Achievement+ Perspective+ Perseverance

WEST SIDE ALLIANCE

SOCCER CLUB

CHOOSING A CLUB

Tryout Time

 Choosing A Club

 
    The first step in choosing a soccer club we think should be establishing a list of what you want to prioritize in your soccer “experience”.  In other words, what do YOU want to get out of your soccer playing experience?  The challenge might be focusing on why YOU, the player, truly play, and what YOU the player truly want out of a soccer experience.  YOU should determine this and if you do, then YOU will likely have an enjoyable playing experience.  The challenge will be to bypass all of the “hoopla” that surround tryouts when everyone ELSE tells YOU what you shouldwant.
 
    The second step should be distinguishing between the “club” and the “team” you will play for.  Sometimes a great team experience can be found at a mediocre club, and vice versa.  Good club’s should offer support and networking beyond what a “stand-alone” team can offer, and this support in most cases, but not all, will enhance a player’s “experience”.  Do not get caught up in the “status” you will gain from being part of a certain club, but do not overlook the benefits of the club’s network, resources, and  philosophy.  
 
    We think there are some “myths” out there that you should be careful to avoid. The end all for a “youth” sports club is not the championships or results the club produces.  Often times those results have a price, and it may not be a price you are willing to pay.  The best clubs are those that have the most experienced, educated, and caring coaching staff and administrative staff.  Your soccer playing “experience” ultimately will be impacted by your attitude, and those people who influence your experience, your teammates, your coaches, and your parents.  
 
    Good luck as you set out on your journey to find a soccer home.  We hope you are fortunate enough to find a club that becomes more than just your soccer “team/club”, but a place that provides a family support network, that exists as place for you even after you have graduated.
 
What are some factors/priorities in choosing a club?   
  • Location (how far do my parents or I have to travel weekly?)
  • Club philosophy &  priorities - is the focus player experience, winning, development,  $$
  • Size of club (how many players, coaches, administrators, etc)
  • History of past successes
  • Coaching Staff credentials and qualifications
  • Support Staff (club administrators) working on your behalf
  • Facilities (home match site)
  • Training Facilities (lighted fields, indoor access, quality of fields and facilities)
  • Network of coaching staff and the club’s alliance with other organizations
  • College placement record and history: Do many players go on to play college soccer
  • Professional placement: Do any players move to MLS, Europe, etc?
  • Coach to team and player ratios (how much focus will you get from your coach?)
  • Goalkeeper training (if you are a keeper)
  • Additional training resources, programs, clinics
  • Cost (monthly dues, uniform cost, travel costs, registration fee, etc)
  • Opportunity for exposure (college recruiting and ODP placement)
  • Financial backing of the club (sponsors, individual proprietors)
  • Professionalism (presentation of the club from uniforms to facilities to website)
  • Unique opportunities offered by the club – soccer and beyond soccer
  • Club atmosphere: Friendly and family-oriented OR business-like OR complacent
  • Records of  older” teamsproving that the club invests in the future
  • Pride exhibited by other players in club usually signifies a good club experience
  • Character and integrity of coaching staff
  • Continuity in coaching staff: the majority of the staff has worked together
  • Referee program demonstrates the club’s commitment to the player’s experience
  • Coach Education program signifies that coaches care enough to partake in continuing ed
  • Resources for college search opportunities (classes, seminars, education, P.R., etc)
  • Traditions: can the club experience connect me beyond my high school graduation
  • Community: is the club recognized, respected, and connected to it’s community
  • Sanctioning: club is properly affiliated with national and state sanctioning organizations
 What some myths in selecting and choosing a club?
  • MYTH: Our club can guarantee you college scholarship money, and other club’s cannot.  While it is true that many of Oklahoma’s top clubs actively assist players in college exposure, it is not true, and certainly not proven, that any one Oklahoma club can do this significantly better than another.   A couple of decades ago, before the emergence and arrival of parity in the youth soccer world, identifying with a certain club might attract a college coach’s attention.  In today’s recruiting world this simply is not the case.  The own individual player’s talents, effort, and attitude will ultimately place he/she at collegiate level.  A good club will facilitate that process on behalf of the player.

    Currently most clubs in Oklahoma offer some assistance in the college search process, and there is probably at least one representative from almost every Oklahoma club playing college soccer somewhere this year.  Several clubs currently host college search seminars (West Side Alliance, Hurricane, TSC, and Thunder for example are all Tulsa clubs who host at least one college seminar per year).  Some clubs will invest more time and energy on behalf of players’ efforts to play college soccer.

    Finally, it is true that there are soccer scholarships available, but it is also true that most top college programs don’t give out “full-ride offers”, many collegiate level players play as “walk-ons”, and only a small percentage who play actually receive significant athletic financial assistance. Be guarded against coaches who offer “promises of soccer scholarships”.  You will earn that chance yourself with hard work, dedication, and proper attitude – which is why the opportunities to play collegiate sports are so precious and cherished.  If you are serious about this opportunity you will put some credence on the club’s history of graduating teams and players to the collegiate level in your research in choosing a club.  But most importantly you, as the player, will work hard, in the classroom and on the field to fulfill this dream.  
     
  • MYTH: Our player development program is superior and this is why we produce better players.  This might be the single biggest and most abused myth in the Tulsa area soccer community.  While it is true that each of the dozen or so clubs provide uniquely different soccer environments for players, it is also blatantly true that most of the best teams in Oklahoma have been “recruited” and not “developed” through any player development program.  There is actually a nominal difference in the results achieved across the state from the different training programs – and in fact many of the best player development programs in the U.S. may exist in clubs that do not have perennial state contenders. 
     
