Website Manager

Western North Carolina's
Home for Youth Soccer

Western North Carolina's
Home for Youth Soccer

You, as a parent or guardian, are an essential part of your player's sporting experience. Because of the way youth sports have evolved in the United States in recent years,  parents and guardians have become more involved than ever before in their player's youth sports journey. Because of this increased involvement, it's also more important than ever that every parent/guardian is aware of how their role, behavior, and values impact their player's experience on and off the field.

ABYSA and HFC are proud to partner with the Soccer Parenting Association and The Sideline Project to help provide information and resources for our families to help create the best possible environment for our players, club, and community! 
We believe youth soccer parents will be difference makers when it comes to improving the game and we believe a more collaborative environment between coach, parent, club, and player is in the best interest of player development. The mission of the Soccer Parenting Association is to Inspire Players by Empowering Parents and we hope you dive into the content and community at!

At the Soccer Parenting Resource Center, you will find courses, videos, monthly live webinars, articles, and interviews with tips, advice, guidance, and support – all to help you make sure your child feels inspired by their soccer experience.

Welcome Letter to Parents - En español

Welcome Letter to Coaches - En español

Soccer Parent Values -  En español

Take the Sideline Pledge Now!
The Sideline Project is an additional learning resource in partnership with the Soccer Parenting Association for Parents, Coaches, Referees, Administrators & all Spectators. We encourage everyone to take the pledge! Watch the short video to learn about sideline behavior, read the pledge, add your name to the Pledge Wall, and let's Make Youth Sports Better, together. 

     These parent education resources have all been compiled based on common questions and concerns common to parents across the country's different competitive levels of soccer programs. Every information source below has been sourced directly from experts, scholarly research, or research-based articles. The purpose of this page is to provide you with information that can help you and your family build the most developmentally productive framework for your player, as well as for you as a parent or guardian.

Independent Studies and Research Articles for Families

Glossary of Learning Subject Resources 

The Basics
I) Why do kids play soccer
II) Why do kids quit soccer
III) USYS Parent Guide - An Introduction to Soccer

It's Game Day!
I) Why does my 12u &under player not play on a full-size field?
II) What does Game Day look like for _________
i) Kids
ii) Parents
III) The ride home: A time for analysis, snacks, or both?
i) We won
ii) We lost

What Parent / Spectator Values on Game Day Teach Players
I) How does parent behavior on the sideline shape players' abilities to experience long-term development?
i) How do you see the game as a parent and a fan?
ii) How does my view of the game show my player what to value during games?
iii) How does my view impact my player's overall development and competitiveness?

Practice Makes Perfect
I) What is a 'Growth Mindset' and how does it help?
i) Fixed mindset vs. Growth Mindset
ii) How can parents and coaches help develop a growth mindset?
II) 10,000 Hours to Skill Mastery: How true is it?
III) Does age matter for what skills my player is ready to develop?
iii) Long-Term Athlete Development infographic - CSL 
IV) The power of pick-up games and additional ways to help player development
i) Play outside of your organized sports
ii) Physical literacy translates across sports
iii) Building resilience through failure in pick-up sports
iv)The FUN of failure in the safety of friends VS. the fear of failure in organized settings
V) Burnout: Is it real?

Soccer: A Lifelong Sport
I) What is a "Lifelong Sport?"
II) Why is a lifelong sport important for a young child's development?
III) Why should my teenager keep playing if they don't want to play in college?
IV) Why lifelong sports are important for adults

I want to help coach my child's team. What should I know?
I) Starting the conversation for your family - Is it right for us?
II) Do I need to know about soccer to be a Recreation Coach?
II) Benefits of coaching your own child
III) I've heard it can be hard for the parent and child. Is that true?
IV) ABYSA Recreation Coach's Corner

How Families Can Help Build the Soccer Community
I) Parents/Guardians can get involved with an Adult League team
II) Become a Certified Referee
III) Make your own Soccer Culture in the house
IV) Volunteer in the soccer community
i) ABYSA Outreach Programs
      ii) Become a TOPSoccer 'Buddy'

 Why Kids Play Soccer 

BC Survey Respondent Breakdown (2,400 Players): 

70% - Seventy percent of respondents play at house/bronze or similar levels - [Recreation -> Academy]
25% - One-quarter at gold/silver/ Div. 1,2 or equivalent - [Academy -> Classic]
6% - Six percent played at ‘metro’, equivalent or above - [Regional/National Leagues]
They [respondents] have played with soccer clubs for an average of four years. 



Why Kids Quit Soccer 

Elementary School:
"Many kids lose their passion for youth sports during these years because they feel they can't live up to their parents and coaches' expectations."

Sports psychology expert Rick Wolff, the author of Good Sports, stresses that parents of kids ages 5-12 need not be concerned with their child's excellence at such refined sports skills as corner kicks and drag bunts. "Those are unimportant," Wolf advises. "The key here is having your child develop a sense of passion for the sport." Parents and coaches need to be aware of what kids can accomplish at their differing developmental levels -- physically, intellectually, emotionally, and socially. Don't make unrealistic expectations concerning your child's sports performance -- be it in the area of muscle coordination, dedication, or attention span. 

Middle School:
"Playing sports loses its enjoyment for them and "fun" takes a back seat to winning."

