With U.S. Soccer’s new player development initiatives taking effect by 2017, Cal South is pushing to have all soccer teams and clubs apply the new initiatives now instead of gradually changing over the next couple years. The biggest change for U.S. youth soccer is that all players register for teams according to the year they are born (Jan. 1 – Dec. 31st) instead of the calendar year (Aug. 1st – July 31st.)
The United States and Canada were the only 2 countries out of 208 countries registered with FIFA that had teams on the calendar year. The U.S. ODP programs have always been based on birth years so this will not affect any try-outs or players that are currently on ODP teams.
Several soccer players are now on the younger end of their teams or could potentially “play up” an age group if they stayed with their team.
Should soccer players “play up” with the new birth year initiative?
With the increase in youth soccer concussions and knee injuries, parents should be careful of allowing their youth soccer player to “play up” to stay with their current team. It is unfortunate that players have to look for another team or coach if they are now on the younger end of the team; however, injuries have far more greater consequences than a youth athlete learning to play soccer with a different coach and team.
For an example, a soccer player born in July 2003 has been the youngest on their soccer team. With the current birth year changes, if that same July 2003 player “plays up” to stay on their team, they could potentially play against an opponent that is born January 2002 (an entire 1.5 years older.) Both of these soccer players are in middle school and going through puberty changes, social changes, and the older one may be preparing for high school in the next year once the fall season concludes.
Now, there is the argument that “playing up” will help certain soccer players elevate their game and advance their skills so they can make ODP teams and have an opportunity to hopefully play for the National team or in college. In fact, youth National team coaches encourage soccer players to play up to gain more speed on and off the ball and learn to make faster decisions in the game.
Each soccer player has a different journey and can handle different stresses. For some soccer players, “playing up” will not be a problem but a great challenge that will help them to increase their soccer IQ. For some other players, the team changes will give them an opportunity to be on the older end of the team or right in the middle, instead of the younger end.
Right now is the best time to expose these youth soccer players to different clubs, teams, and coaches to find the right fit for deciding if “playing up” should be an option. All teams and clubs are going through the same changes and hosting team try-outs.
Contact Coach Brittany Gonzales for updates on current team try-outs and if “playing up” is a great option.
Brittany Gonzales, Director of Champion’s QUEST Soccer Academy BIO
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