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Calling All Youth Soccer Clubs in the USA – An Open Letter from USWNT Legend Tiffeny Milbrett


Thanks for your understanding in my need to reach out and request rule changes and policy formation that will go against recruiting and tampering with players from other clubs in season.

I have been in the youth soccer club system now for 9 years as a full time coach. I am absolutely dismayed and angered about the utter lack of policies and rules to regulate what is absolutely rampant and wrong in youth soccer regarding clubs tampering with and recruiting players from other clubs during a competitive season. I have witnessed and been on the losing end of other clubs recruiting and taking my players.

There is no denying the fact that youth soccer is an extremely competitive market.  And in other competitive markets around the world there are major rules and policies in place against recruiting and tampering and penalties levied to those that break the rules.  Please read to further your knowledge of how seriously the topic of tampering and recruiting is taken in the world of youth soccer. This is where the USA needs to get to as well, in my opinion.  Manchester City Recruiting Story Link HERE

We have to do something to protect coaches and clubs.  It cannot be okay for our players to be taken – and very easily, I might add.

We have to give our clubs some protection and take a stand.

U.S. Soccer and States and Leagues must adopt rules and policies, and clubs should have internal rules and standards too. Clubs who make it their policy to recruit and tamper should not have continued access to our players whenever they want them and with no reward given to the club they are taken from – especially after years of development.

I hope we can all be on board with finding a solution.  I literally cannot be most effective as a youth coach when a huge part of my limited time with the players is spent building off the weeks, months, season before in order to grow players and teams. And when it’s reset and restarted from zero every start to the fall season, it’s nearly impossible.

Tampering and recruiting can be in multiple forms: (Many, MANY other examples exist)

  1. Parents from those other clubs constantly call the parents from our players to do the recruiting for that club. Even though a parent may not be wanting these calls, they are continually hounded.
  1. ECNL, DA, State regulated clubs breaking the rules by allowing the players from other clubs to train with them outside of the window allowed for this without a release.
  1. Parents are guilty of accepting these calls and invitations for training, but the responsibility should be on the club to follow rules and if they don’t, there should be ACTUAL sanctions placed. It is unfathomable that clubs are not protected with State rules and policies governing these rampant recruiting and tampering behaviors.
  1. To have players play in competitive games with two separate clubs in any given session is an absolute travesty. And clubs seeking this out and parents allowing this to happen must stop.

Youth Soccer is a big business and necessitates the need to start with an even playing field. The rules need to be set to protect all clubs that are truly putting the player first by caring about the player’s development; only to have players whisked away with a recruiting offer to another club is disastrous and against the good of the game and against what parents should be in charge of deciding – wins over development.

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In the end, players can leave clubs, we all understand that. BUT right now there NO RULES that help protect clubs and the investment they are making; just to be outdone in the same season by a tampering and recruiting club. Many of the clubs that are recruiting and tampering have not done anything to prove their continued development and investment in players – their player development philosophy appears to be waiting for the next player other clubs have developed and to then to swoop in and snatch them up.

As an ex player myself, I find this an absolute travesty that these clubs are continually allowed to ROB THE PLAYER of the developmental piece to the game. As a coach, how can I do my job to the fullest for my players, my teams and my club when we have little to NO protection to help us?

I’m asking that you make rules and policies immediately for the upcoming 2017 fall season.

Solutions are numerous, here are a handful of suggestions:  (Many, MANY other solutions can exist)

  • Transfer Periods that only happen in select time periods
  • Fees paid to the club from the other club taking the player
  • No releases until those Transfer Periods – unless clubs agree
  • Outright Rules and Regulations against tampering and recruiting
  • Actual accountability, enforcement and penalties to the rules

There is never a time more than now for structured and controlled policies to be put in place for youth soccer in the United States.

And, coming from a club that truly cares to build the player through the investment of work that time and progression, I need to be protected over clubs that truly do not care to invest – and possibly do not have the ability to develop the young player. But, in fact, they take from these players only until they are not good enough because they have (not developed them) and therefore recruited another player to take their place and then they are discarded. Why have we allowed this to happen?This is not good enough and we should be ashamed.