Kids start dropping out in big numbers at this stage. Playing sports loses its enjoyment for them and "fun" takes a back seat to winning. Pick-up games and just "playing for fun" should be encouraged. The key at this vulnerable stage is to keep them playing the sports they enjoy -- if not on school or youth teams, then informally with friends. Not being on a team does not mean they have failed as athletes. It just means that they have to find other pleasurable ways to continue enjoying their sports.

High School:
"By this stage, it's usually the successful high-school athletes who play both school sports and outside competitive-league sports. There are just so many positions to be filled on competitive teams. But what about kids who still love to play sports but can't because of their demanding academic, social, and work lives?"

By this stage, it's usually the successful high-school athletes who play both school sports and outside competitive-league sports. There are just so many positions to be filled on competitive teams. But what about kids who still love to play sports but can't because of their demanding academic, social, and work lives? Parents need to remind these kids of the fun they had playing these games and help them to find time to play them with family members and friends. Helping your kids stay connected to the sports they love now can encourage them to remain physically active throughout their lives.
"Why Most Kids Quit Sports," Carleton Kendrick - Full Article

Why does my 12u & under player play on a smaller field?

"A study by the English FA determined that players get up to five times the amount of touches in futsal or small-sided games than they do in 11-a-side. But more importantly, almost all of these touches are under pressure. This makes them critical touches, and the player has to have some tactical application to what they are doing."
            "Futsal: Is This Simple Game the Missing Link in American Soccer?", Keith Whitmer: Full Article

What Does Game Day Look Like For _________? 

“Adult spectators, coaches, and league administrators are guests at the children’s games. We are guests because if no adult attended, our hosts, the children, could still have a game.” - Douglas E. Abrams, University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law" 
"The Challenges Facing Parents and Coaches in Youth Sports: Assuring Children Fun and Equal Opportunity", Douglas. E. Abrams - Full Report 

"If parents and coaches allow the children to have fun, most children will work hard because they want to win. But if adults browbeat them about winning, the children will not have fun and most will ultimately quit. When the fun comes first, the desire to win follows. But fun must come first."

"Competition is ingrained in American culture and most child athletes will be competitive no matter what the adults in their lives do or say. When the score is four to two, even six-year-olds know that the difference between having four and having two is the difference between winning and losing. When supportive adults make sports fun, the inherent challenge of athletic competition can still "toughen" children by teaching them responsibility, perseverance, poise, loyalty, self-control, self-discipline, and similar virtues.
      "The Challenges Facing Parents and Coaches in Youth Sports: Assuring Children Fun and Equal Opportunity", Douglas. E. Abrams - Full Report

"It is no easy task to be a parent of a young athlete. Hard enough are the tasks of helping the child learn how to handle the ups and downs of competition. But perhaps most challenging are the demands on your own coping skills - learning how to manage emotions that are repeatedly tested under trying conditions... As a parent, you experience a rush of positive emotions when your child triumphs, a deflating sense of emptiness when they lose. This emotional process can almost become addicting."
                "How to be a Successful Youth Sports Parent: Escaping the Parent Trap", Shane Murphy, PHD - Full Article

The Ride Home: A time for analysis, snacks, or both?

We Won
"Did you have fun?," "Did you do your best?", "Did you learn something today?"

"When a child comes home from a game, parents send a distinct message with, "Did you win?" They send a much different message by asking three other questions: "Did you have fun?," "Did you do your best?," and "Did you learn something today?" The last three questions teach children to measure success by internal factors within their control (such as whether they hustled or improved a skill), rather than by external factors beyond their control (such as whether the other team was more talented or whether a teammate made a costly error)."
               "The Challenges Facing Parents and Coaches in Youth Sports: Assuring Children Fun and Equal Opportunity", Douglas. E. Abrams - Full Report

We Lost
Listen [to your player]
"If you’re like me, the temptation after a tough loss will be to “look on the bright side.” There’s nothing wrong with pointing out the positives in a situation, but first, let your child express her feelings. Long before you say something like, “Hey, at least you got to play goalie” or “Lots of kids don’t even make all-stars,” hear your child out. Let her tell you about her disappointment."

Help Put Things in Perspective
Once you’ve listened well and let your child say what he’s feeling, encourage him to talk about what went well despite the loss. Try your best not to provide the answers here; after all, you don’t want to be imposing your own sunshine on his cloudy situation. Just lead him to see the positives, asking questions like, “Did you feel like anything at all went well today?” or “What was your favorite play you made?” Again, you’re not minimizing his disappointment or trying to convince him that his feelings are wrong to feel. You’re just pointing out that the negatives don’t exist in a vacuum, that they are part of a larger picture that also contains lots of positives."

"Remember, your ultimate goal when your child is upset after a tough loss isn’t to make her feel better. Of course, that’s a goal. But ultimately, you want to respond in a way that both honors her experience and feelings in the moment, and also allows her to learn the important lessons that come from the simple joy of playing, whether the outcome is the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat."
               "Losing is Hard on Kids," Tina Payne Bryson, PHD - Full Article

What Parent / Spectator Values on Game Day Teach Players 

I) How does parent behavior on the sidelines shape players' abilities to experience long-term development?
In order to identify how your behavior as a parent may impact your player's development experience, you need to understand how you experience the game as a spectator and as a parent. Below are three of the most common perspectives of parents watching their player(s) play: Compete Respectfully, Inform to win, and Win at all costs

