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The Scholarship Myth - Part 2

In December, I wrote a blog post about college scholarships that was prompted by an NPR commentary piece by John U. Bacon: To Get a College Scholarship: Forget The Field, Hit The Books. I then went on to share a personal experience that highlighted some of the points John was iterating in his commentary. The fact of the matter is that sports scholarships aren’t the only way to jumpstart a successful life, they are merely one avenue. Sure, trying to hit the “home-run,” living out your childhood dream, or just believing anything is possible is an exciting prospect, but the fact is athletic scholarships are the least likely of all avenues for financing a college education.

What sports participation can do in regards to a college education is improve your chances at admission into a school that you might not otherwise gain acceptance.  While that coach may not have a scholarship for you, he/she does have significant influence in the admission process.  With thousands and thousands of applicants seeking very limited slots in an entering freshmen class, having a coach promote your application can help set you apart from others.

Our children are much more likely to succeed by studying hard and gaining an academic scholarship or even building a strong network of personal contacts that can help them land that entry job out of school, aid them when the cards are stacked against them or even advocate on their behalf for that “big” promotion.

The lesson here isn’t to quit sports and solely focus on academics, but rather use sports as a tool to help develop our youth into more well-rounded individuals who have a healthy outlook on living their lives. A positive sports environment can help develop an individual that can thrive in even the most pressure-filled or demanding circumstances. Someone who can overcome adversity, build upon relationships/teamwork in order to achieve the ultimate goal, success.  Sports can lead to an individual developing passion and purpose, impart improved decision-making skills and confidence, and instill traits like empathy and persistence. These are all necessary traits and characteristics to succeed in not only sports but everyday situations that arise in life. I am not advocating to give up the “dream” of pursuing athletics but simply encouraging parents to make holistic decisions regarding their children’s future that will lead to the best possible chances for a successful and healthy life.

- Steve Locker

Below is an excerpt from a chapter of Steve’s book Playing for the Long Run regarding college scholarships:

The Great Scholarship Hunt

…Talk to parents and they will tell you that they harbor some hope of securing an athletic scholarship for their children as a justification for their intense involvement in youth sports. Furthermore, most “select” sports programs will brag about how many of their players have secured athletic scholarships at NCAA Division I schools. It’s a highly used form of manipulation to get you to believe that they can better develop your child than their competitors can. Remember, youth sports is big business, and everyone wants to maintain (and enhance) his slice of the pie…

…I hear parents talk all the time about athletic scholarships, but guess what. They have no idea how scholarships are allocated. Here are some simple facts from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA):

* About 7,000,000 children play high-school sports.

* 2% of them will find a roster spot on a college team.

* 1% of them will receive a full athletic scholarship.

We have a program available in the United States that might improve a young athlete's chances of paying for college. It’s called the lottery!

Some additional facts about scholarships as documented by the NCAA include the maximum number of scholarships permissible by NCAA rules. For instance, in the more popular sports in my community--like baseball, lacrosse, hockey and soccer--there are some surprising limits. A NCAA Division I institution may offer only 11.7 scholarships for baseball, 12.6 for lacrosse, 18 for hockey, and 9.9 for soccer. These are numbers for men’s sports. The good news is that the numbers in these sports for women is slightly higher. More important, keep in mind that these are the limits. Not every school has the full compliment of permissible scholarships.

When thinking about roster sizes, it becomes apparent that coaches are splitting up these scholarships in an effort to help as many young athletes as possible. In sports like baseball and track and field, the average scholarship is about $2,000. In thinking about some of our traveling baseball leagues, you quickly realize that many parents are spending much more than that sum for their 10-year-olds to play for one season.

According to the NCAA, the average athletic scholarship is about $8,707 per year. Tuition, room and board often cost as much as $20,000 to $50,000 per year. Interestingly, NCAA Division III schools grant no athletic scholarships. However, eighty-five percent of students attending private colleges do receive academic loans and scholarships. Average tuition discounts for current year freshmen equal about 51%. All of this data makes a compelling case for prioritizing our efforts towards academics, not athletic scholarships. (This data is from The College Solution and the NCAA)

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College Scholarship Myth

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College Scholarship Myth

NPR published the commentary from John U. Bacon’s talk about College Scholarships. You should listen to it or read it: To Get a College Scholarship: Forget The Field, Hit The Books.

