With the final 4 teams in the SCYSA Bob Brantley Publix Challenge Cup being decided a few weeks ago and with the ink drying of the names of the recently crowned South Carolina High School State Champions in soccer in our local and state wide newspapers I think it's a good time to discuss the importance of club and high school soccer in South Carolina.
I always hear comments like "high school soccer isn't as good as club soccer," or "why can't we have club soccer year round?" Well for those that want club soccer year round it's available to you through US Soccer's Development Academy. The Development Academy is moving towards a 10 month schedule in which the players involved in that program will not be allowed to play high school soccer. Make no mistake about it, if you're good enough to play at this level and this is the soccer avenue you want to travel on than by all means go for it. Pour your heart and soul into it and make the most of it. You will be receiving some excellent coaching and training so be sure to take advantage of it. This level is for a select few in our state. What these players will gain in traveling and competing against some of the top teams and players across the country they will lose in school, community and possibly state wide recognition that only high school soccer can bring. The Development Academy is great and if given the opportunity I highly recommend watching some of the matches.
Lets get into the meat of the issue here which is club soccer and high school soccer. Let's take a look at what club soccer has to offer our players. Now please remember that we are speaking/writing in general terms here and as always there will be exceptions and factors to take into account. Club soccer offers more time to develop players starting at a very young age, U6 all the way through U18. Club soccer offers better players, many times teams are comprised of players from across the state that come together on one team. Better competition within a team as well as teams of like or similar ability. A higher level of training, nationally licensed coaches and better facilities. Club soccer also offers the ability to travel outside of the state on a consistent basis to play outside competition in regional and national events.
High School soccer allows players to represent their local communities, the student body, faculty and alumni of their school. A camaraderie develops between players that go to class together, sit in the cafeteria together and travel to away games together that is hard to replicate in the club environment. High school soccer offers big games that are played under the lights against local rivals for bragging rights that are watched by big crowds. High school student athletes must maintain certain academic standards to remain eligible to play during the season. The media coverage for high school athletics in local and statewide newspaper, tv and publications is something that is unique to the high school athlete. What of the accolades? All Conference, All Region, All State, Player of the Year. Again something unique to high school sports.
Do negatives exist in both. Of course! I have seen great coaches and bad coaches at both levels. I've seen some amazing games and some awful games at both. I've been to some 1st class facilities for both and some facilities that a cow wouldn't graze on. I've heard about the financial burdens of club soccer and the depleted budgets of high school soccer. I've seen blowouts, shootouts, yellow cards, red cards and last minute heroics at both. I've seen players of all levels and abilities being recruited at both (a topic for another time) and I've seen tears of sorrow and celebrations of triumph at both and I have found memories of playing both.
Club and high school soccer offer the opportunity for our players to experience different levels of play, different atmospheres, environments and pressures. Most importantly both offer an invaluable opportunity for our sons and daughters to grow and mature as young adults and become lifelong supporters that give back to our game and our communities.
Until next time. Play Hard. Play Smart and have fun!