Are club teams hurting high school sports?
I had a good chat with Land O’Lakes boys soccer coach Mark Pearson for the story in today’s paper on how the changed club calendar will affect high school rosters. He made two good points we couldn’t include in today’s paper but are worth raising:
1. The goal for the top club teams is to develop players who will become professionals in that system. For example, the New York Red Bulls’ club team wants to groom players who will play for the MLS team in a few years. It’s like minor league baseball.
And for the top few players, it’s great. They get all sorts of training and a tie-in to a professional team. Pretty sweet.
But what about the rest? Let’s say a club has 18 players on its roster, and let’s say half become professional soccer plays. That means nine don’t.
“He’s never gonna get there,” Pearson said. “He’s just making up the numbers.”
That’s fine, I’d argue, if the player knows that beforehand. But most players assume they’re one of the nine lucky ones. By focusing on that, they’ll miss chances to be seen by some college coaches at high school games. Some players on elite clubs get big heads. They presume they’ll play for an NCAA power, so they’ll turn down opportunities at smaller schools – and by the time they realize Indiana isn’t calling, it’s too late.
2. If a player focuses on club soccer, that means he’s not playing high school soccer. That eliminates some of the fun. You don’t get to represent your school (or community). You don’t get to play with your friends, at practice and in games. And your friends in Land O’Lakes who will come watch you play Sunlake on Friday night might not drive to Clearwater (or Bradenton, or Atlanta, or wherever) to watch you play club ball.
“If you give that up, they don’t get to see that, either,” Pearson said. “There’s something to be said for playing for your school.”
Soccer isn’t the only sport facing this issue. Basketball (high school vs. AAU) has battled it. Travel baseball and softball teams aren’t going away.
What do you think? Are club sports hurting or helping high school sports?