High School Soccer – To Play or Not to Play.
I’m just going to come right out and say it…
I didn’t want my daughter to play high school soccer.
For those of us with children playing at a high level, this is often a difficult situation.
I know – I hear some of you right now…the gasps…I see you shaking your heads.
But let’s not get critical of each other as our children make these decisions.
I consistently work to navigate this very confusing path of wanting to help my child live up to HER goal of playing soccer in college while simultaneously making sure it’s FUN and that the path is her own.
It’s been a path filled with many contradictions, for sure. I have learned from all of them – (and hopefully you have as well)!
The contradictions are everywhere! For instance….
I see the many positives of her playing high school soccer AND the negative affect it could have on her skill level and the toll the non-stop practice/game schedule could have on her body.
I see the positives of her training 4 days a week with her ENCL team as it keeps her busy and she loves it AND the negatives as the stress from school sometimes seems too much.
I see the positives of her traveling the country playing and competing AND the negatives on my check book.
I mean…the list goes on an on.
I know you all feel the youth sports contradictions as well – because I hear them in your emails and your messages.
At times the contradictions are PRONOUNCED, other times – SUBTLE….but regardless of their intensity – they are underlying to the entire youth soccer experience.
How do we reconcile these contradictions and make sure we are on the right path as a soccer parent?
Often times – we just need to pause and think and listen to that inner voice that guides us.
For me, last night – I just needed to listen to the ding of my email to understand what do to with my stress over the high school decision.
I was sitting on the couch thinking about my daughter playing high school and trying to get myself on board with it – reminding myself of:
• the great leadership lessons that will come from her playing,
• the social development,
• the unique camaraderie of a high school team,
• the soccer development that will occur from her playing different positions.
I sat there – closing my eyes – and was literally imploring myself to calm down with my emotion and simply focus on her having FUN….when all the sudden – my computer dinged with an email.
Guess who it was from?
It was an email from none other than Tom Farrey.
THE Tom Farrey – the Emmy-winning sports journalist and author of the book: Game On: The All-American Race to Make Champions of Our Children (A must read book if you haven’t read it!)
Tom is the Executive Director of The Aspen Institute’s Project Play. I most recently heard him speak at the Project Play Summit in May in Washington, DC. I had been introduced to Tom via email earlier in the day from a mutual friend – so he was simply making a connection.
Well – I took it as a sign – A BIG ONE.
I woke up this morning excited for her and I am completely supportive of her decision.
For my daughter – the decision came down to FUN.
We decided that if she could play on the team understanding it will not be nearly as serious as her club team and HAVE FUN (not get frustrated) – then she should do it.
Personally – that’s just what I did in high school. Being a goalkeeper who played at a high level outside of my high school – I realized quickly that it was too much pressure for me (and therefore not FUN) to try to play in goal (plus we had a very good goalkeeper, Terry Suehr!)….I decided I could have FUN playing as a field player. I am a better person for my high school sports experiences (not to mention I was a better goalkeeper for all the field playing experience).
Let me be absolutely clear.
There’s no judgment here.
I have no issues with the parents of kids who choose to forego high school soccer for their club. Some of the girls in my daughter’s club have done just that.
Because it was the right choice for them personally given the environment in which they would be competing. They would not have FUN given their goals and aspirations and the high school environment.
Where did all my emotion come from when it came to her playing or not playing high school soccer?
There were a few reasons:
1. I was worried that her skill level would drop off playing with teammates who are not as soccer-advanced as she is.
• This may happen a bit – but there are also many positives with the number of touches she will get on the ball, the game will slow down a lot so she will be able to see more and this may help her when she rejoins her club team to make different decisions because she will have learned to see new options.
2. I was worried about the stress on her body with the rather non-stop schedule of games (too many games in too short a time) and practices (not enough time for recovery) as her ECNL team also has 2 showcases and Nationals this Spring/early summer.
• This is probably the most valid point – BUT SHE’S 15 and the training will be much easier/less stressful.
OKAY – I feel like I need a disclaimer before I put down #3. I know this is irrational and ridiculous and I’m only sharing it in an effort to be completely honest and help other parents out there work past their contradictions.
3. I felt like if she decided not to play high school soccer it would demonstrate to her coaches – and the “world”- how serious she is about the game.
• Her coaches are not asking her to give it up (the U.S. Soccer Development Academy will in a couple of years) and they know how serious she is.
This last one is a perfect example of what happens when we get caught up in the “The All-American Race to Make Champions of Our Children.”
After dealing with my personal contradictions – I am thrilled for my daughter.
She walked out the door this morning with her backpack, her lunch, and her soccer gear and a big smile on her face.
She was excited!
Excited to be on a team with older girls and to meet new friends and to show off some of her hard-earned skill.
As a parent, I know there will be some challenges for her as she figures out the dynamics of the team and how to be a leader when she is the youngest. And I look forward to her growing from those challenges.
We had a great conversation over breakfast about being a leader, empathy and what it means to be a teammate.
Thanks, Tom Farrey – for the perfectly timed email!
I needed it!