With youth soccer continuing to grow rapidly in the U.S. there seems to be a competitive club in every town, no matter how big or small. Depending on the size of the town it could be a club comprised of only several competitive teams or in the case of a huge metropolitan area, like Atlanta, there can be numerous clubs all fielding teams from thousands of participants.
Each club in any area brings its own unique advantages and problems. Having worked in several different clubs at both of these levels, there are numerous advantages and disadvantages to each situation. The key for any parent is finding the right fit for his or her son or daughter and sticking with it over time. No matter how green the grass is on the other side, most will agree moving from one club to another will only stalemate a player’s development. Each town, suburb, or big city normally has several options for players. Doing the research on which club has the best plan and recognition for developing not only teams but also high-level players is imperative for any parent.
The advantages and disadvantages listed below are generalities that I have found working in both environments. There are both big and small clubs that do a great job in some areas and a poor job in other areas.
Big Club 1500 + Players
-More qualified staff to support all aspects of both team and club functions for the highest level teams
-Normally more highly qualified directors for multiple programs (Girls, boys, select, academy, junior academy, recreation, etc)
-Multiple teams in every age group producing competitive environment for players to get on top level teams and
-Multiple teams alleviate problems of attrition (although not solving it) by the large number of players that can be added in at the later stages of team development
-Name recognition for entry into high-level tournaments
-Possible high-level local tournament eliminating travel
-Disconnect between A level teams and lower level 2nd tier teams with different coaches, training styles/philosophies, and the parent support system
-Disconnect between personal knowledge of ALL players in club/Impossible to keep track and know every family/player
-Quantity vs. Quality – Dependence of large # of players in any given pool to compete at the most competitive level
– # of coaches/staff needed to coach all competitive level teams/Difficult to fill every team with a highly qualified coach
-Difficulty managing all levels of the club without multiple directors in charge of different programs
-Much more difficult to create and integrate a consistent style of play, philosophy, and curriculum for player/team development across the whole club
-Less attention to 2nd tier or fringe players because of large #’s in club/age group
Small Club 1000 Players or less
– Possible for directors/leadership to have personal knowledge of families/players/coaches
-Much easier to create and integrate a consistent style of play, philosophy, and curriculum for player/team development across the whole club
-Quantity vs. Quality – Fewer players in every age group creates need for more quality training for every player including 2nd tier players
-More attention to 2nd tier/fringe players and retention of these players – these players are imperative for team success at older age groups
-Easier to create family atmosphere within club
-Easier to manage all programs of the club with fewer players
-Less Name recognition when trying to gain entry into high-level tournaments.
-Possibly no high level local tournament creating more travel (dependent on location)
-Directors/leadership responsible for multiple areas of programming, administration and coaching. This leads to less time for each area in some instances.
-Fewer players in each age group
- creates less longevity for each age group
- causes addition of lesser players later in the team development
- creates combination of age groups to hold teams together at older age groups
Jeremy Aven currently holds the USSF A License, USSF National Youth License and the USSF Goalkeeper Level I License, along with the NSCAA National Diploma. He is the Director of Coaching and Player Development at the Savannah Soccer Academy, the founder of Adidas SKILLS Program, a staff coach for both the South Carolina Youth Soccer Association and the Georgia Youth Soccer Association, the assistant director at Ben Freakly School of Soccer and is the director at JA Academy. His full profile can be found at http://www.jaacademy.com/coaches/JeremyAven/index_E.html. His club and camp websites are www.savannahsocceracademy.com and www.bfschoolofsoccer.com. Jeremy’s personal blog is http://jeremyaven.blogspot.com/.