Educational Practice I - Compete respectfully (Work together to play the game)
Here, parents’ voices are glad and positive and there is a focus on good performances, praising fair play actions, confirming and supporting everyone in the home team and giving extra support and encouragement to individuals with difficulties. Positive actions are reinforced through feedback, often by using the player’s first name. Players are allowed to make mistakes and are encouraged to try again when they fail. Players make their own decisions on the pitch, learn to cooperate and make a collective effort. The educational practice is constituted by four principles:

i) A
ct consistently and enjoyably
Here the [parent] behaviour is consistent and includes giving individual and collective praise to the home team and cheering and supporting regardless of the score: parents praise all the players by using their first names, parents commonly express praise to the whole team: ‘Good girls!’.

ii) O
bserve and praise with accuracy
Parents are present and relaxed, observe the game, are quiet and use their voices and body movements carefully and calmly: the parents mostly sit down, are relaxed and sometimes applaud and give praise.

iii) E
ncourage effort and hard work
The balance between praise and encouragement isn't related to the score. Team performances, attempts, efforts and hard collective work are praised, thus emphasising that hard work is more important than the score: the opponents score and parents encourage the team to keep going, ‘It doesn’t matter. Come on!’.

iv) C
reate a mutually competitive environment
A holistic perspective on the competitive environment includes the opponents, praising good performances and encouraging both teams (in attack and defence): players from both teams are applauded for good performances.

Educational Practice II - Inform to win

Here the emphasis is on winning, with a focus on the home team in which the players are pressured to succeed. The team is cheered loudly when winning. Praise and support are given to the home team, but the opponents are largely ignored. However, opposing players might be reprimanded for playing unjustly and roughly, or the referee shouted at if a parent’s own child is injured and a wrong referee decision suspected. Spontaneous reactions are expressed in unfavourable events for the home team [or YOUR team] and the rules of the game are interpreted in favour of the team. Players are allowed to act in an unsportspersonlike way and parents act as an extra referee or coach in order to influence the play. Suggestions for players’ actions and information and hints to players about game situations are common. This practice is marked by a winning-oriented, short-term education for the home team. The educational practice is constituted by two principles:

i) Give support in decision making
Proactive actions are used to influence the game, such as acting as an extra referee or coach, telling the referee or the players how to act and making them aware of what is happening in different situations: a parent shouts the name of a player, the player turns around, looks up and starts to run . Players are informed and given hints about situations, prepared and directed towards preferable actions: a parent shouts to the players to start communicating, ‘Come on lads, talk to each other!’ and ‘Mind your back!’.

ii) [Comments] Favor the home team
Only the home team is praised and supported with no comments about or towards the opponents: the parents only applaud good performances by the home team.

Educational Practice III - Win at all costs (Downgrade and control)
The game is viewed as a combat to outperform the opponents and gain results. The referee is treated as serving the interests of the home team. Players and the team are instructed and pushed around by the parents. Instructions are given individually (often to a parent’s own child) by combining praise with action-oriented instructions, pushing players to try even harder. When the home players are treated unfairly or roughly, strong reactions often result. The team is also given loud collective instructions and pushy advice to act in specific ways. The educational practice is result-oriented, involving values of instruction, domination, performance and outcomes. The educational practice is constituted by two principles:

i) Reduce opportunities for others to succeed 
Here actions are mainly directed towards officials and opponents, harassing and undermining the referee, downgrading opponents and being hostile to the opponents’ parents. The referee is shouted at and complaints are made when the referee makes controversial decisions: close to the touchline a parent loudly questions an offside decision by the referee, ‘No, no!’. Opponents are addressed in a derogatory fashion, e.g. by letting them know how weak and slow they are and how rough and unsportspersonlike they play: in a duel between two players a parent shouts to the player in the home team, ‘You are the quickest, don’t give up!’.

ii) Command the home team's players
There is a strong focus on the home team and one’s own child. Players in the home team are harassed and blamed if they do not contribute to winning the game or perform well.

II) What does MY 'Educational Practice' teach my player(s) to value on game day?
Educational Practice I - Compete respectfully
Compete respectfully is about striving to win and learn. Opponents are essential for competition and need to be respected and treated as ‘friendly enemies’ who make it possible to test and develop player- and team ability, with the referee as a co-creator who makes the game possible. This logic facilitates educational practices marked by enjoyment, equal possibilities to participate, respect for others, social conventions and rules of the game. Players are cared for and valued as individuals separated from their performances, are praised and shown understanding.

Educational Practice II - Inform to Win 
Inform to win moves on a continuum between the two competition logics, balancing an educative and mis-educative characteristic in which players’ performances in the home team are supported and those of the opponents neglected. The focus here is on success and winning, thus marginalising long-term educational processes. Even though players are allowed to make their own decisions in the game, they are more often than not influenced in their decision-making by parents. In this type of practice, the players learn to be manipulated and that others make the right decisions for them.

Educational Practice III - Win at all costs
Win at all cost is about winning and showing superiority. Opponents threaten the group’s identity, are treated as enemies and the referee is regarded as an obstacle to overcome. This logic risks encouraging educational practices marked by shouting, unfair treatment of others and anti-social behaviour. Players risk being treated on the basis of their ability, while responsiveness and care for the well-being of others are reduced and where short-term solutions, fear of failure, punishment and guilt become standard practice. Such reactions are provoked by parents directing and giving orders to the players on the pitch, humiliating them for making mistakes, losing or performing badly. As shown in control and downgrade, players are socialised to follow instructions, listen and let others make decisions for them, focus on the outcome, avoid mistakes and do what is necessary to win. An educational practice encouraged by a win at all cost logic will therefore fuel mis-educative actions promoting inequality, rivalry, self-interest, punishment, guilt and unfair play.

