Raising kids in today’s world is not only challenging, it’s also very different from the world that we grew up in. You can’t just send your children outside to entertain themselves for the entire afternoon. Those days are gone. Trying to find any activity that holds their attention, keeps them active, involves friends, AND that they find enjoyable seems unachievable. A soccer team may not be a perfect unicorn, but it checks all of those boxes and more. Here are my top six reasons why travel soccer could be exactly what your child needs:
- Travel Soccer is a 9 month commitment, not a lifetime
- It’s an opportunity to boost your child’s self confidence and self esteem
- You get what you pay for (you can’t put a price on the travel sports experience)
- Soccer skills are applicable to other sports
- Your kids will develop close friendships
- It keeps them occupied 🙂
I’ll bet that when your oldest child reached the age of 3 or 4, you thought it would be “fun” to sign them up for some socialized activity that allowed them an opportunity to expend their bottomless energy while providing you the chance to interact with other parents every Saturday morning. T-ball was on the table, but soccer required less gear, held their attention longer, and tired them out more. You weren’t going to become one of those parents who thought his child possessed such raw talent that a travel sports team was the only way to develop this talent. No way.
But fast forward a few years, and your child is now bored because he’s crushing the competition. Do you save money and stay in a rec league or join a travel soccer team where you’re afraid that once you step on that treadmill you can’t get off? There may also be a little bit of an “eat crow” moment because you distinctly remember telling your friends that you won’t be that parent who signs his 7 year old up for travel sport anything. Gulp. Well, here you are, contemplating that very statement.
And I’m here to tell you- if you’re already at this point of indecision and have been mulling it over for some time, my advice is to just give travel soccer a shot.
I’ve been in your shoes and I’m sharing with you my top 6 reasons why you and your child need to just go for it.
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Travel Soccer is a 9 month commitment, not a lifetime
By the time our son decided to join a travel soccer team, he had already checked the boxes for baseball, flag football and piano, just to name a few. If I were to add up the costs of all the dusty equipment + registration fees, it would have been mind boggling. But experimenting with different things is a part of life and a part of figuring out what motivates your child. (And the experimental activities also provide a good laugh later in life).
Just like the other sports that he tried and didn’t like, we approached the travel soccer team with the goal of trying it for 1 season. At the end of 9 months we would decide if it was worth it. Of all my many fears, one of them was that everyone would just stay on the team year after year because it’s just “what’s expected of you.” However, I soon realized that it’s not uncommon for kids to switch from the rec league to the travel league and vice versa or to switch travel clubs altogether. So don’t let the fear of making a lifelong decision stand in the way of signing up for the team.
It’s an opportunity to boost your child’s self confidence and self esteem
This is a big one for me. I’ll never forget the moment when my son had been on his travel soccer team for a few months and we went to a friend’s rec game- the same rec program that he had played in just 6 months earlier. He saw the boys playing soccer, and he asked if that’s what he looked like last year. He didn’t realize how much skill he had developed until he saw where he had started. Don’t let him focus on where he ranks on the team, but rather how he has developed as a player since trying out for the team. The more he sticks with travel soccer, the larger the gap in skill level and sports IQ will become between rec and travel. There’s nothing wrong about continuing to remind him of how far he’s grown in a short amount of time.
The benefit of soccer is it’s not a one size fits all for an athlete. A good coach realizes which players are quick and love being the ball hog up front and which ones thrive on keeping the ball away from the oncoming strikers and defending their own goal.
You get what you pay for
You’re likely asking yourself, “is that travel soccer team really worth the cost? What happens if he hates it 4 weeks into the 9 month season? What happens if the coach doesn’t understand 7 year olds?” And so on and so on. Back when we were in your same boat, I asked myself those same questions, but then I reminded myself. I already know what the rec season entails. Yes, it is a lot cheaper, but like most things in life- you get what you pay for. And in the case of youth travel soccer, yes, you are giving a lot, predominantly money and time, but you are also receiving a lot that you may not realize when you only focus on the dollar signs. As I mentioned earlier, it’s hard to see the skills he is developing from week to week, but if you watch a soccer game early in the travel season versus a game towards the end of the season, you’ll be amazed at not only the technical skill development, but also the problem solving and decision making that he has developed over the course of just a few months. When all players are vested in achieving the same goal, a coach is able to push the team farther in their development. On a rec team, it’s easy to spot the kids who don’t really love the game. They’re out there because their parents want them to play, but on a travel team, it’s a lot of work for someone who doesn’t love the sport so likely all of the kids truly want to play at this level.
Soccer skills are applicable to other sports
The title pretty much sums itself up. Yes, you could also make the larger argument that soccer teaches life skills such as resilience, perseverance, etc, but that’s not what I am referring to. Understanding field positioning, man to man coverage, spatial awareness, overlapping runs, and other tactical skills are key aspects of lacrosse, basketball, football and other team sports. If your child plays travel soccer for a season and then plays another field or court sport, you’ll be amazed at how he or she is an immediate defensive threat. The field positioning and player awareness has been instilled in them without even trying.
Your kids will develop close friendships
Ok sure, you could make the argument that joining a weekly pottery class would be a cheaper way for your child to make friends. BUT, I can assure you that deep friendships develop when you spend many hours on a field together, ESPECIALLY on soccer tournament weekends. Players develop close bonds because they share a common interest. As kids move into middle school and later high school, they naturally want to spend more time with friends than with parents. So why not embrace friendships where they are exercising while soaking up some vitamin D, engaging in an activity other than screens and devices and bonding over their common soccer swag? Kids love swag.
It keeps them occupied
Piggybacking off of #4, the older kids get, the more they want to spend time with their friends. This is a natural desire for the tweens and teens so it’s better to keep them occupied with activities that allow them to socialize with friends in a positive way rather than be tempted to go to that party or sleepover if they weren’t otherwise occupied. This point may not be as compelling when your child is 8, but it’s a lot more compelling when your child is 14.
None of these points are rocket science, and you have likely heard or read them before. However, they are good grounding lessons and reminders to ensure that you’re not getting swept up in what it seems like you should do. I still remind myself of these points every time my son tries out for another year of travel soccer. What I usually come away with is the reminder that 1) he has chosen an activity where he has genuine friends who are positive influences 2) soccer allows him to be physically active 3) the alternative is he would be bored and tempted to engage in less positive activities with all the free time that he would otherwise have.
So now that you’ve decided to just give travel soccer a shot, there are a few key items that your child (and you!) will need so you’re both ready on day 1 of the season. You want to make sure you are both dressed for success when you hit the field so check out the soccer gear guide here!