as it relates to an issue with your son, but not a decision I make with the direction of the team, my style of coaching, etc. This club is not for everyone, but there is place for every player to play the game of soccer. Our club happens to be at only one of those levels. There are many other levels out there at various clubs to accommodate all types of players with all types of needs. I will never hold anyone back from where they need to be, but at the same time, I need to take this team in the same direction I have taken the other teams before them. Our current U16 boys team is a prime example. Maybe we will get there, maybe we wont. But if we get close, we will doing alright and I feel with a few things happening and the talent we already have; it is possible.

    On a final note I want to wish you and your families and very Happy Holiday season. I will be leaving for Florida on Christmas Day for back to back tournaments at the Disney Showcase with the U16 boys and U15 girls teams. I will be returning on the evening of January 6th. Please note - there will not be training on December 27th due to the futsal tournament we are hosting at Grand Slam. Instructions for the team will be left for Mike and Jeff so everything will be handled.

    Don't forget to register for the futsal tournament now!

    See you soon.


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