III) What does MY 'Educational Practice' mean for my player's view of the game and how to compete on - and off - the field?
Educational Practice I - Compete Respectfully
In Compete Respectfully (work together and play the game) parents deal with the conflict of learning vs. wanting to win by a shared respect and equality for all players on the field. Parents are actively promoting players’ learning and long-term educational processes, especially by encouraging players to learn after they make mistakes and supporting ALL attempts to make decisions that or implement skills that could impact the game.

Educational Practice II - Inform to win
In Inform to Win, parents deal with the conflict of learning vs. winning by only focusing on and supporting the home team and arguing against the referee’s unfavourable decisions. This takes the form of controlling players' actions and decisions, or the referees' decisions, to 'help your team be successful.'

Educational Practice III - Win at all costs
In Win at all costs (control and downgrade), the conflict of learning vs. winning  is played out in moral registers in terms of treating the opponents as ‘evil’ and enemies to crush and only crushing the enemy will make your team successful. This takes the form of winning the game determining how well a player is developing instead of their ability to learn and implement new skills and ideas. 

How 'Inform to win' and 'Win at all costs' create difficulties for long-term player development:
In both... "inform to win" and "win at all costs" learning is confused with achievement and performance outcome [eg. scoring or winning]... and aim at supporting the players’ success by using them [the player] instrumentally. Just because a player follows orders and the action results in a goal being scored, it does not mean that the player has learned anything or that the team has improved. Why? Because the decision-making was done by the parents [or coaches], not by the player.

  "Parent-created educational practices and conditions for players’ political socialisation in competitive youth games: a player perspective on parents’ behaviour in grassroots soccer.", Erik Andersson - Full Report

Practice Makes Perfect 

What is 'Growth Mindset' and how does it help development?
What does a 'Growth Mindset' look like?
"Those with a growth mindset know they have to work hard, and they enjoy it. They understand that effort is what ignites their ability and causes it to grow over time..  In a growth mindset, the rule is: Embrace your mistakes and confront your deficiencies."

"Those with a growth mindset... say “It’s much more important for me to learn things in my classes than it is to get the best grades.” They care about grades, just as athletes care about winning the game, but they care first and foremost about learning. As a group, these are the students who end up earning higher grades, even when they may not have had greater aptitude originally."

What does a 'Fixed Mindset' look like?
"Those with a fixed mindset believe that if you have natural talent, you shouldn’t need much effort. In fact, having to work hard casts doubt on your ability. I believe that this is why so many enormously talented athletes never fulfill their potential. They are often the ones who have coasted along, winning with little effort, while the other athletes were sweating, struggling, and practicing. The fixed mindset “naturals” never learn to work, so that when they later reach their limits, they cannot cope."

"We have found over and over that, a fixed mindset does not give people a good way to recover from setbacks. After a failure, fixed-mindset students say things like “I’d spend less time on this subject from now on” or “I would try to cheat on the next test.” They make excuses, they blame others, and they make themselves feel better by looking down on those who have done worse. Everything but face the setback and learn from it."

How can parents and coaches help shape mindset?
"At the organizational level, a growth mindset is fostered when coaching staffs present athletic skills as acquirable, value passion, effort, improvement (and teamwork), not simply natural talent, and present themselves as mentors and not just talent judges. When coaching staffs have a fixed mindset, their job is simply to find the talent. When they have a growth mindset, their job is to inspire and promote the development of talent."

"Mindsets: Developing Talent Through A Growth Mindset," Carol S. Dweck, Stanford University - Full Article

10,000 Hours to Skill Mastery
Is it actually that simple? NO
Can it help you build a picture of skill acquisition and individual development? YES

"[A] a lot more goes into mastering a skill than practice. "Even the greatest in the world is not perfect, but to become great, it is likely a number of factors, depending on the task," she said. "A combination of genetic factors, environmental factors, and their interactions, make us who we are and what we accomplish. This includes what we think of as talent, motivation, practice, and opportunity."
                "The role of deliberate practice in expert performance: revisiting Ericsson, Krampe & Tesch-Römer (1993)," Brooke N. Macnamara and Megha Maitra - Full Report

Only Playing in a League:

Goal: 10,000 hours to skill mastery

Number of Sessions /Year

Hours of Practice & Game Time /Year

Number of Years Needed to reach 10,000 Hours

1 Hour a day for 365 Days




2 Sessions per week: 1 Game, 1 Practice (1.5 hours each)*




3 Sessions per week: 1 game, 2 practices**




4 sessions per week: 1 game, 3 practices***




4 sessions + 15 minutes 3 days per week***




* 2x 8 week seasons
** 2x 10 week seasons 
*** 2x 17 week seasons

League Play PLUS Camps and Clinics:

Goal: 10,000 hours to skill mastery Number of Sessions /YearHours of Practice & Game Time /Year  Number of Years Needed to reach 10,000 Hours

4 sessions + 15 minutes 3 days per week*** PLUS
One 7-day camp/clinic




4 sessions + 15
minutes 3 days per week*** PLUS Two
7-day camps/clinic




*** 2x 17 week seasons

Does age matter for what skills my player is best at developing?
The simple answer is, yes. Players can get the most improvement out of different developmental focuses depending on their age. Below, you will find the most commonly recognized developmental stages and the spectrum of age most common to girls or boys for that stage. It is important to know that every player's individual development will move at a different speed based on many factors in that player's life; some that can be controlled (eg. environmental) and some that can't (eg. genetic).

