Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Raleigh girls soccer players must choose: club or school team

The best area high school girls soccer players in the Raleigh area will have a choice next spring: play for their high school team or play for a club.

High school athletes have faced decisions for years about whether to specialize in one sport or play two or more. Some high school athletes must choose between school football or club baseball teams in the fall; spring track or club basketball; high school basketball or club volleyball.

But the Capital Area Soccer League's decision to offer a program during the high school season creates a new dilemma for girls soccer players. Instead of which sport to play, the choice will be who to play for. It also sets the club teams in potential competition with high schools for the best talent, places focus on which route provides the best chance for a college soccer scholarship and raises the question of whether the values of those scholarships are worth the intense effort.

Paul Dinkenor, the coach of state 4-A girls soccer champion Leesville Road, said it would be impossible for a player to successfully participate in both high school and club programs.

But Charlie Slagle, the CEO of CASL, said there is a need for the spring program.

"There are some girls players, who for whatever reason, choose to not play on a high school team in the spring," Slagle said. "In the past, we've tried to find boys teams for them to practice with and find some competitions for them.

"But as the numbers have increased, we've added options. The decision of where to play will be up to the kids."

Slagle said he knew of six or eight players who don't participate on the teams at their high schools. This spring, 11 Cardinal Gibbons High players skipped the state 2-A quarterfinals to play in a club tournament in New Jersey. Jay Howell, the director of coaching for CASL, expects 30 or 40 girls to participate in the CASL high school program in the spring.

Charlie Adams, the executive director of the N.C. High School Athletic Association, said he hates the idea that high school students will be put in the position of having to choose.

"Playing for your community and your school can be one of the most fun and exciting levels of competition," Adams said. "I am afraid some young people are going to miss out on what could be some of the best times of their lives."

Howell, who said he is an advocate of high school athletic programs, said CASL is offering the spring program because its members want it.

"Not every high school program is exactly the same," he said. "The environment, coaching and teams are different. Some kids have great experiences in high school sports, but some others don't.

"Some players want to move to the next level and become the best players they can be. They want to play beyond high school."

Howell said the spring club program will consist of three or four practices per week with competitions on the weekend.


Club events are often the starting point in the collegiate recruiting process.

College coaches, with the exception of football, generally do the bulk of their recruiting at club team events. A college coach can see hundreds of players in a single weekend.

CASL's Slagle said more than 600 college coaches attended the Girls Showcase held Nov. 20-22 in Raleigh. At such an event, college coaches can see many of the best players paired against other outstanding players.

College soccer coaches can identify the players they will recruit at major club team events in places such as Las Vegas, Richmond, Va., and New Jersey.

Slagle anticipates some younger girls, freshmen and sophomores, will choose their club teams over high school competition because of the early exposure to college recruiting.

-- Tim Stevens, Raleigh News & Observer


Bob Schellenberg said...

There are also young people and parents who have horrible experiences with clubs and club coaches. Club coaches recruit parents and players with the notion they have a better chance for a college scholarship if they play club. What is not communicated is the reality. What percentage of young soccer players are recruited and earn college scholarships? Club coaches conveniently forget to include that statistic when they recruit naive parents and young soccer players. Shame on you for not sharing all the numbers.

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