About ten years ago, a family friend invited me to dinner to talk to them and their freshman son about preparing for college soccer. Their main quest wash to navigate high school and club soccer in such a way as to best prepare their child for the ever elusive college scholarship.

With nearly twenty years of collegiate coaching experience, they assumed that I would be able to provide some valuable insight into the process. As we sat down to the dinner table, the first thing the dad shared was that they had been spending approximately $15,000 per year for the past few years on Joey’s (not his real name) soccer development. The first words out of my mouth were, “you should take that money and send Joey to a private school.” They laughed.

Dinner was fine, and I shared some philosophy and perspective on player development, which I believe mostly was disregarded, as it really wasn’t what they ‘wanted” to hear. They wanted a road map to a college scholarship. It doesn’t really exist.

The sad news about this particular story is that this same young man called me four years later in February looking for a job. You see, he enrolled in a university that did not even have a men’s varsity soccer team, and he failed out after one semester….academic probation! Maybe my advice wasn’t that far off after all.

Why is it that parents refuse to believe the statistics about success rates within youth sports? If I took 10 parents and asked them to stand up together, and then asked them if they thought that their child would quit sports by the age of 13, I bet that not one of them would raise their hand. Parents cannot believe that their child would ever quit.

The fact is, 7 out of those 10 will have a child quit. With 70% gone, we now have the remaining 30% go on to play in high school. Oh, by the way, those 70% are now relieved because they have just gotten their lives back…no more running around the country every weekend, schlepping the entire family to some random tournament.

Now, of those 30% who made it into high school sports, only 2% will get a college scholarship. It should be noted, that in most sports outside of football, most collegiate coaches are splitting up their scholarships so that more kids can get help. So, while your kid might get a scholarship, chance are it’s only paying a small percentage of their actual college costs.

Are you ready for some more hard facts? 33% of all collegiate athletes quit. Roughly 50% suffer from severe anxiety and/or depression, many of whom are seeking counseling or medication…..legal and illegal.

Isn’t it time that we ask ourselves just what we are doing? John U. Bacon has got it right. We need to send our kids outside to play. They need to figure out how to play on their own and create fun games. No coaches, no parents, no referees…..just kids figuring it out!

- Steve Locker

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What does quality coaching look like?

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What does quality coaching look like?

Steve Locker Speaks at the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS) convention, November 4th, 2016.

Steve Locker Speaks at the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS) convention, November 4th, 2016.

Steve Locker was recently invited to the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS) convention to speak about coaching and its importance in the development of children in today’s schools. Continuing our theme, we will give those of you who didn’t have a chance to attend the convention last week some insight into the meaningful discussions regarding childhood development that occurred. Read our last post on what good coaches and teachers have in common, or continue below for a discussion of what quality coaching looks like.

What does quality coaching look like?

In many United States schools, athletics takes a close second to academics, but while teachers are required to complete multiple levels of intensive education and continued development, many coaches are merely volunteers recruited by athletic directors. Both teachers and coaches have an intimate relationship with student and athlete success and development, so how do we address this disparity in experience and preparation?

Good coaches share many traits of good teachers; they support growth of confidence, life skills, hard work, passionate involvement, and most of all, they support creating a culture of improvement and development. The culture a coach creates is a vital component of athletic success.

Athletes must be able to develop:

  • Risk Taking
  • Hard Work Habits
  • Abilities to overcome adversity

Kids must be allowed to take risks within the game and in practice, without fear of negative feedback. Without the chance to take risks and fail, they will not develop the skills to take those same risks and succeed. Further, kids should be rewarded for hard work and effort, encouraging passionate and personal involvement. Finally, kids should be provided with the tools and guidance to overcome adverse situations, whether that be a stronger team, negative situation, or classroom challenges.

