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The Travel vs Club Soccer Conundrum

School is out and summer is in full swing. This means pool days, ice-cream, summer camps, and registering for fall sports!

Every parent with a child enrolled in youth sports at some point faces the travel sports conundrum. With all of the options, opportunities, and outside pressures – deciding if competitive travel sports is right for your child is often a stressful decision.

Youth soccer is one of the sports where the more competitive and intense versions are often suggested by coaches, players, and peers.

The sheer volume of options available in the U.S. is often overwhelming, and numerous questions arise. Is my child ready for such intense competition? Will they want to play soccer that many days of the week? Will it be too much pressure for him/her?

If your family is contemplating joining the competitive soccer ranks, there are multiple factors you’ll want to consider to help guide you toward the correct decision for your child.

Time Commitment

A true dedication to travel soccer often means much less time and opportunity for athletes to play other sports. If your young player enjoys participating in multiple sports, enrolling in a travel program might cause scheduling conflicts. Before fully committing to a travel program, you want to make sure that he/she is ready to potentially put other sports on the bench in order to dedicate more time to soccer.

Financial Commitment

financial-equipmentIt’s no secret that travel sports can be quite expensive, and travel soccer is no exception. Between the equipment, team fees, coaching fees, and travel expenses the dollars can really stack up. The more involved your child becomes in the world of travel soccer, the more money and time will be required. Before you and your athlete choose travel soccer, be prepared for a greater financial commitment in exchange for a competitive playing experience.

Physical Toll

Players and parents new to the travel soccer scene often realize that the play is much more intense and often more physical. You want to make sure that your child knows about, and is ready for, the elevated intensity and aggression that comes with competitive soccer.

Learning Experience

learning-experienceThe higher level of competition and lack of guaranteed play time helps young athletes learn discipline and determination. Coaches and players alike take the sport more seriously at the travel level. The teams practice frequently and the players are often required to come to training and games prepared and ready to give 100%. The competitiveness usually requires the players to practice more, both by themselves and with their team, in order to keep their fitness and technical abilities at a high level.

Opportunity To Play More

If your child truly loves soccer, the opportunity to specialize in soccer can be extremely helpful in their soccer-development. If you know your child has the talent and love of the game, the chance to play year-round and sharpen their skills for more than just a few months at time is priceless. Specialization can sometimes be a negative, but if your child is serious about competing at the highest level possible, travel soccer provides the opportunities that other organized sports cannot.

Chance To Improve

improve-skillsAt the end of the day, travel soccer is meant to provide young athletes with the chance to become better soccer players. The increased competition, intensity, superior coaching, and better players around him/her will make them better soccer players. A child who is ready to take the next step and improve his/her game, must have increased competition and better training. While you must be careful to choose the right club, travel soccer as a whole provides the higher quality training and competition that recreational soccer cannot.

Deciding if travel soccer is right for your child is not a decision that you should take lightly as it’s definitely a choice that will effect your entire family. That being said, the fundamental reason for travel soccer is to make your child better at soccer. If your son or daughter has a love for the world’s game and a desire to become a better player, travel soccer (as time consuming and costly as it can be) is your best bet.

Speaking from personal experience, I am extremely appreciative of my parents for giving me the opportunity to play travel soccer and compete against some of the best. I know that they had to make some sacrifices to give me the opportunity, but it gave me the chance to mature and grow both as a player and a person.

What do you think? Have you been involved in travel soccer or are you thinking about getting involved? Be sure to share your stories/thoughts in the comments below!

Kris Baker

Kris Baker is the President of Demosphere and has been serving the Youth Sports Community since 2006.