Girls and Boys Ages 0-6
Basic motor skill development and how to participate in play
The goal of athletics for your very young child is to help him or her acquire Physical Literacy.  A Physically Literate child has the fundamental movement skills and sports skills that are learned as a child.  He or she is active, a willing participant, and builds confidence and competence in their movements and skills.  Having these skills allows children to feel good about participation in physical activities.  They learn the ABC’s of agility, balance, coordination, and speed, and thus possess the ability to move confidently and appropriately on the field or in the arena of their chosen sport or activity.  Not all children have these skills innately, nor do they come as easy for some as they do for others.  They must be taught.
Kids learn by doing, and by modeling what others do, so jump right in.  The basic foundational movements of crawling, walking, running and jumping come naturally to kids, as their bodies develop the proper strength and coordination skills to perform them.  Kids develop these basic skills when they are encouraged to do so, surrounded by active children and adults to model, and provided a safe environment to experiment. 

Girls ages 6-8
Boys ages 6-9
Refining motor skill development and introducing basic teamwork to solve simple problems
Girls ages 6-8 and boys ages 6-9 should be exposed to a wide variety of athletic experiences, as this is the second stage of developing physical literacy.  Your kids should be changing activities season to season to avoid burnout and boredom.  These activities can be structured, but should still focus on FUN, and competitive games and matches should be kept to a minimum.  Kids begin to read the game going on around them, and thus can make decisions, and movements, about what is happening during the match.  Let them see the game, and try not to see it for them!
Children are still quite egocentric during this stage, meaning their sports activities should be done in small groups, with constant, active participation.  Stay away from long lines and lots of standing around, or you will lose their attention.  Make sure there are enough toys (i.e. balls) for every kid to participate or you will lose their attention quickly.  Their ability to understand the thoughts and feelings of other children is not well developed, so it is crucial that their experience is often allowed to be an individual one – every kid gets a ball.
The FUNdamental stage is one of the sensitive times to develop on hand and foot speed for both boys and girls, so this should be a focus, albeit through fun activities and games, and not training regimens and drills.  Every sport can develop these skills, and even a soccer coach should be working on catching while jumping, running, even doing forward rolls.

Girls ages 8-11
Boys ages 9-12
Learning how to practice and putting basic skills in to game context 
This is the Golden Age of Skill Development!  Children of this age begin to convert their foundational movements into basic sports skills.  If you think about it, this makes perfect sense, as puberty and growth usually leads to a temporary loss of coordination and motor control.  This is the best time to learn sport specific skills, as the child is still in control of their body, and can see daily and weekly improvement from their hard work.  It is the sensitive period of accelerated skill development, and must not be overlooked, or short changed by over emphasizing competition.
Unless your child is doing an early specialization sport, such as gymnastics or skating, they should still participate in a wide variety of sports during this stage, but begin to focus on developing sport specific skills during those training hours.  The emphasis should continue to be on more training, and less competition.

*Important note about individual development progress and ability as players approach puberty*
One very interesting thing to note about the Learn to Train Stage is that it can be either a great advantage to a late developing athlete, or a great disadvantage.  With excellent coaching, in a proper development environment, a young athlete who hits puberty later then her classmates has a longer period in which to develop fundamental and sport specific skills.  She remains in the “Golden Age” longer then her peers, and if she takes advantage of this extra time, her technical skill base can surpass the early developers.
By the same token, often times late developers are overlooked for select level sports teams, simply because they have not grown, they are not as strong, they are not as fast.  The overemphasis on competition at these young ages funnels out these late developers, as coaches pick the biggest and strongest players for success in competition, when in fact studies show that over the long term the late developers who are kept within the high level training regimen become better long term performers because of a better skill base.
It is incredibly important during this stage to recognize, and explain to athletes, that their coordination and movement may be effected by their growth spurt, and that this is perfectly normal.  Coaches and parents must assure kids that the negative effect on their physical abilities is natural and will pass.  Some children will grow faster and strong much earlier then others, while others may show a greater capacities to focus for longer periods of time. 

Girls ages 11-15
Boys ages 12-16
Train to train - Training for enhanced individual development

It is the first of three stages in the high performance training and competition developmental stream.  It is a time for enhancement and consolidation of sport specific skills, building an aerobic base, and overall development of long term athletic potential.  As you can see by the age range, this stage begins at the onset of puberty, and ends at the conclusion of the adolescent growth spurt.  
Train to Train is the stage where athletes become more sport specific, and ramp up their training hours as they begin to specialize in a chosen sport, (but still usually compete in a second, complementary sport.)  In the end, the development done here makes Train to Train the make or break stage for become an elite performer in a specific sport.
It is crucial to remember that winning should remain secondary to skill and physical development, although competition can be ramped up at this time as athletes test their skills against fellow competitors.  Every sport has different requirements at this stage... but the emphasis is still on development, and education, and progression, and not measured by wins and losses.

