Recently, a question was asked to American Coaches: Why do many youth soccer players in America decide to stop playing soccer as they get older? Below are some interesting responses.

” In the U.S. there are so many main stream sports that kids naturally get drawn to. With the athletic skill set they gain playing soccer, they find the transition easy. Also, we are also dealing with a generation of kids whose parents probably didnt play soccer so they probably unknowingly point their kids to a sport which they are familiar with. Until soccer becomes as big of a cultural fixture in the US as it is in other countries this migration will continue to happen.”

” In my 15 years of coaching, I find that many organizations (and I have coached in NJ, GA and VA) do not link their recreational and select programs. The select programs are usually coached by professionals and recreational programs usually are coached by volunteer parents. The technical advantage that the select players are given provides a better opportunity for them to stay in the sport. Think of it this way (you have 4 U-12 teams at 10 players per team which is 40 kids in a recreational program.) You have 2 select teams at the same age bracket for another 20 kids. Thats 60 kids that will be trying out for a JV high school team in a few years as majority of schools down south don’t have freshman high school soccer. So, a roster of 24 players, not including returning players need to pick from those 60 kids, the rest go unto other sports. Besides, by U-12 majority of the kids are not technically advanced enough to continue in soccer unless its at the recreational level. Many organizations due not spend enough time teaching player development to all players, its mainly focused on the players on select or academy teams (at a higher cost to the parents). In addition, I believe that majority of coaches, at all youth levels, do not teach the kids to be creative nor due enough to prevent parent interaction during a game. Too often, I hear parents yell “shoot, pass, dribble, etc.” to the players on a team. The parents are doing a disservice to all the players on the field by not giving them an opportunity to think and create solutions for themselves. This comes from the parent’s drive to “win” rather then focus on player development. I have watched through the years, as coaches are more concerned with a kid passing then being creative and feeling comfortable taking a defender on 1 v 1. The kids are just not technically skilled enough to continue and the game itself has turned into a “money making event” for their organizations. Its not about keeping the most talented, its about keeping the players who can afford to play. I believe lack of playing and practice time for the kids is an issue as well.”

” With the increase in club travel the players have more pressure put on them. Players at a very young age are pushed to excell by coaches that only want to train at practice instead of throwing out a ball and letting the game be the teacher. The parents are paying a lot of money for a player to be a technically skilled player, thus adding more pressure on being successful. There’s more to coaching than teaching the technical and tactical side of the game. The love of the game gets lost.

Not saying this is totally wrong, but the fun has been taken out of playing, the players lose their passion for the game.”

“a great question and a problem that is not limited to the US only. I believe that in most countries around the world there are a number of factors that take the enjoyment out of the game for young players: 1. Playing competitive soccer too young, with all the pressure from parents and coaches, 2. Thre pressure of having to win as against having time to develop which results in other associated ailments; a. Playing “big boys” football, where only the biggest kids are picked and little guys get very limited time on the pitch. b. the style of football, the long ball or kick and rush football which negates all creative and intelligent play. 3. The games themselves are too complicated, i.e. 7 year olds playing in games like 7v7 and kids as young as 11 years of age playing 11v11. Since kids are not ready physically, mentally and emotionally for these more adult-oriented games, they make many mistakes which brings criticism from the adults, plus the internal pressure of not succeeding which is very damaging to kids. 4. The style of coaching. The old school of shouting instructions at kids and making them do boring drills and exercises will not produce creative, intelligent, confident players who enjoy the game.
We suggest a development model that has 1. Less competitive game structures, 2. Small-sided, age appropriate games for training and competitive play and 3. A coaching style where coaches guide the education of the younsters rather than shout instructions at them.
Such a model can help develop the full potential of the kids and their long-term enjoyment of the game.
Feel free to download our free paper “100 Benefits of using the Horst Wein Youth Football Development Model” at ”

“Everyone has brought excellent points! One thing I have noticed, is the shift of interest as the kids become teenagers and young adults, is the introduction to work and earning money. This new freedom, with a new income, as they enter the work force with summer jobs becomes the priority. Is it a failure of the sport to retain the interest of the players as they age, as many of you have expressed so well, or is it just a change of priority with growth? An other point I would like to bring is the failure of the sport to provide a tangible goal or incentive to keep playing at a competitive level as the players get older. I don’t see to many kids dreaming of becoming pro soccer players, like I see kids dreaming of playing in the NHL… I live in New Brunswick, Canada – some of the kids in our communities have made as pro-hockey players, reaching the NHL; another made it, as a baseball pitcher, to the MLB, but none have made it to the MLS or any other pro soccer leagues. The lack of role models to emulate, the lack of a future in the sport can perhaps account for the drop of interest, in part. Many a time, soccer is practice during the summer to stay in shape to play hockey in the winter… Perhaps the beautiful game needs to reach the players deeper to make them dream of becoming the next big name! The media plays a trmendous part – soccer has to reach the same notoriety as football, baseball, hockey and basketball. We have to make the kids dream of soccer – create a desire and a passion that will grow with the kid and change into a genuine love for the game so they will continue to play, even as adults.”

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