I’m all for fair competition, working toward our goals and investing with hard work and time. And if we lose on any given day, then so be it. But, I’m truly tired of losing a battle in an unfair and unbalanced system that goes against the Youth Development Model that is blatantly ignored. This unbalanced system continues to reward clubs that may ‘win’ but destroy the player in the process and unfairly shifts the power to one club over many other great clubs. It’s just not right.

Please consider rules and policies immediately. Thank you.

Tiffeny Milbrett

Active Youth Coach

Retired US National Team and Professional Player   
US Soccer Hall of Fame

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Tiffeny Milbrett

Tiffeny played for the USWNT from 1991- 2006 with 206 caps, 100 goals, 3 World Cups and 2 Olympics. She is a member of the US Soccer Hall of Fame. She played professionally for clubs in Japan, USA, Sweden, Canada from 1995- 2010. Tiffeny has her USSF "B" License and is an active youth coach as the Regional Director of Coaching U15 & U16 Girls for the Colorado Storm South.

  • I ? % agree!!! My team has been victims of the same thing year after year. Coaches telling these girls that they would make a certain high school varsity team if the join his. Ridiculous.

  • I would agree with your assessment, but there is a gigantic flaw in your arguement. Unlike most clubs in Europe and overseas that have strict transfer rules to protect against transfers club soccer is pay to play US. In Europe clubs and coaches get paid to develop players by professional clubs that are developing players at the youth level. As players develop transfer fees are paid to clubs that develop them.
    Here in the US the money you and the clubs are paid and the investment in development is funded by the parents. They are paying for you to develop them over that time period and if they feel they can get a better investment why shouldn’t they be allowed to pursue it? How many club teams are using the inflated dues of their flight 2 and 3 teams to fund the development of the academy teams with scholarships? All the while, not spending the time or giving the same attention to developing their teams.
    I find your point of view to be self serving and lacking in the greater perspective of what needs to be fixed in US soccer.
    Fix the pay to play model and then the transfer problem will take care of itself.

    • Bingo to the last comment! The pay to play system is at the core of youth development problems.

      Also, the lack of meritocracy in our soccer nations affects us in many different ways. In a competitive environment in which there is accountability, pay to play would go right out the window, since youth development would be essential for clubs to be successful, otherwise they would need to outbid competition for young talent on an open market, which would be extremely expensive.

      With a meritocratic system, our national youth and womens teams would also be a better representation of our nation’s melting pot. Now youth minorities are priced out of the game, and our womens national team is a very good example of it.

      I could go on and on, but in essence, the issues addressed by the article are symptoms of deeper problems. At the core of it all, is a national Federation that shows not respect for the fundamental values of the game, which are inclusion and meritocracy.

    • “I find your point of view to be self serving and lacking in the greater perspective of what needs to be fixed in US soccer.” Bingo!

      • Hey Bingo (or Mike 🙂 Please expand on your comment…“I find your point of view to be self serving and lacking in the greater perspective of what needs to be fixed in US soccer.” I am curious who’s comments are self serving? Are the self serving facts coming from someone who has essentially spent her (Tiffeny Milbrett) entire life around youth/collegiate/professional soccer throughout the world bothersome to you? If so, please explain. I personally think she has outlined a pretty legitament concern from a youth club perspective.

      • Exactly right Richard.

        Tiffeny commented about Illegal Recruiting and poaching of players by other clubs, other coaches and by parents of players at other clubs who do so to help their own kid’s team. All she is suggesting is that this should not be allowed in season, and that the rules should be strictly enforced. That’s it! Why is it so hard to understand her frustration. It happens often, and many of the bigger clubs do it all the time.

        Tiffeny is merely expressing her frustration by stating that she works very hard to develop her players yet they often get poached by coaches who do not work to develop the players they already have. This happens often in Youth Soccer. It is a Coach versus Coach problem and a Club vs Club problem. Not once did Tiffeny state that players, at the end of the season can not switch teams.

