By now I hope everyone reading this is well aware of the U.S. Soccer Birth Year registration mandates set to take place in Fall 2016. If for some reason you have fallen off the youth soccer wagon in recent months, this means teams will be formed according to birth year (January 1st – December 31st) as opposed to the “school year” model (August 1st-July 31st) that we have used forever because we are America and like to be different from the rest of the world. If anybody can give me a reasonable explanation why we haven’t converted to the metric system, but are contemplating this change I would love to hear it. Poor Tab Ramos’ excuses aside, U.S. Soccer has not been up front and/or stood by their decision that has clearly caused panic and put pressure on travel soccer clubs all over the country. They weren’t even man (or woman) enough to send a representative to the NSCAA National Convention in January in which over 150 DOCs attended primarily for just this discussion. There most typical answer for why the change? Is that parents were confused about what age group and team their child should play in before. Which is clearly even more of a problem now.
More importantly soccer clubs in NJ specifically are scrambling for help and answers with tryout season looming. I know in my club (West Windsor Plainsboro and Mercer FC) we are being extremely pro active in birth year adaptations. We have a plan and that is to form teams by birth year where possible first and foremost, but have a hybrid in situations where we need to fill the gaps. For example we will move a current team up if they are split between 2 age groups and after tryouts we are not able to form a team on the older end. I also imagine this is the majority of the NJ clubs approach, or is it? With our current player numbers we feel very safe that everyone will have a place to play next season, with some kids essentially “playing up,” but I imagine many smaller clubs do not feel the same way. My question to you is what is your club’s approach? Are there any other options to explore? I think picking one another’s brain will be beneficial to the entire NJ soccer culture heading into the Spring as well as the changes for the Fall and would appreciate your feedback.
What U.S. Soccer won’t admit to is that with these changes they will have torn apart thousands of club teams across the country, and NJ will be no exception. Parents and players will be “shopping around” more than ever this tryout season trying to figure out the best place for their kid to play. DOCs, coaches, trainers, and clubs will have to become an exemplary sales force to keep players in their clubs and bring in new ones to sustain the future. Clubs will have to undertake financial burdens in creating and lining new fields as well as buying goal frames for the new 4v4, 7v7, and 9v9 formats. Curriculums will need to be rewritten and refreshed to adapt to these changes in player development. All for our need to “be like the rest of the world.” It is really silly to me, but it is a mandate, not an option and it may better to just rip off the proverbial band-aid than let it sit their for a week, month, or year.
I am sure we have all sat in a club meeting at this point with the age break down of every player in our travel program to see what roster they fall on at this point. If your club has not, they are likely behind… We all know where the holes are, and what teams are in jeopardy, but we don’t know what everyone else is doing. That is the purpose of this post and this website. Can we help each other out? Or are we going to try and dissect one another until teams are lost, parents are confused, clubs are pushed to the brink, and kids (who we all should be here for) are left without a place to play?