Switching soccer teams happens for any number of reasons. Essentially, a player or family is looking for a different kind of experience, team or coach.
Families ask me all the time which is the “best team” or “best club”. They may be looking to switch clubs, or make the move from recreational soccer to premier soccer, or just exploring what the possibilities might look like.
My recommendation is to not choose a soccer team strictly based on the club name or reputation (let’s be honest, they all have their pros/cons and much of that can be subjective, anyhow). Rather than choosing based on name, we should chose a soccer team based on the individual coach and team qualities. If we are able to get in a trial soccer practice with that team during the season, even better.
Here’s a list of 3 things to consider when choosing a new Soccer club or team
1. The Coach
The coach sets the tone for the team beyond the x’s and o’s. The coach dictates how the team acts, how the parents/sidelines behave and how challenges are addressed. Ideally, a coach is more than just the one running practices and games – she’s a mentor for your player, too. Does she care about the players? Does she care about wins or losses, or is she more focused on improvement? How does she respond to conflict? How does she handle a loss? All this shapes what her players learn about playing sports. You want a respectful adult at the helm, who knows enough about the game to help the players develop, but also recognizes her players are just kids playing a sport at the amateur level.
2. The Players
This is a big one. Our kids’ peers can shape who they are. Think of the kinds of kids you want your daughter to be around – you should see these qualities reflected in 80% of the kids on the team. If you don’t, I would run – fast. If the girls on the team are nice, welcoming and positive, your daughter will have greater chances of having fun and thriving.
Players are a reflection of their parents and of their coach. Being a positive teammate doesn’t always come naturally. It takes a proactive coach who cares about her players to take advantage of teachable moments.
Here’s an example: I was running a team training session last night and in a friendly competition, one of the players made a mistake and her team immediately began to blame her for them losing. Some coaches would let this slide. Other coaches would use this as a teachable moment. Before making it a teachable moment, I asked the player (let’s call her Haley) if it was ok that I used her and what just happened as an example. Haley agreed. I brought the group in and explained what just happened. Haley made a mistake near the end of the game, and her team didn’t win. And her teammates blamed her. “HALEY – it’s all your fault! HALEY – coooome ooonnnnn that was such a bad pass!” I asked the group: “How would that make you feel if you were Haley?” – they all replied it would make them feel sad/bad/embarrassed. I reminded them that we treat our teammates with respect on and off the field, we treat others the way we want to be treated. I further explained the power of positivity (in kids terms) – and gave them some other examples of how they could have handled it: “Good try Haley!”, “Unlucky!” (classic soccer term), “We’ll get it next time!”. In the next round of the game, both teams responded in an overwhelmingly positive manner, cheering for their teammates like their lives depended on it! It was amazing. Just a little coaching, and the negative became a positive and a life lesson.
3. The Parents
Another important factor. These are the people you’ll be standing alongside on the sidelines, they’ll be your peers this season, potential carpoolers and if your team travels, you’ll be traveling with them as well. That’s a lot of together time.
We’ve probably all experienced *that* parent who knows more than the coach and/or referee, and makes sure even the people in line at the concession stands can hear it. How about the parent who yells at their kid? Yells at other kids? Eeeeeeeeek. Please, don’t be that parent. Be the parent that claps and cheers and high fives.
If the sidelines make you cringe, you might consider finding another team to tryout for.
About Coach Carrie
Coach Carrie Robinson is the founder and director of Finesse Soccer. She coached two girls teams from 2008-2016, choosing to “retire” from the club soccer scene after she became pregnant with her second child so she could spend more time with her family and her other baby, Finesse Soccer.
Carrie holds several coaching licenses including Advanced National Diploma, USSF “D” License, and the Urban Soccer Diploma. She is also a certified coaching instructor for United Soccer Coaches.