A True Story
Over a year ago my son's coach, Christian, was bombarded
by his U11 soccer team to begin playing travel. They were
a recreational group with a few exceptional players.
Having been raised in the soccer culture of England, Christian
understood the value of playing more challenging teams, how
it would help them grow faster, and they appeared to want
to go fast.
But every decision like this can place a group under greater
competitive pressure, and if not handled right, the players
could become discouraged, lose self-esteem, and eventually
fall out of the game-and into more disruptive and destructive
types of behavior.
It was a decision demanding community help, and so I was
asked being a seasoned coach in the league and since one of
my sons was on the team.
So Christian and I began to shop for a club who would take
onboard a recreational group, who had zero to little money,
but who had big hearts, lots of enthusiasm, and way too much
We found it hard. Most clubs wanted large amounts of money,
wanted control of the player's future, and had rules and lots
of meetings that our new-to-travel-parents could not afford
to attend, working multiple jobs, and having that difficulty-with-the-language
It became evident most clubs wanted Christian's knowledge,
having been Regional Director of a major league soccer training
organization of English players, the only EUAF coach in the
area, plus his influence over the team's exceptional players.
Finally, after many calls and inquiries, we found a newly
formed club, a group that that split away from a local club
with hopes of improving player development as well as many
perceived flaws in the organization.
We signed, cobbled funds together, and played the typical
beginning season-the kids were handling it; we were keeping
them positive, and they were moving forward, learning so much
socially, emotionally, and physically.
Plus, they began caring about each other more, concerned
about injuries, how each felt, if their families could get
friends to practice.. all positive aspects of a budding community
awareness. It was a good first season.
But we were deeply struggling with the money requirements.
We looked for donations, talked to the league, filled out
scholarship forms, but, unfortunately, we were given an ultimatum
by the new club-come up with $1200 in 24 hours, and they'd
let us play. We weren't able to do that, and were erased from
the league's onsite process.
Shocked and dismayed, we doubled our efforts: The league
stepped forward, accepted our scholarship requests, the state
waved its fees, and an established club came forward, collecting
used uniforms for our players, waving many support rules,
and granted us the rights to keep the players together, not
demanding we place them in the end-of-year pool, so other
coaches could take our top players and let the slower developing
ones be culled.
However, we came to realize we could live with cobbling together
funds-but there were other issues-and things became even clearer-in
Other children and older family siblings began showing up
to practices, and we had a mass of children of multiple ages.
Some would bring a few crumpled dollar bills, opening their
hands and asking, "Can we now play with you?" Others
a copy of their birth certificates and looking for a uniform,
when's the next game, maybe their mother could take them..
And there were the dope smoking older boys at the edges of
the small park, along with macabre jokes from our players
themselves about crack smoking people..
It became clear we had a larger issue here:
- One that could be attacked with the positive effects
- The other with the help of the extended community...