        Yes we know that there are organizations/Clubs that make false promises to parents and charge crazy fees etc. We know, we see it more than the parents do- we work with and for the people that charge these fees. It is also funny that many parents assume that all of the coaches who work for these organizations are getting paid some amazing amount of money just because parents pay alot? Really? I’ve been blesses to coach Youth Soccer for 20 years now and I’ve never been paid “All this money that many parents claim I as the, “Paid coach” am being paid. Coaches get their, “Training fee per session,” or what ever their “Training Salary is per month.” That’s it! I am not complaining. It is still a great blessing to get paid anything to do something that you love. However, let’s be clear- it is, “The Per Player Money” aka “The Registration fee” that is taken off the top, as soon as the check is handed in and cashed/Deposited whatever by the Club owners- those are the ones who make, “The Big money” at clubs. So when parents say that I laugh! As a matter of fact, Most parents would never do what Most Club Coaches do for the money they are paid. Lol! Don’t kid yourselves parents, It is not your sons or daughters coaches that are making a killing. It is the Owner/Founder of the club. I’ve heard some parents making crazy statements that the Youth Club Coaches who are just “The workers/Laborers” at the clubs are all making a killing! Wrong! For most of us it’s our second job. Lol! Let me know when you see a bunch of Youth Soccer Coaches buying Yachts, Ferraris and Million Dollar Mansions? If you do, please contact me so that I can go coach at whatever Club those Coaches are coaching at!

        Hopefully we can all help as many kids as we can to become top Soccer players. If my players don’t get good then I am not good! My players are my work- and I take their development very seriously. Whenever my players perform well I am worse than any parent you can ever imagine- I brag about my players for days whenever they do well. I am a THE MOST DOTING COACH! That’s why I do it- so I can help them excel and then watch it from the front row! Believe me, it’s not because It’s making me rich! Lol!

        A good day to all whether we agree or disagree!

        God bless,

        Chris Mc Dermott

  • Wow this subject really spurs on converstaion. I come from another sport where the term professional is non existent. We went through a lot of the same problems you all are except with young adults. In the end after battling for ten years and a coach from Poland that refused to give in but did bend. An academy type system was developed. The goal was to recruit the best athletes from anywhere and either pay them to live or pay for what they needed so they could train full time under the national team coaches. It changed our sport . In 5 years we were more than relevant . The men’s teams were winning medals and the women were winning gold. We were able to develope good coaches around the country for the clubs to develope their programs and add to the national team. Right now we have a bunch of entrepreneurs trying to capitalize on the success of the program. As for now the relationship is civil but like you all I see the potential of a divorce that may pit the academy’s against the clubs and money making camps. Pay to play is a cancer in sports. We don’t get the best . I have no idea how you would revamp an entire system without a large influx of money and support . I understand that the women’s team in soccer has been very successful but it appears that the rest of the world is catching up . What you hear the US women saying all the time is how well the other teams are coached. Technically and strategically. The men are developing real professional academy’s .Even the academy’s in europe are beginning emulate some of the philosophies of the US academy’s . I can only hope that the women can do the same one day. It may be what will help continue the dominance of the womens teams.. I know none of this helped but there are ways other than the status quo.

  • I am sure some recruiting happens in girls youth soccer, but my experience has been that it has been parents driving change when they, and their kids, are unhappy. The major changes in birth year and now DA are also major factors in a lot of the current changes. Teams were broken up and kids / parents had to make decisions. My daughter moved clubs, and almost moved again this year due to wanting to be able to play high school. She is at the top level and I can say that while we received overtures that we would be welcome, we haven’t seen any aggressive recruiting. Maybe it’s different for other kids and in other areas of the country, but the fact they too kids are already limited in their club choice for highest levels means that there’s not a lot of room for movement.

