I found the comment below in response to this post on the Soccer Sidekick blog about why the lack of solidarity payments to youth clubs in the US holds US soccer back.
To find out more about that argument, visit the link. It’s interesting and well-written.
But, I found Don’s response even more interesting. Don has lived in Germany for 25 years and has insights to the soccer culture that are worth learning about.
Here’s his full comment, formatted to make easier to read, bold added and maybe a spelling correction or two:
Well, it does not surprise me that the argument for ‘Why’ circulates around money. In my opinion the focus on money is a great distracter to more credible reasons.
Although the point made about soccer youth experience is spot on, it is the degree to which the kids are immersed in the game at such a young age which I think makes the big difference.
Ah, what the heck does he know – you might ask? Well, I am one of those American’s who came to Germany with the US Mil. 25 years later, I am still here and have two boys 8 and 10 playing Fussball.
They both started playing on the bambini’s team when they were age 5. This is pretty much the norm for the kids and probably similar in the US. So, I have experienced US youth sports on both sides of the pond. As I look at how immersed the kids are here in the game, it is just no wonder.
As for money, we pay our club about $85/yr for both kids. The only other thing we pay for is uniform items and even that is only 20% of the cost, the other 80% is most often covered by a local business sponsor. The clubs are private entities associated with the various towns or regions – no school teams. Kids can pick the neighboring club if they wish, so the clubs have to deal with competition.
The better clubs have tryouts and yes, if they are lucky enough to produce one of the 1% of kids who turn pro, then the club can end up with a nice 5 maybe 6 digit figure win-fall. But I can tell you first-hand, most clubs and their trainers are not motivated by this fact. The clubs normally get a little support from the town by way of free land to build the club facilities.
Back to my point about being immersed; here it seems fussball just continues 24/7-365. The DFB (German Soccer Federation) invested millions of Euros in these mini-fields (A-turf, 4’ hard side walls, some netting, approx 40’x65’) and installed them directly outside the doors at most Kindergartens and/or elementary schools.
Whenever there is a class break the kids are on it – playing all kinds of made-up games, and like elsewhere the older kids make the rules. For the kids not on the mini-platz, there is an area for kicking the ball around with a likely target net or backboard.
Granted, not all kids are playing on a club team but rest assured they all know how to kick a ball and the tactics of play are learned at this level.Ditto for the parents and even those at older age don’t pass an opportunity to blast some shots at a net.
On the weekends/holidays, the mini-platz are open (schools are not fenced off here as they often are in the US) and kids are taking turns playing all day long, often with older kids or parents.
I am really impressed with how much the DFB does for the kids. They are often sending out Pro players (active and retired) and exceptionally talented trainers to the clubs – even the smallest of clubs get the same offerings as the big clubs. They provide templates for club/training philosophy and training plans for the various age groups; they also provide training seminars for the club trainers. Also, when I say club, I am not talking some extravagant operation. Many in our area are just a field and a 10×20 or so building…
As to our club, my kids teams take a break from formal games, tournaments, and practice for about 4-5 weeks in the summer and a week or two for Christmas. Outside of these weeks, football is a daily part of their life.
My kids have team practice 2-3 times a week 1.5hr session and they also have what is called fördertraining once a week. This extra fördertraining is offered to the kids (divided up in age groups) who are playing a tick better than the rest. No scrimmaging on this day, only technical/tactical skills.
The kids are normally showing up 30min to an hr before practice to play pickup games and I have to just about drag them off the field after practice – mind you, I am not the only one – it is this way with most of the club kids.
Surprisingly, many of the kids play a second sport as well. Handball and Tennis seem to be favorites. Interestingly, at the handball games, the breaks are occupied with the hand ball on the ground and using it as a soccer ball. Fussball dominates and scheduling conflicts are often resolved having fussball as a top priority over other activities.
The kids continue to play outside until the field gets snow or ice. Then the clubs get permission to use the local school gyms for indoor training and winter hall tournaments/games. This will go on up until Mar or so and then we move back outside.
To sum this up: the kids here in Germany begin an immersion into fussball at a young age and play quite often whether they are with a club or not.
It is easy for the kids to play; it does not have a financial burden; it runs just about all year long; there is a lot of mentoring going on by the DFB.
Of course competition with other sports is not as it is in the US and schools do not get involved with any formal sport teams – it is done at the community level and with competition.
Soccer is THE sport there. I think this is the number one reason the U.S. Men’s can’t seem to crack the top 20 in the World.
Kids are always playing it. Yet, another reason.
It’s easy for them to get their game on.
Clubs are small and cheap, so accessible to more people.
Schools do not field sports teams.
Good stuff to consider.