As I sat amidst a very large group of community soccer leaders at a recent dinner meeting, I expected a buzz of excitement about the ongoing World Cup. To my surprise, the focus of the evening was on a more pressing issue – The Labeling of Leagues, Coaches and Players as ‘Competitive’ or ‘Recreational.’ It became clear that this categorization was tearing apart the fabric of their soccer programs, leaving me to question the impact of such labels on our young players.
I tried to point out that even the dictionary defines the word ‘game‘ as an ‘organized competition‘ and that all games and the players are, and should be, considered to be ‘competitive.’ To my chagrin, this seemed to fall on deaf ears ☹. But I can’t help but wonder, are we overlooking the potential of countless children due to rigid labels?
For decades, I have been a fervent champion, believing that every child should have the opportunity to participate, regardless of their abilities. I have witnessed firsthand how soccer can transform the lives of children/players, instilling in them values that extend far beyond the playing field.
Please Tell Me Where I am Wrong!
Youth soccer should be about fostering a ‘Love of the Game,’ nurturing talent, and providing a space for every child to grow and thrive. Whether ‘Competitive’ or ‘Recreational,’ all players benefit from the sport’s physical, mental, and social aspects. Inclusive soccer environments offer opportunities for children of diverse backgrounds and abilities to unite, learn from each other, and forge lasting friendships.
Research reveals the potential harm of labeling in youth sports. Rather than pigeonholing children, we should encourage a multi-sport approach, allowing them to explore and discover their true passions. Remember, even legendary athletes like Michael Jordan faced setbacks early in their careers.
Championing the FUNdamentals: We should focus on skill development for all players, providing them with the coaching and support they need to improve, regardless of their current abilities. By forming teams with players of varying strengths, we create a conducive learning environment where experienced players mentor newcomers.
Coaches and Parents are Role Models: Coaches and parents play a crucial role in shaping a child’s experience in soccer. Let’s prioritize their role as supportive, patient, and positive role models. By fostering a love for the sport and personal growth, we can instill values that extend beyond the soccer field.
Promoting Fair Play and Sportsmanship: Emphasizing fair play and sportsmanship over winning creates a wholesome and enriching sporting experience. When children are encouraged to enjoy the game and respect their opponents, the focus shifts away from labels and towards camaraderie.
Advocating for Change: By partnering with local soccer clubs, state and national organizations, we can collectively advocate for more inclusive approaches to youth soccer.
- Co-ed teams in the younger age groups!
- Eliminate age-pure play!
- Remove Tryouts and Labeling before puberty!
- Mandatory Coach Certification!
- Required Parent Code of Conduct!
- Reduce the cost!
Liberating our players and coaches from the confines of restrictive labels and wholeheartedly embrace an Inclusive Approach.
Our Mission: Create an environment where every child can flourish, united by their Love for Soccer!
TOGETHER, can WE please work on changing the narrative and build a brighter future for our players. A future where every child has the opportunity to play, learn, and grow, regardless of their abilities.
So that I can eventually sneak in a conversation about the World Cup in upcoming dinner meetings 😊
Please check out the blog from Dr. Rob Bell, Mental Toughness Coach.