  • First, you were a great player and I’m sure a great coach as well. Storm is a well run club here in CO from what I’ve seen. However, I disagree that things are “unfair” and “unbalanced”. Any club can recruit players. If you choose not to, that’s fine but you have to accept the consequences of that decision. Players should be able to go wherever they want since the parents are footing the bill. Any coach/club that routinely loses players to competitive clubs needs to take a look in the mirror and understand why they are leaving. I agree that leaving during the season is highly unethical but, at the end of the day, the customer (i.e., player/parents) is always right. As a parent of a U11 kid that has been actively recruited by other clubs, I see no harm in the practice and it is actually beneficial to meet other club coaches, parents, and players and learn how they approach development, etc.

    • Great points! For so long as parents are footing the bill they have the right to go to the club they think will best serve their kid.
      If players are leaving her club for other clubs, they should start looking themselves in the mirror and find why this is the case.

    • I agree. As a parent I should have the right to move my child if I feel she isn’t getting developed at the club she is at. I did it this season. We signed with one club and after being shuffled around 4 times on different teams she ended up on a team where they had 5 goalkeepers. Not good for her development. We left. She ended up in the Development Academy. Clubs are not pilfering these kids, parents are tired of the political bull that runs the club. Clubs are only concerned with the kid that is good right now. Those are the kids they worry about “developing”. I am paying for my child to be developed so I should have the right to explore other options when the service provided is lacking.

  • My son plays in the U12 DA. The USSDA policy is very clear that teams may not trial, recruit or speak to a player from another DA team until the season ends in early June (unless mutually agreed upon by both clubs). I am not sure if this policy is followed but I imagine there are safeguards in place and penalties applied to clubs who break this rule.

  • “We have to do something to protect coaches and clubs. It cannot be okay for our players to be taken – and very easily, I might add.”

    I thought this was about the “youth” in youth sports. Those youth are children. The children of parents. Parents who believe they are making the best decisions for their kids. Certainly there are some sports fanatical parents out there who are ruining their children youth sports experience chasing that elusive pathway to college scholarships, professional careers or simply sports fame. However the majority of parents want what’s best for their kids – they just don’t always know the best way to go about doing it.

    No child transfers from club to another or one team to another without the parent involved in the decision. You want your child players to stick with your club, your team, your coaching – then convince the parents why sticking with your program is in their child’s overall best interest in both the short and the long term. Instituting no transfer rules, restrictions on parents talking to other parents, or Parent-coaches talking with the parents of their players about other opportunities at the Recreational, Challenge and Classic Level and calling it Tampering or Unethical recruiting is utterly ridiculous – and that is where these “Club Protectionist” policies are being implemented.

    “We have to give our clubs some protection and take a stand.”

    It is foolhardy to promote a system, from the bottom up, with rules, policies and regulations designed to address the clubs to keep them from fighting over the top tier child athlete which involves less than 10 percent of the kids participating in youth sports while the other 90% of children without “the gift” are primarily used as cannon fodder while paying dues to a club which restricts their right to say “This isn’t really working for me”, “I’m not getting what I want or what I think my child needs” and prohibits other parents or other coaches from advocating why they think their program might be a better fit. Again, you want to keep theyouth players in your youth program – then keep the parents and the youth players in your program happy, don’t shackle them to your program through archaic regulations design to protect your program from other programs.

    The concept of instituting transfer fees from club to club in a youth sports system of amateur athletes who not only aren’t being paid but in many cases are paying to be in that system is asinine. Those are concepts for professional sports teams.

    It’s suggestions like these which are turning youth sports into models of professional sports.

    • Completely agree. Great comments. Youth soccer is for the youth, not for the clubs/coaches/soccer gear companies/USWNT/USMNT, etc.

