Club sports and year-round training has been a hot topic for a lot of parents of athletes I train.  At some point in our conversation, I seem to be saying similar points about less practice and more pickup sports.

Everything in an athlete’s training is structured and regimented.  If you screw up, you have a coach correcting you and having you try it again.  Doesn’t seem like a lot of fun in my book.

There is a time and place for practicing and obviously during the season you are practicing a lot more and less pickup time.  But, out of season, you really shouldn’t have structured practices a whole lot.

You can continue to work on the skill of the sport, but it doesn’t always need to be structured.  You can go to a basketball shooting coach for an hour, but how much of that training are you doing on your own to work on your game.  Going to that coach once a week is not making you better.  Going to that coach once a week and then working on your game once a day on your own is getting you better.

But, what I see from the youth is that everything they do is organized and competitive.  I am all for growing competitiveness, but it doesn’t have to be in everything that they do. 

What would be nice is instead of a coach correcting everything that an athlete does, if they could figure it out on their own.  That opponent keeps stealing the ball from you, how will you prevent that opponent from doing it again?  Figure it out by playing pickup sports.

Kids just don’t understand the subtleties of the game very fast.  They are looking at the coach for the next play or what to do.  I see kids running plays in basketball and completely missing easy opportunities to score lay-ups because they are focusing on the play rather than the objective of offense which is to score points.

I continue to discuss my thoughts to parents about playing more pickup sports and then I read an article that talked about today’s youth being over-coached.  More kids are quitting organized sports by 13 because it isn’t fun anymore.

The article stressed coaches encouraging multiple sports so you don’t continue to be coached and hear the same things 24/7/365 for just one sport.  At some point, you miss out on some real good athletes because they get bored and want to quit.  Or they haven’t developed their athleticism appropriately because of focusing on the one sport.  But, it is too late to try another sport because they have focused on just the one for so long.

The article also mentioned a document that had been released by the U.S. Soccer Federation called Best Practices for Coaching in the United States.  It basically encouraged coaches to be more hands-off and run some practices like pickup soccer.

WOW!!  Where did I hear that before?

It allows them to figure stuff out on their own and probably keep them more engaged in the sport longer.

Yes, you do need to have some structured practices, but in my opinion developing the love for the sport and skill of the sport is on the athlete.  What they do on their own will determine how successful they will be.

I’m sure people can point out athletes that will be going to college due in large part to their club experiences.  My point is that many more colleges would have looked at them if more of the club experience was pickup soccer rather than structured, organized practices and then games all the time.

We will never know, but it really is something more coaches should encourage.