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Soccer StarWhatever your sport is, the key to developing into a competitive athlete with a possible view to playing in college is starting early!  Beginning at an early age enables athletes to sharpen their skills so they will always on top of their game.

Most soccer players begin in the diaper division and play on small fields, small- sided teams, with 5 v. 5, not the usual 11 v. 11.  This way everyone gets to touch the ball, play offense, defense and even score a goal.  The key to having younger players in sports is that it is fun, builds self-esteem, teaches them to play with others, and gets them up and moving.  

Childhood obesity is a huge problem in America based on a variety of factors:  more fast foods being consumed, lots of time spent at the computer and other sedentary activities like watching TV.  When I was growing up, especially in elementary school, after school, on arriving home I changed my clothes and rushed outside to play, run and jump around until I was called for supper, but back then, most of the moms were stay-at-home moms.

Understand which sport your children play and be sure to expose them to the one they like the best. When you pick a sport to specialize, perhaps at around age twelve, be sure you ask your child's coach about training and also exposure to strong competition. If your child wants to play in college, she must play/compete at the highest level as a youth player.  

Often when I meet a player and his parents they tell me they play three sports, so now they are seeking to play in college and perhaps win an athletic grant, a/k/a scholarship.  Most times, I tell the player it’s great that you played three sports, but you never played at the higher level of any of them (sort of a jack-of-all-trades, master on none concept). Because a teen plays on varsity at the high school does not mean they are college bound in their sport or that they will win a scholarship.

I have watched the movie Rudy many times, but, in truth, the Rudy example is not the norm; therefore, one must have several options. Also, athletes need to be reminded not to get too caught up in their sports that it becomes secondary to academics.  Rule #1: academics first and always.

Expose your athlete to people who have played the game. If it’s an individual sport such as tennis, golf or swimming, find a program that has instruction with a professional coach or at least a coach or trainer who was in a competitive program and played/competed at the collegiate level.

In team sports such as soccer, lacrosse, basketball, baseball, or softball, many times the parent is the coach and holds the team together, but perhaps their own child deserves to be competing at the higher level, and may miss this opportunity because Dad or Mom is the coach.

Vinny Fusco, coach of the Garden City (NJ) Soccer Team, brought in two trainers/coaches who played at the collegiate level, one a college coach. Vinny knew his own limitations as to what he could offer the team when they entered high school.  Vinny’s role changed from coach to manager. He made sure each player understood that they would be attending tournaments, college showcases and training twice a week in addition to the weekend game.  In other words, somewhere your child must make a commitment to the sport of their choice. I didn’t say it had to be done at age five, but it needs to be done at some point.

In today’s world of specialization, playing multiple positions is not always a good thing.  If your child is a pitcher, mention [to whom?] what type of pitches he throws (slider, fast ball, change up, etc.)  and perhaps have an alternate position [you just said playing multiple positions is not always a good thing and then, in the next breath, recommend having an an alternate position!]. In soccer, sometimes I speak to a student-athlete and they tell me, “I can play every position.” Well, this is not what I want to hear [isn't really more what a college scout doesn't want to hear?] Are you a midfielder, a forward, a defender, or a goalkeeper?  In summer camps I have observed what is called “position camp” in other words, specialization; such camps are usually geared for older players, who are now trying to be a stand-out in their chosen position.  Football, lacrosse, basketball and soccer all have position camps.

Finally, and most important, athletics can open college doors, providing your child has good grades and presents as an all-around student-athlete.

Questions, concerns and suggestions always welcome, e-mail me at soccervol@aol.com or call me at (631) 988-7746 for a consultation.