There is a broad range of expectations for these age groups beyond our in-house programs that end at U10. This note tries to explain our reality and hopefully avoid your disappointment by being up-front with decisions that we have to make. My hope is that you’ll register your child to play this season, but most of all I want to make clear why we do things that may appear to alienate your expectations for our club. The bottom line is that we don’t know exactly what we can promise in terms of their playing experience until we see the full population of registrants and volunteers.
Our enrollment peaks around 3rd grade because as players skills differentiate and we need to split them into different levels of play, the politics start driving folks away. Some people go into other sports that weren’t options to play when the kids started soccer around kindergarten age. More advanced players that want to live and breathe soccer often pursue pricier “cup teams.” The added commitment of travel thins more players slowly up through 6th grade. Then the big drama of trying out for the school teams hits, usually when kids are ready for our U13 league. That’s when keeping everything running smoothly really hits a major wall. Commitments to other sports and activities really makes it hard to know what our team configurations will be because instead of having well over 100 kids to mix, we’re now around 80 or less, and the teams are larger and the skills difference greater. But an even bigger factor is out of our control, and that is what teams other clubs are putting together, faced with the same challenges as us, but with even smaller populations to assemble from.
We are a community club. Our mission is to provide a fun environment for kids to develop teamwork skills and healthy habits to practice the rest of their lives. Many clubs in the Pittsburgh area cease to offer programs much past U12, leaving their members to play for the school or expensive cup teams. I’m proud that we have programs that keep these teens active as so much of their world becomes electronic. In such a large district where the odds of making school teams are that much slimmer, it’s important to have these programs. That is why I ask you to open your mind for the experience for your child to change. If you hope for your child to play soccer in college, their core training is going to need to come from a cup program and the school. Other kids competing at that level are playing in higher divisions already and we simply don’t have the numbers to compete at that level except for a few teams that have committed to our club at the “D4” level for years.
We will do our best to train the kids and schedule similar teams to practice near each other to make the best use of our coaching talent. Those methods should also help with car-pooling and still being able to practice together despite possibly being on different teams.
For more information on our “Teen Soccer” programs, please see the appropriate age group pages on the club website, as well as this article on co-ed teen soccer and why we use the format.