Let’s talk about academy soccer / club teams playing in rec leagues. The last few years I’ve volunteer coached my daughters rec soccer team. They are currently U-11. This experience, plus watching my older daughter play, I can say that it’s a shame to see “academy club teams” competing in rec leagues. My older daughter was on a team where her coach only coached rec to recruit for his club teams. Also, I see teams who compete in both club/academy and rec leagues. This shouldn’t be allowed, especially when they run the score up and keep the best players in the whole game.
What is academy club soccer?
‘Academy’ is club soccer for ages 6-9.
At age 10 they go ‘select’ which is also club.
So academy and select are both club, the only different is the age groups.
Coaches who aren’t honest about the situation
The funny thing is when I’ve asked the coaches if they have any academy players, they pause for 3 seconds and say no….
When I ask again… “really you don’t have any academy kids” they say “well a few”…
So why did they say no the first time?
The worst part is they keep the best players in the game 95% of the time…
The rec league recommends that you play the kids equal or at least half the game.
It’s a shame coaches aren’t honest or fair to the youths.
Also what’s unfair is to allow teams who practice 4 hours a week compared to 1 – 1.5.
There’s rec and club for a reason and it’s best to keep them separate.
In club/academy sure, you can play your best players the whole game and the weaker players only a few minutes… That’ s part of the deal in competitive sports.
Let’s not demoralize the kids.
Why every team and league is different
For the most part academy/club soccer is better than rec…
This isn’t true for all teams/players, more as a whole.
Even here in the Dallas, TX area where youth soccer is really strong, there are rec teams that are better than some club/travel teams.
- I’ve coached my daughters rec team from age 7-10… This past Winter we entered a indoor league with 9 teams, 7 being club. We ended up 2nd place. The club teams pay $2k – 3k per year, we pay $300. The key is our rec team trains 2x per week once they went U10 and about half of them do small group skills with me in the off-season (Summer/Winter).
- There’s a 9 year old girl I train who plays on a rec team and a academy team… Her rec team would easily beat her academy/club team.
Many club teams are made up from rec teams who want a “better” level of play… Therefore, putting on a club jersey doesn’t mean you play better.
Then there are rec teams who are very good, but continue playing rec because the parents don’t want to commit to travel soccer yet.
For the most part club/academy trains more and has the naturally talented/dominant players, which is about 20%.
So, I know every situation is different.
Healthy communication and education is what I’m looking to achieve in this post.
Let’s get started.
There are academy soccer club leagues for a reason
There are rec leagues and then there are academy soccer club leagues labeled for a reason.
Can rec teams play in club leagues? No. So why the opposite? (Note: indoor leagues are different, as they can be a mix)
Is winning so important that you have to have club teams play in a rec league?
I’m fine with individual players ages 7-9 doing both, but not a whole team.
At any level there should be a respect for building up every individual.
If a team is 7 goals better than the other team, the coach should try one of these 20 things to do when you’re winning big…
These 20 things listed in the link above help both teams…
The better team is challenged more and learns to play in uncomfortable situation, while the weaker team isn’t demoralized by a 12-0 score.
Difference from academy to rec
The first difference is academy teams don’t have many butterfly chasers.
Rec soccer has a mix of players from natural athletes to kids who don’t even love soccer.
Club has mostly kids [50-70%] who have a high desire to improve.
The second difference is club kids practice three times as much or more.
Club teams practice at least 3 hours per week, compared to a rec team practicing 1 hour.
Then on top of that many of these teams play in two leagues, so 2 games per weekend, compared to 1.
More games/training doesn’t mean they will get burned out…
When the coaching is good [mentally and technically] and the players love it – they don’t get tired of it.
What’s the purpose of your soccer coach
A coach should be doing their job #1 for the kids.
Instead, some coaches and clubs enter a rec league to do two things.
Win and recruit.
Of course they will say it helps develop their boys/girls.
It’s especially a problem in a big soccer areas like Dallas, Los Angeles, Bar Area, Virginia, New Jersey, Atlanta.
There are SO MANY leagues and levels for these regions.
Some of these places literally have 12 leagues for one age group… In these cases, the academy club soccer teams should find a more competitive league than rec.
There are hundreds of great coaches, but unfortunately there are the same amount of selfish ones.
Learn from the experienced soccer parents
If you’re a parent of a younger soccer player, find some parents of older kids who grew up playing.
Experience passed down is valuable.
In the end, there’s not many teams whose parents and kids get everything they want each year.
It’s important to get the goods from each coach, but it’s your responsibility to develop on your own too.
The players who fulfill their potential are the ones who train at home or with a private skills trainer.
Having the sports maturity to put in the extra work is vital.
Is winning the only proof of developing?
Winning is fun, but should it be so important that you play just to win?
There are teams that don’t win, but the coaches are doing a fantastic job of developing the players.
Example: Teaching kids to play out of the back. Meaning, short accurate passing out from the defense. This could be low or under pressure situations. In doing this you might concede goals, but the players learn to play proper futbol.
The opposite of possession style futbol is “kick ball”…
Of course there are situations and even certain games where the defense just needs to play long balls up to the forwards.
Although, the long ball game shouldn’t be something that is done week in and out.
Kids at younger ages who are encouraged to build from the back will be better players in the future.
Maybe possession style loses more games from mistakes at a younger age, but development is more important than winning.
How to improve your soccer skills fast
When my youngest daughter was 7 years old we had her training with a club team.
This was all happening as covi-d struck, so I took her off because I felt the game would get cancelled.
The coach was good and very cool. He actually was helping the kids for free because he felt they weren’t ready for competition yet.
Anyhow, even with a “good” coach, the kids weren’t getting great training. Imagine being on a team where the coach isn’t good…
In team settings there is a lot of standing around waiting in lines, listening to the instructions. They would do a 15 min skill drill, then some 1v1s and a scrimmage. So, 50% training and 50% no action.
We were driving 25 minutes do practice and at the end I told my wife that our daughter could improve more at home by spending 20 minutes getting high rep quality drills.
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