Written by US Youth Soccer (USYS) CEO, Skip Gilbert
Last month, USYS reconfigured and re-launched our Players’ Bill of Rights.
Over the subsequent weeks, I received many emails from parents, coaches and administrators all supporting the document and some, suggesting how we can change the overall culture of youth soccer in the United States. Generally, when adults offer ideas for change, there is usually a strong personal agenda that drives the process. That alone is not always a negative but for me, when we look to advance our sport, you want to ideally focus on the one group that is not always present in these discussions.
When you look at our Bill of Rights, all eight are critical to the success of youth soccer. But for this specific story, Number 5 is my focus. “To Have a Voice” – that “USYS Players have the right to share their viewpoints with coaches and other team administrators, and for their insights to be incorporated into activities.” So as much as I’ve been asked by many to announce a plan to support these Bill of Rights and to listen to adults who can help shape that plan, I would rather take a pause and develop a model to allow players the opportunity to share their voice to help shape the future of youth soccer in the United States.
As such, USYS will officially announce today the formation of the Athletes Advisory Councils. Yes, there is an “s” at the end of the word Council. This is not one group of athletes but multiple. It is an aggressive plan to bring together as many different perspectives as possible to provide feedback and ideas on the product they love and consume. For soccer to grow and for USYS to fulfill our vision: “to bring communities together through the power of soccer, making life-long fans of the sport,” we need to open doors and allow our players to share their opinions.
The format is outlined below. Over the coming days, more information will be posted to our website. USYS will invite eight individuals per council group. They will meet quarterly (more if they want), the Zoom call will run an hour (more if needed) and they will sit on the council for a one-year term. They will then be replaced by a new group to allow for as many perspectives as possible. We are looking to launch the Councils this fall with the following categories:
- 13U – One Boys & One Girls
- 15U – One Girls & One Boys
- 17U – Like the above, one each gender
“Recreational soccer” at the 13/15/17 age grouping is not prevalent in most communities so the above six Councils will be populated with elite-level players. Now, because recreational soccer is not prevalent in the older age groups and a goal of ours is to change that, we will have three additional Councils consisting of:
- 13U – No longer playing soccer (4 boys & 4 girls)
- 15U – No longer playing soccer (4 boys & 4 girls)
- 17U – No longer playing soccer (4 boys & 4 girls)
And finally, to be as inclusive as possible, we will create one (1) Council of 4 boys & 4 girls, ages 13-17, representing the transgender population. Note, for many reasons, we will not create councils utilizing children under the age of 13.
Based on my comments above, I do not wish to have these Council meetings moderated by adult soccer administrators. We will put out a call for individuals that have played youth soccer at the elite level within the past six years. That would make this group no older than 25. Hopefully, all played in college and some may have played or are playing professionally. This group of moderators will have core questions to provide the Councils with each zoom and simply be instructed to allow the conversations to naturally progress.
If you know of a player that would be interested in joining a Council or someone that would be a dynamic moderator, there is an application process outlined on our website. Once we have this process in-place to give players a voice in the direction of their sport, then we can begin the process to develop an overall plan to ensure that our Players’ Bill of Rights will ultimately meet our expected standards.