4 Real Issues to Consider Before Switching to Birth Year Registration - Soccer Parenting Association

4 Real Issues to Consider Before Switching to Birth Year Registration

U.S. Soccer’s recent announcement of the new Player Development Initiatives has, rightly so, garnered a tremendous amount of attention.

While a portion of the discussion has been about the technical announcements regarding the size of the teams, the size of fields for different age groups, as well as a new concept of a build-out line to aid goalkeepers and teams in developing proficiency with goalkeeper distribution and building up play out of the back – the majority of the discussion is on the Birth Year Registration changes.

It’s understandable and expected that the portion of the Player Development Initiatives that directly affects people and their children is the part that is being discussed. It can be an emotional thing for a parent to realize that “Now my son will be the smallest one on the field” or “In 2017, my late 2000 birth year daughter will go from playing with Sophomores to Seniors”. All of those points are valid and discussion is possibly warranted around grandfathering the oldest group for one, or possibly, two years.

However, there are Real Issues that U.S. Soccer needs to consider before shifting to the Birth Year Registration calendar.

It’s important to not let the emotional, personal nature of the changes and how they will affect families – sidetrack us from the REAL ISSUES.

To illustrate my points, I am going to use some NOT PERFECT statistics. Let me be clear, I do not have clear data backing up my percentages here, however, I do think the majority of people will agree that my numbers are quite close.

Currently, under the School Year Cut Off we have with the August 1 registration date, we can assume that on average – across our vast country – the majority of SCHOOL CUT-OFF DATES happens between July 1 and September 1.  Given that many players currently opt to “play up” to their grade level, I am going to say that the current August 1 cut off date affects 5% of the soccer playing population (approximately 1 person per team does not play up to their school year).

When U.S. Soccer switches to the new Calendar Year Cut off – 7/12 of the team will be in one grade (those born Jan. 1 to July 31) and 5/12 will be in a lower grade. So, on any given team 58% will be in one grade and 42% will be in a lower grade.

Again – to be clear – those are the (imperfect but relevant) percentages I am going to use moving forward:

5% of players per team are currently affected by the School Year Cut Off.

58% of players per team will be in an older grade using the Calendar Year Cut Off.

42% of players per team will be in a younger grade using the Calendar Year Cut Off.

So, getting back to the 4 REAL (not emotional) ISSUES that we need to consider with the shift to the Calendar Year Registration.

1.  NEW PLAYERS

When parents new to the sport register their 4, 5 and 6 year olds for soccer for the first time, they are most often interested in their child playing with friends, not so much interested in the international registration calendar. One can only imagine for a moment the headache that a recreation-level registrar CURRENTLY has when it comes to the younger teams and requests for “my child to be on her classmates’ team.” While we can all laugh imagining this logistical challenge – let’s also stop and THINK FOR A MOMENT.

What are Madison or Michael’s parents going to think when they are told their child can’t play with 52% their First Grade classmates, but instead, their 6 year old First Grader, because of their late birthday, has to play on a team made up of 52% of Second Grade children?

I think we need to pause and ask if we are potentially going to lose new players because they can’t play with their classmates? Right now, this currently affects 5% (or less) of players. Now, this will affect 52% of the players.

2. MIDDLE SCHOOL AND HIGH SCHOOL TRANSITION YEAR

The REAL ISSUES are not just an issue of wanting to play club soccer with your school classmates. This is an issue of the fact that in the United States, unlike anywhere else in the world, our schools have an organized system of soccer that overshadows our club participation in that club soccer schedules revolve around school soccer schedules.

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What happens in the year there is a transition to middle school AND high school when 58% of the team plays soccer for their school and the remaining 42% are still in a lower grade? Right now, we have to deal with this on a one or two player per team basis (one or two players on a team are in a higher grade so they go to middle school or high school earlier). With the shift of Birth Year Registration, our club teams will be split almost in half during the year there is a transition to middle school and high school. What’s going to happen to the development of the 42% of club players in this situation when they do not have enough players to form a team during the middle school or high school season when their classmates are opting to play school soccer?

3. SENIOR YEAR FOR THE 42 PERCENTERS

I think this is possibly the most important issue as there is not a clear solution and/or it’s not simply a matter of adjustment.

