We left our competitive club.
There are a lot of reasons, but they all get down to the fact that it wasn’t a good fit for us. When we were thinking about moving on from AYSO last year, someone had mentioned the Power Strikers- a competitive club based in our old neighborhood (North Park). We were interested, but they didn’t have a team in Nico’s age group. We didn’t think we could get enough kids to start a team, in such a short amount of time, so we went to a competitive club in Evanston.
It was okay. As a naturally fearless kid, Nico excelled when called on to go in goal. This meant he basically played full time in goal. And he often guested on an older team, where he played in goal. While I would have died to be on a team where I could play in goal full time at the age of 8, we recognized that it probably wasn’t exactly “good” for him to only play in goal. So, we wanted to find a soccer situation that was a little more our speed.
So, we assembled the Power Strikers. The club came out of AYSO in the area, with a lot of former AYSO coaches. Mostly, it seems like they wanted a more reasonable, I would even argue an little more old-school way of competitive soccer. For parents of a certain age, they grew into competitive soccer after playing recreational. And competitive soccer was traveling around your area to play against other “competitive” teams. For me, growing up, there was rec and competitive. I don’t know what travel or academy soccer is. I mean, really.
There were two problems that we encountered with the current “travel” soccer scene in Chicago. The first is the price: thousands of dollars to play with a big club. Thousands.
This blew my mind at first. But when I started putting the numbers together in my head, it sort of made sense. In an academy situation, you have multiple full-time staff: training director, technical director, etc. So, you have this large aparatus that is not cheap. And often, in these academy situations, you’re paying for training time in nice facilities, etc. So, it is fathomable (I guess) how you could end up on a club team paying $3000.00+ a year. I think its wrong- I hate so much of this soccer industrial complex in the US- where only the kids who can afford to pay play on competitive teams. I get why- all of the parents are in this crazy arms race, like if their kid isn’t playing elite travel soccer at 10, that ruins their chances of playing elite travel soccer at 13 and their chances of going to college to play soccer and be on the Olympic team, etc. Its crazy.
Which raises the second problem: If I am paying $3000+ a year for my kid to play “travel” soccer, I am going to probably want him to focus on ONLY that. No room for any other sports, which is essentially early specialization, which Dave and I are anti. Kids Nico’s age need to be playing other sports- to protect against injuries, but also to protect against burnout. Frankly, Nico flaming out of soccer his senior year or having *multiple* ACL injuries in high school does no one any good.
So, we looked around and decided we liked the vibe of Powerstrikers. It’s all volunteer coaches- which we think is entirely appropriate for our nine year old. I think we are the sixth team in the club. There is a girls team that is our age, as well as a couple of older girls teams, which I like to see. When the time comes, if he decides he wants to take it more seriously and put the training in, then I think we’d be open to finding him additional opportunities to play. I just think its nuts to contribute to the soccer industrial complex in the US that hasn’t really produced all that much in terms of results (unless you count failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup an outcome— oooooh, sick burn JBR!!)
So we have this team, that is nuts. I love it. We have kids who were born in 2009, 2010, and 2011. We play 7 v. 7 and it is an absolute riot. We’re in the fourth division in the sports league here, which is probably the exactly perfect division for us. We have a couple of kids who don’t exactly “get it” yet, but they are young. Right now, we are 1-2, which included a pretty close game we lost 2-1, and another game we lost 5-2- so it’s not like we are getting shutout. I am really looking forward to see how these guys develop in the next year.