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IIIllllIIlllIIlllIIl t1_j1z6hwh wrote

There's a book I recommend on the state of soccer in the USA. Shoeless Soccer: Fixing the System and Winning the World Cup. Most of the parts of the book that applies to travel teams is relevant to other sports as well.

America punches far below it's weight class in soccer despite vastly outspending other countries. The best quote in the book I've found so far "In the USA soccer is a sport. In the rest of the world soccer is a game".

We in America tend to fund our youth sports from the bottom up. Parents pay everything. Big expensive tournaments are set up, kids get very adept at riding in the back of an SUV. Thousands of hours dedicated to riding. We're the best SUV riders in the world!

Kids in other countries are playing with the neighborhood kids in the street a quarter of a mile down the road using 4 t-shirts for goal posts. American parents have no idea how silly this whole sports complex thing is. And how far behind we are.

I could go on and on. My child won't be playing $4000+ "Elite" soccer. We play in the street. I'm fine with whatever that leads to. At least we still enjoy playing.


HockeyCoachHere t1_j1zom4i wrote

North Americans have largely decided its both dangerous and not egalitarian enough to have an open park with random kids playing with random teenagers and occasionally adults.

I think the outdoor hockey rinks at parks in Toronto are a GREAT microcosm of that.

They were traditional just a hang out for the community in the winter at the local park, but have shifted over the last 10 years to have every small slice of age groups and genders get their own little patch of the calendar and then forbid everyone else until their time. It’s become a “parent driven” activity, primarily because a handful of girls/women complained about the male dominated space and a handful of parents complained on behalf of their younger kids about a “teen dominated” space with some unfamiliar adults around.

So now, instead of a park, it’s a “facility” with strict rules and a strict schedule. Girls under 16 at 2pm, kids 6-10 from 3-4women 18+ at 4-5, kids 11-13 from 5-6 teens 13-16 from 6-8. Adults or 16+ 8-10.

That’s basically how Toronto rinks are now. Even 10 years ago it was “just a park”. The rules were “it’s Canada, don’t be a dick”. Kids played with adults and teens, everyone tries to make sure the young ones got to participate. Some people are dicks, but they got told off by others at the rink and often left.

Now they have to put up 3 signs to fit all the rules and the schedules change weekly.

It means there is no spontaneous play. You have to plan a day ahead to be there during your allotted time and your community rink may not be the best rink to go to, so you may have to drive.

It’s symbolic of the change in all sports, but rinks are EXTREMELY finite so they distill it into an easily measurable slice of culture.


IIIllllIIlllIIlllIIl t1_j1zuoqz wrote

I've read similar accounts to yours about hockey. The book mentioned described very similar accounts in youth soccer.

When I was young the fields were fairly badly managed. But to their credit none of them were cordoned off with fences. You could walk/drive up, walk onto the field, and play. In the new local park there's fences blocking you and they're only open on certain days to whoever's scheduled it. Much worse is that the league that allows you to play will close the fields at the slightest drop of rain.

In the book, one coach lamented the pristine fields that were never accessible and remarked: "Are we growing kids or growing grass!?".

It's bad. And it's driven by ignorant parents with no knowledge about the game or youth development in general but have more money than sense. There's an excess of people willing to spend whatever it takes. I take a dystopian view of the whole thing and believe that eventually we will spend our way through to the other end. Meaning, I think that we'll still probably see World Cup results despite our insistence on reducing the sports to small groups of relatively rich parents.

But as a coach I always say: there's no substitute for actually playing the game. Not driving long distances, not doing drills, not spending more money. Playing the game.


HockeyCoachHere t1_j20dkc2 wrote

I'm actually going to flip the script a little and argue that the INTENTION isn't to drive out community sport.

The outdoor rink example (over-scheduling) was driven by:

  • Over worry about injury
  • Over worry about children interacting with older people (teens/adults)
  • Complaints by a vocal minority of players (for example, there are dedicated women/girls times because some people complained about feeling uncomfortable in a male-dominated space)
  • Complaints by a vocal minority of parents (a handful of parent complaints about their sense that their young kid was subjected to a small amount of discomfort from being on the rink with older teens or whatever).

None of this is driven by "my kid should be a star player", but more the opposite. The "hard core" families were probably pushing for less scheduling so they can show up at the rink whenever.

But on another topic...

Hockey is also similar in its cost. The cost of ice time for youth hockey has doubled in 12 years. That drives the sport into a place that it's not accessible for many families.

