The soccer elites are often not fond of high school soccer. They’ve built year-round club leagues that take top players out of the experience because they’re more concerned with player development. They believe high school soccer is a lower standard and at minimum doesn’t help kids and at maximum hurts kids. They think playing club year-round sharpens skills and introduces kids to more recruiting opportunities.
Sorry, I think that’s nonsense. It does, however, take more money out of your pocket and put it in theirs while robbing your kid of a great experience that extends far beyond the quality of tactical soccer play.
Here are 5 big reasons to stop hating on the High School soccer experience.
A good, but not great, player on the club team is a great-to-exceptional player in high school. With that elevation comes more confidence, the ability to try new things, new positions and work on new skills without some of the competitive pressures of club. It also brings a terrific opportunity to lead that may not be as present in club. High School is generally a more physical brand of game—and that’s good. A young club player will get big minutes against older, more physically developed kids and even match up against older club elite players—a similar phenomenon to what will happen in college. Kids almost always make big improvements in toughness, leadership ability and confidence after playing in high school.
Expanding friend groups
Great friends are made from different grades, experiences, and backgrounds. It makes your kid not only a better player and leader, but a better human. It also greatly enriches the high school experience off the field.
Play for different coaches
Many times, great club coaches are also great high school coaches. Exposure to different coaching styles and tactics and being able to adapt to them is not only an essential skill for soccer—but life. “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss” most of the time doesn’t apply and you must adapt to different styles. But if you know the reference in the quote, we can be friends.
High School honors can be valuable for recruiting
It is true that high school soccer is generally worse than club when it comes to the quality of the average player and strength of tactics. It is also true that most colleges rarely recruit high school games, if ever. But it’s hard to be All-Tournament, City, Region, State, MVP, Most Improved, Golden Boot, Golden Glove, Most Saves, Most Assists—you know, all the resume elements used to bring attention to the kid, if the kid doesn’t even play high school soccer. While those things are not a requirement of successful recruiting processes, they can help. And I’ve never seen a college signing announcement where they don’t reference high school accolades.
Nothing like playing for your school
A big rivalry game where classmates come up to you and wish you luck in class. A huge upset win where all your friends talk about it the next day at lunch and how much fun they had cheering you on. When the classmate they have a crush on shows up and sits in the front row to watch them play. Wins are a little sweeter when you are playing for something greater than yourself. And I think that’s true far beyond soccer. Don’t let your kids miss out on learning that. Also, club family reunions when club teammates are on opposing high school teams are so fun for the kids (and the parents).
I think these are five of five hundred reasons to play for your school. If you’re being told your kid’s participation in high school sports is keeping them from their college dreams or full potential, whoever is telling you that may have questionable motives and your kid’s best interest isn’t likely one of them. For heaven’s sake, play high school soccer and have a little fun.