Down fall of American Youth Soccer (applies to other youth sports)

Submitted by Michigan4Life on May 25th, 2011 at 2:10 PM


I came across this blog via twitter.  I thought that it would spark debate on how youth sports league should be run.


My take on this:


People reward mediocrity, not hard work that leads to an even greater rewards like knowing how to win, acquire essential skills needed to play soccer in the next level, etc. I feel that youth sports league in general needs to work on developing kids the proper way to play the game of sports so they can use that basic foundation to better themselves as an athlete and learn about themselves as a person through hard work/effort.

By the same token, I do understand the need to play everybody but I do not agree on letting people score to feel good about themselves. I absolutely hate the participation certificate or trophy because it does nothing for me other than the fact that I played in the league. What happens if the kids are 18 or plus year old and out in the real world? You don’t get a trophy for being part of the company.


MI Expat NY

May 25th, 2011 at 2:23 PM ^

I'm a little confused on why there is a "U4" soccer league.  Whatever happened to letting kids at that age just play and be normal kids?  That is as much of a problem with youth sports as what this guy is complaining about.

OMG Shirtless

May 25th, 2011 at 2:30 PM ^

Local youth leagues such as AYSO and local little league should be about fun. Everyone plays, everyone gets a trophy, etc.

Youth travel leagues and high school sports should be where things get more serious, where playing time restrictions and awards only for winning should exist.


May 25th, 2011 at 5:01 PM ^

That's not really what he was saying. I think it would be ridiculous to have participation trophies or awards for competitive leagues (travel, high school, etc.). I agree with OMGS that it's not a big deal in the rec leagues where a lot of kids are there just to have fun. Sure, give 'em a participation certificate or trophy or something to make them feel good about themselves, but don't take away from the accomplishments of the teams in competitive leagues that work hard to win; I think it diminishes their hard work if they win, but then everyone else gets a trophy, too. It's really all part of a bigger thing going on, and that is the entitlement complex of the millenial generation (of which I am a member), and is a discussion to be had at a different time and place.


May 25th, 2011 at 5:05 PM ^

The better idea, IMO, would be to make several trophies (say seven for a team of twenty) rewarding things soccer related and unrelated. Give a "most goals" trophy and a "team spirit" trophy. That way there are rewards for succeeding, even if success isn't defined as becoming the next Ronaldo.


May 25th, 2011 at 2:32 PM ^

I didn't and still don't mind participation certificates. I felt good about myself playing soccer starting as a third grader even if we didn't finish at the top of the standings and I think the participation certificate was just an extra reminder of that. Not that participation certificates are at all necessary or would be missed.

Maybe it's just that I had a good dad who taught me to be humble and that no matter how good you are there will always be someone better than you in the world so to not get arrogant. Taught me to also win and lose graciously.

Seems adults are so worried kids can't learn to lose properly nowdays. If I never lost or was always getting atta boys I would have never had any reason to try to get better.


May 25th, 2011 at 2:32 PM ^

Youth sports has been FUBAR'd due to a lot of factors:

  1. Meddling parents
  2. AAU/Travel
  3. The internet/You Tube
  4. ESPN
  5. Rivals/Scout/247

There are so many reasons that contribute to the lack of  proper development that it's discouraging at times.  I say this as a dad of two high school athletes, a former athlete myself, and a current high school coach.


yossarians tree

May 25th, 2011 at 11:57 PM ^

Healthy young boys and girls playing sports. More opportunities for all, at younger and younger ages than I ever imagined as a kid. If we spoil them at all it is with opportunity that we never knew. At the same time, we should encourage them to be the best, to excel, and to win as sportsmen and sportswomen. They absolutely MUST be taught, above all, to win and lose with grace.

The kids that lose will move on to something else. Happily, and with great resilience. Stop coddling the losers. Stop glorifying the winners. Its only sports.

Zone Left

May 25th, 2011 at 2:34 PM ^

My take is that the kids are 3 years-old. Team activities at that age help children learn to socialize, play well with others, develop coordination, and to have fun. They can barely count, much less actually keep track of a score or care at all about who wins a game. That's probably why the league didn't have the children playing actual games. Let them start competing around 7 or 8, when they're old enough to appreciate that they are in a competition.


