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Helping Parents To Understand Youth Soccer, and How To Function Well Within It.....

Recreational vs. Competitive Youth Soccer?
Defining the Levels....

The Various Levels of Youth Soccer Can Be Listed and Defined as Follows:

  • Recreational Soccer: Typically an introduction to soccer for children around ages 4+ that is parent-led and offers a relatively low level of commitment and level of play.  Player development is usually sporadic and spotty due to relying on very well-intentioned but inexperienced parent coaches who have little to no background in the game. Competition is always local and typically at one location every week. The cost is relatively quite low and affordable for most household budgets. Note: Victory does NOT implement this level in its club.

  • Developmental Academy Soccer: This is also an introduction to soccer for all children ages 4+ regardless of ability, BUT it has a heavy emphasis on teaching and making sure children learn the fundamentals of the game through a curriculum and academy-style structure.  The level of play varies on the natural abilities of the children who show up but in truth is irrelevant simply because the focus is on player skill development within a fun, healthy, and competitive environment, not on winning games.  Coaching is usually led by a "Master Coach" with the support of knowledgable and semi-experienced assistants.  The commitment level depends on the family, but per week has 1-3 days for training plus one game generally.  The cost is a little bit more than recreational soccer due to paying coaches out of registration fees but is still relatively quite affordable. 

  • Competitive Soccer: This level usually starts at age 8 years old or so at least in the USA (usually around age 12+ elsewhere around the world) in which clubs start playing each other in competitive leagues and tournaments.  Coaches may or may not be parents but who are usually experienced and semi-trained and receive a small stipend for their services. Trainings are usually 2-3 times per week with one weekend game, and the season normally lasts the entire school calendar year (usually with a 1-3 month winter break). Competition can be anywhere from a local team down the street to a tournament on the other side of the country depending on the level and various geographical factors of those in the league.  

  • Elite Youth Soccer: This last level brings together the top level of all youth players between traditionally 12-18 years old for the highest level of training and competition in the land usually run by professional club academies or by large mega-clubs (2000+ players). Teams typically train 3-4 times per week plus national competition (3-5 state travel) that goes for the most part year-round with the exception of those in high school playing for their school teams. Coaches are usually quite experienced and licensed and work part or full-time for the club. Because coaching staff at this level are paid relatively well at this level and facilities provided are usually the best in the city, the fees are usually quite high for parents if no alternative "pay-to-play" system is employed.  

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Victory Philosophy Regarding Player Placement

Victory uses the following criteria to place players on various level teams:

  1. Age: We encourage Developmental Youth Soccer, NOT competitive soccer, until children are around 10 years old for child developmental and environmental reasons regardless of natural talent and ability.  The competitive environment and intensity even on a good day often takes the fun out of the game for the children.  Kids need to be allowed to be kids and enjoy the game with friends in a fun, positive environment that is free of the intensity and stress that comes with winning games above all as is usually the case in competitive environments. There will be plenty time for this later.  We do NOT want to steal childhood away from our players by getting them into competitive soccer too soon!!

  2. Natural Talent and Potential Development: We believe in placing players on the right teams where they will thrive at a level which is not too low and not too high for them based on their natural talent in the game and perceived potential to develop into stronger players in the future.  We want every child to get lots of playing time and be challenged to reach his/her fullest potential in the game which greatly depends on being placed properly. 

  3. Intrinsic Passion and Desire: Some players regardless of their natural talent in soccer love the game more than others.  When a player is placed on the team that matches his/her intensity, then he/she will thrive and enjoy his/her soccer experience.  In contrast, players who are on a team that is either too high or too low for him/her, the player will drop out of the game due to lack of enjoyment.

Which Level Is Right For My Kid?

In order to determine which level is right for you kid, ask yourself the following questions: 

  1. Intrinsic Passion: What level best fits my kids love and passion for the game? 

  2. Ability: What level best fits his/her talent and abilities according to the coaching staff

  3. Friends: What level best fits his/her social need to be with friends? 

  4. Challenge: What level will challenge my kid the right amount, not too little, not too much in the game? 

  5. Time Commitment: Is my child thriving with the amount of time a given level of soccer is expecting of him/her?  Are we as a family able to support him/her at this level? 

  6. Finances:  Are we able to handle the financial demands of a given level of soccer?  Strong Encouragement: Victory believes that finances should NEVER be a factor that prevents a player who loves the game from playing at a higher level.  Scholarship money does exist and is available to make sure players can play at the level that is best for them. 

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