But the reason for that isn't hyper-competitiveness. It's actually reasonable sounding demands.

The handful of parents who are in the "my son will play pro hockey" aren't driving the cost. They're PAYING the cost, but they're not driving it.

Here's a thing I post sometimes about how hockey rinks used to be:

The local rink (back when it was cheap and therefore accessible to everyone in the 70s) was:

  • run by some local guy, who was paid shit, not given any sick time and did it mostly as a passion
  • limited staffing- The rink guy would take a break and leave it unsupervised ; local coaches were given full run of the place, had keys to the building, could run the ice refinisher if nobody was around to help, etc.
  • were mostly unsupervised facilities - no safety monitor, no facilities monitor, limited janitorial, etc
  • were operated on a shoestring budget without a ton of concern for environmental issues (often ammonia leaks, frequently with cheap diesel generators)
  • were not terribly safe. Old slippery stairs, old dank locker rooms, little supervision for participants (except coaches and team officials). I'm thinking of specific rinks in Toronto here built in the 1950s and 1960s... but I've seen hallways outside of the locker rooms had beams every 10 feet at about 6' off the ground to hit your head on, the exit to the ice going straight into a staircase (always covered in ice), player benches with a drop off directly behind them, narrow locker rooms, shower stalls just in the corner of the locker room with no barriers or otherwise, urinals directly in locker rooms with no door or separate space, etc.
  • were not accessible at all. Stairways everywhere, obstructed hallways, no ramps, no elevators, no expanded shower stalls, no handrails, etc

Here's a list of things that I think drove the cost of indoor rinks to double in 15 years:

  • Hiring more people to make rinks highly supervised for safety and property protection
  • Paying rink staff professional wages with sick time, overtime, etc, while offering breaks without disrupting supervision (requires 3-5x the staff at 6-8x the budget).
  • Significantly reducing the amount of access coaches have to facilities, players, etc (goes along with increased supervision/staffing) done mostly for safety and compliance and having multiple layers of supervision to prevent coach abuse.
  • Making rinks more environmentally friendly - efficient chillers, careful inspection for leaks, regular review of energy usage, efficient air conditioning and heating in facilities, etc.
  • Making rinks more safe in general (no more leaky roofs, slippery staircases, temporary patches, etc)
  • Making rinks more accessible (all 75 indoor Toronto rinks had a $1m+ renovation to make them accessible - ramps, big showers, viewing platforms for wheelchairs, elevators, etc)
  • Making new facilities significantly nicer. Heated viewing areas, large locker rooms, ample atriums, nice fixtures, clean hallways, etc.
  • Decreased reliance on volunteers, coaches, etc. No more giving the figure skating coach the key to open up at 5am and the bantam hockey coach instructions to "run the zam and lock up after you leave". Instead, you have full-time professional staff that show up at 4:30am and leave after midnight (needing multiple shifts, etc).

Notice that none of the things that drove the complaints I have about hockey are even related to the "alpha parents" who try to push their kids into pro hockey.

Each of these sounds reasonable on its face. All of them are desirable.

But the sum total is doubling the cost of the sport and making it less accessible.

People are VERY loathe to discuss this. They want it all AND they want it cheap. When a local arena upped their ice cost by $100/hr everyone was upset.

When I pointed out that the only reason they did that is to pay for the $1m renovation whos primary goal was wheelchair accessibility (for a building that hosts ZERO sledge or other disabled hockey events) and if they didn't want that cost hike, they could consider maybe only upgrading specific arenas where sledge hockey is prioritized, rather than every single one, people were pretty upset with me for being "heartless" and "ableist". But there are legitimate tradeoffs here that people seem to have trouble discussing.

I feel like this is all driven by a "zero tolerance" of bad things, without weighing all the good things you accidentally get rid of when trying to chase away every single negative outcome.


IIIllllIIlllIIlllIIl t1_j20gxvn wrote

I feel this to the core. My personal solution was to try and find a way to start an organization that would allow kids to play without all of these inverse effects that happen but I kept coming to an issue with liability. Any organization I could run would need insurance and the venue would have to be sanitized of any possible risks to the point where I was beginning to doubt it was even possible.

The current culture doesn't seem to have room for what I was envisioning. I've lately held an intense interest in some sports that seem to have popped up out of nowhere. Pickleball is never going to be a massive professional sport, but when it comes to adoption it has taken our city by storm. All of the tennis courts which were completely empty are now pickleball courts. My hypothesis is that the closer a game looks to the real thing, the pro version, the less likely that the organized youth version of it will be adaptable to children.