May 25th, 2011 at 2:35 PM ^

There'll be plenty of tema to instill a competetive drive in kids, teach them about winning, reward accomplishment etc at the older levels.  At U4 ( or really, anything under 7 or 8) it needs to be about getting the kids interested in the sport so that they are still playing when they get older... otherwise your little Johnny all-star won't have anyone to play against.  

Patent Pending

May 25th, 2011 at 2:35 PM ^

The guy you are linking to is a total jerkoff.

The guy was complaining about the pussification of preschool soccer.

The same guy wrote that he had his 4 y/o daughter with a 102.5 degree fever out on the field playing (the fever was just an excuse for how poorly their team played).

The league was supposed to be practice only, but some stupid parents thought "why don't we have them play 'real' games". Now he's complaining that these kids are being coddled too much.

While the article was likely intended to spark a debate on the subject in general, I certainly do not have any problem with treating a 4 year old with kid gloves and letting all the players score.

Pibby Scott

May 25th, 2011 at 2:35 PM ^

have been "Downfall-ing" since forever....also, i'm pretty sure that once I received participation and sportsmanship trophies at the age of 3, i've expected them the rest of my life. just yesterday, i was bummed out I didn't get the "Showing Up To Working On Time" trophy.


May 25th, 2011 at 2:36 PM ^

Tomorrow is game number one for my daughter's U8 soccer team, of which I am the coach.

Of the 13 girls on the team, 8 of them had never played soccer before.

My goal is to keep these girls playing the game over time, in order for my local area, my state, heck, the nation, to have a larger pool of interested, quality soccer players. How do I do that if I'm demanding they win at all costs in an UNDER EIGHT game? Kids just want to play.

In my league, we don't keep score (the author of that article would also be wise to know that the Dutch do not keep score in their games until the U-14 level). I play each girl an equal amount of minutes. They play all the positions.

I couldn't care less whether they win or lose the game. What I do care about is that they love playing, they are happy "Coach Jason" brought the Freeze Pops for after practice and games, and 100% of the girls I coached last year, in my first year, are still playing.



May 25th, 2011 at 3:21 PM ^

is to separate the winners from the losers, show no mercy, and scream and yell, demanding the mathmatically impossible 110% 200% of the time. Start em off with two a days, (obviously sprints and strength training in the mourning and skills in the afternoon). If this doesn't work, you have no choice but to switch to three a days. These girls are 8 now and they have to learn now playing a GAME is only fun if you win.

On a serous note, I can't wait to coach my kids when I have them. My brother and sister in-law have started a boys and girls team at the high school they teach at, and have a blast developing the players. Definately have fun with it, and like you said, let them enjoy it. I know that I am jealous.


May 25th, 2011 at 2:37 PM ^

Let me get this straight.  This is a U4 league (the "U" stands for under in case you don't realize it) which is not unlike Gymboree and you are upset because they are actually babying babies, correct?  I agree, when is this society going to stop treating 3 and 4 year olds like they are babies?  The kids whose parents can't afford soccer should be working in the mills like the other kids their age!



May 25th, 2011 at 2:48 PM ^

You beat me to the punch (kick maybe) on that by a couple minutes.  The kids he's talking about would have turned FOUR yrs. old on or before August probably.  The comment is insane.  Hopefully he realizes that in most cases (and probably his as well) that kids that age (and up at least 6 y.o. normally)  don't even play in what you and I would call a game. They participate in drills and game-like activities, wtih the primary focus to develop skills for later on by fun activities.   When I read the post the first time, I thought, ok, that seems reasonable.  FOR 10 Year Olds.  Dude.  We're talkin' pre K here!


May 25th, 2011 at 2:38 PM ^

For god's sake. These kids are so young. This isn't the time to build a ton of competitiveness into them. 

You know why the countries that have great soccer training programs have those programs? They don't even play games with full teams (at a high level) until close to teenage years. At most they're playing scrimmages, but really they just drilling the crap out of skills. This is true in the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Brazil and other countries I'm sure. Once that base is there, they begin to teach positional awareness etc in games at age 12 or so.

They start playing hard games in England from the beginning and look what that's gotten them. Gritty players, sure, but it's hard to argue against the idea the English national team, which matters so dearly to them, is missing something.

