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The Soccer Sidelines
38 minMAR 22
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Respect For The Remarkable Grassroots Game?


I had just earned my first coaching certification in the grassroots game and was still proud and amazed by how much I had learned. Standing in the foyer of one of my player's homes, the mother of this player took in my happy chatter about what I had done and the plans I was making for her son and the other players in the upcoming season. Her head tilted a little to one side and her face struck a pose that looked like she had just sucked a lemon."Why would you DO that for rec?" she asked. I will never forget that sour face. Or my disappointment and surpsise.Sour faced woman with closed body postureI was looking right back at her with what was probably a similar face... Well, mine was a face that probably went through a metamorphosis through surprise and puzzlement before it achieved a similar sour pose."Why would you NOT do that for rec?" I asked. "The age band and range of motivations in the grassroots game is broader than we find on select teams. I never know who is going to show up and it's hard enough to make the most of our time when I know who's coming in advance. The more we know about reaching kids where they are, the more fun they're likely to have. There is so much we can do..."I could see that my logic and excitement was well buried under the grassroots game label. This mom had a daughter who played select travel soccer and was surrounded regularly by others that bought into labels and marketing hype. The fundamentals of youth development, the statistics of how many kids actually play soccer in college or at a professional level, and the challenges facing a coach supporting the grassroots game were not going to get me anywhere that evening. What I discovered in my training to be interesting and even profound was considered pedestrian in that foyer that evening. It was time for me to take my lumps, shut my mouth, and move on.What is the Grassroots Game?The grassroots game is often referred to as recreational soccer or "rec" for short. Distinguishing characteristics of this form of the game include, but are not limited to:* No tryouts needed* Inexpensive (under $200) seasonal fees* 50% play time guarantee* Local practices and games* Emphasis on life lessons, age appropriate development, and fun* High levels of Volunteerism* Inexpensive uniform kitsThe grassroots game sounds pretty horrible, right? Sarcasm intended. If you're a parent or a coach and you're scratching your head about how the grassroots game can get a bad name, stick around. I'll give you some reasons, but if you are scratching your head, then excellent! You know how I felt that night in the foyer. That mom made me think. Is there something I missed about the way I was thinking about this game or was she missing something? You decide.Why the Sour Face for the Grassroots Game?In three words, marketing, ego,and investment.Here's the deal: Grassroots or Recreational soccer is no where near as profitable as select or travel soccer. Follow the money and you will find prettier everything - fields, uniforms, training equipment, backpack bling - even labels.There are some behind the $17 Billion youth sports industry who know your weaknesses. They know you want your kid to be associated with words like Elite - possibly the most over used word in the expensive brands of soccer. They know you're going to feel pressure from fellow parents."Where does your kid play?""My kid plays for XY Elite!