'Things' in a suburban garage

We live in a suburban neighborhood. When we go out for a walk in the neighborhood, we see a lot of garages full of “things” but not cars. These “things” have been bought for a purpose but now wait their “garage sale” destiny in the storage, sorry in the garage.

This is the best manifestation of a consumption society. They market you a lot of products whose optimal uses or functions are questionable, they lure you into buying them and you buy them. Since the need is not obvious or very rare, after a while you do not use them anymore and put them in your garage. 

This is not a criticism of the consumption society but rather an observation.

Although the most recent Aspen Report shows a decline in youth sports participation including soccer, Gallup Poll shows soccer as a professional sport is closing on the big three. That means there is still hope for the pay-to-play youth clubs in convincing the suburban parents into joining their clubs. I know in most cases the parents look for clubs to send their kids to play soccer; they have some money to spend for their kids. 

Recently, Christian Laverspublished his thoughts in Soccer America on how to navigate a soccer kid’s path. I will complement that article from an administrator’s point of view. I will advise suburban soccer parents so that the money they spend on their kids’ soccer “adventure” will not end up like “things” in their garage.

  1. Ask yourself the honest question:  Why am I sending my kid to play organized soccer? If the honest answer is because you personally for whatever reason want him/her to play soccer, then do not read the rest of this article. 
  2. Judge your own soccer background. If you watch soccer on TV more than other sports combined or played more than recreational or high school soccer as the only or main sport in your life, then your kids will most probably be developed in a family with a soccer culture. Do not forget that you will be a minority suburban family with a soccer culture in the USA.
  3. If you do not pass the above test, do not worry; but realize that you -– like the majority of the suburban parents –- do not have a great love for soccer. Your kid can still learn and develop a lot in soccer and with soccer with a correct parental approach. Understanding that soccer -- both at the developmental level and the playing level -- is very much different than the other two major field sports will be very useful. Do not compare soccer coaching skills and techniques to football or baseball.  Do not look at soccer through the spectacle of other sports. Every sport has its own developmental idiosyncrasies.
  4. If you are a parent with a soccer culture then you might follow a different route. Start developing your kids’ skills as early as 2 years old. Go and Google “Tom Byer” and find out his method for that age group. Implement them at home. Encourage your kids to play 2 v 2 games at the backyard with neighboring kids. Create the environment for this kind of street soccer. Let them play as much as they want. I believe even some parents without a soccer culture can do the same, the question is whether they would like to spend their time through this process.
  5. Avoid organized soccer and coaching for your kids before the age of 6.
  6. After the age of 6, you will need organized soccer so that your kid can develop his/her talents.  Now you have the option of choosing among the various pay-to-play clubs in your neighborhood. This is the difficult part. (Actually some even might claim 7 is a better age  to start organized soccer).
  7. Before you even select any club over another one go and do some research. As a suburban parent, you are well educated and you should be able to use the internet effectively. Go and look up your kid’s chances of getting a soccer scholarship for College education. Look up his/her chances of becoming a pro player in our country. Know these extremely dismal probabilities before you choose one club over another.
  8. Look at the coaching structure of the club. Read Lavers article ( d ) again. If you care about the proper soccer development of your kid, choose a club which employs correctly certified coaches for the age groups. Since most of your kids will end their soccer adventure before reaching college or pro stage make sure that the club can at least help your kid to develop his/her character through soccer.
  9. Go and watch your kid’s potential coach during training and games. See whether the kids are enjoying the training sessions and games. Soccer is a game to be enjoyed.
  10. Stay away from coaches and clubs that reward winning at all costs. Through such an environment you kid will not develop his/her soccer skills or character.
  11. Stay away from coaches that yell at players giving them instructions and criticize referees throughout the game.
  12. Stay away from pay-to-play clubs that use volunteer coaches without certification.
  13. Encourage your kids to play other sports at least until the age of 12.
  14. Unless your kid plays for a Development Academy team, encourage him/her to play school (middle school and high school) soccer. Soccer in school is an incredible tool of socialization. Research show that socialization is the number reason why kids play team sports.
  15. Once you select a club, get involved with the running of the club. Do not just be a passive customer/consumer.
  16. When traveling time comes ask the club/coach, why this travel is necessary. You should know that most of the tournaments that require traveling do not have much to do with the development of the players. If you come to the conclusion that traveling will not help your kid to develop his/her skills and/or character, then feel free not to join in. But do not forget the social implications of your kid not going to a tournament while his/her peers go and bear the consequences. Always ask the question “why” before you spent any money.
  17. If at any point you are told that your kid is extremely talented -- this should not be before the age of 12 – and might have a chance of becoming a pro player, read the biography of some of the USA soccer stars like Christian Pulisic. Learn about their path to pro soccer and see whether you are ready to make those sacrifices. Do not forget that a very tiny percentage of extremely talented kids turn out to be pro by the age of 18 and make good money. (The median salary of MLS players was around $117,000 in 2015)
  18. If you have money to spend for your kids spend it, but spend it wisely.
  19. Let them play as much free-time soccer as possible; actually encourage them to do so.
  20. Stay away from being an over-protective parent at any point during your kid’s soccer adventure.

My friend Sam Snow wrote an article on American youth soccer.  He says the number one change we have to make is “…to put parent engagement -- education the top of the ‘to-do list’ for all 6,000 youth clubs in the country.” He is completely right, but unfortunately educating soccer parents is not as easy as said. There are so many social dynamics that guide parents to the soccer adventure for their kids, that it is very difficult to address every one of those dynamics.

Through this short article I tried to create an environment for the parents to think about their choices. Nobody wants new “things” in the garage. Through the pay-to-play system, the kids should at least get good soccer and character development. If the system does not create top-level players from them at least it should create good citizens and good human beings. So the choice of the parents is of paramount importance.

Always question the system and be ready to input your ideas to the system. Do not forget that pay-to-play is a reality of this country and is big business. They are trying to make money and in return you should get the best and most for your money. If you are a smart and conscious consumer, then the money and time you spent on your kid will not go down the drain or be like one of the “things” in the suburban garage.

Ahmet Guvener ( is the former Secretary General and the Technical Director of Turkish FA. He was also the Head of Refereeing for the Turkish FA. He served as Panel member for the FIFA Panel of Referee Instructors and UEFA Referee Convention. He now lives and works as a soccer consultant in Austin, TX.

1 comment about "'Things' in a suburban garage".
  1. James Madison, January 11, 2018 at 11:38 p.m.

    The alternative to joining a club with a view to becoming a competitive player is joining an organization, such as the AYSO, with the idea of developing a combination of skill and a love of the game, such that, if you want to become a high school, college or competitive player, fine; but, if all you aspire to is enjoying the game and becoming a life-long recreation player or fan or both, i.e., a part of the ongoing soccer culture, there is no pressure for anything more.

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