High School vs Club Soccer: The 10 Month Season

U.S. Olympic Development Program

After running into a friend of mine the other day we began to talk about his preseason and how it was going (he coaches for a local high school team).  I continued by asking how his players look and what to expect from his team in the upcoming season.  He shrugged his shoulders and said that they should be alright but they lost a few players because there was a new rule implemented that if you play club soccer you can’t play on the high school team.  We didn’t have much time to talk about it further but this baffled me; I had to know more!

Through further research I discovered an article titled, “NFHS Opposes U.S. Soccer’s 10-Month Season.”  A basic rundown of the article is that if you are a member of the U.S. Olympic Development Program (ODP) you will be restricted from competing at the high school level.  The idea is that to further develop our youth players they need to be playing at the highest level and by playing high school ball, you are limiting your potential growth and development as a player.

A Look at the Numbers:

Since 1971 the number of high school boys soccer players has increased from 78,000 to 400,000 and for the girls from 700 to 360,000.   Currently, there are about 4,000 boys who participate in the ODP program which spreads across 78 different academies.  Which if you look at the numbers, that’s only 1% of the boys who participate in high school soccer.

A Look at the Division:

Since the ODP program began in 1997 both the high school and ODP programs were able to co-exist.  The National Federation of State High School association (NFHS) has several members that say there are bylaws that permit the coexistence.  Also, they noted that in the Amateur Sports Act it “imposes on U.S. Soccer and other National Governing Bodies the duty to work cooperatively with entities such as state high school associations in order to protect young people and the institutions they serve.”

The debate continues on whether it’s fair for the players to have to choose between the ODP program and the high school program.  The high school coaches question whether or not the two or three months is going to so-called “close the gap” between the United States National Team and the elite power houses of the world.  The United States Youth Development Program believes that if these 4,000 ODP players want to make it to the professional level, they should not participate in high school soccer.

A Look at My Opinion:

Through my experience of playing club and high school I found that while playing club I was able to learn a lot more and compete at a much higher level.  A lot of the high school coaches are also education teachers and not always teachers of the beautiful game.  I want to stress that I am not questioning the intelligence of all high school coaches, but rather, telling you what I experienced.  My club team coaches were all international (mostly English) coaches who had International coaching licenses, and coaching was their full-time job.  My high school coach was a middle school social studies teacher who might have played a little college soccer.  I will admit that I did enjoy playing high school soccer where I was able to play with my best friends who were of different age groups.  Some of my best memories were the success we had as a high school team.

What I would suggest is to allow the players to make  their own decision if they want to participate in both ODP and high school soccer.  Ultimately their decision should come down to what level they see themselves playing at in the future.  Do they anticipate being able to play in college or professionally?  If you see yourself making a run at becoming a professional, I suggest focusing on the ODP program.  If you see yourself playing in college but not necessarily going pro, play both club and high school.  I see both sides of the argument but it should ultimately be in the players hands.

Some suggest completely eliminating high school sports and making all sports club programs.  What is your opinion on the ongoing issues between club and high school sports?  Should ODP players be allowed the option to play high school or should U.S. Soccer step in and take control of their potential future players?   

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Tomo is your prototypical “soccer guy.” A four year starter at Shippensburg University, Tomo owned the defensive midfield with his awesome vision of the game and hard-nosed style of play. An avid Chelsea fan, he’s left scratching his head wondering what owner Roman Abramovich will rotate through Stamford Bridge. Tomo also blogs about Chelsea and the English Premier League on his site TomoTimes.

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