This episode was inspired by another great sideline chat. This one was between myself and a soccer day on the side of our futsal court last weekend. His son is looking at playing for more than one soccer team at the same time in the Spring. He was asking me about it & it reminded me of you, of course. You should hear what we talked about.
We talk a lot about multi-sport kids and the advantages kids can have by rounding out and improving their overall athletic IQ, but how about those kids who love soccer and want different experiences from different levels of competition and/or different groups of friends?
What is a Multi-Team Kid
Both my son and daughter were both multi-team kids. They played for more than one team each season. My daughter played on two teams at the same time. My son played on three. They got something different from each environment.
A multi-team kid is a kid who plays for more than one team in the same sport at the same time. Many of you should be cringing when I say this, but it's not uncommon. It's also not without its risks. What follows will be a discussion about some of those risks, the rewards, and what families and coaches should consider when dealing with multi-team kids.
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Why Would Kids Play on More Than One Team?
A lot of it comes down to friends. Kids have friends on other teams that play in other leagues. They connect with one another in school. They say things like "You should come play with us. We have fun!" Kids hear about different styles, different experiences, and they want to go where their friends are and try new stuff. This is all very natural.
Other reasons to play on more than one team might be to find new challenges. Many kids love to play in a relaxed environment where fun and friendship rule AND in a more challenging environment where a crispy through pass is received by a competent player who can use it to the team's advantage. I'm not saying that either is more or less fun or that there are not competent players in recreation or classic programs. I'm merely pointing out that there are multiple reasons why players might like to play on more than one team.
For some, it's about exposure. Though I fear this is too often more of a marketing gimmick to attract parents willing to pay big bucks, than it is an actual opportunity to be scouted. Clubs, coaches, or parents move kids from platform to platform hoping to find the right platform so their kid can have the best chance of being discovered. While discovery is possible, see my episode describing US Soccer's alphabet soup for reasons why this might not be the best strategy.
As a coach, I want to be clear right out of the gate that playing on multiple teams in the same sport in the same season has risks. It can be made to work, but there are things we need to think about. Going down this path will require additional communication and in some cases, checking with your medical professionals.
So what are the risks?
Overuse Injuries: rest and variety are important to the human body. Injuries occur when we perform the same task over and over again. Running too much can lead to shin splints, tendonitis, hip pain, back pain, and even fractures. An exclusive focus on one sport (one set of similar actions) doesn't allow other supportive tissue structures to form. This, combined with repetitive stress placed on the same structures without adequate rest can result in injuries. These can be serious enough to take a player out of the game - or worse. It's important to avoid overuse injuries.
Confusion: at the younger ages - below 13 - specialization really shouldn't be the primary focus, but for 13 and above, kids are starting to identify with positions and will begin to take deeper dives into those positions in terms of what skills and attributes those positions need. The coach often has some input as to where players fit toge...
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