Under the Calendar Year Registration, 42% of the players on a team will be in a lower grade. When those lower grade kids are in their Junior Year in high school, 58% of their team will be in their Senior Year. The 58% of Seniors will graduate and go on to college or join the work force – and will not be playing youth soccer. What happens to the 42%? What are those 42% of soccer players going to do for club soccer in their Senior Year? Does U.S. Soccer allow them to play down a birth year for the “U-19” season? Yikes – If we do that, what then happens to the team a year younger than them that went from a full team – 100% – to a 142% team? Are we really going to have our “U-18” teams with roster sizes of 25-28 players?

4. COLLEGE RECRUITING

No other country IN THE WORLD has our college soccer system. Let’s be clear.   More players are going to end up playing in college versus the national team.  While changes CERTAINLY need to be made to our college programming to better aid the development of players (we need to move to a 10 month college soccer season), there is no hiding the fact that our college soccer system is an important feeder program to the MLS and NWSL.  Whether or not we like the current college playing structure/limitations – it’s an important developmental piece for everyone but the very top players that will transition directly from high school to the professional game.

With the shift to the Birth Year Registration, what happens to the thousands of college coaches sitting on the sidelines recruiting players? If they are recruiting from the sophomore class – they now need to watch 58% of one game and 42% of another game versus 95% of one game and 5% of another game. What are we doing to our college recruiting process here – making it more difficult for college coaches to actively recruit our players?

U.S. Soccer has undergone some tremendous growth in the past 5 years. I am excited to be coaching soccer and involved with the game. I COMPLETELY support the initiatives that are being introduced from a player development standpoint.  I want to support U.S. Soccer and their efforts in better connecting our vast country and the game, however I am not sure I understand the thought process of shifting the entire country of players to this Birth Year Registration model when it seems to only benefit the scouting and tracking of the national team prospects as well as the registration process for teams from other countries coming to play in our tournaments.

I am genuinely interested in learning more about the Birth Year Registration shift and how clubs are going to handle the potential long term impact it is going to have on the number of players we have playing in the United States, the college recruiting process and the long term development of the 42% of players that are in the lower grades of the birth year.

 

Many thanks to John Maurer, SoccerParenting.com expert contributor and fellow soccer parent, for helping me formulate my thoughts regarding this topic.


About the Author Skye Eddy Bruce

Founder, SoccerParenting.com Skye is a former All-American goalkeeper, professional player and collegiate coach. She holds her USSF “B” License and USSF National Goalkeeper License and is an active youth coach, soccer parent and coach educator.

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  • Mike Beauchemin says:

    Hi Skye,
    I am both an AYSO and club coach for an independent team in Hawaii and we tend to be the last ones in the US to know about changes. I’m a little confused about this new birth year registration. We currently have July 31 as the cut off for registration. Kids who are born prior to July 31 are required to play on an older team. As I understand it, the change will make the cut off date December 31. So a child will be required to play on a team in their own birth year unless they play up. Am I understanding this correctly? Will this also apply to all AYSO teams nationwide? Thanks.

  • James Edwards says:

    Good information to think about. My daughter is in her second year of premier club level soccer. She loves soccer most among the various sports she plays. However, the strong friendships she has made on the team are also a big motivator for her development. When she was 5 and 6 she would only want to play if a friend was playing. These new calendar year age levels would certainly have limited which friends she could choose from as like most kids, her friends are often based on grade level. Even now, as much as she loves soccer she has said she would no longer want to play if she couldn’t continue with her team. I know that was simply the emotional response of a 10 year old and that she will continue to play next year with the “older” girls but that is going to be something she will need to work through.

    Further, she is being placed at a disadvantage in that she is going to have to try out for a position with girls that are now in their 3rd and sometimes 4th year of club level soccer. At that age having year or two more experience and at a more competitive level is going to make a huge difference where she gets placed. If she goes from currently playing on an A team to a B or C team so be it… we’re not hung up on A team… but given the choice or opportunity we would stay put.

  • Julie Wolford says:

    My son plays for Strikers and unfortunately for him, he is a Sept. birthday. This will be very upsetting and frustrating for him for 2 reasons-he has played with many of these boys for many years and now will be playing with a whole set of new ones. The other and main reason is this year after many years of playing travel he finally earned a spot on an elite team and with these changes and him being in the 42%, it will be very hard for him to continue on since I would assume most of the elite team will come from the age above him now either current elite players or even some premier.
    So lets assume he goes to Premier next year, he could potentially be playing with a note a sole from his current team for no other reason than his birthday. My fear is he will say he doesn’t want to play. I just hope that’s not the case. I also didn’t even thing about him not even having a team to play with his senior year in HS. Really sad days ahead.

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