Girls ages 15-21
Boys ages 16-23
Train to compete - Training to be competitive at the highest level
Train to Compete is the stage where athletes choose a specific sport to become an elite competitor in, focusing on high volume and high repetition training.  This is a stage that elite competitors enter, and not your everyday recreational athlete.  These players have aspirations of high school, collegiate, professional, and perhaps national and international competition in mind.  Besides their sport specific training, they also need to receive the necessary instruction regarding nutrition, psychology, recovery and regeneration, and injury prevention and management.  Competition is at a premium, and athletes must set up proper periodization schedules, competition and recovery plans, and focus on consistent, high level performances.
Elite performers in the Train to Compete Stage are not only maximizing their physical, mental, and psychological abilities, but they are also learning how to deal with external elements, such as travel, media, spectators, and difficult opponents.  They are selecting specific competitions and tailoring their training regimens in order to achieve maximum performance at these events.  They are overemphasizing training at certain times, tapering for events, and allowing adequate rest and recovery after events.  This is high level training, heavy duty commitment, and not the typical sporting experience for the vast majority of athletes.

Girls ages 18+
Boys ages 19+
Train to win
Train to Win athletes are full time competitors, seeking to win national and international events, playing professionally or at the highest level their sport allows, and dedicating themselves to the pursuit of not only excellence, but success in terms of medals and podiums.  Athletes in this stage generally are 18+ for women’s sports, and 19+ for men.  The skill training, tactical education, and physical growth are complete, or close to it, and now it is all about results.

    "Athletic Development by Age", Changing the Game Project - full article

Click here for Canadian Sport for Life's infographic of the Long-Term Athlete Development Model presented above

The power of pick-up games and additional ways to help individual sports development

"I guess because with your friends you know that if you screw up they’re not going to be too mad at you.” In other words, when the kids are the ones in control of the setting and the evaluation process, they often experience little discomfort as a result of mistakes. When kids are not in control of the evaluation, they feel significantly greater discomfort about relatively equivalent experiences."
"Reconstructing the Community-Based Youth Sports Experience: How Children Derive Meaning from Unstructured and Organized Settings" - Matthew T. Bowers and B. Christine Green

i) Play anything in your free time
"Kids who are allowed time to free play – outside of the structure of organized sports – tend to be more creative, have better basic motor skills, learn more social/emotional skills, and find ways to just have fun while playing."

         "The Importance of Multi-sport Parcipation," National Federation of State High School Associations and Mark Rerick - Full Article

"In short, informal sports provide a different type of setting wherein the [players] can explore the boundaries of their bodies and their abilities in a relatively consequence free psychosocial environment. Informal sports let them be creative and let them take risks so that they learn what they do and do not feel comfortable doing in an organized, evaluated setting. Given his lack of experience playing organized sports, this process of understanding the limits of his ability permitted Nate to hone his sense of control over his movements on the field. Following the experience of playing frequently in an unstructured setting over a period of months, Nate decided to reconsider playing the organized sports he eschewed at the beginning of the study:"
"Reconstructing the Community-Based Youth Sports Experience: How Children Derive Meaning from Unstructured and Organized Settings" - Matthew T. Bowers and B. Christine Green

ii) Physical Literacy Translates Across Sports
"The more sports and activities that kids are involved in early on in their lives, the more opportunity they have to develop themselves as an athlete, not just as a baseball, soccer, basketball, or football player. Many skills and techniques transfer from one sport to another and complement each other while continuing to further develop and build upon preexisting skill sets. When athletes develop their skills across different sports and activities, they are likely to find that their performance in other sports will increase."
"Benefits of Playing Multiple Sports," USA Baseball - Full Article

iv) Unstructured sports can create more resilience for players to build from failure and defeat in organized settings
"Although the behavior of many of the adults encountered during this research approached the level of irrationality, someone with experience working in youth sport might expect, the key distinction separating Riggins from other youth sport environments is the unwillingness of the majority of the boys to experience the behavior in anything but a supportive and encouraging manner. This ability to perceive adults as enablers instead of detractors in organized sport settings is a direct result of the autonomy that the boys possess during unstructured play; the control that they possess in unstructured settings allows them to embrace the lack of control in organized settings."
"Reconstructing the Community-Based Youth Sports Experience: How Children Derive Meaning from Unstructured and Organized Settings" - Matthew T. Bowers and B. Christine Green

v) The safety and embracing of failure in free play vs. the fear or failure in organized settings:
"One of the funnest [sic] times was when I had slept over and me and David and Nate were playing [football] in the yard before church. I caught the ball and was running and then I tripped over my pants and fell. I messed up my pants really bad and the ball flew out of my hands and David snatched it out of the air and ran it back for a touchdown. We couldn’t stop laughing. It was awesome. "

"My least favorite memory was when I was playing lacrosse and we were at a tournament and I had the ball and was running with it and I was going for toward [sic] the goal and I tripped on my stick when I went to shoot. It was really bad because I had like an open goal to shoot on and everybody was yelling at me and the other team was laughing at me."

"In both cases, Kurt had the ball, was in the process of running toward a goal, and tripped, causing him to lose the ball and not reach his goal. In the organized setting, this experience was traumatic and reflected on as one of his most salient, unpleasant memories. In the unstructured setting, Kurt identified what was virtually the same corporeal experience (although with a different sport) as one of his fondest memories. I later asked him about why he felt such different emotions about such similar experiences: “I don’t know. I guess because with your friends you know that if you screw up they’re not going to be too mad at you.” In other words, when the kids are the ones in control of the setting and the evaluation process, they often experience little discomfort as a result of mistakes. When kids are not in control of the evaluation, they feel significantly greater discomfort about relatively equivalent experiences."
"Reconstructing the Community-Based Youth Sports Experience: How Children Derive Meaning from Unstructured and Organized Settings" - Matthew T. Bowers and B. Christine Green

Burnout: Is it real?
"Burnout in a sport is when the athlete is mentally fatigued from playing one sport too often. When athletes play one sport too often and too early on in their lives, it can result in the athlete losing the fun aspect of the sport. The athlete will then want to stop playing because they are tired of it, and it’s just not fun anymore. The sport turns into work, and they begin to resent going to practice or games."
        "Benefits of Playing Multiple Sports," USA Baseball - Full Article

Soccer: A Lifelong Sport

What is a "Lifelong Sport?"
"[Lifetime] sports have one thing in common. They appeal to physical fitness for the fun of it, not to athletic excellence."

