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Coaches Blog

Sam's Blog is a bi-weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. Sam Snow is the Coaching Director for US Youth Soccer.

 

Too Young to Travel?

Sam Snow

Recently a 'soccer dad' wrote to me asking about the appropriate age at which to begin travel soccer. That age varies across the nation to a degree, but certainly by the U-12 age group many soccer clubs have teams that travel to other cities and perhaps even other states to play. Now, a trip to another state with a bunch of 11-Year-Olds may not seem like a big deal if you live in Rhode Island, but what if you live in Alaska or North Dakota where that trip is quite a long way. So one consideration is the distance and, therefore, the time and cost involved.

Also to consider is the physical and emotional stress on the kids if they are too young for soccer road trips. Factor the adults' expectations for results into the psychological environment in which the kids are now playing. Some, but not all, adults will suddenly want more wins as the 'R.O.I.' for having made the trip.

Central to the discussion, purely on the soccer side, is to consider if the players are ready technically, tactically and physically to undertake playing matches on the road, which even at the adult level of soccer is more demanding.

Finally, we must remember that soccer is a long-term development sport. Since players do not peak until their late twenties or early thirties there doesn't seem to be a need for a rush to travel soccer. Furthermore, I am of the opinion that we should unfurl the full soccer experience gradually to young players. Let's always have something new in soccer on the horizon for them. We have a tendency in youth soccer to give them everything early on, and then there's little for them to look forward to in the soccer world.

So, here's my exchange with a parent asking for some advice to be able to make an informed decision for his child's soccer experience.

Coach: travel team guidelines

Hello, was hoping to find some guidelines on kids participating in travel teams. When should kids really starting traveling out of state for soccer tournaments? Is 4 years old too young? Is 10?  What are the guidelines being provided to our clubs across the country?

There are not any mandated policies for travel. However, US Youth Soccer coaching education recommends that kids not begin to travel until the U-10 age group. That travel should be within a 100 mile radius of the home club. In this way, the kids are getting some variety of games, but without overnight stays and all of the time and expense to the family. For the U-12 age group some out of state travel is fine. Again, time and expense are justified to make that travel to a state bordering the home state of the club. Also, as long as it is not overdone, travel within your US Youth Soccer Region is fine too. For the U-14 to U-19 age groups travel nationwide is fine. However, clubs must be sure to consider the time away from school and cost to the player's family. International trips for U-14 and older is fine too. Such a trip has greater significance if it is an occasional event for the players - once per year or two at the most.

Sam, this is very helpful, thank you! I currently coach a U-9 Girls team, and my oldest daughter plays for a U-11 Girls team. Her team is looking to travel in November to Texas, but I am of the opinion and have decided that this is not best for our family or daughter. Her team has plenty of competition right here in Colorado, and can easily get travel experience with some longer distance in-state tournaments. I wish some of these clubs were not so eager to take our young players to out of state tournaments. From my perspective this only perpetuates the "win at all cost attitude" so many are discussing these days, but doing very little to change. It's more about club promotion and less about developing players.

Your note is indeed helpful. Would you mind if I shared this with my club? I'm assuming U-11 would be treated similar to U-12. In our state of Colorado all the "crazy competitiveness" starts at U-11. The more guidance US Youth Soccer can provide our state organizations and the clubs, the better the soccer community will be for all.

Thanks again for your insights. I'm going to keep your name for the future as I am the parent of a "warrior girl," trying to do right by her.

Indeed the push to play more and more begins too soon in American youth soccer. All of the adults be they parents, coaches or administrators, contribute in some way to that mentality. Please do not hesitate to let us know if the US Youth Soccer Coaching Department can be of further assistance to you.

Let me close this week with drawing your attention to a very good article for parents who have children playing soccer. The FREE content for soccer parents is available at: http://soccerparentadvice.blogspot.com.