Rec Soccer Players Moving to Travel Select Soccer Teams
One of the Best Soccer Coaching Letters Ever
A soccer coach who is undefeated with soccer players who were rejected by other teams he now beats
How He Does It
What to tell parents who ask for advice about select travel soccer?
What are the pluses and minuses?

Hi SoccerHelp,

I very much appreciate your site. My rec league team has gone from 2-10 several years ago to 9-2-1 last year and 5-0 so far this fall. Much of the improvement is a direct result of using the SoccerHelp games at practice.

I've come across a problem, which is one I don't know how to handle. I've got four kids (out of my 18 - we play 11v11) who are or have played club soccer. The others are mostly where they belong - on a competitive rec team that continues to improve. One of my boys (Jack) is playing club soccer for the first time this year, and some of the other parents and kids have taken notice. My son and another have always played on a club, so no one really paid much attention to that in the past. But now that Jack has moved up, so to speak, several are asking, "Why can't Bobby do it as well?" I helped Jack's dad find a club team for him because he was good and committed enough to give it a shot. He tried out and made it on a lower-level team and is doing well.

I would like nothing better than to develop each of the boys into club players, and I try my best using SoccerHelp games and very intense practices to get them to their absolute best. But most of my boys are just not ever going to reach that level, no matter what I do. Their absolute best - at least at this point - isn't really "club" level for St. Louis soccer. (Note from David: The St. Louis area has always been one of the best youth soccer areas in the U.S., going back to the days when Anheuser Busch sponsored youth soccer in the area.)

My advice to the parents so far has been, "First, make sure this is something your son is really committed to trying. Then, get him as much training as possible, in addition to our practices. Try to participate in some of the club-sponsored training, futsol leagues and indoor leagues over the winter. Join pre-tryout camps in the spring. And be realistic with your son that this is a tough thing to do, and even if he doesn't make it, he'll be much better for the effort." I've also suggested strongly that they try to identify some clubs that are trying to add teams at various levels, because it's often easier to join up with a new team than it is to "beat out" the kids at the bottom of a good, established team.

Well, that message hasn't necessarily been received well, and I kind of understand that. The parents want to know the "magic bullet" since my son and others are playing club soccer, but I know from experience there isn't one. I'm wondering, based on your years of experience coaching at different levels, how you might have handled this? I don't want to dampen these kids' spirits, they've really grown to love soccer over the past 5 years with me. But I believe I'm doing them and their parents a disservice if they get a false sense of reality. My son was cut from a top-level team once, and it really hurt him. He has found his niche with a mid-level team that has a really positive coach, but it was tough finding a good fit.

Bottom line: I'm happy to help them, but I'm not sure what kind of help is best.

Any thoughts?



Hi Tim,

First, thanks for being a Premium Member and for writing. I love to get letters like yours and am glad SoccerHelp has helped you and your team.

I think you're a great guy and a great coach. The proof isn't just in your record -- your record is a reflection of the fact that you're a great coach and a great motivator. The real proof is that your kids are having fun and have the skills to make travel teams. As you say: "they've really grown to love soccer over the past 5 years with me."

Nothing is more important to a soccer player than a love of the game. They love the game because they are having fun and having some success -- they wouldn't love the game unless they had both -- it's much more fun to win than to lose.

It's also great that you are unselfish and trying to do what's best for the kids, even though losing your best players will hurt your team.

I agree with what you say: "I believe I'm doing them and their parents a disservice if they get a false sense of reality. My son was cut from a top-level team once, and it really hurt him. He has found his niche with a mid-level team that has a really positive coach, but it was tough finding a good fit."

When I coached, I had more kids from my "C" travel team (comprised of kids who had been cut from other teams) make the High School team (a team that is often nationally ranked and that is always one of the best in the Nashville area) than from the "A" and B" travel teams. I also had a lot lower drop-out rate from soccer because I made sure my players had fun -- if it isn't fun and is too stressful, kids will stop playing soccer. We were just "local" travel, only practiced twice a week and I never cut anyone (although looking back, I should have cut some who complained a lot). That's why I developed the SoccerHelp Practice Games. I think a lot of people don't realize that I invented most of the SoccerHelp Practice Games and things like "Coaching Rule No. 3". I had to develop a better training program in order for my players to have a chance. That's also why I looked for a motivational tool and finally found the iron-on patches, which really helped my team and made coaching easier and more fun for me.

My suggestion is this: If parents want your help and advice, continue to give them your honest opinion. Question: Could a kid who is motivated, a good athlete, and who practices, make their high school team by practicing with you? The kids on your team are having fun and becoming good players. Point out the good AND the bad about travel soccer, and about Rec soccer. Ask them how important Fun is? Would they mind the traveling? Explain that Travel soccer is a LOT more competitive and that players can get "cut". Let them make the decision, since they will have to live with the consequences. If possible, tell them that if it doesn't work out, that you will be glad to have their son come back to your team. One other thing: You might point out that natural athletic ability and speed determine the level at which a player can be successful, and that they should ask themselves at what level they think their son would be able to be successful -- as you say, some kids might feel like a failure if they get cut from a team.

