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Fans’ View: How much is this going to cost?

Photo: Paul Rudderow

I have two sons who play soccer, and only soccer. They are average players. No Messi genes in my household, no Leo Fernandes work ethic, just average kids who enjoy playing soccer.

This is where the problem lies. When I was growing up in the soccer wasteland of Texas in the 70’s, I never knew there was this thing called travel sports. I played softball (badly — no athletic genes of any kind in this body) for our church. I don’t know that my parents paid anything,  maybe a little for a uniform. The coaches were volunteer dads and we practiced, rain or shine, on the field behind the church.

Youth soccer has turned into a big business. My youngest son, who is 10, started playing at rec soccer at 4 and travel soccer at 7. We felt the pressure that if he didn’t start travel as soon as possible, then the other players would gain a skill advantage that he would never make up. We are offered camps and trainers at every turn.  The Union has a soccer camp at $450 a week. Coerver is another one that comes highly recommended at $350 a week.

What is a parent to do?

There are a plethora of clubs within 20 minutes drive of our house, I can count eight off the top of my head, each one with different strengths and varying costs. Some clubs pay all of their coaches — no Dads allowed. They have training twice a week all year and play 12 months. Some have huge field complexes and clubhouses (gotta love having a beer on the sideline while watching the kids play). This would be great for my kids, but at what cost?

So herein lies my dilemma…

How much is too much? Do I pay a coach versus a qualified volunteer Dad coach? Is my kid going to ever make the high school soccer team if he doesn’t go to soccer camp or get individual training? Should I look at hiring a trainer to work with my boys to build skills so they can get to that next level? Is ten too young to play only one sport year round? (I kinda know the answer to that one, but I just can’t get him to play lacrosse, he’s too short for basketball and baseball is boring.)

Sometimes I just want to stop this madness. Its youth soccer for God’s sake! But then, that little voice of parental doubt creeps in: Am I doing everything possible to help my child be successful? What happens if he doesn’t make the team because he doesn’t have the foot skills or the soccer acumen that comes from hours of training and practice? Am I just being out of touch with today’s youth sports environment? I’ve heard horror stories about how much it costs to play ice hockey, so maybe its OK to pay $1100 for a 10 year old to play on a B team.

I’d be interested to hear from other parents out there: What do you look for in a club? What price is too high? What are your expectations for your kids and their sports?

Feel free to leave a comment below.


  1. Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

    I’ve coached for many years and I have one easy way to determine wether a huge finacial and time inestment is worth it for a parent and kid. It’s really simple….

    When your kid is at home, what do they do? If they live and breathe soccer, go out in the yard with a ball everyday, try things they saw online every day, watch soccer everyday and are self motivated by love then it is worth it. Even if your kid is not the most naturally talented, all of that hard work and time with the ball will pay off.

    If your kid has a multitude of interests and like soccer because it is fun and is a good player but only really picks up a ball when it is practice time then don’t spend a ton of money. Becasue even if they are a stud on their U9 team, they will fall off as a player if they are not truly consumed by it. Not to say these kid’s shouldn’t play, not saying that at all, just saying these are the kids that you probably should not be spending thousands on when they can play at their local club with their friends and have fun.

    • This about sums up my thoughts, as well. Their own passion level is a key indicator.
      Beyond this, and more important in my opinion, is my sincere underlying belief that “success” in life is much more about who you are than what you do. I imagine you agree, as do most readers.
      If we as parents can model this (this assumes we believe it and live it out), then our children will learn that their identity and value is rooted not in soccer (or any other activity), but in who they are/their character.
      That is an important part of sustaining success on and off the field, in my opinion.
      Okay, soapbox dismounted. 😉

  2. No easy answer, but a goodly portion of your decision has to be based on your child’s passion, ambition and talent. I have two boys aged 13 and 10. My oldest is a ODP keeper who plays on a EDP team which has matches up and down the east coast. He trains/plays 4 or 5 days a week for 10 months a year (the other two months he is playing futsal)….and he wants more! It is costly and there are times when we have to say no and others times where we sacrifice. Now my youngest plays in the local league on a Flight 9 team. He just likes to kick the ball around with his friends and that is about it. Both are great kids and very happy.

