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What to Ask and How to Best Support Your Child as They Select a Soccer Club

Growing up as a youth soccer player, I never had the experience of "bid day" as we know it here in Iowa. The day where kids are told where they stand, and in some cases, what their worth is to a team or club. 

As a club leader, I experienced bid day year after year, and I can honestly say that it was a soul-sucking experience. Leave that without debate…because it is. 

Although I had gone through the event as a parent with our son, last year was the first time I experienced bid day from a 10,000 foot level and saw the crazy for what it was "bid day".  I witnessed my daughter going into 17u agonizing over a choice. Does she stay with her team and club, the only club she ever knew, with teammates she loves? Or does she leave for a new experience, with a new team, club and coach? 

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8am arrived and the emails with the accompanying bids were sent and received. At that point, it was decision time and with two offers and only 12 hours to make a commitment, the clock was ticking. One would think that 12 hours is enough time but it was noon before we knew it and there hadn’t even been a conversation in our house. Clearly she will make this choice on her own… right? 

As 5pm comes and goes, I’m beginning to get a bit worried. We’re getting phone calls from clubs wondering if a decision had been made. Then comes 6pm, 7, and 7:50; surely she knows. Right? 

The fact was that she didn't know. For full disclosure, the club that she had known the entire time she played was the same club that I had just left after over 10 years and it had been an emotional few months for myself and our family. I knew this was impacting her choice, but the reality was that I just wanted my daughter to do what she wanted. After all, it is her experience and she should ultimately be responsible for making her own choice. 

At 8:05pm, the bid day deadline has officially passed. We’ve weighed all the factors (price, travel, level of play, roster, coaches, facility, mission, philosophy, values). Yet, here we still sit.

"This is crazy", I say. "Do you want me to just tell you what I think you should do?" She nods. "Stay at your club” I responded. She appears shocked and even though I might have personally struggled with that statement, it was the truth. It wasn’t about what I wanted; it was about what she wanted. It is, after all, her experience. 

With that, as we approach the eve of 14-19u “Bid Day” in Iowa, I urge every parent to remember that these decisions should be driven by the player's experience. It should be their choice - free of outside influences, promises and unrealistic expectations. 

Players and families - I speak to you as someone who has been a direct part of this experience as a club leader and parent. Ask questions of clubs; continue to challenge them tomorrow, and the days after. Seek information from club and technical leaders, governing boards, coaches and state associations. Ask about platforms, leagues, fees, playing time philosophies. Don’t just read their mission statement, core values or coaching philosophies on websites, but make sure  the work that they do is driven by that mission and values. As you make decisions tomorrow, they should be informed and without emotion (as difficult as that may be). 

Consider what your child wants to get from their playing experience. For my daughter, her priority was to play with her friends and be close to home so that she would have time to do all the other things she wanted to do. Some players do need national and regional leagues, but for most players, your community club is the best choice. If that is not a fit, look at the closest alternative. Fill your player’s “bucket” with other opportunities if they need or want more. At younger ages, camps and additional off-season training are great options to get more playing time while still being able to play locally. As you get older, players have other program options like ODP, college ID camps and high school soccer.  

Players deserve a voice and a choice when it comes to picking a team/club - remember that. Otherwise we run the risk of parents and coaches making decisions that aren’t always in the best interest of the player. Even as well-intentioned as it may be, it still may be a mistake.

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