(With excerpts from Soccer California Oct. 1997, by Karl Dowazien, Director of Coaching)
There they are: serious looking adult coaches with sheets of papers, clipboards and no smiles.
They are looking for the future prospect in soccer.
They are looking at 7 year old players and above.
It seems like a sober experience, ' you either make it or not'.
This scene is now being played out on soccer fields across the country and is affectionately referred to as “the meat market.” Here is where “expert” coaches select the best pieces of talent to fill their most pressing needs. The event is called a tryout and players are ‘graded” and “labeled” by the coaches. The players are given such labels as “competitive” and ‘recreational” player. To this point in time it has been impossible to obtain the criteria by which these coaches judge future playing potential.
Many adults (who, incidentally, do not Work with younger players) say, ‘Tryouts and labeling are a necessary evil to judge and place talent on teams.” They indicate that players need to play at ‘their level” in order to be challenged and continue their improvement. Fair enough!
However, recent studies have shown ‘that, “The first three years of a child’s life are critical for emotional and intellectual growth. During this time brain patterns are formed that will affect every part of the child’s development. The way a child is cared for, stimulated, held and communicated with will have a lasting effect on how he or she will think, feel and function in the world throughout life.”
Being aware of this startling information should lead us to conclude that:
“The first three years of a child’s sports life are critical for emotional and intellectual growth. During this time brain patterns will form that will affect every part of the player’s development. The way a player is supervised, motivated, coached, taught and communicated with will have a lasting effect on how he or she will think, feel and function in soccer throughout the playing career.”
If that is the case, it would be logical to assume that players picked to make “the team” would love soccer and play the game for many, many years. This is not happening. Statistics show that players across the board drop out of the game in their teen years.
We can stop this outrageous drop-out rate.
At USC the first goal is to stimulate the brain patterns to affect positive player development. As a responsible organization we must inspire our developing players to have confidence in themselves. This inner motivation comes when the individual is not labeled by adults.
Therefore, USC try-outs are always without pressure, without the need to say: you made it, you did not. With the individual player in mind and a long term player development program in place, there is no need for labeling.
Need more reasons why children under 10 years of age should not be part of the "competitive game"?