Updated: Mar 16, 2018
Two great articles highlighting the "tournament" dichotomy.
“There are key moments in adult life that act as epiphany times. Moments when the truth about certain events seem crystal clear... On this occasion, Dave chose to pass around a magic wand, which each DOC could take and announce one soccer wish. I was intrigued and fascinated as the wand passed around the room and 90% of all present wanted the same wish. An entire room of many of the most respected and educated names in youth soccer and almost in total agreement…Soccer tournaments banned."
For what seems like ages ago, a mentor of mine once said, "worst soccer culture I have ever experienced." Only coming to the Panhandle area from time to time conducting camps, etc...I didn't have his first hand knowledge...until I moved here. The soccer culture in my present home, the Panhandle of Florida just outside Panama City, is a "Microcosm" of this "tournament culture which is stunting the growth in developing players, leading to burnout and injuries, and lets not have the conversation about the unnecessary rising cost to parents/families.
Below is a snapshot of the Spring 2018 schedule for an '06 girls team in the largest club in Region D of Florida. The other is a club wide schedule for teams, '05 and younger (U13 to U9) also in Region D. In the '05 to '07 ages alone, you see five to seven tournaments planned for each team. I researched one more club in Region D, and since I coach '06 girls, I decided to use that age group as I did in the picture. I was unable to capture a picture of their schedule, as it was in the form of a calendar. So taking my word for it...this '06 team in question plans on participating in EIGHT tournaments from February 14-15 to May 19-20. With that type of schedule for any of these teams, how does the coach stay in the USSF recommended "Training to Games" ratio of 3-1? Lets take the '06 schedule on the left for instance...this team trains two times a week. Supposing they begin in mid-January on the 16th and train till May 17th, and if NO training sessions are cancelled, that equates to 36 total training sessions. Playing in six tournaments, not counting a seventh (Presidents Cup) which they must qualify for, this team will play 18 games minimum and up to 24 games, if they make it to the championship each time. The ratio alone for 18 games (2-1), 24 games (1.5-1), and that does not account for any friendlies, or for any of the Presidents Cup games (qualifying and tournament). Adding those games lessens the "Training to Game" ratio further.
Given that most of these tournaments are in close proximity to one another, the likelihood of playing the same teams time after time is highly probable.
"In 2015, I was given the reigns to coach an '03 boys team in the Panhandle of Florida. Research done before my first parents meeting, revealed that team played in 10 tournaments the previous seasons, 2014-15. In those 10 tournaments, they played the same eight teams, 80% of the time, spending $450-$600 each tournament. Those parents spent $4,500-$6,000 in registration fees ONLY, playing the same teams from their area, chasing the "Dust Collector", while getting no return on their investment...which should be PLAYER DEVELOPMENT."
Logically speaking, wouldn't a more efficient use of resources such as time, money, and oh yes...meaningful games geared to player development be a path composed of setting up friendlies? When having the aforementioned parents meeting, I brought up my philosophy of less tournaments and more friendlies, the obvious question arose..."why?' I then explained my research findings and compared those to figures based on cost to play friendlies, etc...The next statement from a dad was, "I feel like I have been robbed for the last two years." AN EPIPHANY!
As the author in one article stated,
"I fully realize that for the average soccer parent, I have shared an enormous amount of information, and typically I would be asked to suggest a solution. I am acutely aware that nothing noted in this article will slow down the tournament machine. I am also acutely aware that tournaments place unrealistic, and even harmful, demands upon our youth players. It is my hope that if enough parents and players read and understand the issues involved, that at some point in the future, the players will be put first, after all, it is supposed to be their game."
A coaches responsibility is not merely the X's and O's, the technical training, etc...we have an obligation to educate the parents as well. Or do clubs/coaches want to keep the "Golden Goose" ignorant so their fearless leaders look all-knowing/all-wise in regards to their childs soccer education? Problem with that strategy is long-term, those "leaders" will be exposed.
"Little Johnny or Susie played for the #2 ranked team in Florida at U11. The ranking was earned by playing the same low level tournaments, against the same teams, and your childs team just happened to be peaking into maturity having the bigger, faster, stronger kids...oh, but your coach focused on winning, forgetting to teach foundational skills which the whole game is predicated upon. Fast forward to a time when everyone has matured to the same level as your "star", yet they learned skills, tactics, etc...and Little Johnny or Suzie tryout for ODP and don't make it. How does that #2 ranking feel, or the shelf full of "Dust Collectors" look?"
Parents on an ego trip push for tournaments to see how their kids compare against “the best.” As one article points out, "due to the variable rates of development for children at these young ages, this assessment is pointless and serves no purpose other than to boost adult egos." I confidently say this,
"A coach/club which is NOT about player development plans out a schedule like those posted above. If your coach/club is focused on player development, and not purely winning, or the convenience which only playing in tournaments allows, then you will see the time and effort put into more quality training sessions, fewer games which all adds up to less cost for the families equating into the best ROI...a competent, confident soccer player."