A cryptic tweet today by Chris Kappler of Summit Soccer brought out a conflict that has arisen with the Calendar Year change by US Youth Soccer.
— Summit Soccer (@summitsoccer026) January 25, 2017
The issue? For the U15 age group (2002 calendar year), teams are a mix of Eighth and Ninth Grade girls entering the Spring season. That means girls will be making a choice of where they will play – continuing with their club team or leaving to join a high school program.
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UPDATE – Calendar Year age groups is an issue every club has to manage. I have used some SLSG examples because quite frankly, they are the only club whose website offers an open view of the roster and what school year their players are part of. I do not mean to single them out as bad guys, only as an illustration that offers a direct example of players and teams and the issues involved.
Both the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) and SLYSA will have U15 girls brackets this season. Midwest Regional League (MRL) also will play girls in that age group although I have not been able to identify any Missouri, Kansas or Illinois teams that will play in the league this Spring.
It’s a tough spot to be in for the player, the teams and the Clubs.
Players must make the choice to play Club or High School this Spring. If they move to High School, there is a ripple effect as the teams they leave must either abandon the remaining part of the season for the Eighth graders or find replacements from U14 teams within the club.
For the players, there may be pressure from their club that they will not retain their spot on the team next Fall when Club season resumes. To intimate that to the players in an effort to convince them not to move is unfair to the players. I’m guessing that is going on, if not officially from the Club, then from their teammates and among the parents.
@summitsoccer026 if that's the case, which I hope it is, why do 9th graders feel that they don't have a choice to actually play HS ball?
— Jason Mathenia (@jmathenia15) January 25, 2017
There is another side as well. How many freshman step into a varsity position? For Kappler, he had the good fortune to have three freshman last Spring (well done Hannah, Lily and Anna) that earned significant minutes and had a positive impact on the team (from two clubs). That is great for those players but how many of these prospective players are in that position? The two ECNL team – Missouri and Illinois – have 15 to 20 players between them who need to make the decision.
I’m a big proponent of the High School game, it’s the only place the girls (and boys) will play in front of actual crowds and enjoy the school spirit that is involved. However, if I was faced with the choice, I’d frankly look at the High School team and make my decision on whether she/he would be able to ‘play up’ with a spot on the Varsity or if she/he would get more (and better) playing time on their club team.
So that’s the background and I wish all of the players good luck finding a spot where they will have fun and continue to grow in the game.
UPDATE – the following is my speculation. I have gotten feedback that leads me to these thoughts but I would not expect them to happen prior to 2020 for example. So take it for what it is, an opinion.
I’ll close with one more thought. While the folks at Scott Gallagher have noted they have not applied for the US Soccer Girls Academy Program I suspect that issue is not ‘dead’. US Soccer is committed to growing the program and I suspect that ‘not joining’ while expecting to maintain the Boys Academy relationship will not last. The Boy’s Academy merger is happening due Academy requirements. I believe it will only be a question of time before the US Soccer Girls program catches up and
forces establishes new rules that require Club’s to join as a condition of retaining the Boys Academy.