I had a post at the end of March on a high school athlete choose not to play high school sports. It’s an idea that I believe is unwise. High school sports and club sports both have their place and they can live in harmony.
Heights girls soccer coach Steve Parks e-mailed me about this topic, and it was such a reasonable, rationale and strong e-mail, I asked if I could post it. He agreed. His post is below.
I read the post on the idea that some coaches believe that skipping high school soccer is more beneficial than playing the high school season. I also read an article in one of my previous NSCAA Soccer Journal magazines about this same topic. The article in the Soccer Journal was pro “high school ball” as opposed to taking the other side. I have heard from some of my friends that there are club coaches in the area who are trying to discourage kids from playing high school soccer. This is an absurd idea.
It is my firm belief that if club coaches and high school coaches work together (as many club coaches are high school coaches and vice versa), then our athletes will continue to grow as soccer players. It is important though that both take a stake in the athletes and follow them outside of their respective seasons. As a high school coach, I need my athletes to play club ball! It is year round soccer for them if they play both club and high school soccer.
Do I believe that some coaches out there have no idea what they are doing? Absolutely. I believe that this happens on both levels though - high school and club. Trust me, I have had to correct many issues with some of my club athletes game – fundamentally speaking. It goes both ways. It is like any walk of life, there are good and bad club coaches, just like there are good and bad high school coaches.
Since I am primarily a high school coach, I will give the point for why the high school season is important (from an elite player perspective). Many believe it is these elite players who suffer. I have had a couple of elite players in my tenure at Heights. Here is why they benefit from the high school game. Early on, they (as freshman), are able to play with girls that are 3-4 years their senior. Some of these players are better and some aren’t, but the fact that they are girls playing against young women says something. Physically, they are definitely out-sized most of the time. One of the most important aspect of the high school game is that they (the elite player) has to develop into a more independent player. Sometimes, they are coming from a team where they are of the same ability. They are not always looked upon to be the game changer because there are so many other possibilities out there. If an elite player is the best offensive threat on her high school team, then her game has to change. That player has to learn to become not just a “game player”, but a “game changer”. This is something that a previous athlete of mine had to become. Another point is that it is great for the high school. Kids have pride in who they represent and can play with people they normally wouldn’t play with – even for 3 months of the year. Finally, and probably most important, the high school season is a grind! We play 17 games in a little over 2 months. At times we play three games a week and practice every day in between. It is an exhausting season. It challenges these girls (like college ball will) to prepare their bodies so that they are mentally and physically ready for an intense 3 month period with no breaks.
Now, from the average player stance. These players get to play with some athletes who are far superior then them allowing their game to benefit as well. I will not argue heavily from the average player perspective since the proponents of skipping high school soccer are mainly those from an elite players perspective.
I know many great club coaches and high school coaches across this state. What is most important, is that these two groups work together to improve the play of our athletes. We don’t need to bicker about which one is better, we need to agree that we both need each other!
In closing, everyone is playing high school ball right now, get out and enjoy the possibility of beating a high school rival and also someone you play with during club ball. How satisfying is that?