Thanks to everyone that took our February survey— the top two vote getters were how to establish better relations with college coaches and the topic we will address today which is the Pros and Cons of high school soccer versus club soccer.
I coach a U17 Boys team here in Pennsylvania which is populated by mostly high school juniors and a few sophomores. They play at a premier level and most of these players will wind up playing D3 level soccer. As a club coach I encourage these boys to play high school soccer and club soccer. We rarely schedule any club practices or tournaments for the team during their high school season (which runs from mid-August until the first week of November) and want them to have the experience of playing both.
But what are the Pros and Cons of each?
First, you have to remember your audience. D3 coaches usually have limited time, staff, and resources. This impacts recruiting as we have to be selective in which events we can attend. Second, in Pennsylvania most players that I recruit play their high school seasons in the Fall which is the same time as the college season. Lastly, there are the numbers! At a high school game, there are two teams playing with a total of about 40 players, of which maybe 2 or 3 players may have expressed an interest in my program. At a club tournament, you can usually multiply all of those numbers by 10!
D3 coaches do most of their recruiting at club tournaments. Between myself and my assistant coaches, we usually attend about 10-12 tournaments per year and we would like to go to more! High school games— 1 or 2 (maybe 3) per year usually with the express purpose of seeing 1 or 2 specific players that we have identified.
Pro #1 for club soccer is that your are going to get more recruiting attention by going to college showcase tournaments than just playing high school soccer. There are many of these tournaments throughout the country and throughout the year. Most of them list the colleges that are attending, so you will know who will be there.
This brings us to Pro #1 for high school soccer. Time commitment and cost. For high school, you are playing a compact season (10-12 weeks), you probably don’t have to outlay much money for uniforms or gear, and most of your travel is local. Compare this to club soccer where you may be practicing 10-11 months out of the year, paying thousands of dollars for fees, gear, and travel expenses and giving up a huge chunk of time for tournaments, practices, league games and other competitions. If you want to be a multi-sport athlete, will club soccer afford you the time to play more than one? Don’t forget you need to study and do homework too!
The next topic is individual player development which is Pro #2 for club soccer. In my experience, club competition is usually better than high school competition. The reason being is that, generally speaking, the better soccer players play club soccer and high school soccer and lesser players only play high school soccer. So if you play and practice against better competition with your club team, you will develop more than if you just play high school soccer. In addition, as the high school season is so short, the focus has to be on the team getting better and not worrying as much about individual player development. Player development has to come in the off season which is when you practice with a club team. Also, since you have a greater training window with club soccer (10 months), coaches can focus on developing individual players as they prepare the team for competitions.
Pro #2 for high school soccer is that special camaraderie that can develop on a high school team. Your high school teammates you see everyday in class, at the field and in your community. This leads to a certain closeness, a sense of community, and a feeling of belonging that is part of the high school soccer experience and is different than club soccer. Not to say that good relationships don’t develop from club soccer, but the experience is not the same as high school soccer.
The bottom line is this— D3 coaches recruit most of their players from the club ranks because of the ability to see more players with one trip and a generally higher level of play. If you want to be a sought after recruit, you should seriously consider playing club soccer and going to tournaments. I get very excited when I do find good quality players that are only playing high school soccer and not club, because that very likely means that not a lot of other coaches will know about that player. These players however, are the exception and not the rule.
The experiences between high school and club soccer won’t be the same and you will only get one opportunity to play high school soccer (or any other sport). Talk to your high school coach, talk to your club coach, talk to your parents, and talk to the college coaches at the programs that you are interested in to see what makes the most sense for you. If you can do both, go for it!