      Real example, my daughter currently plays for a club on the “A” team. The “B” team under her is comprised of 80% players that would struggle competing in a rec. league, much less paying $2000-3000 in an annual fee. They have also used a non-employee, non-paid “coach” for over 50% of that team’s practices, so that the two paid, employee coaches can spend more time with the better team. I see this as they practice right next to each other and I know the “dad” coaching the B team. Most of these players, at time of tryouts last spring should have been told that they should save their money and play rec. Instead, the club greedily took their money. At the very least, they should get the better coaches since they need more of the development and expertise. Outright fraud if you ask me. In addition, this club has a DA program where the club’s technical director stated that, “the other girls and teams in the club serve the DA, not the other way around.” Wow, great approach to “development”. Unbelievable, but actually – not really. It appears to be par for the course. Bunch of adults who can’t (or don’t want to) get real jobs scrapping by on coaching fees – therefore always looking for an angle to get more cash.

  • It is incumbent on the clubs to educate the parents on what player development looks like, to involve parents in the process from the beginning, regardless of the child’s ability. Too often the player development model is merely a talking point for coaches. Parents need to be involved in the process in order to buy into the long term objectives. They need to be invested in the club, and to be on board with the philosophy. They need to see the value of their money and time. Parents are only ever (I want to believe) making choices from a place of love and concern for their children. If they are pursuaded mid season to leave then you have to ask yourself if they are a right fit for your club in the first place, and if maybe there is a missing message that they did not receive from the club.

    To your point Tiffeny- development takes a lot of time. For all levels and abilities. And it is no doubt frustrating when players move onto other teams. But in the end- it is so important for clubs to make creating a community of parents and coaches that are working together for ALL the children participating, regardless of ability, the number one priority.

    You can put rules in place and hope that keeps your top talent in the club-but if the system continues to be one where parents are paying for their children to play- then it is always going to be a question of percieved value for the money.

    • BTW. I loved your work in “Enchanted” and “The Arrival”. Sorry, had to say that Amy Adams. Seriously, you make good points above.

  • When you have a fragmented youth socccer setup, with multiple, independent leagues “competing” for players (DA, ECNL, NPL, State, HS) and multiple governing bodies (USSF, USYSA, US Club, HS), then agreeing upon “rules of engagement” (e.g., when is it OK to train with, or move to, another club?) among all of these entities is problematic.. If Sally is not happy on her club team that plays in the state-run league, no problem for her, she can join a club that offers DA or ECNL at any time (assuming Sally has the talent).

    The leagues in which a given club participates are themselves becoming a player/parent recruiting tool. And clubs cut out of the “elite” league can just join another or literally start a new league. In some populous parts of the country, clubs with a common mission have pooled together and formed their own independent leagues where the member clubs make the policies.

    Point is, with multiple giverning bodies/leagues, it’s going to be (is) difficult to regulate. So in the current environment, players/parents can “shop” clubs/leagues depending on their priorities and with little recourse.

    So, we as clubs/coaches must decide what our “product” is all about. If someone decides to leave your team/club, it’s worth trying to inderstand exactly why the player is leaving. Maybe it’s a good reason and worth reflecting, or maybe based on your (and your club’s priorities – e.g., development might be your top priority) it’s a poor reason and it’s better to let the player go and don’t look back.

  • All valid points but only Tiffieny offers a solution to a complex problem. Pay to play makes youth development a service industry. A service industry needs rules and regulation to allow
    the competitive market to grow in a healthy way. The main problem is that the consumer (Parents) are uninformed. There is no direction from USSF as what are the suggested guidelines for development are for each age. Right now we have for-profit companies with slick marketing campaigns selling the idea of what youth development should be and its information which drives their product to be successful in the market. We have these companies looking at players in the 8-12 age group as their “ATM machines”. Ridiculous amount of travel, too many matches, tournaments- chasing mythical got soccer points that evaporate after a year-playing to win instead of playing to develop-this increases pressure at younger ages for coaches and players to win not develop. This pressure leads to recruiting players playing for 2 clubs -multiply matches every weekend- which leads to injury or burnout.The market has no rules or regulations and so the idea of fun and building a passion for the game is lost very early. This why kids and parents quit the game at 13 years of age. In Europe the “payday” for the youth club is at the end of the development cycle-when a player is moved up to a professional academy- developmental fee is paid and divided by the youth clubs that developed the player. In that market, you get rewarded for the finished product. Here the payday for training organizations and clubs is at the beginning of the cycle and it creates chaos and it doesn’t work. Our national teams are failing when we look at our top players they abandoned the system in the US and opted for Europe/Mexico to continue development. We need to look at building the house starting with the foundation and while Tiffney’s suggestions may be open to debate I believe if USSF does a media campaign to educate the consumer on how youth development should look we won’t need so much regulation. For now, we need to organize youth setups- tier system so that the development pathway is clearly defined for the consumer. We are a free market society but every market needs some type of controls to regulate and keep it healthy. Right now we all agree the current system is not good for the players who are the most important part of the equation. When the market shrinks it is a clear signal that things need to improve and we need to find solutions or the sport is in trouble in our country. Tiffeny thanks it great to see a national team player involved at the grassroots level and appreciate your ideas, great article.