The more it looks like a silly "game" (pickleball is similar to wiffleball in that the ball is a plastic silly thing) the more fun it will likely be for kids just picking it up in the local neighborhood. When the game mirrors a professional sport like hockey (on real nice looking professional rinks, and baseball with pro jerseys and pristine fields, and soccer on fields that would make the second leagues in England blush) it begins to take on these high stakes qualities that lowers the accessibility.


WarpTroll t1_j21ukvq wrote

I agree fully and think this is very true of a large number of other areas in life now as well. Cars, housing/rentals, education. So many things are cobbled together so everyone has access now we have to pay so it is safe, complete and everyone can have access.


Hitz365 t1_j20boso wrote

From the UK, live in the US. I coached freshman soccer for a minute and asked how many played outside of organized practice. None did. I asked how many watched soccer, none did regularly.

It's sickening how much it costs parents for what could mostly be learned in playgrounds and fields. Playing against older and younger kids, organizing your own teams, getting into fights, figuring out how to play with better and worse players than you.

The investment in something that at best might get a scholarship feels like a bad risk to reward ROI.


IIIllllIIlllIIlllIIl t1_j20d75o wrote

This is the crux of the whole thing. In my recreational team last year I coached I took them and had to teach them how to self organize. 11 year olds that didn't know how to pick teams. So I taught them how to pick teams, including picking which coach they wanted on their team (older/younger). Then had a parent apologizing that her son and another boy got into an aggressive argument over who would be goalkeeper. Conflict is part of growing up. I had to teach the boys how to solve it without just sitting and whining. Do paper/rock/scissors or something, I don't care. Figure it out.

There are those of us out there that are trying our best to bring back the old days. It feels like an uphill battle with all this money involved, but the culture is broken at the moment. For now we have to look across the pond with envy.


satmar t1_j1zlb40 wrote

There is a healthy middle ground though.. I think the moral is to remember it’s a game BUT there’s nothing wrong with some level of competition (organized).

The key is that it can’t be every second of every day only thinking about this one thing…

idk I’m not a parent, I’m not a sports expert or psychology expert but in my opinion the extremes are never the right solution.


IIIllllIIlllIIlllIIl t1_j1zs4j7 wrote

What we need is for a bunch of coaches that understand that kids aren't small adults. They're kids. The leagues should reflect the appropriateness for the age of the kid. It just so happens that Americans view youth sports as miniature pro teams.

The way it works now is that counter-intuitively the more knowledgeable the coach is about the game the more likely he will get it wrong when it comes to youth. I can give a specific example. My son was invited to a 'training' academy at age 7. He basically hated it. The coaches knew a lot about soccer, but didn't understand that they were dealing with a small child. They ran a bunch of drills and wouldn't let him do the things he wanted to do as a kid. Just play the game without interference.

Kids need just a lot of play in local leagues with other kids in low-key recreational leagues up until around the age of 14, in which they could use more specific and harder drills and skills. But the siren call of all that money parents are willing to spend pushes clubs and public infrastructure to set up bigger and bigger tournaments for younger and younger kids. By the time kids hit 11 the rec leagues are picked clean of most of the skilled kids. It's way to early.

Clubs have a place. It's later in the process and it should still stay local so families don't have to travel so much.


getofftheirlawn t1_j21cytd wrote

I agree with and wish for your sentiment but unfortunately your timetable is way off. By 14, if you want to play competitively you had better be well above the curve toward mastery of fundamental skills. What I am saying is that at age 14 you are in high school or about to be. Good luck making a high school team with only rec experience up until this point and you can just about forget entering club-level play at this age. Note, club-level sports long ago left behind high school level-play here in the states anyways.

The big problem here is that soccer clubs here in the states are run by for-profit 3rd party and sometimes nation-wide/regional companies with no real outlet to major league or professional-level. Where as in much of the rest of the world club soccer is about where you live and is therefore intrinsically local and does feed into the local professional team and or system of buying players.

In my experience youth sports here in the states, except basketball, dies recreationally around age 12, basketball has a strong rec presence until age 17 then if at 18 you still want to play you are playing with full on adults in adult rec leagues. Sure there are some rec soccer leagues, usually run by the club teams, but then it is typically just same 2-3 teams playing each other all season. By high school, kids are either playing high school or club/travel and high school and all the other kids that played when they were young quit.


