Author: Jacob Sweeney

06 Apr Is Club Soccer A Cult?

Over the years that I have been coaching, I have noticed an unhealthy side of the game that if you are not careful you will fall into. The unhealthy side of the game I am referring to is the cult-like decisions that otherwise normal parents will make for the game. I even found myself falling into it on the coaching side. Forgive me a little story...
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11 Mar The Right Club?

If you haven't read this post start there. It's that time of year when everyone starts to think about club tryouts. Will you stay? Will you go? What changes has the club made that you liked or didn't like? Is your coach staying? Are your teammates staying, where will they be trying out? There are lots to consider, so I have boiled it down to different areas to consider.
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24 Feb Should you play club if you don’t want to play in college?

I was having a conversation with a young lady on my high school team the other day. It had occurred to her that she may not be all that interested in playing in college. She was finding the club schedule very demanding and questioning why she was working so hard if she didn't want to play at the next level anyway. Thus the question, should you continue to play club if you are not interested in playing in college?
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23 Feb “The club structure is … a primary cause of injuries.”

There is an epidemic of female sports related injuries in the United States. This article from the New York Times does a great job explaining why. But have you ever considered that club soccer is a primary cause for the rise? Here are a few quotes from the article. "The club structure is the driving force behind the trend toward early specialization in one sport — and, by extension, a primary cause of injuries."
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20 Jan The Best Kept Secrete In College Soccer

If you have seen the movie A Beautiful Mind, you know who John Nash is. If not, read this. John was most famous for his work in game theory, it actually won him a Nobel prize in 1994 when he wrote about Nash Equilibrium. The theory is long (28 pages) and complicated, but the movie does an okay job explaining it. (If you want to see a clip explaining it go here. And if you want the rest of this post to make sense, you need to watch it.)  While this is not exactly what Nash Equilibrium is (Hollywood took some liberties explaining it) it is a great example of game theory and the dilemma each young athlete faces when choosing a college.
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04 Nov DA Part 3

First you need to read part 1 and 2... My motivation in writing these articles is mostly to organized my own thoughts and opinions, but I also feel there is too much good advice given to the wrong people, which is bad.  I know I have some bias here as a high school and college coach, but I am trying to be objective. Recently I read this article. (See below for my rebuttal) It was informative, but I think it needs to be explored further, specifically I will comment on the questions related to Development Academy's. Here are some takeaways for those who wont do the detailed reading.
  • The best advice form the article, "If your daughter is happy now, continue to find a solution where she’s happy." No body HAS to play soccer, if it's not fun, you are doing it wrong.
  • This is super important to remember DA is NATIONAL TEAM focused. All of April's advice will have a bias like mine, only her advice is for the 1% ... If DA's are for the national team but US soccer will continue to scout ECNL, ODP and other national events, why give up everything else to play DA?
  • My opinion here is this... If you are not on the national team radar by U15 IT. AIN'T. HAPPENING. and there is no reason to join a DA.
  • 74 X 20 players per team 1,480 DA players. There are approximately 325 D1 schools. Not every DA player is going D1, so what advantage do they have?
  • DA's are one option for college-bound players, however a great many clubs can produce college-bound players! This is the bad advice I was referring to earlier, unfortunately many parents will read this a blindly follow April's comments even when a DA is not the right fit.
  • Colleges don't care! If you can play I don't care where you learned how. In fact, some times the bigger the club or league the player comes from, the bigger the "head" the player comes with. I have heard coaches lament ECNL players because they think they are too good for their college team, I can only imagine what the will think of DA players.
  • When it comes to scholarships bottom line is most important.  A $25k scholarship to a $50k school is still $25k out of pocket.  A $1k scholarship to a $15k school is only $14k out of pocket.
  • What good does it do a player to play DA/D1 bound and be miserable?  Keep in mind just because it's D1 doesn't mean it's the right place to go to school and get an education. Southern Utah University is D1, but living in rural Ceder City may not be a great fit for you.
  • Even if DA's "allow" girls to play HS, you know they will not like it. DA's have a 10 month season which starts in August and runs through May. High school and DA run at the same time. If you break for HS and come back to the DA you only play 6-7 months for the DA? Be very skeptical of this. Sounds to good to be true. Stick to what you know. If you play DA you will not play HS.
  • Dugh, club is the best place for development who wouldn't agree with that? That doesn't mean DA! Also, we (HS coaches) do our very best to focus on development but how much development can they get in 3.5 months? I agree HS is more social, but I know I always try and focus on development, granted some schools do a better job than others, but I despise the broad brush they use for HS sports. I also take issue with the "bad habits" comment. This is a classic line clubs and US soccer use to confuse and discourage players from playing. This could be the case at some schools, but that broad brush can't stay in the lines again. 
  • I don't think anyone is arguing that kids shouldn't play club. As a HS coach I want them playing club, it's when club says, "don't play high school" that I take issue. It's not ONE OR THE OTHER it's BOTH and successfully managing them for 99% of the population. But much of April's advice is really for the 1%.
  • The lines between DA's and club are being blurred and they should not be. DA's are for national team.
Here is the plan the vast majority of kids playing soccer should follow.
  1. Find a Good club, one that focuses on development and makes you happy.
  2. Play High School, one that is well organized, fun, and recognizes your hard work.
  3. Tryout for ODP. This is your National Team option. If you don't make it, then no, it's not happening.
  4. If college through all this a college finds your fancy, play. If not use it for what's there for, an education. Athletic scholarships should ALWAYS be Plan B.
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