Communication with the kids and other parties involved can address issues before they arise. Are your goals in alignment with your players? With the athletic department goals? With the parents? Communicating your expectations, from practice involvement to parental support (or lack thereof) will create an open environment that sets your kids up for a successful development culture.

Finally, is the game an educational opportunity? Or, just an opportunity to win? Respecting the game is an important consideration for coaching kids. Bending the rules, encouraging overly physical play, disrespecting officials, and weighting a win too heavily all hamper a coach’s ability to effectively develop healthy and successful players.

Quality coaching takes forethought and effort, but shares many of the skills and techniques a successful teacher will implement. It is our responsibility to create a culture where players can develop effectively.

Steve Locker pulls upon over 30 years of experience from collegiate coaching, professional playing, and children’s development to apply advanced soccer coaching, educational insight, and coaching education to organizations of any type. Steve can help your organization span the gap between coaching and teaching, or to develop a positive and age appropriate coaching environment.

- Steve Locker

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The Innovation Era: The Convergence of Educational & Athletic Approaches

Can you become an advocate for allowing children to have fun in sports?

Because we have such easy access to information, the Knowledge Economy is no longer relevant when discussing the best way to prepare our children for the world which they will enter. This new era, where we can access information at the tip of our computers (or smartphones), doesn’t require us to learn things like we used to. Times have changed.

Instead of sitting in a classroom and having knowledge crammed into our heads, this new era requires us to be creative problem solvers, collaborators, highly motivated and good communicators. That’s right….if you want to get ahead in our new culture, you need to be an adaptive, team player.

In a recent talk, Tony Wagner (Expert In Residence at Harvard University’s new Innovation Lab and a Senior Research Fellow at the Learning Policy Institute) spoke about the environment that we must put our children into to help prepare them to meet the new challenges that they will face when going out into our “new” world. Tony was talking about our educational system. Interestingly, as I listened to Tony, one thing struck me in a very pointed way; Tony was using the same terminology that we use in athletics when discussing player development.

If you take a look at New Technology High School (Napa, CA) and High Technology High School (Middletown, NJ) you will see an environment where Project-based learning, small class sizes and personal relationships with instructors create an environment in which students are responsible for their own learning.

The key word here is environment. In Tony’s model, there are no scores. It’s about mastery. Working together to learn how to create and solve. Wow, that sounds a lot like how I coach soccer! In fact, Tony pointed out that teachers are a lot like coaches.

If the push is on to create highly adaptive young citizens, what lessons can we take from all of this as it pertains to athletics? Everyone is aware that our youth sports culture is wildly dysfunctional. Too much parental involvement, too much focus on results, the belief that specialization will lead to greater success in one chosen sport.

I received a call the other day from a parent coach who said he was struggling with his parents doing too much coaching from the sidelines during games. He mentioned having two children walk off the field, crying, and refused to re-enter the game because they were too frustrated with all of the parents yelling instructions.

As I examined the learning environment at New Tech High and witnessed the group projects taking place, I tried to imagine parents coming into the classroom and start telling the kids what to do. It seems so absurd. What would a teacher do if a parent came into the classroom and started giving their child (or other children) instructions on how to complete a task? It’s bad enough that the “Helicopter Parents” have taken flight, but I hope we never see the day when parents show up to school and start coaching their kids in the classroom.

Playing sports is about having fun. If parents feel the need to “joystick” their children through an athletic performance, think about that from the perspective of the child.

When parents are asked what they want for their children through athletic participation, they have lots of good answers. “Make friends”, “learn a skill”, “stay healthy”, all very worthy goals. The parent paradox, however, is anything but healthy. We say one thing, but our behavior completely belies us.

In my ideal coaching environment, we would err on the side of “under coaching”, not “over coaching”. The environment would consist of small numbers, to help ensure that children get lots of repetitions and the opportunity to make lots of decisions. Playing sports is about having fun. If parents feel the need to “joystick” their children through an athletic performance, think about that from the perspective of the child. Do you really think they are enjoying themselves? What exactly are they learning?

