Cliff has started a good dialogue in his post below. I thought Iâ€™d add my 10 cents, for what itâ€™s worth.
A program rises and falls on the experience and ability of its players, and experience and ability are obtained by participating in intensive practices and meaningful games. Players who immerse themselves in that environment year-round tend to refine their skills and knowledge of the game faster than the players who donâ€™t.
The chart below illustrates the correlation between varsity-player club soccer participation and winning percentages throughout my 11 eleven years as Parkviewâ€™s head coach. While the numbers are partially from my memory, the numbers are very close, and the general trend clearly shows the impact of year-round soccer participation on the teamâ€™s success each season. Everyone might consider too how the Parkview program has ebbed and flowed over the years (see chart at the very bottom of this post).
Imagine a violinist who doesnâ€™t perform or take lessons nine months out of the year and yet hopes to be selected to the Springfield youth symphony. Others will arrive at the audition better prepared to execute to their full potential under pressure, and they likely will be the ones chosen. Thatâ€™s not a surprise. The point is that kids who devote themselves year-round to their craft are the ones who achieve the most.
We have awesome kids in our program, and they all do awesome things with their time and talents. I am lucky to get to work with such phenomenal students and citizens, and I do not generally complain when students elect to miss practices and games to address their other pursuits (be they Cabinet, debate, marching band, other sports, family events, church functions, etcâ€¦). But, if weâ€™re going to have this talk about the direction of the program, it seems fair to ask the question: how important is soccer in the lives of our players? How is that level of importance reflected in each playerâ€™s budget, in terms of both time and money? Putting aside the issue of playing club soccer or not, are our players willing to cancel summer trips to France, to pay $375 to attend a four-day team camp at Missouri State, to curb their hours at their part-time jobs, to give up some of their summer leisure time, to end summer vacation before the first official day of practice in August, to miss Grandmaâ€™s 73rd birthday, to skip the big danceâ€¦ all in order to develop their soccer skills?
I believe in striking a balance. The hypothetical scenarios above (which I’ve experienced every season) are important and should occasionally be a bigger priority in a playerâ€™s life. So I donâ€™t make demands of players any higher than theyâ€™re willing to demand from themselves. In years when Iâ€™ve had more players who have shown that soccer is among their highest priorities, I have demanded more, and we have achieved more. In our programâ€™s heydays, the vast majority of our players made the bulk of their decisions in favor of advancing their game. When I demand more than what kids are willing to give, they generally quit the program. We have evidence of that this year.
In the end, a programâ€™s success reflects the sum of its individual playerâ€™s personal commitment to the game. Iâ€™m glad that this conversation is taking place. I want our program to be at the forefront of high school soccer in our state, and I need all of our players to want that too if weâ€™re going to get there.
So, if players want to make a significant change between now and next fall that will lead to an improved win/loss ratio, they should try out for club soccer and, if accepted, devote themselves to it. There they will receive informed instruction to grow their skills, and there they will get to play in meaningful games that allow them to rehearse through the pressures of real competition. And when summer rolls around, we need 30 boys at every practice and game on the schedule, not eight or nine.
The challenges have been laid down. Who will take it on?