Coaches, Directors and Parents are asking about the January – December age group mandate from U.S. Soccer. “How do we pick up the glass? and why is it broken in the first place?”
- To my Recruiting Code readers: I know this isn’t what you are typically looking for here. It is a soccer issue. However, it has great ramifications to the recruiting process for soccer players. Over the past couple of days, I have heard youth baseball is also struggling with the calendar year issue.
- Tomorrow, we have a fantastic interview with Nadine Liverpool, former soccer player at the University of Alabama Birmingham. She has a truly inspirational story.
What the Soccer Community Believes
I have been inundated with parents, coaches and directors who are angry and frustrated. A discussion is rising to the surface that U.S. Soccer should have been having over the past couple of years. The decision to move the birth year to a January – December calendar appeared to be a simple and logical one. In reality it is turning out to be anything but simple.
Your comments have overwhelmingly expressed that the change is going to be logistically difficult and in many cases damaging to your players. Many of you have agreed; we will lose players at the young ages. I mentioned I believed a 10% attrition could occur at the recreational level. Many coaches told me my estimate was too low. The players will never come back. All of us, National teams included, will suffer as kids opt out and drift to other sports at the early ages.
Two major types of responses are rising to the top:
- U.S. Soccer has broken the glass; “How do we pick up the glass without cutting ourselves?” How do we proceed from here? Ideas are being thrown out to solve the coming issues.
- The second major theme is “Why did US Soccer break the glass in the first place?” Show us where the benefit is to the other 3 million.
To U.S. Soccer
It is time for the leaders at the top to start acting like leaders. To U.S. Soccer, I ask you to reevaluate the birth year decision. Get out from behind the doors and consult with those being affected. I am not saying go to the local club and them to help you with policy. I am saying, go beyond your inner circle to leaders in youth soccer and ask the difficult questions. Be open to change your minds based on your findings.
If you decide to move forward with the birth year change, take ownership. Get out in front of this issue and begin to provide advice and answers. It is in your best interest to lead. You were looking for consistency within our country. This is not what is happening. The intention of most coaches and directors I have spoken to and have been hearing from is not to rebel. We are looking for solutions to the unintended problems which have risen.
U.S. Soccer squandered the chance to address thousands of coaches last week at the NSCAA Coaching Convention. Still, it is not too late for you to lead, but time is slipping quickly by.
If the January – December calendar is your final decision, it is your duty as leaders of soccer in this country to do the following:
- Provide the soccer community reasons. What are the benefits to the other 3 million? Relative age effect and the international standard are not benefits. Short term pain can be endured if there is a legitimate reason.
- Provide advice, clarity and answers. There are a host of logistical difficulties and potentially damaging issues to our soccer community. Help us through it.
To Directors, Coaches and Parents
Where are we now?
There is a ground swell. It began at the coaching convention when thousands of coaches came expecting advice and answers to take home with them. Clubs and directors have held off decisions because they thought they didn’t have all the information. It turns out they did have all the information U.S. Soccer intended to give. By the end of the weekend there was a murmur, a discontent.
January 16, I published, “U.S. Soccer Breaks the Glass”. What many coaches, directors and parents have been saying finally had a voice. The article is spreading quickly. Discussions are taking a life of their own on Facebook and Twitter. People are beginning to realize they are not alone in what they believe about the age group change mandate.
I encourage you over the coming days to turn the ground swell into a surge. Directors, parents, and coaches of 3 million soccer players can have an impact if they will raise their voices at the same time. Think locally. What if the members in your club spoke up – how many would that be? Now multiply that across the country for a couple other million parents who feel the same.
- Spread this information to everybody in your soccer circles. Use every form of social media (and traditional media if you have the contacts.)
- State Associations, and all soccer entities made up of acronyms: Help your members devise solutions and work together. On the other hand, don’t rule out the option to band together and tell US Soccer “NO”.
- Competitive clubs: Take this issue up with your state associations, with the leagues you play in and the clubs around you. Work together as allies to find solutions. Get prepared for the changes coming and be ready to implement them the best you are able. Be creative to make it work.
- Recreational associations: Say “NO”. This has the potential to severely damage your associations. There is no possible benefit to your members.
- Parents: Contact every association your club is under. Be respectful and patient. You would be surprised how many “soccer people” above you feel the same as you.
- Your State Association: Google “Your State” Soccer Association
- U.S. Youth Soccer: with their numbers and clout could make a real difference. (They are a different entity from U.S. Soccer). Sam Snow. Director of Coaching. firstname.lastname@example.org
- US Club Soccer: http://usclubsoccer.org/about/staffcontact-us/
- Any other league or association or acronym your club belongs to.
- Your club: Make sure they have a plan. Be supportive of your clubs. Be patient. They are in this just like you. They will be making difficult decisions over the coming months. Out of the gate, clubs may not get everything right. Whatever their solution, it will not be perfect for everybody involved. Again, I know this is where the emotion will be. Be patient and be supportive. Many teams will be split up. That is the reality for most clubs. Be willing to help the club move forward in a positive way. Remember, your club is not your enemy. Be part of the solution, not part of the complaint department.
I have been told on multiple occasions, that we cannot affect change. Well, I believe we can. There is always a way forward to work through difficult circumstances.
The January – December birth year is most likely the new reality. We as clubs, associations, leagues, clubs, and states have a job to do.
Whether or not there is leadership at the top, we must provide the best soccer experiences for our players. We each must work within the bounds and realities around us. There is no one right answer for the solutions we will come up with. There are a lot of variables, rules, constraints, level of play we are under.
Keep up the discussions. (Feel free to use the comment section on this article or my Facebook page, as a platform). Also, take the discussion far and wide to your communities.
Use this adversity to make soccer better in your community. Be creative and think outside the box if you must.