As a parent, I must be able to see that my constant direction giving is cheating my child out of the opportunity to learn.

Malcolm Gladwell has the Ten Thousand Hour Rule. He asserts that to truly become proficient at something, you must work at it for 10,000 hours. Makes sense! One question, though….what is it that would make someone work for that many hours on a skill? Malcolm does not address motivation.

Intrinsic motivation is the secret. Tony Wagner knows it and I know it. (I spoke about it last year in my TEDx Talk.) Unless an individual is growing passion and love for something, they will not have the intrinsic motivation to work at it and become proficient. This is another area that we parents struggle with. Too often, we want to be the motivators. It doesn’t work that way.

I am an advocate for collaboration, teamwork. I am an advocate for problem solving, risk taking, mistake making. If we don’t make mistakes, we are not learning. I am an advocate for hard work. Can you become an advocate for allowing children to have fun in sports?

- Steve Locker

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What Do Good Teachers and Good Coaches Have in Common?

ISACS Convention Recap - Part 1

I was recently invited to the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS) convention to speak about coaching and its importance in the development of children in today’s schools. The next two posts of this series will give those of you who didn’t have a chance to attend the convention last week some insight into the meaningful discussions regarding childhood development that occurred. The first talk compares the traits necessary to be a good coach and a good teacher and the second gives you a window into what good coaching should look like.

The theme of the second day of the convention was preparing our children for the Innovation Era. An era where traditional college degrees and information gained is not as important as creative problem solving, entrepreneurship, the ability to work collaboratively and desire or passion necessary to solve today’s challenges (Tony Wagner: Preparing Kids for the Innovation Era).

Those of you that have been following my blog, success at Locker Soccer Academy and my speaking endeavors (Steve’s TEDx Talk: Youth Sports: The Fast Lane to Retirement) will notice a similarity in childhood development philosophies. They are both based on a solid foundation of FUN.

This foundation inspires children to develop an intrinsic passion which in turn will lead to the proper development of traits and skills, like the ability to overcome adversity or resilience. These skills are developed through overcoming failures and are motivated from within rather than from outside forces like those seen in a traditional educational system.

So what do good teachers and good coaches have in common? They create an environment that is conducive to FUN, positive, challenging, honest, caring and strives for excellence. These environments may differ depending on the sport or the age group of children a teacher or a coach is tasked with leading, but the children should take away things such as improved decision-making skills, confidence, empathy, curiosity, and persistence. Great teachers and coaches help empower kids through play, inspiring passion, and developing purpose. These are the environments and traits necessary for our children to discover their real interests, understand the value of depth of knowledge rather than breadth, develop real skills and be able to adapt those skills to any situation.

The Knowledge Economy has come and gone and the Innovation Era, whether we like it or not it is upon us. It is our duty as teachers, coaches and parents to prepare our children to succeed.

- Steve Locker

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Copa America 2016

copa america

USA! USA! USA! USA!

That is the chant that you have all heard from those "crazed" soccer fans during the FIFA World Cup every four years. Maybe you have even been one of them yourself? Well, the good thing is that if you have been that fan or have ever wondered what the hype was all about you don't have to wait another four years to support your team or your favorite player, because a soccer tournament of nearly the same magnitude is taking over the month of June.

One of the hardest things for coaches to instill in young players is passion for the game. Think back to how you discovered something you are passionate about in your life. Was it because of playing pick-up games in the yard next door? Was it because of a teacher or coach that was so enthusiastic about a subject or sport that it rubbed off on you? Was it watching an iconic moment unfold while cheering on your favorite team? Or was it watching your childhood hero pull off the impossible with seconds left to spare in the game? We all can probably relate to at least one or more of those moments.

As it turns out one of the most prolific soccer tournaments, Copa America, is set to kick-off June 3rd on U.S. soil for the first time ever. Copa America is the perfect event for excitement, drama and passion that usually only a World Cup can provide. Watching these types of events as a group is one of the easiest ways to show young kids why a sport is so magical. It also gives you the time to explain things like sportsmanship and teamwork in a real-time situation that isn't so personal. So grab your team, your kids and your family and be one of those "crazed" fans. Follow your favorite team(s) or player(s) through the tournament and help instill that passion for the game in a young player you know this month.