This has little to do with a soccer coach bitching about the lack of competition in a game among 4 year olds except this: these games are not important. These games are not important. These games are not important.

There's no reason to start drilling competitiveness into children (which will happen naturally almost certainly among many kids, no need to drill it) until they're at least into the double digits in age. 4 years old? Just get the kid running around and if they wants to go pick flowers and jump in puddles behind the goal then try to at least get them on the field. That's about the extent of it. Get them interacting and running around and forget about it.

Do I think it's ridiculous to have every kid score? Sure. But the underlying idea behind this blog post is insane.



May 25th, 2011 at 2:44 PM ^

The number one reason Americans have so few creative mid-fielders at the highest levels is that individual (selfish) play is not taught at the lowest levels.  Stop teaching kids how to pass the ball and start teaching them how to beat other players off the dribble!  Starting kids in organized soccer below age 10, in my opinion, robs the game of its creativity. 


May 25th, 2011 at 6:36 PM ^

First, I feel that US produces midfielders just fine, probably better than we do any other position except for GK's.  Donovan, Dempsey, Jones, & Holden are 4 of the best players on our roster, and they are all mids, not to mention Bradley & Edu.

Second, passing & spacing are some of the most important things to understanding how the game flows and develops.  Beating people off the dribble may be fun to watch but it is not how to build a consistent offensive attacking team.

Finally, I disagree with people who think we have our kids play/scrimmage too much.  For one, kids love to play games, and it's all about making sure they have fun.  Further, I have always thought that the fastest way to improve is to play more games.  Granted I'm not talking about the U4 level, but 10-12 year olds should definitely be playing competitive games.


May 25th, 2011 at 9:13 PM ^

"The number one reason Americans have so few creative mid-fielders at the highest levels is that " soccer is not the number one sport of choice in America. The best athletes are going to play football, basketball, baseball and even hockey before soccer. Compare that with other countries where soccer is number one and you may realize that the talent pool in USA is not as rich as others.


May 25th, 2011 at 2:45 PM ^

Obviously this guy is an idiot for bemoaning the practices of a U4 soccer league. On the issue of "participation awards" though, I think that its not necessarily a horrible thing. If a kid is motivated to become good at something, he is going to work hard for it regardless of whether everyone is rewarded equally. Some people have a drive to succeed and others don't, I don't think "participation awards" change that.


May 25th, 2011 at 3:27 PM ^

In the long run, good grades and working hard in school is something that should drive someone to succeed. When dealing with little kids who probably think about ten minutes into the future, providing small rewards for something is not always a bad thing.


May 25th, 2011 at 2:45 PM ^

The downfall is crazy parents who worry too much. Kid's toys have to be educational, cartoons bilingual, and all of their food organic. I was no doubt brought into this world by a Doctor smoking a cig, played dodge ball, and ate pesticides by the pound. By all accounts I turned out to be a healthy and productive member of society against all odds. 

As far as this soccer thing goes, the kids are 4 years old, they are not playing soccer anyway. It's just a bunch of little kids running around kicking a ball and parents willing, having fun.


May 25th, 2011 at 3:00 PM ^

is what is wrong with youth soccer and other sports.  No one should care about the cometitiveness of a U4 league, regardless of sport or gender. 


I work with a women who has three kids that all play youth soccer.  All three have practice 4 days a week plus games and tournaments.  They play year round, indoor and outdoor, and really never get a break from the sport.


This may all be fine and dandy if you your kid is a superstar and close to college, but her oldest kid is like 12 years old. 


Let the kids learn how to play, and learn sportsmanship and teamwork while they don't even have pubes.  If you want to take it serious after that, go for it, but remember...your kid is not as good as you think he/she is.


May 25th, 2011 at 3:19 PM ^

While the article wasn't as bad as I was anticipating, it was still ridiculous. Does he complain about t-ball because every kid has the opportunity to hit a stationary ball instead of a moving pitch? Or little leagues that allow the entire lineup to bat each inning? While I don't think the league should allow every kid to score - especially if they're only playing 15 minute games - he shouldn't be making such a big deal about it. Everything doesn't have to have a competitive nature at that age.