  3. John Ling says:

    Staci – I’m going to chime in real quick on the “other stuff” you mentioned. At that age, his height won’t be a big detriment in basketball. If he can handle the ball when it comes his way he can have a pretty good time playing rec-league basketball.
    I’ll give you another suggestion beyond lacrosse, basketball, hockey, and baseball. Have you considered signing them up for martial arts of some sort? It’s individual rather than team, and as they advance it gets more expensive than I imagined. But it has a lot of benefits, some of which carry into soccer. A good dojo will teach them self-defense techniques along with their forms and such for whatever style of martial arts; they’ll learn individual responsibility; their balance will improve, as will their flexibility. At the beginning, it’ll be about 2 hours a week – 1 hour each of two nights, and most places (or at least the ones we looked at) have pretty low entry costs, so if you sign up and they hate it, you’re not out a small fortune like you would be for, say, hockey equipment.
    Just some stuff to consider, if you’re looking for other physical activities for them.

  4. As a pediatrician, I get asked this question a lot, but as a parent of two young boys, I’m already worrying the same things you are!
    I would echo the comments above. Let your kids be your guide. I plan to do a post in the future about these topics, so hopefully I can answer in more detail soon!

  5. OneManWolfpack says:

    My son is 9. And he played from when he was about 5 up until the last indoor season that just concluded this past winter. His passion level just wasn’t there. He enjoyed it. He wasn’t one of the “better players” on the team (and that didn’t matter, honestly) but really he just wasn’t interested.
    It hurt a little, because I played for years, am a season ticket holder, and watch as much as I can, but he was just not interested. I’m just relaying my experience and saying that I agree that if the child isn’t passionate on their own, you can’t force it. If they are, the money is secondary. It’s all worth it to see them enjoy something.
    And the things kids learn from working together as a team, to meeting new people, to how to act socially, etc., are things they will take with them forever.

    • +1. My soccer resume has been a huge asset in the business world. Having the terms: “student-athlete,” “captain/leader,” “teammate” anywhere on a college app or resume is a step-up

      • Finally an excellent response by someone who has gone thru ‘it’. There must be more who have gone thru ‘it’ as player or parent who have something to say!
        I am the dad of 2 boys. One was never that interested in soccer and played below his potential while growing up but is now in a highly competitive D3 program and loves it. The team is just like a frat but better since they do not just party but look after their bodies and physical shape. These guys will do anything for each other and will be live-long friends. And ex-players already are looking after them in terms of summer intern jobs. I think this is all priceless.
        The other one is in high school and is playing in a travel team that was nationally always highly ranked and travelled all over the place. Cost for this per player is annually circa $2,500 excl. hotels + flights. I think it is worth it since it has enhanced his confidence and he and his team mates have turned into great kids. I also like the fact that kids from the whole city play on this diverse team so that early on they don’t get stuck in a neighborhood clique.
        But I have seen plenty of kids whose parents paid all this money for them to be in the best teams and then they burn out in the senior HS year or during College. I have seen kids getting recruited to D1 schools, getting frustrated in their first season and then quitting the program or even the school.
        So it is a little uncertain how things will work out.. Just do what you think is best. But don’t let kids decide; often they do not know what is best for them and will blame you later for not pushing them hard enough, or for not putting them on a travel team etc.

  6. I’m not yet a parent, but can speak from experience as a player who grew up playing club, state, HS, and College and coached at all three levels.

    Playing on a club is obviously a must if you think they enjoy it. But under 12yrs, it doesn’t matter which club. You’ll see if they’ve “outgrown” said club in a couple years and if they like the game and start to excel then switch to better clubs. 7th or 8th grade is when you should start to see it.
    But the biggest thing is exposure and opportunity to play and watch the game often and on their own.
    Coaches don’t create talent. Either it’s natural or is created by the player themselves. Coaches can teach tactics and drills for honing technical skills.
    *Again: passion should guide you.

    Notes: *Ask prospective clubs for a breakdown of the budget. Most have to keep good books and have to make them public.
    *Coaching licenses are just formal for the most part (unless they are they higher levels). Where they played and coaching style is more important
    * I’ve never liked a coach who’s son was on my team… it just doesn’t work unless you last name is Bradley.

    I’ll leave you with this: I played for the many of the best coaches in the Northeast US for much of my youth. 99% of them taught me good positioning and fitness, and the competition was very high–too high at times. What truly took me to the next level… playing street soccer w/ my friends at lunch in middle school and then pickup games downtown @ U Penn/Drexel. That’s where I learned confidence & creativity & love for the game. Without playground/street ball, I would have just burned out.