    • Mark Lugris,

      You make great great comments. Brian “BK” Kohen is a friend and brother of mine and he always says great things about you.

      Great to read your comments Mark!

      God Bless,

      Chris Mc Dermott

  • Disagree with this. Coaches and clubs need to do more to keep their players instead of blaming others for attempting to “steal” them. Strong companies and brands do the same with their “talent” / employees!

  • As a parent I pay for the best deal and program I can get for my child, so I get to choose where to go every season, in reality every club have to do their best to retain their players which means hire the best coaches and have the best programs available, as a parent I’ll not let any club dictate where should I go or stay with my child, unless of course the club pays for it!

  • Some of these ex pros automatically think they make the Best Coaches, I am sorry but I have seen some of the teams that you have coached and you should look in the mirror as to why the young talent is moving on. You are judged by results and how you develop the talent, the talent pool you have to chose from in Denver is huge and your results are poor considering. The parents are investing heavily Financially and if you are not delivering have every right to move on. You should not hold players hostage as you have no right to.

    • Thanks scooby doo. You say my job is “results” …so, how are you judging that? How are parents judging that? My job as a youth coach is results in the growth of the player from the first day I get them until the moment they leave. What I’m assuming you are judging not only my job, but the abilities of my players is on the scoreline/ wins and losses of games. I’m sorry, but I will never judge based on the outcome of a soccer game because as an ex-player myself I have been on the losing end of matches even when we were the better team, aka Silver Medal Sydney Olympics. The one thing here that I must tell you I detest Is that that you think you know the job I’m doing and can rate that, but the absolute disrespect you have shown to the talents and abilities of my players. I’m sorry but I have nothing but full respect of the work they put in, the dedication the have and the talents that are growing inside of them every week. I hope you get more educated on the challenges these young players face and the time it takes fir them to reach player maturity in their soccer journey. Judge all you want, but please educate just a tad more.

      • Wow Great points Tiffany! All true as well.

        Too many parents out there think that winning is development. Too many parents out there also think that because they pay money that they are, “Entitled to Results!” Becoming a top Soccer player, or becoming a better player than others requires that players work harder, smarter and more often than other players do. You can tell that many of the parents who comment were never serious athletes just by the comments they make in their posts. Only idiots would make statements like, “Look, we pay alot of money for results (winning), as if they are paying for a Jacket in a store. The victories are watching them bring downs balls in the air, dribble and pass out of tight pressure, get offensive shape/open up right away in 3-4 seconds, develop their weaker foot, learn to switch the point of attack, learn and use 1 vs 1 moves effectively, learn to posess the ball etc.

        My coach was the late great Indoor Soccer legend Paul Kitson. He taught me that in order to become a better player than another player that I had to have my own Individual practice every day as well as going to the team’s practice. He told me, “Why should I become better than the other players on the team just by going to the team’s practices?” “Every player goes to the team practices?” “That’s not enough!” He lived across the street from me- so we trained every single day after I got out of school. He trained 3 times a day! He went to the NY Arrows Practice. Then he stayed after practice every day for an hour and a half. Then he came home, took a nap, and trained again with me after school. I was his student and training partner. So I laugh when these parents just pay some money and just think that their kids are just going to somehow acquire skills just because money changed hands.

