The purpose of the following information is to help parents and players make an informed decision about joining club soccer. The most important advice we can give to parents and players is to do your homework before joining a club soccer team.
Is My Daughter Ready for Club Soccer?
The first decision to make is whether or not your child is a good candidate for club soccer. Most importantly, we recommend that your child demonstrates a "passion" for the game. One good indication of that quality is that your child gets excited about going to practices (not just games) and also works with a ball outside of their scheduled practice time. In addition, your child should be a good all-around athlete, possess good stamina, and should be a strong player in their AYSO age group. One myth about club soccer is that you must be on your AYSO region "A" all star team in order to make a club team. While it is true that the majority of our players come from "A" all star teams from various AYSO regions in the area, we have selected many players who did not make such teams.
I’m Worried About "Burn Out", What Age Should I Start My Daughter in Club Soccer?
One of the biggest myths about club soccer is that it is overly competitive and, thus, young players will "burn out" if they join too young. This is simply a falsehood that has been spread by some in recreational soccer leagues as a scare tactic so they can keep their stronger players from joining club soccer. The primary focus of all of our teams, but especially so at the youngest ages, is to foster a passion for the game of soccer. While we have high standards and demand that our players compete hard and aspire for excellence, we never forget that enjoyment is the reason we play soccer. It is true, however, that around the ages 14-16 that some players decide to quit playing club soccer. Ironically though, far more players percentage-wise decide to quit playing recreational soccer at those same ages as well. Based on our experience, we believe this rarely has to due with a player "burning out", rather, it is due to the natural process of kids focusing their time and energy on what is truly most important to them (usually another sport) as they move into high school.
What age to join is a very difficult question and there are many different factors for each family to consider. Some kids are ready to join at U9 and others are late bloomers and are not ready until about their U13 year. Generally, we strongly recommend that most qualified players join club soccer by no later than the U11 age. The main reason is that in terms of the development of fundamental soccer skills, running/agility coordination, and building confidence/mental strength, the ages of 8-11 are the most critical. Players at these ages (U9-U11) have not yet ingrained many bad habits and, thus, they pick up fundamental skills quickly and eagerly. As a result, they enjoy the game even more as their confidence soars and they become more effective on the field.
In 2005, we did some simple research and looked at our incoming high school freshman age players. Of those who joined the Breakers at the U11 age or earlier, 15 out of 19 players made their varsity high school soccer teams as freshman. (All four of those who did not make their varsity team attended two of the strongest high school programs in the area.) Of those who joined the Breakers at the U13 age and older, only 3 out of 18 players made their varsity high school soccer teams in their freshman year. While certainly this is only one factor to consider, we believe this information clearly demonstrates how important those younger ages are from a developmental standpoint.
I’ve Decided My Daughter is Ready for Club.......Which Club Should I Join?
The first thing you need to keep in mind when deciding on which club to join is DO YOUR HOMEWORK! This means, ask questions, look at and tryout for more than one club, talk to parents/players on teams in each club, go attend a practice and game (to see where they practice, what they do, and how the coach interacts with the kids), find out the coaches experience and background, and, find out their club record and history of player and team development. Do not just take some coach with a foreign accent who sounds knowledgeable at their word, including ours. Every single club and club coach is going to tell you that "they focus on player development".......but which clubs and their coaches have actually gone through the process of developing players from the U11 age through high school graduation? Which clubs and coaches have had players graduate and move on to play soccer at the collegiate level?
Currently, the Breakers are the only Westside area club that plays in the newly formed Southern California Developmental Soccer League (SCDSL) whose rules and structure are aligned with the US Soccer Coaching and Player Development Curriculum. All of the Southern California area US Soccer Academy (boys) and ECNL (girls) clubs with the exception of one ECNL club are members of the SCDSL. The primary difference between the SCDSL and Coast Soccer League (CSL) is that there is no forced promotion and relegation which allows clubs to focus more on player development as opposed to just winning games and moving up the bracketing ladder. Each league season, SCDSL teams get to choose their bracket in order to play at the level they wish to in order to fit into their developmental plans. There are other important differences including specific substition rules by age, opportunity for players to play up/down with teams in their clubs and no standings kept for U9 and U10 teams. For more information on the SCDSL, please visit their website at www.scdslsoccer.com
The Breakers Commitment
All of our younger teams (U13 and under) begin preseason practice on or about August 1st. Older teams begin on or about July 15th. Practices are two days per week for one and a half hours each. All of our teams U12 and older attend a mandatory team soccer camp at UC Santa Barbara the first or second week of August with their team coach. Our teams typically play two preseason tournaments in late August and early September to prepare for the league season which begins the weekend after Labor Day.
The league season runs each weekend through Thanksgiving and the younger teams sometimes have league and league cup games through the first weekend of December. Older teams U14 and up typically have 1-2 games most weekends, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. Younger teams typically have one (either Sat or Sun) but there are a few weekends where there are two league games. Players are expected to make all league games and attend every practice possible. Obviously, school and family commitments take precedence but we expect that soccer is your primary recreational commitment during the season and, if you have a conflict, you agree to fulfill your club soccer commitment first.
For high school age players, CIF mandates that players may not practice or play games with their club soccer teams from the Monday following Thanksgiving weekend through their final high school game, including playoffs. Thus, our older teams U15 through U19 break from Thanksgiving through late February. Our U14 teams typically have a mix of high school players and 8th graders so the 8th graders continue to practice in January/February. All the older teams begin practices again in late February, play a couple of tournaments in March and prepare for the state and national cup tournaments which are held in April for U14 teams and older. We hold tryouts immediately following state and national cup play and play one or two tournaments in May to look at prospective players and to select the team for the following season. Our older teams break completely from June 1 through July 15th.
For younger players, the schedule is somewhat different. After the league season, we typically take a three week break from the middle of December until the first week of January. During the month of January, our younger teams typically play two tournaments in preparation for state and national cup which is held in February for U9 through U13 teams. State and National cup run from 1 to 3 weekends depending on how each team fares. After state and national cup play, our teams typically hold tryouts in March and play one or two tournaments to look at prospective players. We also hold tryouts for new teams (typically, U9, U11 and U13 blue) at this time. Beginning in early April, we take a three week break during the spring break period. We then start up again in late April and play one to two more tournaments in May. Our younger teams break completely from June 1 through August 1.
If you have any additional questions regarding the Breakers, please feel free to read through our Player/Parent agreement and/or take a look at the "About the Breakers" page. For tryout information, please click here. Finally, please feel free to contact our club Technical Director, Mike Page, at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about our club or club soccer in general.