IIIllllIIlllIIlllIIl t1_j21lvns wrote

The problem with soccer in particular in the US is the lack of a real gradient in price and skill at the 12-16 ages. Below that most people are in rec anyways. But then there's either cheap rec leagues with hardly anyone playing, or $4000-$6000/yr with the skilled players. A pretty big contrast.

In other countries there's more options and all of them are cheaper. Some players do actually go off to academy after playing only locally at around the 14 age range. Part of that is due to having more options.

I still don't recommend anyone spend the $4-6k at age 12 here in the US. The likelihood of going pro or getting a scholarship are pretty low for those kids sitting in the back of SUV's for all that time. Travel ball needs to be phased out in most leagues. It drains local talent and keeps neighborhood kids away from their friends. Any league that pushes it is something I'll keep my kids far away from. There's just too much money in it though. Parents are easily duped.

There isn't any substitute for actually playing the game.


pioneer_grad t1_j2074g5 wrote

Coached Rec level baseball for years and had kids in club baseball, soccer and track. What seemed to work best for us was rec level through 11 and started club at 12u. Our family is average athletically so our goal was to be able to complete in high school. We were not going to join a traveling team in our club because it doesn't make sense for us. Clubs will allow players to join a traveling team because they need more players to split the costs across. The kids are paying for the coaches expenses on the trip. The baseball club we are in has 30 players that traveled across the US for 2+ spring and fall seasons. Of those 30, 4 have signed to play ball at a college for a scholarship - this is baseball so that is a partial scholarship.


IIIllllIIlllIIlllIIl t1_j20b2ye wrote

The biggest issue I see is the travel and cost. I don't necessarily hold a hard stance that competition can come into it much earlier. Just that the level of competition doesn't scale with distance. In a city of half a million there's more than enough competition within a few miles to find and nurture a good environment for the talented kids. I don't agree about separating kids too early. Breakouts happen all the time and those kids benefit from being around kids that are showing precociousness.

In soccer in the rest of the world the structure is funded through the pro leagues down. In the US it's reversed. Most funding in the sport comes from soccer parents at the bottom. The way it works in many European countries and elsewhere is that when a kid joins an academy (for a low price or free) if the kid moves onto another bigger club the club he's leaving will be paid a solidarity payment to subsidize the process. This fosters development of the child rather than aiming towards just winning.

In the US since clubs rely on parent funding and we don't have solidarity payments the clubs are dependent on wins to sell their services as 'elite'. The knock-on effects of that are obvious.

Spending the $4000+ per year amounts to gambling if scholarship is the goal. It's a problem.

But... if the USA sneezes the rest of the world catches a cold. We will see more and more countries adopting the monetization schemes we see here. We are far ahead in the sports investment versus the rest of the world. But to see if our obsession is serving children all you have to do is ask. I know a number of families that have already dropped out of club sports. Talented kids that just stopped having fun.


SeriousPuppet t1_j21maxl wrote

The article was too long to read in full. But if I get the gist - lots of massive sports parks is the new "arms race".

I guess that's not a horrible thing.

But for soccer, kids need futsal courts and indoor and public spaces for pickup soccer.

As they get older they do more regimented training at a club typically.

Baseball I don't know much about, but there are many public baseball diamonds near me. More baseball diamonds than soccer fields, way more, at least near me.

But there are a few big "sports complexes" with a lot of soccer fields, they're just a hike to get to.


dickdapug t1_j227mdr wrote

More importantly there needs to be a system shift in North America for how sports are adopted and developed. We have a mind set that in order be elite we need to have kids specialize in sports from young ages, we put them in the same sport year round, we put them in gyms to focus on sports specific workouts and the worst part is if you can’t finically fit the bill you’re left behind barring exceptional natural abilities. Look at the burn out rate for swimmers in the United States, Or hockey players in Canada we have moved into systems where if you can survive sport at a certain level you’ll make it. If we moved to more of a multi sport systems we’d not only develop better overall athletes but we’d also have much less burn out and more people doing sport for life rather than only the competitive aspect.


Desirsar t1_j22lll5 wrote

My only complaint is that there's never availability of fields like this for adult leagues. Obviously it'll vary by city or state or owner and even demand, but I've seen interest in leagues that can't find anywhere to play, local fields won't rent them out even during off times.


Jimmy_kong253 t1_j23xezw wrote

I thought it was going to be esports