This is a continuation of my previous post on how high school soccer hurts soccer culture in U.S.
I have nothing against high school soccer. It’s just that an outcome is that hurts, rather than helps, making connections between younger and older players.
Those connections are vital to help pass on soccer culture.
Clubs in soccer playing countries foster these connections since high school age players play for the club’s senior teams, practice on the same grounds and coach younger players (which also helps keep costs down).
Kids in these clubs want to watch their coaches play on the weekend and play like them. While their current results matter, they also want to become like their coaches.
Younger players in the U.S. don’t have this extended view benchmark of where they want to go. They just have current results.
This hit home when one of my players ran into the local pro indoor team practicing at a field that we often practiced on, by accident. We moved practice that day, but that player’s Dad didn’t get the email.
We had attended some of their games to help spark an interest among kids, so he knew of them and was surprised and excited to to see a pro team practicing there.
His Dad introduced him to the GK, the GK gave him his gloves and he became that kid’s hero. His Dad bought season tickets and took every chance to see the GK again at fan events and training camps the team offered.
That player was one of the 4 players who regularly played GK on my team. They were all about the same level of ability and were content with that.
Over the next year, that player excelled. His “goalposts” had moved from being good enough on our team to playing like his hero and that made all the difference.
I recall the first game where he made a diving save and how much he looked like his favorite goalkeeper while he was doing it.
Of all the players I took to HS, college and pro matches hoping to spark an interest in how the game is played at higher levels, that was the one success story that that I know of.
The rest of the kids complained about how boring it was.
The difference was the connection that kid had made by accident. Knowing someone on the field made it a whole more interesting to him.
Imagine if all the kids could make that kind of connection.
Consider how far it sets us back that our system doesn’t foster such connections, while countries with strong soccer cultures do.