    • Those pick ups still happen at Upenn and drexel? You were high school aged?

    • I disagree with one statement (12yrs, it doesn’t matter which club). Coaching is 70% at the youth level (for those kids that have interest). Breaking bad habits that were left unchecked by poor coaching is extremely difficult and if your kid gets to age 12 at a poor club, he will likely be behind the 8 ball. That’s not to say that he can catch up, but we play numbers today, and 90% of all college national players come from the coasts, texas and florida. Middle america has just as many natural athletes, but does not have the coaching development because the parents grew up playing america football (aka. padded rugby). Avoid a coach that has licensing and was a great college player, that has only coached at the youth level for 1 or 2 seasons. I would look for a coach that has at least 5-10 years in coaching kids. There are a zillion great players that are terrible at relating to coaches….ask you local high school soccer coach (thats likely a teacher) if he/she can recommend someone in the area. Your looking for a teacher of the game, not a former player that can display greatness.

      Someone else made the comment about not playing basketball….Basketball is GREAT for helping to teach soccer positioning. The body positioning on defense learned in basketball and the straight up attacking in lacrosse greatly help the soccer player as both of those sports have a higher amount of repeitions per game. BTW…I too miss the games at Drexel

      • I agree. I’m just saying that 12yrs old is usually the make-it or break-it age.

        I somewhat disagree with the way the early youth development has taken shape in the US. It’s too structured. It’s been about 5yrs since I observed or coached under10s, so I may be a bit out-dated.
        But you think the South Americans, Africans, Spanish & Portuguese are focused on habbits and structure at youth levels? Maybe the Germans and Dutch, because that’s there style and M.O.
        But Americans are pretty tactically aware by trait, and good athletes.
        But we’ve always lacked flair and creativity because instead of playing pick-ups and trying “sh*t” like Clint, we are either doing that in basketball or football, or attending practice 3 nights a week where coaches tell us not to dribble or change our shooting form instead of letting it be fun and natural.
        Just my two sense.
        I know that type of environment is hard to come by in the States.

      • Futsal is a great way to break up the year and let the kids just play and have fun. Philly Futsal in King of Prussia and the American Futsal Academy in Warminster are doing a great job! My youngest is always looking forward to the Futsal season; helps also that their team is the best in the NE!

      • Hey Guido. What do you make of Anthony Maher starting the 10 month futsal program?
        Talked with him, seems like he has a clear vision and plan- though doesn’t think it will be smooth running for about a year or 2.

      • 10 months is too long! 3 months is enough… (my thoughts)

      • Just had a look at Philly Futsal. Pretty awesome stuff. I brought up the idea to some coaches at Spirit when I first got into coaching but we all thought it would be a long shot.
        It’s nice that US Soccer is backing them.

        3 months is probably long enough, but there’s still not enough emphasis on small-sided soccer. Clubs should do more 3v3 or 5v5 in competitive fashion throughout the year.

      • Eventhough many in south america claim to only have played futsal until 12 or so years old?

      • I am dead set on creating a free play organization/ pick up in the greater 69th street area.
        I just need kids and parents willing to drop off- which believe me is much harder than expected
        If I could tell you how challenging it is to find 4 or 6 little floggers to come outside long enough to have a pick up.
        Or slow their lives down enough not to be running in every direction.
        The lost art of FREE PLAY.

      • Hey, Joel, my son’s team practiced all winter Tuesday and Thursday nights at Bonner. If they go back there next year let’s meet up!

  7. Steve Hann says:

    I just recently took over as commissioner for the oldest division of intramural for NPAA soccer. I am a volunteer Dad coach with a coaching license and over 35 years in the sport. I believe that it is possible to keep costs down at certain levels and still get good instruction.

    My biggest issue is that intramural soccer stops at age 13 for most kids. When they hit 13 years old, if they do not go into travel ball, they end up out of the game. I hope to grow the age group offerings in time for my soccer club, even if it means just having pick up games once a weekend, with one hour of practice during the week. Besides, some kids might just develop later on and by keeping them in the game in this manner they might reach a potential that no one saw when they were 12 and did not go into travel ball.

    Causal players will make up the fan base for our pro leagues. The more kids we can keep playing the game, for fun, in an environment that celebrates everything that is good about intramural soccer, the game itself will be the winner, at every level.

    Yes, we parents are letting our kids down by not realizing that all those kids who do not go into travel ball have no where left to play when they are teenagers.

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