Category Archives: Soccer

Path to High School

My path to being a four year Letterman in High School was very different from how today’s players will get there.

My path goes a little like this. Back in Ohio in the mid 70’s (yep, I am old), my mother signed my brother and I up for soccer. She figured it would be a good use of all the energy we had.

I remember my first soccer experience. The coaches had lined us up on a full length field, 11 on each side. We had a goalie, we had positions, we had a ball. When the coach blew the whistle, the majority of the kids raced to the ball. Bee hive soccer at it’s best, but completely different than what the U6 ages group plays. Did I mention we were playing on a full field. Yep. One hundred and ten yards long, 60 yards wide, 8 foot tall goals that were 24 feet wide.

I enjoyed the experience fully and my mother loved the fact that after soccer, I would be wiped.

As I got older, and soccer became more popular, I began playing on football fields. Myself and my teammates almost fit those fields, but we practiced once a week, played games on the weekends. When we were not at practice, some of my teammates and I would be at a local park, playing soccer.

I went to one of the first Akron Zips Soccer camps. There they taught me what juggling was. I went to a Cleveland Force camp and learned I hated playing goalie.

As the years wore on and my experience grew, I learned from my teammates I had something good going on. I had a knack for the sport. By the time it was time for me to try out for the High School soccer team, I was skilled but tall and skinny. I made the Varsity, played coming off the bench my freshman year, and started the next 3 years.

Now, my path would be completely different. It obviously starts with the age appropriate size of the field and goals the kids play with today. But it also is one of greater competition. Soccer is every where. There are thousands of kids who play soccer in Iowa. I can’t tell you how many parents have told me that they did not even have soccer when they were growing up (all of them way younger than me).

Also, kids, and parents have options. Beginning at U9, kids now can play in Academy programs. These are pre-select programs where kids get professional coaching and are, in general, playing with kids who have shown a knack for soccer at a younger age.

They can then move onto the select program when they are U11 and start to do tournaments or play in the IPSL against other kids who have grown up through these player training programs.

And of course, they can play rec. Rec is a good option and there is no reason not to believe a child can’t play high school soccer if their experience is only rec. I did it.

But, yes, there had to be a but. But, when a rec player gets to high school and go to their first practice and see the kids who have played in the select program, played in at least 16 games a season, been coached by professional coaches, played with teammates who focus heavily in training, played the last 4 years against players of similar skill and desire, the rec player will see a difference. And it may spark a new fondness to the game, a new challenge to overcome. But, for a select player, it may just be playing soccer as they have learned since they were 8.

I know I could have been a contender if I had had this opportunity.


Why Select Soccer

“If you pay more for it, it must be better” is true when you’re talking about sushi, but when it comes to your child’s soccer experience, there are lots more that comes into play than the age of the tuna.

Select soccer, generally defined, is soccer played between teams where the participants needed to try-out for the team and were selected. Based on this, the cost for participating on a select team is more than it would be for a rec team.


There are a couple reasons.

1) Coaching fees. The coaches for select team usually have either licenses or certifications, or have professional experience. Because of their gained knowledge, they are pricier than a dad who picked up a “Soccer for Football Player” book.

2) Tournaments. Select teams are made for competitions and one of the best way to test a teams ability is to spend 2 days playing at least 3 games against competitive teams. Some of these tournments require over nighht stays.

So what do I get for my money?

Professional coaching. The coach will have had multiple years of experience as a player and coahincg which will help focus your child’s growth. Sure, some rec coaches have had similar experience, but there are other things that add to the select experience.

Tournaments, especially away tournements. Nothin is funner for a kid than to spend time in a hotel pool with their friends and teammates.

The level of competition. Other select teams are competitive by nature and thus the teams that your child’s team will play will be better. Kids learn more by playing against better competition and there is no comparison between select and rec teams. I’ve noticed that rec soccer almost seems polite. The girls on my select team I would not characterize as polite. They are agressive and technically sound and they will do anything legal to get the ball, control the ball, and score.

Practice. Because of the extra expense, the kids that make up a select team are more committed to soccer. They are more likely to show up to practice in the frame of mind to get better and spend the time focused. Also, select teams practice 2 or 3 times a week and some of the kids practice on off days with other soccer realated activities.

And practice is important for another reason. Unlike rec soccer, not every player needs to play at least half the game. I’ve had no problems sitting a player for the majority of a game due to their practice habits.


Ok, I am a select coach and I have been playing for more than a couple decades. What I have seen on the rec side is a hit or miss when it comes to the quality of the coaching. I’ve seen rec teams which don’t seem to know that soccer was supposed to be played with a midfield, or that the goalie actually doesn’t need to punt the ball all the times. Even the basic ability to kick a ball is a technique that some rec coaches can’t fathom. Yes, Susie can kick the crap out of the ball when she uses her toe, but she just put out a window in the parking lot. Select soccer gives your child, or any child, the opportun ity to grow as a soccer player and have experiences beyond just showing up for an hour of practice once a week and a game on the weekend. It’s an experience.


And it starts


It is the first line that I write when I send an email at work. It basically helps people know it is an email from me. And now I am starting a blog to help dads be coaches and parents deal with the idea that soccer is a really cool game.

Next week I am going to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Convention in Kansas City. It will be an interesting time and I should learn a lot. I’ll be tweeting from there when I can. You can follow me here .

I’ll add more soon.

Matt Croyus Etling