"[M]any people have begun activities that are easy to learn and fun for the family. These activities are called “lifetime sports” because they can be enjoyed by participants at any time of their lives."
                "Lifetime Sports: The Road To Family's Physical Fitness And Just for the Fun of It," Edward Budd - Full Article

Why is a lifelong sport important for a young child's development?
"Evidence has been found that there is a positive relationship between the amount of physical activity, cognitive abilities, and school success. The number of motor skills that the child gradually acquires in the course of life are positively correlated with cognitive functions. The ability to coordinate movements, visual-motor function, and overall physical fitness predict school maturity and school readiness of the child. Physical activity has a positive effect not only on the child's cognitive function but also on the structure and function of the brain."
"Education of Children in the Area of Physical Activities as a Foundation for Lifelong Sports," Ludmila Miklánková - Full Report

Why should my teenager keep playing sports if they won't play in college?
[T]he exercise immersion experienced by high school students engaging in sports activities allows them to have a desirable perception of their health responsibilities. Since self-actualization and stable interpersonal relationships can lead to lifelong physical education through health promotion education, it is necessary to provide continuous physical education in high school.
           "Effect of exercise immersion experience on health promotion and lifelong physical education of high school students in sports club activities," Young Jun Ko and Jun-Su Kim - Full Report

Why lifelong sports are important for adults:
"Only a few lifestyle choices have as large an impact on your health as physical activity. People who are physically active for about 150 minutes a week have a 33% lower risk of all-cause mortality than those who are physically inactive. You don’t have to do high amounts of activity or vigorous-intensity activity to reduce your risk of premature death. Benefits start to accumulate with any amount of moderate- or vigorous-intensity physical activity."

Regular physical activity [as an adult] can help keep your thinking, learning, and judgment skills sharp as you age. It can also reduce your risk of depression and anxiety and help you sleep better."

Regular physical activity as an adult can help reduce risks for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some cancers. It can also help manage arthritis and other rheumatic conditions affecting the joints. Among older adults, physical activity also reduces the risk of falling and injuries from falls.
          "Benefits of Physical Activity," CDC

I want to help coach my child for the first time. What should I know?

"Before you decide to grab the whistle and clipboard and assume the role of soccer coach, sit down with your child and gauge how she feels about you overseeing the team this season. If you don't ask her how she feels, you'll never know. Many youngsters are thrilled to have their dad or mom as a coach, and if you see that sparkle in your child's eyes when you bring the subject up, that makes all the time and effort you put into the season well worth it."

"Remember that you're still the parent. Whether the team wins or loses, you have to step out of coaching mode and remember that first and foremost, you're a parent — and that means asking your child whether she had fun and praising her for doing her best and displaying good sportsmanship. Take your child out for that post-game ice cream or pizza whether she scored a goal or tripped over the ball on a breakaway."

                "Balancing Parenting and Coaching", National Alliance for Youth Sports and Greg Back - Full Article

Do I need to know and play soccer to be a good ABYSA Recreation coach?
According to families in the ABYSA Recreation program, the thing families value MOST is simply having a coach that can create a fun and engaging atmosphere for the team. If the coach also knows the game well, that's just a bonus!
Our Recreation program is designed as an entry level for new players, coaches, and families OR families that just want to participate for the fun of playing with friends. Because the players are generally inexperienced or enjoyment-based, it allows coaches to develop their understanding of the game along side the players. ABYSA Provides coaches with a weekly curriculum and tips based on age group that help to provide our coaches with season structure for the team as they learn and grow in to the role.

Click here to see the ABYSA Coaches Corner resource page

Below is a very brief summary of how US Soccer's 'Grassroots' soccer learning model is intended to help build the soccer experience in the United States:

Stage 1 - Grassroots/Recreation soccer introduction: Parents that enjoy working with kids and can make practice and games fun can create players that love the game
Stage 2 - Entering the Player Development Pathway: Players that love the game are more likely to be players who want to learn more or take soccer more seriously
Stage 3 - Entering the 'Giving Back' phase: Players that love the game and know the game become parents and coaches that love the game and know the game
Stage 4 - Strengthening future development cycles: Coaches that love the game and know the game build stronger and stronger soccer culture for everyone

The benefits of coaching and coaching your own child:
You’ll develop new skills
At the end of our most recent season, a head coach in the soccer league I convene told me that while he had only wanted to be an assistant coach, being a head coach had forced him to learn more about the sport. He gained a whole new appreciation for soccer and ended up loving the experience. Many leagues offer clinics to teach the coaches about their sport and about coaching techniques. It’s a fantastic and important thing to never stop learning. I believe it’s what keeps us young and helps us to relate to our children as they develop new skills. Plus it shows your kids that you’re willing to get out of your comfort zone, which is a really powerful thing for a parent to role model.

