I recently had the privilege of sitting down with Josh Wood, Director of Community Outreach for the Charlotte Eagles. My primary focus was getting his insight on the pros and cons of year-round sports and his advice to parents with children specializing in a sport at a young age. I love Josh’s outlook as he’s a true expert in the “field” so to speak.
What is your advice to parents who are looking for their child to specialize in soccer at a young age (2nd/3rd grade)?
Helping a child to develop athletically is best done by enrolling them in a number of sports! It is good to challenge your child by placing them in different sports. Developmentally, they will benefit down the road from having participated in a range of sports.
Do you think specializing in one sport will give a child a competitive advantage?
In all things I would try your best to be guided by joy. Don’t try to find the sports that your child is best at, try to find the sports that make them come alive. Once you find that joy, try to cultivate it and grow it into a passion that can last for their lifetime!
Do you think it’s worth the time and money?
It is my opinion, that with anything you invest in you should get what you pay for. In any sport, you are paying for a coach to influence your child. What values is he/she teaching? How does he/she communicate with your child? Is it enough to pay thousands of dollars and only have them improve their physical skills but not be learning the life lessons that will be carried on for years to come.
There seems to be a mass exit of kids who leave rec soccer by 3rd grade. Why do you think that is?
There is a tremendous amount of pressure to perform at an early age. Children are continually pushed into the competitive ranks in an effort to see them elevate their game. I think this is neutral. There is no problem with enrolling your child in a program that challenges them athletically, but as we said earlier, the path to success is cultivating joy in the child. Especially early on in a child’s athletic life joy is the most important factor to determine their long term success. Without it, a child will burn out at an early age.
What programs are available to kids who want to play a higher level of soccer (and are proven to be pretty good at it at the rec level) but either a)cannot afford a travel team, or b) don’t want to focus on one sport, rather multi-sports throughout the seasons.
At present there is not a great alternative to the club system. Once a child has decided they want to be competitive it requires 11-12 months a year, tremendous amounts of travel, expensive private training, costly club fees.
I believe that families are dying for an alternative to this model, that is both challenging, affordable, less time consuming, and they want it all to be taught through a values-based worldview. A place where kids are genuinely cared for by their coach and valued because they are created in the image of God not because of what they can produce for their coach.
I’ve heard that you can’t play high school soccer in high school if you play for a travel organization. Is this true? If so, what are your thoughts on this.
US soccer, the organization that dictates many of the rules for youth soccer in the United States has recently forbidden any person playing in the academy level (the highest youth soccer level available) from playing at their respective schools. This and other things such as playing Futsal in the winter are required for all players who wish to participate in the academy on a year-round basis.
My child wants to play soccer in college. What path do you recommend from elementary school to high school.
I think the best way to ensure that a player achieves their goal of playing a sport collegiately is to cultivate joy from an early age and allow that to be what motivates them to pursue excellence and achievement. All too often, the pressure to perform creates a vacuum in a child’s life that removes the joy that they once had participating in their favorite sport. It comes down only to winning and losing. This then leads in many cases to a player “burning out”, losing interest and doing other things with their time.
Thank you, Josh, for sharing your Sunday with us today!
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