    Before the word “player development” was coined, Broken Arrow won state             championships (currently Hurricane), Jenks produced some of the best teams in the state (currently M-TSC), and many of these players were trained by moms and dads in their younger years.  Coaches with a soccer background can enhance the soccer experience for kids, and probably will get better individual and team results than a “lay” coach without a soccer background.  But do not be “fooled” into thinking that one program “produces” better players.  Too many clubs hire coaches from other competing clubs each year for one club to have found the “secret” to player development success.  Pele, George Best, Diego Maradona, and Ronaldo did not spend their youth in a player development program.  They were identified as gifted and blessed, asked to play pro early, and were thus destined for greatness. 
     
    Certainly there are clubs who have larger player pools to identify players from.  This luxury may be no credit to their ability or management as a club.  Many of those pools of players have been consistently present in certain “pockets” of the metro Tulsa area since youth soccer arrived on the scene in Tulsa in the 70’s.  Socioeconomics and culture probably play a more significant role in the mosaic of player pools than anything.   More times than not coaches make the mistake of using “player development” in the place of  “player recruitment and “identification”.  Some clubs simply have a more fertile ground from which to harvest players.  Clubs that are serious about player development will allow their top and more experienced coaches to train and teach the younger age groups (a slowly developing trend in Tulsa).  The pillars of a successful “player development program” include:
    a) Instruction   b) Competition   c) Evaluation  
    d) Support       e) Advisement    f) Coaching
    e) Priority on the player instead of club or team results and trophies
     
  • MYTH: We have the best coaching staff in the state and the region. It is interesting
    that any one club would make this claim, considering the number of coaching movements across clubs each year.  In fact in the past two years some of Oklahoma’s own “super clubs” have absorbed a large portion of their coaching staff from other clubs.  If one club ever does arrive at a level of superiority over another you will notice a trend in coach retention from year to year that corresponds to results.  TSC can claim to have the most experienced staff, in years and in background.  Edmond can claim to have one of the most educated staffs. 
     
    Check websites across the country and you’ll discover that hundreds of clubs in the Midwest region offer the “best coaching staff in the region”.  The reality is most coaches are simply former players with a passion for the game.  When you do research you’ll discover that a rare few coaches distinguish themselves as consistently getting results.  Even in that evaluation, it is difficult to fairly assess since some coaches traditionally inherit or “find” ready-made teams – teams that were good by “talent” before the coach’s arrival.  To truly evaluate the ability of a coach you may need to look at a coach’s record in bringing a team up through the ranks.  In other words you may have to do enough research to see if a coach has a tradition of turning a losing or low-achieving team into a winning, high-achieving team.  Most importantly a coach’s record will speak through his former and past players, who usually care most about the experience they received under the coach’s tutelage.  Besides winning, a coach is charged with most importantly, helping to provide a memorable, lifelong, learning “experience”. 
     
  • MYTH: We win more games, more championships, and more trophies.  Join our club and you will be a winner.  The reality is that there exists more parity than ever before in Oklahoma soccer.  Instead of one or two clubs dominating state competitions there are usually several different clubs represented in the state finals.  Oklahoma does in fact have a few select clubs who have evolved into “super clubs” but that does not mean that every team in the club is a state finalist or contender, and it does not mean that teams located in other clubs will not find their way into the state finals.  And the “win-now” attitude often times mars a very important lesson in sport: “perseverance” and “commitment to team”. 
     
    You must also guard against some clubs who will have “highlight” years.  A lot of times these years are earmarked (unfortunately) by a lot of recruiting of players and teams.  In fact a recent and unfortunate trend in Oklahoma soccer has been the motivation of clubs to “steal” other club’s top teams, and in so doing transfer the recognition of that team from their original home to the new club. Many times the “highlight year” is followed by a trend of low success and internal club problems.  Good clubs consistently build and are steady. 
     
    Some clubs have created very large player pools.  Due the sheer numbers those clubs will certainly bring home more trophies and results.  It is easy sometimes to be lulled into believing the sheer numbers are results of the club’s ability to produce and create a better soccer experience.  Upon more careful scrutiny it may just be the clubs are located in very populated areas – more players, more teams, more tournaments, then more chances to win trophies.
     
    For each player the journey to success is personal.  There may be merit to joining clubs that have many winning teams.  It could be beneficial if players and parents would evaluate each individual team, coach, and situation for it’s own worth.  You may find some surprising results. For example in the u18 and u19 age group no clubs have had more success on the boy’s side than Tulsa Nationals and West Side Alliance (using state tournament achievements as the measuring stick).  
     
  • MYTH: Our credentials, our resume prove our worth and you should heed our advice.  There are a rare few “soccer experts” as proven by their playing, coaching, and soccer career experience that reside in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Over the past decade several of our former youth players have created resumes that they have become overly proud of.  Parents and players are completely competent to make decisions regarding their soccer career and soccer future.  We think it is wise to utilize the advice of those with soccer backgrounds, but be weary to buy into all of the “proclaimed” soccer accomplishments that these soccer coaches enlist. 
     
    Tulsa is blessed to have soccer veterans who have proven their worth on the world stage, such as Keith Eddy, Steve Earle, Charlie Mitchell, Victor Moreland, Wilburt Maximore, to name a few.   Tulsa has many great young and talented soccer coaches and administrators.   But it is dangerous to create a discrepancy that becomes too great between the coach and the player/parent.  The quality that should probably be most sought after is the coach whose confidence does not overshadow the fact that he is grounded to reality, and at least values some humility.  This person after all becomes an influence and model for the player.  

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