A Parents’ Guide to Youth Travel Soccer Tryout Season (Part 1)

This is the time of year when soccer clubs across the state begin advertising tryout dates and times for the upcoming 2018-2019 travel soccer season.  Many soccer parents would tell you that this is their most stressful time of year. I don’t think I’m out of line when saying that they vast majority of stress is actually borne by the parents, not the kids.  

I have seen and read many articles that focus on preparing children for soccer tryouts. This article is focused on preparing the parents for tryouts. Not that one parent will be evaluated for a soccer team, but the choices you make or help your child make will determine where your child will be playing soccer though next Spring.

Lets start with examining how tryouts worked when I played youth soccer in NJ some 30 years ago.  You lived in a town. Travel Tryouts were announced (in a newspaper or paper newsletter..the horror) and the coaches evaluated which players would make the team for the upcoming season.  soccertryouts

In smaller towns, there was often times a regional soccer program. Many towns subsidized their soccer program so it was somewhat affordable for children to play. If your child made the team (or even if they did not), you usually received a phone call (yes, coaches actually called with the tryout results).  

Today, things are much different.  Lets take a look at some the facing parents today.  The majority of these questions face parents of 7-15 year olds, but could apply to high school age children as well.  Scary enough these days, it could apply to children younger than 7 also!

  1. To try out or not try out – Understand that playing travel soccer requires a commitment well beyond that of playing at the recreational level.  The commitment applies to both you and your child. Some teams practice up to 3 times a week plus games or tournaments.  Those games can be up to a distance of an hour away, or greater depending on the travel league. Lets not forget about NJ traffic! Tournaments can be even greater distances.  Besides your commitment, does your child want to make that commitment? This is not really question you can ask a 7-8 year old. Do you see that your child loves playing the game or just loves hanging out with friends?  Does your child seem challenged playing in a recreation league and seems to want more? Talk to your child’s recreation coach and try to get an unbiased opinion. Don’t get me wrong, my children all enjoy(ed) playing travel soccer but I would have been just as happy if they were playing in a recreational soccer environment which is where all of them started.

2. Where to try out – I can write an entire piece on just this area.  The dynamics have completely changed since I was a child.  There are a ton of private soccer clubs that have seemingly came out of nowhere.   These clubs have done an absolutely brilliant job of Marketing themselves to NJ children and their numbers continue to swell at the expense of the public/town soccer clubs.

njysI have to take a moment to explain the difference because the waters have definitely been muddied recently.  A public/town/regional soccer club “typically” receives some sort of funding from the local town(s) to operate.  This subsidy helps offset some costs of club and the vast majority will operate as a non-profit organization. Town/regional soccer clubs have been responsible for the growth of soccer players in our state.

In the last few years, many private soccer clubs have emerged as an alternative to town/regional soccer clubs.  These clubs are for profit organizations and are typically priced higher than town/regional clubs for this factor alone.  Many even have indoor and /or turf training facilities. Truthfully, clubs are competing for your dollars.

So where do I take my child?

Article to be continued Friday April 6th


Eric Offenberg has been around youth soccer for his whole life, first as a player, referee, coach, manager, Executive Vice President for the Monroe Township Soccer Club, and currently a member of the Executive Board for the MOSA (Monmouth Ocean Soccer Association).

2 thoughts on “A Parents’ Guide to Youth Travel Soccer Tryout Season (Part 1)

  1. looking forward to reading the second part of the article.
    It would be great to see the cost and other benefits for players and parents or pluses and minuses playing/training for-profit and non-profit soccer organizations/clubs.


  2. I don’t disagree that some “for profit” clubs have questionable priorities, but suggesting they’re marking up their fees to make more money is a bit disingenuous. The principal reasons for the higher fees are that 1) those clubs don’t benefit from the use of local fields/facilities and have to pay up to go elsewhere, and 2) those clubs tend to participate in more tournaments, which grow more costly if they involve out-of-state travel.


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