Did you know that approximately 75% of our children quit playing soccer between 10-14? I find it fascinating how our reflections on the past can influence our future decisions.
This notion struck me recently when I revisited an article I had written titled “World Cup Takes Backseat!”
In this piece, I recalled a soccer dinner where I served as a guest speaker. The discussions/debates shifted from the World Cup to a Top-priority Problem: the ‘Labeling’ of Players, Coaches, and Leagues as ‘Competitive’ or ‘Recreational.’
This ‘Labeling Issue’ has been causing divisive problems in our national soccer communities for decades, and they looked to me for a common-sense solution.
At the dinner, I highlighted three (3) FUNdamental facts:
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the terms:
- ‘Game‘ as an ‘organized competition.’ Therefore, all soccer games and their participants are inherently ‘competitive.’
2, ‘Recreational Play‘ as playing soccer for fun and enjoyment, focusing on having a good time and socializing. There is no need for all the trimmings of an official game, like scheduled time, uniforms, officials, etc. Winning may not be the primary goal, yet everyone I’ve known still wants to win.
3, ‘Competitive Play‘ as striving to win and perform at the highest level. It involves a serious approach, with adult-organized competitions, uniforms, officials, all the associated formalities, and a powerful desire to win.
My attempt to convey this message fell on deaf ears ☹
The Frustration of Labels
Picture my mounting frustration as a fiercely competitive individual. It’s a challenge for me to allow my now 8-year-old granddaughter, Elle, to win in any game we play, whether cards or a game of bean bag toss. Elle despises losing and gives her all in whatever we do. I understand that letting her win consistently would teach her no valuable lessons. So, our matches are filled with laughter and friendly banter, sometimes resulting in her victory 😊.
The Player’s Intentions: A Common Thread
Here’s a FUNdamental reality: whether they are 8, younger or older, players consistently aim to win and approach every game with positive intentions. They avoid behaviors such as:
- Embarrassment: Embarrassing themselves, teammates, coaches, or parents.
- Mistakes: Making as many mistakes as possible.
- Opposing Team: Helping the opposing team to win because of their loss record.
- Disinterest: Showing complete disinterest in the game and its outcome.
Yes, these negative intents are relatively rare, as most children and adolescents engage in games (soccer) with a positive and enthusiastic mindset.
A Call for Change
So, here I am (the messenger), pondering how I could have better emphasized the contrast between typical positive intentions and the potential harm of labeling players as ‘recreational.’
Flashback to that soccer dinner and my positive attitude as the messenger focused on improving the playing environment for slower-maturing players.
The Attire Analogy
As for my attire, it’s essential to remember that first impressions often form within the first thirty seconds, something I forgot. Wearing the ‘Recreation Chairperson’ logo on my shirt, while well-intentioned, may not have effectively conveyed my broader vision and approach to nurturing young athletes. I’m not just seeking a change of shirt; I’m advocating for a shift in perspective.
The Call to Action
That’s why I submitted My Resignation as ‘Recreation Chairperson’ and proposed a more encompassing title that better reflects my commitment to fostering excellence within our youth soccer community.
I firmly believe that it is now time for a transformative change. Let’s collectively commit to discontinuing the labeling of our young players as ‘recreational.’ Instead, Let’s Champion a Single Label on All Players: ‘Competitive Players.’
Join me in advocating for a more inclusive and empowering approach to youth soccer. Spark conversations, challenge old norms and be the agents of change that unite our youth soccer community under a common banner of competitiveness.
Together, we can redefine how we view and nurture young talent, ensuring that every child is recognized as a ‘competitive‘ player capable of achieving greatness. Let’s embark on this journey toward a brighter, more equitable future for all our young athletes today.