MONTEREY YOUTH SOCCER SCENE
Compared to many communities, the world most popular sport is relatively underdeveloped on the Monterey Peninsula. Monterey, however, has incredible potential to create a unique and enjoyable soccer experience for local players and families. A brief look at the challenges and opportunities in our soccer community reveals that the Peninsula offers many special qualities that can lead to explosive growth and help produce talented local players.
From Carmel to Marina, almost any family on the Monterey Peninsula should be able to find a recreational program fairly close to home. To find a program that is convenient for your child, consult the Monterey Soccer Directory .
Types of Programs
Most recreational programs play their games in-house, and occasionally with teams from other Peninsula leagues. Competitive teams, also called travel teams, recruit promising players and attempt to accelerate their development through competitive play with other communities. Teams affiliated with the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) are eligible to compete in a variety of regional, state and national competitions.
Quality of Play
While travel teams develop a handful of talented players, the overall level of play in our area is poor. Like most youth players across the United States, most players in Monterey display alarming deficiencies in basic soccer skills, even after playing several seasons. Local youth games are often played on huge fields that favor stronger and faster players. Too often, beginners who rely on physical qualities to succeed on big fields, struggle in older age groups because they lack skills to play in tight spaces.
A handful of local coaches have earned USSF and National Soccer Coaches’ Association of America coaches’ licenses, but most volunteers rarely complete a rigorous formal training course. Even fewer organizers and coaches have extensive backgrounds in teaching methodology, learning processes, or the emotional, social and developmental needs of children. Lack of uniform teaching standards and haphazard sequences of instruction, combined with constant turnover of coaches, often expose players to conflicting coaching philosophies and inconsistent training practices as they grow.
Retention and Attrition
Reflecting national trends in all organized youth sports, retention in local soccer programs is embarrassingly low. While statistics are not available, or often not kept by local soccer programs, it would be safe to assume that Monterey’s dropout rate for soccer between ages five to 14 hovers around the national average of 70 percent.
While many factors affect attrition, a large contributor nationwide is a disproportionate focus on travel soccer programs that often recruit promising players as young as seven years. Excessive costs, constant travel, burdens on family time, or player burnout progressively reduce the player pool and the player pool shrinks with each successive age group. Especially in older age groups, organizers often cut players from travel teams without providing recreational alternatives to keep boys and girls on the field.
The Untapped Potential of Monterey Soccer
Because soccer is relatively underdeveloped in Monterey, innovative supporters have a fresh opportunity to create an enjoyable and player-centered soccer experience from the earliest ages. Below is a short list of advantages we enjoy that can promote mass participation and develop large numbers of talented players in our area.
Fields – Paradoxically, lack of full-sized fields is a key advantage that can help develop large numbers of talented local players. (*link* See the Monterey Advantage). Creative soccer organizers can use small fields, neighborhood parks and schoolyards to organize small-sided play. Four vs. 4 games for beginners and 7 vs. 7 games for older age groups help young players acquire skills they need to play in tight spaces and experience constant, dynamic transitional play. Small fields close to home can also encourage spontaneous neighborhood pick-up play that all world-class players experienced as children.
Potential Recruits – Despite local demand, most established Monterey Peninsula soccer programs have limited growth potential due to field and staffing limitations. To grow the player pool, we will encourage soccer supporters to supplement local programs with new activities where none exist. We’ll also support initiatives that provide opportunities for boys and girls who are cut from school or travel teams.
Human Capital – Organizers and helpers in most organizations are stretched thin, but somehow dedicated volunteers put thousands of players on Peninsula fields each fall. What local coaches currently lack in preparation, they more than make up for in enthusiasm, love for children and their potential to make a positive difference. Our coaching page (link) will provide tips and background knowledge that can inspire coaches grow week-after-week and return to the field season-after-season.
Weather – Few places in the United States allow players to practice outdoor sports year-round. During the rainy season, there are indoor options; in the summer, the risk of cancellation due to weather is near zero.
Geography and Demographics – With a population of over 100,000 the Monterey Peninsula can build huge recreational programs that dramatically reduce unnecessary expenses and excessive time commitments associated with travel soccer. By recruiting as many players as possible and grouping them by ability, the most talented players would not have to travel further than Marina or Carmel to find a good game.
Alternative Activities and Other Opportunities – To supplement local programs, MSS can help soccer enthusiasts to start their own programs where none currently exist. We also welcome supporters who want to help organize viewing parties for national team games, set up road trips to Earthquake games and other soccer activities.
If you want to make a difference in the Monterey soccer community, contact Rick Crow at email@example.com .