Navigating the Youth Soccer Landscape

A Conversation with Kristine Lilly 

I sat down with 2-time World Cup and Olympic Champion and Berky Visiting Pro, Kristine Lilly to get her take on navigating the ever-changing Youth Soccer Landscape. Kristine discussed her experience as a youth soccer coach and parent, and her thoughts on the effects of Covid on player participation. She offered some great advice for both parents and coaches.

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Introduction and Coaching Philosophy

  • US Soccer Hall of Fame Inductee in 2014, 3-time Women’s Soccer Player of the Year, Member of 2 FIFA World Cup Winning Teams and 2 Olympic Gold Medal Teams
  • Not only a decorated player but also a mom and coach
  • There are so many elements of sports, not just soccer, that help kids develop themselves on and off the field.

Experience with Coaching and Youth Soccer

  • Currently coaching youth and club soccer, but has coached at every level over the past 20 years
  • Encourages kids to participate in multiple sports and to do what they love
  • Good environment + good coaching + teammates they love = success

What’s your Current Involvement in Organized Youth Soccer?

  • Kristine coaches youth and club soccer in MA. She also continues to run camps and clinics.
  • Ages 7-13 are her coaching wheelhouse. Children that age happily follow instructions.
  • Loves the fact that when coaching kids, they do what you say immediately and are super happy to do it
  • Believes that the youth game should be fun and make kids happy.

What’s the right age to start considering clubs and what are your thoughts on roster sizes?

  • No need to start before 10
  • Believes if a child starts earlier and trains too much, she may burn out
  • Make sure your child wants to come to practice every day.
  • When considering clubs, be mindful of the cost.
  • When Kristine was younger, roster sizes were much smaller. Larger rosters create a false sense of accomplishment.

How much soccer should your daughter be playing per week?

  • More is not necessarily better.
  • It’s not how much you are doing it, it’s what you do in the time that you have.
  • Think about what is best for your child. Do you want her peaking now, or do you want her to keep improving and to feel more confident?
  • There’s no specific recipe when it comes to getting better.

What are the Advantages to Club Size?

  • It comes down to making sure that your daughter is enjoying what she’s doing, learning something, and is around people she likes.
  • When a kid gets to high-school age, that is where the game grows.
  • If your daughter is better than her teammates, that does not mean she is not being challenged. She must challenge herself.

What are your thoughts on the Effects that Covid-19 has on Player Participation?

  • Kristine hasn’t seen many people dropping the game due to Covid-19.
  • Players may start to drop if they aren’t around their friends or in an environment that makes them feel good.
  • It is important to create environments that bring kids together to help keep them interested.

Any finals thoughts or words?

  • We want the best for our kids.
  • Focus on your family and what is best for your child. Don’t worry about what others are doing.
  • If your kid reaches out to you to say they want more soccer, that’s a great sign that they are invested.
  • Make sure to be there for them during these tough times and just “love em”