 You’ll learn and re-learn life lesions
Many coaches have told me that while they know the importance of instilling positive values in their players, they themselves learn a lot of life lessons along the way. Jordan Elliott, a house league soccer coach of 8- to 10-year-olds, pointed out that while coaching can sometimes test your patience, it also develops it. Patience, along with fair play, responsibility, having fun, leadership, and problem-solving are just some of the valuable lessons taught and learned in team sports. All the coaches that I have spoken with have reflected on having to adapt their teaching styles to fit the personalities of their players. Skills such as effective communication and developing self-confidence are tools that they have taken from the rinks and fields and used in their workplaces and in their homes.

 You’ll have fun
The number one reason kids play a sport because it is fun. And honestly, so is coaching. Getting to know the kids, helping them learn, seeing them gain confidence, and taking risks is part of what makes it so great. But you’ll also get to run (or skate) around and play and that is, truly, fun at any age.
                  "7 Benefits of Coaching Your Child's Team", Susan Scandiffio - Full Article

I heard coaching can be hard for the parent and child. Is that true?
"If you are going to coach your child then you best understand yourself as a parent and a coach. What does it mean to be in each of these roles? In general, when in the coach role you should not show favoritism to your child AND you should not be overly tough on your child to prove you are not playing favoritism."

"So, why does coaching your child often end in conflict? Usually, this conflict is due to the parent’s and the child’s inability to separate the coach's and parent's roles. This means that while you are coaching you have to be a coach and when you are at home be the parent. You must remind yourself to click into your roles depending on the situation."
                "Should I Coach My Child?", Larry Lauer, PHD - Full Article

How Families Can Help Build a Soccer Culture

Get yourself (re)involved in soccer!
No better way to learn or refresh your soccer skills and knowledge than doing it yourself!

Adult Rec Soccer (Powered by ABYSA) - Soccer for those who are focused on an enjoyable experience at any skill level

ABASA (Asheville Buncombe Adult Soccer Association) - If you are a new player, provide a quick bio and we can connect you with the captains and leagues that you are interested in. Contact ABASA here

Become a Referee
Why become a Referee?
Soccer has long been one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States. However, one important part of the sport in the US has been struggling to keep up with this growth: Referees. With more leagues, clubs, teams, and tournaments popping up every day, the nation's supply of referees needs to grow too!

Click here for more information about becoming a referee through ABYSA (must be at least 14 years old)
Click here for more information about becoming a CERTIFIED referee from the NC Soccer Referees Association

Build your own 'Soccer Culture' at home!
Pick a team and follow the league! 
The United States has some of the best options in the world to view many of the top leagues from around the world!
England - Premier League - USA Network beginning Jan. 1, 2022 (Subsidiary of NBC, the current TV rights holder)
Italy - Serie A - ESPN +
Spain - Primera Division - ESPN +
France - Ligue 1 - BeIN Sports
Germany -  Bundesliga - ESPN +

GO LOCAL! Pick a LOCAL Pro or Semi-Pro Club to follow:

ClubHighest League Represented (2021-22 season)City
Asheville City Soccer Club
(Men's and Women's)
USL League Two ; USL W-LeagueAsheville, NC
North Carolina CourageNational Women's Soccer League (Highest Level in US)Raleigh, NC
Charlotte FCMajor League Soccer (Highest Level in US)Charlotte, NC
Appalachian FCNational Premier Soccer LeagueBoone, NC
Atlanta UnitedMajor League Soccer (Highest Level in US)Atlanta, GA
Nashville SCMajor League Soccer (Highest Level in US)Nashville, TN
North Carolina FCUSL ChampionshipRaleigh, NC
(Men's and Women's)
USL League One ; USL W-LeagueGreenville, SC
Charlotte Independence SC  
(Men's and Women's)
USL League One ; USL W-LeagueCharlotte, NC
Charlotte Eagles 
(Men's and Women's)
USL League Two ; Women's Premier Soccer LeagueCharlotte, NC
NC Fusion
(Men's and Women's)
USL League Two ; USL W-LeagueGreensboro, NC
Wake FC
(Men's and Women's)
USL League Two ; USL W-LeagueHolly Springs, NC
Tri-Cities FCUSL League TwoJohnson City, TN
Charlotte Women's FCWomen's Premier Soccer LeagueCharlotte, NC

Talk about soccer as a family:
Skills from players
Tactics in games

Volunteer in Your Soccer Community 

ABYSA Outreach Programs
ABYSA Outreach Programs bring soccer to over 800 under-served youth throughout the local community. Through ABYSA Outreach and our community partners, we are always working to make sure that every family has the chance to participate in soccer with the goal of providing children and families with the health, social, and developmental benefits of youth team sports in an age-appropriate and emotionally safe environment.

Click here to learn more about ABYSA Outreach Programs and how to get involved or contact Josh Jackson at [email protected] for upcoming opportunities and information.

TOPSoccer Program
TOPSoccer (The Outreach Program for Soccer) is a community-based training and team placement program for young athletes with disabilities. The program is structured in a way that players are assigned a “soccer buddy” and are grouped by age or ability and work through stations on the field with the focus on “High Fun”.

Click here to learn more about TOPS Soccer and how you can get involved

Contact Us:

Asheville Buncombe Youth Soccer Association, Inc.

ABYSA/HFC PO Box 895 Asheville NC 28802-0895 

[email protected]

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