I coached Rec, then Travel (U-10 thru U-12), then back to Rec for U-14, U-16 and U-18 (when Travel stopped being fun because some of the parents wanted to start going to big-time tournaments and I didn't want to). I had kids who were on travel teams who wanted to come to my practices and played on my Rec team because they had fun at my practices and at games I coached. I had some really great Rec teams and some great players, but as I have often said, 2 of my favorite players were slow, unskilled but incredibly brave boys who I played at Fullback on the same team -- it was because of them that I started "Defending Deep", they were simply too slow to "Push Up" -- I smile whenever I think of those boys and their bravery is truly an inspiration -- they would step in front of hard shots and block them with their body and never backed down (I didn't teach them to body block shots, and it's possible that some of the time it happened because they were too slow to get out of the way of the ball, but I always attributed it to bravery).

I think Travel soccer is Great!!! But I think Rec soccer can be great too.

I hope this helps some.

Here are a few tips for you to consider:

  1. Teach Coaching Rule No. 3 -- it's worth 2 or 3 goals per game. Seriously -- teach this! It's easy to teach and will make a HUGE difference. You can even teach it before the game in about 15 minutes.

  2. If you haven't tried our motivational patches, try them. There's a 7% off coupon at "Coupons" for Premium Members. They make a difference -- read the Testimonials for what coaches say. They will motivate your players. You need everyone to come to practice and games -- the patches will help, are a lot of fun, create great memories, and kids will want to be on your team. Give patches for effort, bravery, defense, doing the things that can lead to goals such as being in position for rebounds, for listening to the coach, and for coming to practice AND to games (you need ALL your players to come to your games). I would also use the V for Victory patches to teach your kids the desire to win.

  3. Play "Dribble Across a Square" as a warm-up to start EVERY practice.

  4. Play "Dribble Around Cone & Pass Relay Race" a LOT and use it to teach "Aggressive Receiving". Here's what Coach Greg said: "We played Dribble Across a Square and Dribble Around the Cone and Pass Relay Race at every practice, and the results were phenomenal."

  5. Play "Win the 50/50 Ball or be the First Defender 1v1 Attacking and Defending" quite a bit. Corey, a U-12 coach, said: "The girls loved this game. This was one of their two favorites (the other is Dribble Around Cone & Pass Relay Race) and I found this game brought out their competitive side more than any other."

  6. Play the "Shoulder Tackle & Strength on the Ball" game at the next few practices as a Warm Up.

  7. Whenever a goal is scored, have all the players come together in the Center Circle, touch hands and do a "Team Work Scores Goals" or "Team Work" cheer. This is very important because it helps build team work and stops players from all wanting to be Forwards (everyone including the parents gets to see that all positions are important and that everyone has contributed when a goal is scored - it's a team effort). I got this idea from the Brazilian National Team. They come together after a goal in a circle, touch hands and do a cheer.

  8. Read Positioning Rules for "rules" to teach your FBs, ST, MFs and F.

  9. Sign up for the Newsletter if you don't already get it.

You have a great attitude and are a great coach, and I'm glad SoccerHelp has helped you.

Please share any other thoughts or experiences you have on this subject.

I'm going to post this on the Premium Forum without your last name or email address so others can benefit from it.

David at SoccerHelp



Thanks for your suggestions. I guess I'm on the right track with the parents, and I'll be happy to help them find a fit if that's the direction they want to go.

I guess I should have given you and SoccerHelp a little more praise. Just so you know, we've been doing patches (practices and games) for the last two years (our only two winning seasons, by the way). We do Dribble Across the Square to start every practice; I taught Coaching Rule #3 last year in preseason (and do a reminder every once in a while); play Dribble Around Cone and Pass Relay Game quite often; and used several other SoccerHelp games in a free week-long summer camp I held for all my players and several of the other local rec players their age group. They had a blast and really learned a lot, and the games and patches were a very important part.

Shoulder Tackle & Strength on the Ball is one I've been planning to introduce, and the suggestion to have everyone come together after a goal is a great one. I'm always yelling out to the boys, "Give the passer a high-five also, he's the one really responsible." If they all come together, that gets them all involved.

I'll let you know how our season turns out overall. I have a real bond with these boys - and their parents - and want to do the right thing. I guess the bottom line is to help the boys go as far as they can - and don't worry, they'll always have a home on my team. At least eight of my players were cut loose from other REC teams, if you can believe that. I fought the association that they shouldn't let coaches do it (cut players for rec teams), but they did anyway. Now I regularly beat the coaches who cut them with the players they let go. I must admit I probably get a little too much satisfaction out of that, but I get to have a little fun too, right?

Thanks again,



Hi Tim,

What a great story! Yes, I can understand the satisfaction you get from beating teams with players they cut. I coached Rec in a YMCA league where they re-assigned players every year. The 2 boys I mentioned were players other coaches didn't want, so I got satisfaction when we beat those teams with players they didn't want.

Thanks for being our customer. Please share any more good ideas.

David at SoccerHelp