If that wasn't enough to get you interested even Kobe Bryant is going to be watching and in the video below he tells you why you should be as well. The full T.V. schedule for Copa America is below.

Copa America Schedule:(in Eastern Standard Time)

Fri., 6/3 USA vs. Columbia - Santa Clara, CA - 9:30 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Sat., 6/4 Costa Rica vs. Paraguay - Orlando, FL - 5:00 p.m. FOX
               Haiti vs. Peru - Seattle, WA - 7:30 p.m. FOX Sports 2
               Brazil vs. Ecuador - Pasadena, CA - 10:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Sun., 6/5 Jamaica vs. Venezuela - Chicago, IL - 5:00 p.m. FOX
                Mexico vs. Uruguay - Glendale, AZ - 8:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Mon., 6/6 Panama vs. Bolivia - Orlando, FL - 7:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1
                 Argentina vs. Chile - Santa Clara, CA - 10:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Tue., 6/7 USA vs. Costa Rica - Chicago, IL - 8:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1
                Colombia vs. Paraguay - Pasadena, CA - 10:30 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Wed., 6/8 Brazil vs. Haiti - Orlando, FL- 7:30 p.m. FOX Sports 1
                 Ecuador vs. Peru - Glendale, AZ - 10:00 p.m. FOX Sports 2

Thu., 6/9 Uruguay vs. Venezuela - Philadelphia, PA - 7:30 p.m. FOX Sports 1
                Mexico vs. Jamaica - Pasadena, CA - 10:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Fri., 6/10 Chile vs. Bolivia - Foxborough, MA - 7:00 p.m. FOX
                Argentina vs. Panama - Chicago, IL - 9:30 p.m. FOX

Sat., 6/11 USA vs. Paraguay - Philadelphia, PA - 7:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1
               Colombia vs. Costa Rica - Houston, TX - 9:00 p.m. FOX Sports 2

Sun., 6/12 Ecuador vs. Haiti - East Rutherford, NJ - 6:30 p.m. FOX Sports 2
                 Brazil vs. Peru - Foxborough, MA - 8:30 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Mon., 6/13 Mexico vs. Venezuela - Houston, TX - 8:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1
                  Uruguay vs. Jamaica - Santa Clara, CA - 10:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Tue., 6/14 Chile vs. Panama - Philadelphia, PA - 8:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1
                 Argentina vs. Bolivia - Seattle, WA - 10:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Thu., 6/16 Copa America 1A vs. 2B - Seattle, WA - 9:30 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Fri., 6/17 Copa America 1B vs. 2A - East Rutherford, NJ - 8:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Sat., 6/18 Copa America 1D vs. 2C - Foxborough, MA - 7:00 p.m. FX
                Copa America 1C vs. 2D - Santa Clara, CA - 10:00 p.m. FX

Tue., 6/21 Copa America W25 vs. W27 - Houston, TX - 9:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Wed., 6/22 Copa America W26 vs. W28 - Chicago, IL - 8:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Sat., 6/25 Copa America L29 vs. L30 - Glendale, AZ - 8:00 p.m. FX

Sun., 6/26 Copa America final East - Rutherford, NJ - 8:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Viva la Copa America Centenario

Chris Arndt
Director
Second Nature Sports

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Where Have All of the Good Times Gone?

fun

Last week we talked about injuries and why it is important to allow our athletes the proper amount of time to heal before they resume play. Another very important reason to make sure your kids have healed properly is prevent injuries that are related to overuse. Overuse injuries happen most frequently when a child has been rushed back to play before properly healing and have become one of the leading factors in kids quitting sports in their transitional years. But, injuries are not the only reason our children are choosing to quit sports at an alarming rate (as high as 78%) at the age of 13. The leading cause is that they are simply not having fun playing their particular sport anymore.