        As a Youth Coach, I teach kids the same skills. It is one thing for me to teach skills. It is another thing for players to Master those skills. Coaches can teach skills to players, but we can’t master skills for them.

        Keep up all the great work Tiffany Milbrett.

        God bless,

        Chris Mc Dermott

  • I know in our area you cant just jump ship unless you get a release from your club or during certain times of the year. Do organizations plant seeds in parents so when the window opens they(the club) is in the running for certain players I would think that is always a possibility. That said if you run a great club that puts out competitive teams and you have a great platform of communication PEOPLE DONT LEAVE!

  • What about if you don’t play for our club you will not play for the highschool team? This happens a lot as the coaches for the Highschools have friends or are the coaches fornthe highschools. This is player tampering as well.

  • Victory for the club or the coach does not equal victory for the children if they are abused or used to get there. Fairness for the club or the coach has got to give way to what is best for the individual child

    If it becomes apparent that the child does not fit with a certain team, it is his in his best interest to leave. As he pays to play, he has been let down but under current “fainess between clubs” rules what is his recourse? A year of misery? A year of inactivity?

    In Utah there are strong rules concerning recruitment of players, and as of late, it appears that they have been enforced, especially when the clubs have been uncooperative in ensuing investigations. This has put a freeze on opportunities and swift solutions to problems for the children, It makes it more difficult to develop a soccer community that crosses club lines as well. All activities not limited to one club have to be vetted and limited. Can we have an informal fun event for keepers everywhere to come join and play keeper wars? Nope.

    As a result, when your child is in a bad situation where the coach is abusive and focused only on winning, that is the very coach who will not release an unsatisfied player. Or perhaps he is bullied on the tea,, etc. To create red tape for the player to leave that situation while the parents are footing the bill, isunconscionable.

    Also, politics enters the fray. Larger clubs with more votes and who contribute more to the state organization seem to get better enforcement of the rules in their favor. Small independent clubs simply do not get the attention they should for they have few advocates at the state level. Nobody cars about them.

    In the current pay to play system, the only real solution is to educate the parents about what is really best in the long run for their children for they are the only ones in this system who have a truly vested interest in their child’s personal success and long-run happiness. We have to educate them about the facts concerning the lies recruiting clubs put out there concerning the chances of scholarships and contracts and what that realky means (often a scholarship is an unpaid indentured servitude to the university where education is a distant second but sometimes not).

  • Sounds like the FC Dallas girls program here in Dallas – they spend more time recruiting than developing. Since DA and ECNL are governed by different rules, they will recruit DA players to “come play FC Dallas ECNL” during the DA non-recruiting period *wink, wink*. Then, surprise, when the DA open signing period happens, they sign with the DA team.

  • At the youth level, players are not paid, they pay to play. Therefore, just like any other business, the customer must be free to switch service providers at any time. However, they may forfeit all or part of their annual fee paid to their current club for doing so in mid-season as it may cause a financial burden to that service provider due to loss of expected cash flow. This model must be allowed to enable parents and child to get out of a bad situation. In scholarship situations, there is no lost cash, in fact, the club can now obtain a paying player and may end up better off financially than if the scholarship player stayed.

    On the other side of things, the club/coach has been paid to provide a service to the player. This fact must restrict the club/coach from replacing the player on the roster from a numbers perspective. Here is how this would work: at the start of the season a “baseline” roster is established. That roster has a number of “Active” players. No more than 18 for 11v11. No new players can be added to the baseline roster unless one of the baseline active players voluntarily goes to inactive (injury, extended leave, etc.) or voluntarily leaves the team. This is in effect for the entire calendar year. This would effectively prevent recruiting in mid-season unless the club/coach is trying to replace a vacancy created by a player voluntarily leaving or going inactive.