May 25th, 2011 at 3:22 PM ^

I agree with many of the sane posters above about the basic value of involvement in U-4 soccer... and it has nothing to do with wins or losses or goals scored.  It's about involvement and participation in an activity, whatever sport that may be and having fun.

One of the main problems with American "Youth" sports is crazy parents like this guy, setting their sights on the USWNT or bust.  I've seen so many great athletes burn out because of their overly zealous parents trying to live vicariously though their youth.  If this is his frustration level at U4, he'll probably stroke out by the time high school comes around and his kid is sick of soccer.

I coach, U5 and U8 currently, I've played... though college, and this guy is just the typical club soccer freak that will be buying his little Susie a new pull over/jersey if she scores 8 goals in the tournament this weekend, at the expense of the team actually winning, but that’s OK because she played with a 102 fever, and was the best player on a losing team. 

At this level especially It's about fun, and staying active until the child and the parent decide to pursue the club level.  And of course you teach the fundamentals of the sport, and sportsmanship, they don’t even need to realize they are doing this while they are just enjoying playing the game.  And handing out participation medals to give them something to be proud of and to hang on their wall, there is nothing wrong with that for developmental level youth sport.

Had to create an account to give my 2cents on this one… guys like this is the reason I’m coaching my kids!  Love the Mgoblog community, find the information and the community very insightful, been a fan for a long time… 


May 25th, 2011 at 3:50 PM ^

+1 this is a great post. This guy is going to be one of those parents who refuses to pick up their sick kid when the school calls because it's really important she still get to play in the game after school. At least he'll probably get what he deserves when his daughter gets older.


May 25th, 2011 at 4:12 PM ^

I'm with ZL, great first post. Honestly, from playing sports at a young age with teammate parents ranging from rational to insane and every spot in between, youth sports should be about:

  1. Commitment to follow through with something (i.e. finish a season if you wanted to play the sport).
  2. Learning to give good effort to attain a goal.
  3. Sportsmanship.
  4. Learning to work together in a team environment.
  5. Fundamental skills in the sport.

I know if I had followed through on those five points, my parents were proud of me at that age. I think that's the right mentality to take.


May 25th, 2011 at 3:25 PM ^

The is U4 soccer.

They are 4 or younger.

There are no "teachable moments". There are no lessons. These kids like running around on a field. Just let them do it.

If we're talking about teenagers, I may agree.


May 25th, 2011 at 6:39 PM ^

Agreed, but I would go even further then just teaching fundamentals of the game.  With many kids this will be their first experience with things like competition, teamwork, success, and failure.  There are a myriad of life lessons that you can begin to instill in the kids at that age.  The earlier they learn those things the earlier they will begin to "get it".


May 25th, 2011 at 3:27 PM ^

I actually just found a box with my old grade-school soccer trophies while I was cleaning my basement.  There were a few achievement-type trophies but mostly just "you played on the team, you get a trophy".  Somehow I managed to develop a normal sense of competitiveness and a reasonable understanding on life's rewards regardless, and when I was a kid they were actually neat to have.

There was also a medallion with a soccer ball hanging from a red, white, and blue ribbon.  It wasn't marked, so I'm not sure how I got that.  I decided to convert that into the "I ate all my dinner" medal... my daughter gets to wear it for the evening if she eats all her dinner that night.  Incidentally, she's 3 and a half years old, so just the right age for a U4 league.  She definitely does not need to have competitiveness forced on her at this point, we're working more on the abilty to share and play well with others.  Seems like those are more important skills to master first.


May 25th, 2011 at 3:29 PM ^

When I get older and have kids, they're going to be training under Barwis. They're going to be the best damn U4 soccer players this world has ever seen!

tn wolverine

May 25th, 2011 at 3:33 PM ^

In a 4 and under league getting them to pay attention and learn is goal # 1. I'm dead set against trophy's for nothing though.  Kids who are 7 and 8 will tell you they've got 8 trophy's I'll ask what did you win,  I didn't win I played. It drives me crazy it's the same as this foolishness about "graduating" kids come up and say I graduated from 2nd grade, 4th grade etc. I explain you promoted to the next grade you graduate from High School and College. If you "graduate" from every single grade then graduating from High School and College mean nothing as well, when you go to college you don't get a participation certificate you get a degree when you actually graduate.