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Keys to picking the right club for your child

By Beau Dure

When you’re traveling, do you go to a local motel or a name-brand place? Do you like the restaurant with the famous chef, or do you try to find something off the beaten track? And what does it mean to you to buy local?

All of these choices have pros and cons. Name brands have name brands for a reason, though your local restaurant is more likely to be thoroughly vetted than a local coach whose rep comes from the occasionally reliable grapevine.

At the earliest ages, there’s little reason to go anywhere beyond the closest club. If you want extra training beyond the rec league, make sure they offer it or go to the next-closest club.

Even when your child is age 10, be wary of coaches who approach you and your kids to recruit you. Sure, it’s flattering. But what can they really offer that your current club cannot? The answer is usually nothing. By all means, do some research if you want to make sure that applies to you.

Beyond that, here are some choices you might encounter:

1.What level? Young players should be challenged but not overwhelmed. You may be tempted by an offer to join a club’s top team in the local “Champions” league, only to find that the team isn’t competitive in those games. You may also find a club that prides itself on beating up the competition in the lowest-level league it can find.

2.What size of club? A full-service community club will offer everything — House leagues, TOPSoccer for special-needs kids, various levels of travel, “free play” days, and training programs for all players. A smaller boutique club offers more personal attention to your player but has fewer options if your child wants or needs to switch to a different level of soccer down the road.

3.What does the club represent? I have to admit a bias here — I love my town. It’s frequently voted among the best places to live in the USA. It has a sense of community that’s unusual for a typical suburb in the midst of 21st-century sprawl. The local club has the town name in big letters on the jerseys, and its mission is to cater to that town. Some clubs also represent their communities in that fashion. Others are like professional teams, drafting and recruiting from everywhere, with the name on the front of the jersey saying little more than where the club is incorporated.

Ignore peer pressure about being at the “wrong” club. Is your kid having fun? Is she being challenged? Are you able to cope with the cost and the driving time? Then you’ve got a good situation. Don’t take it for granted.

The is an excerpt from Beau Dure’s new book, “Single-Digit Soccer: Keeping Sanity in the Earliest Ages of the Beautiful Game,” 2015, 237 pages, Kindle Edition $4.99.

(Beau Dure is a freelance writer and author who has published three books on soccer since leaving USA TODAY in 2010. He lives in Vienna, Va., where he has coached his two sons through the Single-Digit Soccer years. Follow his blog at sportsmyriad.com and catch him on Twitter: @duresport.)

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