This can stem from a number of reasons. The number one reason is negative child-coach interactions. At the club level it can be the pressure felt by the coach to win-at-all-costs that limits playing time for all but the best players. Another reason is that the kids themselves start to view the sport they once loved as more of a job than a fun activity. Second Nature Sports and I believe in a philosophy that empowers coaches and mentors to adopt a proven sports philosophy that nurtures childhood development by keeping soccer fun. Our number one goal is to keep kids playing longer and we believe that by providing coaches with simple, yet robust educational tools they will be able to interact with their team with confidence. Proper education and confidence will give them the tools necessary ensure their kids have fun and love coming to practice.

In this week's blog we turn yet again to Dr. Joseph Donahue and our friends at PCA as they go over some of the reasons why so many kids are leaving sports at such an early age.

Chris Arndt
Director
Second Nature Sports


Dr. Joseph Donahue is an orthopedic surgeon at SOAR Clinic in Redwood City and has served as team physician for the San Francisco 49ers and Stanford University as well as an orthopedic consultant for the San Francisco Giants. He is the team physician for Santa Clara University.

In this clip, Dr. Donahue lists the reasons for attrition in youth sports and why kids drop out or quit. Among those: injury, often stemming from overuse, due to early sport specialization. Also, pressure to excel on the scoreboard can limit opportunities for players to continue developing as they get caught up in win-at-all-cost environments and may miss out on playing time. In turn, that makes sports less fun, which is the most often-cited reason for kids quitting sports.

A link to the original post can be found here.

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Your child has just suffered an injury...what happens next?

injury

Injuries unfortunately are a part of sport and seem to happen at the most inopportune time. As parents and coaches we often find ourselves in what can feel like a high pressure situation just following a players injury. Can our team win the next big game without being at full strength? Is that player going to miss out on a scholarship or opportunity to play at the next level due to missed time on the field? The player may also feel as if they are letting their team down or missing out on the fun. All of these things can lead to rushing a child back onto the field before he/she is ready.

As coaches we must realize that our teams best moments can come from a team pulling together to achieve goals even when the odds are against them. As parents we have to realize that scholarship opportunities aren't won or lost overnight. If the child is ready for the next level of play the scholarship opportunities will be there after the child has healed. Our children are resilient and missing the appropriate amount of time to heal is alright. Missing a month or two to recover is better than having lifelong health issues from pushing a child back into competition before they have healed.

In this week's blog our friends at PCA give us a brief overview of why it is critical to take enough time to properly heal from an injury rather than succumb to the pressure of returning to play too early.

Chris Arndt
Director
Second Nature Sports


Dr. Joseph Donahue is an orthopedic surgeon at SOAR Clinic in Redwood City and has served as team physician for the San Francisco 49ers and Stanford University as well as an orthopedic consultant for the San Francisco Giants. He is the team physician for Santa Clara University.

In this clip, Dr. Donahue emphasizes the importance of full recovery from injury. Too often, in pursuit of wins or scholarships, coaches and parents can rush a child back to competition prematurely. Youth athletes themselves may just sense the pressure or have the innate drive to hurry back to the fun and to avoid feeling like they let their teammates down. But a rush to return can have lifelong negative consequences.

A link to the original post can be found here.

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The New Dimension in Youth Soccer: Navigating U.S. Soccer’s New Age Groupings

Age change.jpg

No one likes change, and this is a sizable change for the millions of soccer families in our country. The soon to be “old” system of determining age groups, where the calendar year began on August 1st, will now become “Birth Year” groupings with a January 1st start. All of this becomes a harsh reality in the next few weeks, and parents are scrambling with the question: where should my child play?

Terminology Lesson: It will no longer be called U8, or Under 8. The new term for this
age group is now 8 & Under. Get used to it.

There is one gender issue at play, and let me address it up front. Generally speaking, girls have a greater pull towards playing with friends than do boys. This factor will be one that many parents will grapple with when trying to decide where to place their child. I will talk about the “friend” card in more detail as I delve into this topic.