    However, to further prevent this, parents/players (and even other coaches) that are on a team with the full baseline roster (i.e. not trying to fill a vacancy) that see a “guest” player practicing with the team shall be able to report that club and coach to the applicable state association (USYS or US Club), with their names being held anonymously. State association will research the report and if valid, warn club and coach and any subsequent, valid report will result in suspension of coach’s license. It will also be marked on the club’s historical record. State association has the ability to rescind the club’s license to compete in their association if they see a cross-club pattern of violations.

    Across seasons, there are no restrictions. It is an open, free-market environment where club/coaches/ and parents all must vie for the best fit for their situation.

    As far as playing time, that is up to the kid and the coach. Coaches vested in teaching and developing kids (vs. just winning and marketing themselves and their club) will play their entire roster significant minutes. Those more interested in just winning, might not. Also – the older the team, the less even the playing time as it becomes less about development with each passing year.

    Remember, the goal of youth soccer is not to have winning clubs and teams. It is also not to have a great national or Olympic team. It is also not about giving former soccer pros a job. It is to teach kids how to play, give then a competitive environment, and teach teamwork and how to win and lose before they go out into the real world. These kids are not US Youth or US Club Soccer’s assets, rather those organizations and those coaches are there to serve our youth, not the other way around.

    • You make many great points. Milbrett in this article is not referring to the rights of players being able to go and play where they want to. She is referring to Many of the bigger clubs who’s coaches just poach players from other teams instead of working hard to develop the players that they already have on their teams.

      I am former College and have coached at both Big clubs and small clubs. Unfortunately this illegal recruiting/poaching of players happens all the time. If it is continually allowed to happen with out any penalty, then why should talented dedicated Developmental coaches just continue to kill themselves working to develop players when they are just easily poached away “In season” by coaches that do not Work hard to develop players. You have to admit, if this is allowed to continue this will seriously undermine the Player Development process in US Soccer.

      Milbretts article was written from a Coach to coach perspective, and a Youth Club to Youth Club perspective. Nobody, Milbrett included is suggesting that kids can not go and play for whatever team they want to at the end of the season.

      There are clubs and coaches out there who do not work to develop their players but instead simply poach player and get their player’s parents to do it for them as well. It is discouraging when you kill yourself to work with your players and continually lose your players to coaches and Clubs who are unwilling to work hard to develop the players that they already have. It is incredibly discouraging and absolutely unfair that this happens and the rules that are in place are rarely if ever enforced. If this continues to happen Coaches who really strive to work hard to develop their players and their teams will probably end up throwing in the towel and saying to themselves- “Why continue to kill myself when so many of these kids are just going to leave anyway. Let the poaching club do all the Dwveloping themselves. If they want all the benefit then let them do the work. Why should they get to benefit off the backs of other coaches?

      I think that is Milbrett’s point! You have to admit, it is discouraging as a Coach! She is doing her job and the other coach’s jobs- and on top of that losing players that she has worked really hard with to coaches who did not. Surely anyone can understand this.

      Again, This is a Coach versus Coach, Club versus Club arguement/complaint. This is not her saying that kids can’t switch teams at the end of the season and play wherever they want to. However, Illegal recuiting/poaching of players is not good! Why work to develop players when you can just poach them from other teams? As a coach myself, it is incredibly frustrating! Just because as a coach it is my job to “Serve youth” does not mean that it is ok that all of my efforts can be undermined because the rules are not enforced.

      However, you did make many excellent points.

      Whether we agree or disagree, a great day to all!

      God bless!

  • you need to leave more room for parent choice in this.

    My daughter had to play up 2 years to get a challenge at her old club, and those girls are HUGE. it was just not safe. we left mid season, with no regrets.

    In short, we left a good developmental club to go to the local ECNL. It was the only way to find girls her own size and skill level. Playing time and winning records had nothing to do with it. It was about safety, and nothing more.

    I am glad the old club was not worried about poaching and ownership of players. Had they taken your line of “only at the trading window”, we would have quit soccer.

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