In my last post I offered a primer on the finances of club soccer. The financial commitment is significant. I’ve traveled from state to state with my 2 girls seeing a fraternity of relatively non-diverse people chasing the sport and lots of middle and upper-class white kids.
I am a white dude that grew up going to very culturally diverse schools. And one in a pretty tough neighborhood. I remember picking up hypodermic needles off the field before we could practice…no joke. On some of my teams, it wasn’t unusual at all to be the minority white kid. And my opinion on that…I could, then and now, care less. I loved my teammates as friends. As long as they loved me as their teammate too, I don’t think I ever even really noticed it. Sports to me was a meritocracy. If I did well, I made the team. If I did really well, I started and got lots of minutes. That’s how my teammates saw it too. Players from other races and backgrounds made me a better player…no question. And that’s not to mention the life lessons learned and friendships from that diversity that have shaped my opinions on matters across the spectrum in a more well-rounded way.
But when I see all the white faces of youth soccer, I am disturbed. I know many of the best athletes, let’s face it, are not white. Just like many of the best business people, clergy, firefighters, lawyers, doctors, etc are not white. So why don’t they play club soccer? While I acknowledge there is a multitude of answers to my ultimate question here, could one of them be money? I think so.
As a once club board member I have reviewed the requests for financial assistance, they are overwhelmingly minority. And for every one of them, I can’t help but think there are 10-20 more kids like them that just won’t apply or run from the activity. I wonder if we are creating a culture in competitive soccer that is exclusionary…not by intent…but by default. So how can we build the best players in the world, if many of the best athletes cannot consider the activity because of money? I don’t think you can.
If you look at the financial model of any club, the biggest expense by far is labor. Remember we pay our professionally licensed coaches to ensure we are delivering quality training in the game. The more experience, higher license, and more success…the more money they get. Nice concept, but holy unintended consequences Batman, what about all those lower-income kids? Well…most clubs have financial assistance programs built-in, but it is not an ocean of money. 10% maybe on some kind of assistance which is the norm for our area and once again…we are chock full of white kids.
I don’t know if there is a simple answer here. But I do think the powers that be sanctioning state and national club soccer need to take a harder look at this. In fact, I think every club should be required to have some outreach program like this in order to obtain the needed sanctioning to compete. In the meantime, I think clubs need to develop partnerships with Hispanic leagues and do more outreach into lower-income areas. You’ll bring more players to the game, better athletes, and better performance on the field, and of all things might even reap the advantages of serving a kid that needs a hand. And yes, if that means raising my registration fee by $XX/year to help fund a larger financial assistance fund…I’m in.
I hope most of you would be too.