The high-school dilemma; Fair play or not?

By Mike Woitalla

HIGH SCHOOL VS. CLUB. One of the most unfortunate aspects of American youth soccer is forcing kids to choose between club soccer and high school ball. For sure, in many cases it’s not an either-or, but the pressure on the very elite players, especially those in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, to skip school ball continues to increase.

The Washington Post’s Paul Tenorio did an excellent job reporting on the dilemma in a recent article headlined, “Is it best to play in high school, or on an academy team?”

Tony Lepore, director of scouting for U.S. youth national teams and a technical adviser for the Development Academy, says, “In top footballing nations, school soccer is not where the top players play and develop. That’s how this has evolved and how this shift has continued. ... We’ve given the choice to the clubs. It’s not a mandate yet, but we totally get why they’re choosing that and that’s why we’re supporting it.”

Taylor Twellman, one of the most prolific goalscorers in MLS history, played multiple high school sports and says: “There’s no denying if you play U.S. Development Academy, the coaching, fields, players surrounding you is going to be better, but is that ultimately the goal of life? I don’t know if that trade-off is worth it, but I understand U.S. Soccer’s best opportunity is to get the area’s best players together to train together. I understand that argument, but what is the sacrifice?”


* * * *

FAIR PLAY OR NOT? VIDEO of a goal in an Arkansas high school game has gotten more than 2 million views since posted on YouTube earlier this month. No doubt many found it amusing – two Bryant High School players faking a collision during a free kick to catch Conway High's defenders off guard – but I found it unsportsmanlike at best.

Considering that the defenders may have stopped out of concern for what could have been injured players, should the referee have disallowed the goal? I asked a pair of officiating experts.

“It's a valid goal,” says New York ref Randy Vogt, the author of "Preventive Officiating." “While you could consider a bit of deception is involved, nothing circumventing the rules to warrant a caution.”

Stanley Lover, a longtime international referee instructor and author of "Official Soccer Rules Illustrated," says, “In my view, the referee was right [in allowing the goal], but I hope he reported the incident to the appropriate authority to examine the video and question the coach.

“If proved as deliberate, I would expect a severe disciplinary sanction against the coach for the relatively unknown charge of ‘bringing the game into disrepute.’”


* * * *

WHAT A BICYCLE KICK! The video I enjoyed more is that of 13-year-old Kenner Galeas of Virginia's U-14 Civitans Bengals. Shot by team manager Jeanette Ortiz-Osorio, it got nearly 2 million views within week. Also remarkable is Galeas' low-key celebration while accepting congrats from his thrilled teammates. Watch it HERE.


* * * *

FROM THE FIELD. I'm used to seeing own goals celebrated by the benefitting team. So this was a first for me: In a U-12 girls game in Concord, Calif., the goalkeeper deflects two shots and then a defender accidentally kicks the ball into her own goal. There’s absolutely no reaction from the attacking team. Not one cheer. They’re frozen, until the referee urges them to move back to their own half for the kickoff. It’s as if they didn’t think it should count.


* * * *

... Kyle Joseph Hoffman, former president of the Healdsburg (Calif.) Youth Soccer League, pleaded no contest to stealing league funds. He’ll be sentenced to nine months in jail, but may receive less time if he makes “substantial” restitution payments. Hoffman was accused of taking more than $53,000 by writing checks to himself from the league's bank account, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. ...

... Georgia United -- a combination of Atlanta area clubs North Atlanta SA, Norcross SA, United Futbol Academy and AFC Lightning – will enter the U.S. Soccer Development Academy in the 2011-12 season. They join the Vancouver Whitecaps as next season's newcomers. ...

... The New York Times’ Jere Longman visited Barcelona’s famed La Masia, the youth program that spawned many of its current stars, such as Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi. “During the week, they rise at 6:45 a.m., eat breakfast and leave for regular school in the city at 7:30. They attend classes from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., return to La Masia to eat, rest and attend mandatory study groups. Training is held from 7 to 8:45 p.m., followed by dinner and some free time. Lights out for the younger players is 10:30 p.m., 11 for older players." Read more HERE.

... Fifteen years ago then Houston Mayor Bob Lanier started an inner-city sports program out of which grew the very successful Houstonians FC. Now budget woes in the country’s fourth largest city threaten cuts to the parks and recreation department's soccer program at Milby Park in southeast Houston -- a heavily Latino community -- that caters to 5,000 youngsters in the fall. "Very sad,” said Jaime Villegas, the program’s organizer, told KHOU 11 News. “Because the kids are the ones losing."

... Alex Kos has created an online soccer rules test for children, parents, coaches and would-be refs HERE.

(Mike Woitalla, the executive editor of Soccer America, coaches youth soccer for East Bay United in Oakland, Calif. His youth soccer articles are archived at

5 comments about "The high-school dilemma; Fair play or not?".
  1. Richard Broad, May 30, 2011 at 11:17 a.m.

    One thing that was not mentioned here but was part of Paul Tenorio's article in this article is the fact that Taylor Twellman gave up club soccer so he could play several sports at his high school. That didn't exactly ruin his life. He ended up in a pretty decent college program, had a fairly successful professional career, and hasn't done all that badly since.

  2. Amy Tucci, May 30, 2011 at 12:44 p.m.

    It is good to see the statement by a player such as Taylor Twellman. What the narrow-minded academies forget is the benefit of kids becoming a contributing part of their communities, making friendships that can last a lifetime. Instead of disrupting this, why not help to make sure high school coaching and programs are where they should be. In our club, several club coaches also coach at the high school and college level within our larger community!

  3. Cheryl Gregory, May 31, 2011 at 10:10 a.m.

    Richard and Amy -- excellent points, both of you. I've got girls so it's a little different (no U.S. Soccer Academy program for girls and young women) but the pressure is there for my freshman in high school -- fortunately she chose winter and spring track and lettered while playing club soccer. Still, there's got to be a better way. Unfortunately with the budget crunch, it's unlikely school systems will upgrade their coaching staff, or facilities.

  4. Robert Smith, June 7, 2011 at 5:04 p.m.

    While good training is important in developing any young athlete, training is not the only factor that shapes successful athletes. High school soccer can provide other conditions necessary for advancing a young player's success for a club or academy team.

    For example ---

    - Likely all the players of an elite club team will be the best or one of the best players for the high school and frequently get the experience of playing a full game. There is no substitute for game conditions.

    - The subs of an elite team are likely to be viewed by the high school team as a leader and thus the opportunity to develop important leadership skills that could lead to a captaincy and enhance their value to the club team.

    - Further as a team leader, club players can enjoy the recognition, and yes popularity, from the larger high school community that can improve the player’s confidence in him or herself.

    - In high school, the elite players will have more freedom to try and work on individual moves that the more structured and competitive club or academy teams are less likely to allow or where the player is more concerned about making a mistake and losing their standing on the academy or club team.

  5. Stevie G, June 10, 2011 at 1:09 a.m.

    Regarding Stanley Lover's comments... just goes to show how absolutely clueless some referees are.

    I have heard other coaches and coaching instructors discuss the move. It's perfectly legal and well within the LOG.

    Doesn't this international ref instructor and author know that if a ref witnesses an incident and does not take action then no action can be taken by the authorities retro-actively?

    To suggest that the coach should be charged with bringing the game into disrepute is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications