Archive | January, 2013

Why play high school soccer?

17 Jan

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With the recent addition of video services to PG Method, I’ve had the opportunity to film dozens of high school matches over the past few weeks.  As someone who has been immersed only in the club and college scenes for 13 years, high school soccer has pretty much been off my radar.  Having the opportunity to take a deeper look at the current state of the high school game has been interesting and for the most part, a pleasant surprise.

It’s clear that we’re in a transitional period.  Many of the most talented soccer players are not playing high school soccer.  These “blue chip” athletes are competing for academy programs and are thus prohibited from suiting up for their school’s team.  When you combine this with the fact that the level of high school play tends to be lower than club, the coaching oftentimes sub par, and the fact that there is little college recruiting done at high school matches, it might pose the question “what’s the point of playing high school soccer at all?”

I’ll take a stab.  Why play high school soccer?

The opportunity to compete every day

Club soccer players often train only twice a week whereas, high school soccer players train or play games Monday through Friday.  While the level of instruction being given may vary, there is always a benefit to getting more and regular touches.  This kind of consistency helps a player to become more “sharp,” especially with their connection to the ball.

The chance to play a different role

Griffin, a talented senior that I’m working with on the recruiting front is the starting left back for his club team. For his high school, he runs the show in the center of the park.  The chance to see the field from a different perspective is undoubtedly good for his development as a player.  I see this across the board, high school players are consistently experiencing the game in a different way than they do on the club side.  As a result their game becomes more well-rounded and versatile.  This is hugely important, especially for those who aspire to play in college, where versatility is a huge asset.

Footage for the recruiting reel

In my last entry I wrote about video highlight reels being a “game changer” in the recruiting process.  High school soccer offers a wonderful opportunity to shoot quality footage for your reel. If you are looking to get recruited, then you will almost certainly be asked for video when you connect with a college coach.  Take advantage of the high school season and “get some film!”

A sense of camaraderie & community

Watching the Crossroads Boys Varsity team play, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my days playing for Catlin Gabel High School in Portland, OR.  The pre-game huddle with the lads getting fired up for the game, and the fans packed into a tight field on a chilly night brought back great memories.  The anticipation of the upcoming playoffs was palatable – will “Roads” be able to win the title again?  There is a sense of community with high school soccer, for both for the players and the fans.  It’s different than club soccer.  The long trek to a club game an hour away doesn’t bring that same kind of energy.  I should mention that Crossroads also has a fantastic coach in Federico Bianchi.  He has his boys playing some wonderful possession soccer and it’s clear it’s a positive experience for all involved.  The players are developing, and perhaps more than anything else, connecting to that all important concept…having fun.

What needs to change?

There is one glaring problem with high school soccer in Southern California.  This has to do with the overlap between the end of the club season and the start of the high school season in the fall.  The demands being put on club players that play high school are nothing short of ridiculous.  These kids, who have been in serious training since late July/early August are forced into a daily-double scenario whereby they train during the day with high school and then stumble on to the club pitch at night.  The players are burned out, overuse injuries are common, and there is little time or energy left to deal with schoolwork.  Midway through a passing exercise last fall, I had a player come to me with a pronounced limp.  When I asked him what was wrong he mentioned the “squats” his high school coach had him doing earlier in the day.  “Squats?” I said.  “We are three months into our season.  If anything you need to be tapering off right now in order to be fresh for the weekend matches!”  He looked at me and threw his hands in the air as if to say that there was nothing he could do about it.  I certainly felt for him as I could tell he was conflicted.  He was doing his best to please both his club and his high school coach.  This is happening all across So Cal where the kids being caught in the middle.

With all of the club coaches who also participate in high school soccer, you would think we could do something about this troubling scenario.  I’m going to be rather blunt in my assessment of what needs to happen:  club players should be allowed to compete exclusively with their club teams until the club season is over. After that, the players would make a clean break and begin training with their high school teams. This change would prevent that unfortunate overlap between the two.  There is a fairly consistent changeover that happens at the end of the high school season where players completely finish their high school responsibilities and then move back to club.  This needs to happen on the front end as well.  Given that I don’t personally answer to a high school Athletic Director, I’m sure this is easier said than done.  But my priority is and always will be the players and the opportunity to create a positive environment for their development.  The current scenario with overlapping team commitments, certainly does not have the players best interest in mind.