Part I: Questions You Should Be Asking
Whether your daughter is a club soccer veteran or is expressing a new interest in joining a club team, the youth soccer club scene can be challenging to navigate. It is easy to get caught up in all the “hoopla” of the club soccer scene, so first and foremost, remember that this is an experience for your athlete—and like everything else in her life, you hope it is one that shapes her in a positive way. As Part I of a four-part guide aimed to coach parents through the confusion and excitement of the club soccer journey, this section focuses on asking the right questions to prompt meaningful conversations with your daughter about her soccer needs, wants and goals.
Does she want the challenge and commitment of club soccer?
Playing club soccer means competing at a higher level, which requires a bigger commitment of time, money, and energy; and it will take priority over some things in her life. You and your child need to decide if this commitment is something she—and your family—is ready for and desires. How do you know? Talk with her about the potential sacrifices and obstacles that come with this level of commitment, and really listen to what she says.
Does the challenge appropriately match her abilities?
One of the most important parts of making the right decision with your daughter is accepting an honest assessment of her abilities. An evaluation of her current skill is crucial when it comes to creating the optimal environment moving forward. Through the insight of her coaches, you can gain valuable and accurate knowledge about where she is in her development and what kind of player she could become. Studies have shown that in order for an athlete to flourish, she needs to experience both enjoyment, mastery, and success as well as challenges, obstacles and failure. If this balance does not exist, athletes will tire of either boredom or anxiety and frustration. Using this knowledge as a springboard, you are now prepared to have a conversation about what club team is best suited for her to find both personal success and opportunities for growth and development.
Are her short-term and long-term goals at the center of this decision?
Understanding your daughter’s goals is important to making decisions about the club experience. Does she have aspirations to train like Mia Hamm and play at the collegiate or professional levels? Or does she play for personal and social reasons; to make friends and stay active? There is no right or wrong answer to what she wants to achieve. One of the great positives of club soccer is it can be a place for both types of players. The key is to find the club and team that suits her personality, level of commitment, and soccer goals. With countless clubs in a single area, and team names ending in “premier”, “elite” and “select”, as well as numerous letters and colors, it can be difficult find the right team, so stayed tuned for Part II of this Club Soccer Parent Guide: Making the Right Decisions.
Once you get to the heart of these three questions, you will know if your child wants the commitment; the challenge is appropriate for her abilities; and the environment aligns with her goals. You will have acquired the base knowledge and are equipped to move forward. The next step is to find club teams that meet your daughter’s needs and are the right fit physically, emotionally and culturally.
Stay tuned for Part II to learn on how to search for and recognize these teams.