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Fighting For Change in a Local Soccer Club: A Letter to the Club's President About the Effect of Cutting

Several years ago, my triplet sons tried out for the travel soccer club in our town. Two of my sons were wait-listed for no apparent reason, along with over sixty other boys who had previously been in the program. Here's the text of the letter I wrote to the President of the club. I was able to get all three spots on a travel team, so the letter obviously worked, up to a point. After playing travel soccer that fall, and again in the spring, on a U12 team, they were cut from the program the following fall, when they moved up to U14. My husband and I were then forced to set up a new travel soccer club so they, and about sixty other boys, could continue playing. For a copy of the letter we sent after we started our own club, click here.

No-Name Soccer Club
Anytown, USA

Dear President ____________:

Two of my triplet sons were recently notified that had been wait-listed for places on the U12 boys travel team, while a third received a letter congratulating him for making the team. The two who did not make the team were, of course, disappointed. They both want to play travel soccer, and having spent a year in another town, where every child expressing an interest in playing travel soccer is included in the program, they did not understand why No-Name Soccer Club is run under such an exclusionary policy. Because I, too, was at a loss to explain your policy, I am writing to provide you with some constructive criticism on No-Name's program, and to suggest some changes in the way No-Name approaches youth soccer, which I believe should be implemented in January. I would also like to have a chance to speak at your next Board of Directors meeting in January.

First, some observations:

  1. As I understand it, there is no limitation imposed by the Massachusetts Youth Soccer Association ("MYSA") on the number of travel teams a town can field. Why does No-Name limit the number? As long as there are enough fields and coaches, shouldn't every child who wants to play travel soccer be given the chance? Two other towns with which I am familiar include every child who wants to play. Since they both have excellent high school varsity programs (one, as you know, won the state title in both boys and girls soccer this fall), they must be doing something right.

  2. No one has been able to articulate for me a reason for this policy, other than that, if everyone who tried out were to make a travel team, then the town recreation league would be "diluted". What does this mean? Isn't the town rec. league already diluted, since it is deprived of the players, who, at this point in time, appear to have the most ability and thus play travel and not on a rec team? Also, I have some serious concerns about the wisdom of letting my two sons who did not make travel soccer play in the town league. Both sons are big for their age and for their grade. I share their concerns from a safety standpoint about continuing to play with girls, some of whom are two years younger than they are and quite a bit smaller. Also, it was painfully obvious from watching their team play this fall that, because there was such a wide range of ability, it was very frustrating for everyone, because there was no real chance, given such disparities, that they could ever really "mesh" as a team. Why, then, should there be a concern about diluting the town teams? If all the players who tried out for travel soccer are given a chance to play and the town rec league, at the 5-6th grade level, is reserved for players who don't want to play travel soccer, everyone is likely to be better off: the travel soccer players, because they get to play with other players of roughly the same ability and thus can learn to play as a member of a team, and the players in the town rec league, because they, too, will be playing with those of similar ability and motivation and can themselves learn to play as a member of a team.

  3. By telling a child that he has been placed on a wait list, and hasn't made the team, you are basically telling him that he isn't good enough to "represent" our town. What kind of message is that to send an eleven-year-old boy? No-Name's attitude seems to be that travel soccer is only for "stars". That is not, as I understand it, the purpose of travel soccer. Let the strongest players, at any point in time, play on Spirit [select travel team]. Yes, the children should be on teams comprised of others of roughly similar ability. But, no, they should not be denied the opportunity to play travel soccer altogether just because, in the subjective judgment of those running the tryouts (some of whom, I suspect, are not even certified soccer coaches, and who appeared confused at times during the evaluations about the rules of soccer), they are less "talented" than some other children.