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.