High school soccer has been a hot topic for several years now. As soon as the fall season starts everything happens really quick. There are tryouts, lots of practices, several games in a week, a lot of traveling and the demands are very high. Student-athletes need to focus on their academics while they commit to their teams. It’s like going to college but with less pressure.
I have encouraged many players to play with the high school teams where some of these athletes already had scholarships offers and have verbally commited. High school soccer is fun but at the same time needs more improvement so when players get there will develop the right way. I know, it’s not enough time for that but if you plan way in advance, it could help to some extend.
After working with several high school teams over the past years, coaching their players in pre-season camps and watching them play during the season, I’ve realized that high school soccer needs help. The help has to come from all of us, including players, parents, high schools, coaches and of course a better structure and system that will allow us to implement better changes. It’s a team effort and it needs a process in place and with time we can see positive results.
So how can we help improve our high school soccer? Well, I will outline 5 main ideas that could somehow eleven the level of play and make the game more enjoyable and competitive for our players.
1. High School Coaches Need To Be Qualified
The pay for high school coaches is very low. Many of the HS coaches teach at those schools. Private high schools sometimes tend to hire teachers that can also coach. Whatever the case may be, high school coaches need to be qualified and have at a minimum a USSF D National license or higher. Not that the license will do miracles but it shows that the coach has actually taken time to complete the course and s/he is really eager to learn and grow as coaches so they can better assist our student-athletes.
There are a few high school coaches who are actually over qualified but they enjoy coaching and are probably looking to coach at the college level if the opportunity ever comes.
When high school coaches will have more licenses and higher salaries, the level of soccer will also grow. Some high school coaches also coach at the town or premier level on top of their high school jobs. The pay is much higher at the premier level. Those are coaches who are truly in for the long run because they enjoy working with players. At the same time, they need to survive and make a living of what they love doing. The state should require coaches to have certain qualifications, experience, expertise and so on. The day the high school coaches will be more qualified will be the day high school soccer will have more quality. If you look at other countries, those licenses/qualifications do make a difference. Knowledge is power no matter what you do.
2. We Need A Better System, Structure And More Support
It’s sad to see how little support some HS soccer programs have. Other sports have so much more help where others get very limited support. The high school season structure is very messed up. There are way too many games in a week and that needs to change. The training is more important because a lot of those players lack the technical and tactical ability to play at that level.
For a player who has everyday practice, and two or three games a week, s/he will get burned out before you know it. I know the season is only 2-3 months but still, we won’t see miracles from an individual development perspective. Of course, some players will develop, some few will improve but not everyone will be able to do that.
High school soccer needs to get more funds, pay their coaches more, pay for their coaches licenses, help the team hire a coach for their pre-season and so on. I know some HS do lot son fundraising and it worked really well in the past. If all those things come in place, our players will be more prepared to join the high school scene and everything will go by a lot smoother. Also, there are many injuries at the high school level which most occur in the first 2-4 weeks of training. The players are not fit or used to the high demands so they can easily get hurt.
If all high schools would follow the same structure and get the same support for their players during the on and off season, then we will be able to see more improvements on the level of play and more importantly on the players themselves.
3. Players Need To Respect Their Coaches More
This one bothers me the most. Why? Because a high school coach who can’t win the respect or trust of his own team, will never succeed. High school coaches need to be strict, have meetings with the players and parents at the beginning of the season and set up their expectations and share their guidelines. They need to follow up with those expectations and make it clear that the team always comes first and not the individual.
I have seen teams where high school players don’t have as much respect for their high school coaches. I may be wrong but for what I have seen it appears to be that way. Players have so many things on their heads that they can easily lose their focus which will slowly decrease their performances. This is not the case for every high school team.
It’s very important that the high school coach implements his/her own team culture, sets rules and regulations, are strict on attendance, engage and communicate effectively with their players and train them not only hard, but smart. Results will come but players need to know first that their coach is cares about them. Once that happens, players should trust an respect their coach. If that’s not the case, the coach should fix or remove all those issues as early as possible.
4. Development Just Doesn’t Happen In A 2 To 3 Months Season
It’s just not enough time to develop players in a 2-3 months season. And when players do get together, their schedule is so intense that you can’t even realize how fast times goes by. We can’t blame the coaches because they don’t even have a fair chance if you truly think about it. Those high schools that do well, they do have good players who can truly carry on the team and win trophies.
5. All Student-Athletes Should Train, Compete And Play During Their Off Season
We just need to have our players compete more than 3 months a year. They need to stay active, play at the club level and somehow play with their teammates through the summer. That will give them an edge so when they play together in the season, they will be somehow ahead. There are many different things we can do to help increase the level of our high school soccer but for that to happen we need to be on the same page.
Players and coached can work together, inform the parents and let them know that their support is needed and appreciated thru the process. When we work together towards the same common goal and have try intentions, beautiful things can happen.