So your 9 year old has been playing with his team for three years, and now we are dealing with the fact that half the team was born in 2006 and the other half was born in 2007. (Those with 2006 birth dates will jump all the way to 11 & Under. Those with 2007 birth dates will play at 10 & Under.) Your child was born in June of 2007, but two of his best friends have 2006 birth dates. What to do?

Let me make one critically important fact very clear: The coach of your child is the single most important factor in all of this. Which club you play for, and which league you are in matter less. Your child MUST enjoy their coach, or they will be out of the game in no time. It doesn’t matter how many friends they have on their new team, they will make new friends quickly.

A good coach will make the experience fun and they will continue the developmental process for your child and progress them with their skills, their understanding of the game, and most importantly, the continued implementation of life’s most important lessons.

When considering an age group, especially playing “up” an age group, here are some considerations that you, as a parent, must be ready to deal with: (Please know that the more honestly that you make this assessment, the better the experience that your child will have.)

Speed: At what level will your child’s foot speed and speed of play (decision making) allow for the most success. If you over estimate your child’s ability, you are setting them up for failure.

Physicality: Like speed, this has to be the appropriate fit.

Emotional (& Psychological) Maturity: Given this stage of your child’s development, where will they find the most success and the best chance of developing into a team leader?

Ball Skills: Is your child’s mastery of controlling the ball in line with the older players that you may be considering having your child join?

The Friend Card: The longer that a team has been together, the more challenging it is to break up those friendships. Because high school players compete against many different age groups in high school, they are more likely to be successful at playing “up” in order to stay with friends. As we examine the younger age groups (8-14 years), I believe that it is more important to keep these children within their ages. There are always going to be exceptions, and as long as a child can meet with success when playing against older kids, then that child can be a reasonable candidate for playing “up”. Please keep this fact in mind: kids make friends in the time that it takes you to check out at the grocery store! They are more resilient than we think.

When we look at all of these factors in regards to our children, our ability to determine the best fit is critical. It will make the difference between your child meeting success or struggling with fitting in. In these formative years, the more success that they have, the longer that they will play.

Let’s keep our kids playing, keep the process positive, and support them in their journey to make new friends. Isn’t that what sports is all about anyway?

- Steve Locker

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Is Your League Following A Good Development Model?

youthcamp

As a parent or a coach you have seen the the practice sessions where coaches run out of ideas after about 30 minutes, so they instinctively turn to playing a one ball scrimmage. In many recreational leagues parents let it slide and think to themselves, "well they have to play a game at some point, so getting some experience in that type of setting is probably a good thing." But, there are real reasons why coaches shouldn't resort to playing a one ball scrimmage at practices. Are your league directors and coaches following a proven development model? If not Second Nature Sports can help. Our training plans give coaches 8-weeks of full practice plans that will guide them through each and every practice in a developmentally focused manner.

In this week's blog our friends at PCA give us a brief overview of why children under the age of 12 shouldn't be playing your traditional 11v11 one ball games, especially in practice.

Chris Arndt
Director
Second Nature Sports


PCA National Advisory Board Member Jay Coakley (@SiSCoakley) is Professor Emeritus of sociology at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. He has done 40 years of research on connections between sports, culture and society, much of that focused on the play, games and sport participation of young people. His Sports in Society: Issues and Controversies(11th edition) is the world's most widely used sports sociology text.

In this video, Coakley describes why youth sports needs to be simplified for children under 12 years of age. He states that, “prior to the age of 12, kids are not socially and cognitively ready to play complex team games.” Research shows that children under the age of 8 can only take on one role at a time. So for sports like soccer, where there are 10 teammates, a soccer ball, and coaches, it is difficult for children to understand all of these roles simultaneously.

Since we cannot expect children under the age of 12 to truly understand these complex concepts, Coakley recommends that instead of putting children in a complex game they do not understand, we should:

  • Simplify game models
  • Change the dimensions of the fields to fit the size of the children playing
  • Cut the size of teams so that all children can get more touches, opportunities to pass, and opportunities to score

A link to the original post can be found here.

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