What are the keys to a club providing an optimal experience for the different levels of teams under its umbrella: from comp to rec?
Full-service soccer clubs have some advantages and some challenges that competitive-only or recreation-only clubs do not have. Full-service clubs need to balance the entire program in terms of coaching, resources and satisfaction.
The administrators and coaching staff need to provide a full-service business plan and curriculum that meets the needs of all levels. A successfully run club will then reap the benefits of having well-trained players continue in their program, thus reducing the need for recruiting a large number of high level players, year in and year out.
Clubs that provide the full gamut of playing levels need to understand that families (their customembers) within their club will always want to feel comfortable that what they are paying to play is commensurate to what they are receiving. Clubs need to make this a priority and let their families know that this is a priority. This strengthens the commitment between the families and the club.
It is part of human nature to think that if an entity does multiple things that one is getting more attention than the other.
Back in the 1980s, Anson Dorrance was coaching both the men’s and women’s teams at the University of North Carolina. The women were at the beginning of their dynasty and the men were one of the top teams in the country, every year. I would hear people say that Anson concentrated more on the women’s program than the men’s. Knowing Anson, I know that it couldn’t be further from the truth. He has a competitive passion for everything he does and gave both programs the same passion. Therefore, if people can grumble about one of the greatest coaches of our time, no full-service soccer club is going to be immune from scrutiny.
Clubs need to constantly review what they are doing at all levels. This review is not only needed between recreation soccer and competitive soccer within the club, but also between the top teams in an age level and the other competitive teams in that age bracket.
This review should include looking at the fees that the families pay and what they receive for those fees. Coaching education at all levels needs to be a priority.
Full-service clubs have an advantage over recreational-only clubs in that they have a coaching staff that can train parent-coaches and give player clinics at the recreation level. Clubs should, also, highlight the path(s) to get to the next competitive level. This could include providing pertinent information, but also sponsoring all-star type games at the recreation level coached by the professional staff against each other or against a lower level competitive team.
• At the competitive level, clubs need to highlight the path from a lower-tier team to the higher-level teams. The tryout process needs to be fair with opportunities for all players within the club’s system.
• Players at the lower level teams in the age bracket need to be seen and coached by the coaches of the higher level teams in that age bracket on a regular basis. It needs to be obvious that the club wants to train players to their potential and that there is a pathway to the next level.
When a full-service club is run well, it can benefit from its size and breadth in many ways. Families acquire an affinity for the club and are less likely to shop their child’s services elsewhere.
The coaching staff can develop a full-service curriculum that will reap benefits. All this provides better-trained players, satisfied families and a better club!
(Charlie Slagle, who served as CEO of North Carolina’s Capital Area Soccer League (CASL) for more than 12 years, is the owner of Charlie Slagle Sport Consulting LLC, specializing in working with soccer clubs to help them reach their potential -- with emphasis on working with clubs' professional staff and board of directors. Slagle, the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Vice President of Education, was Davidson College head men's coach in 1980-2000 and tournament organizer of 14 NCAA Division I College Cups.)
Charlie Slagle’s pevious articles on club soccer are archived HERE: