High School WITH Club Soccer

Fellow Soccer Enthusiast,

My name is Greg Sheen, and I am the former assistant women's soccer coach at the University of Dayton, as well as the Director of the Dayton Soccer Academy (aka DSA), which is an all-girls soccer club boasting some 130+ aspiring young athletes ranging in age from 11 to 17.  I mention my credentials, not to portray myself as an expert in the field of soccer by any means, but rather as an indicator of my extensive experience in both the college recruiting and youth player development
process. 

This memo, albeit controversial in nature, is being distributed to various soccer related people throughout the Ohio South area in hopes of creating some form of ongoing dialogue by which club and high school soccer coaches can discuss, and potentially resolve, the current issue facing OUR premier level high school-aged players of today... the idea of having to choose between Fall high school and Fall club soccer. It should be noted that this issue has already materialized in Columbus and Toledo within the past couple of years, and is set to begin in Dayton and Cincinnati as soon as this Fall. 

Unfortunately, at least until now, nobody has been willing to sit down and address the issues at hand.  Before developing any preconceived notions as to where I'm coming from, I ask that you consider, and take to heart, what is meant in the heading at the top of this memo... High School WITH Club Soccer... the key word being WITH. 

The word "with", as I see it, simply refers to a combined and ongoing effort between the high school and club programs to benefit our players in the best and most rewarding way possible.  Right about now, you're probably asking yourself, "Why not leave well enough alone.  Why the need to join forces?"  If so, I ask that you consider the following:

 Scenario

Sixteen players, most of whom compete at different high schools, playa Tuesday evening high school soccer match.  On Thursday of that same week, these same sixteen players board a plane and head to Cincinnati, OH to compete in the Blue Chip Showcase Invitational. They'll be playing, as one group, under the auspices of a club team.

They showcase their soccer playing abilities over this three day period in front of 140+ college coaches, including, but certainly not limited to the following: Clemson, Dartmouth, Duke, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Notre Dame, Purdue, Texas, Virginia, as well as every college soccer program in the state of Ohio. Once this club team has completed their last game on Sunday, they board a plane and return home, ready to play for their respective high school team in the next round of games on
Tuesday.

 Problem

Although this might seem to be a wonderful experience and opportunity for the sixteen young ladies mentioned above, there is a catch.  The players were from the state of Georgia.  This opportunity, as it was described above, simply DOES NOT EXIST for high school players residing in the state of Ohio.  Simply put... the Ohio High School Athletic Association (aka OHSAA) maintains a rule that does not allow outside competition for high school participants during the high school season.

The fact that Ohio is one of only a few states that try and regulate an athlete's extra-curricular activities during the high school season is a problem in-and-of itself.  However, the bigger problem, as I see it, is that this rule is denying these same players the OPPORTUNITY to better increase their respective chances of playing beyond high school into college.  Where and when would these opportunities exist during the Fall season?  Specifically during early-August (San Diego Surf Tournament; 150+ college coaches in attendance) and mid-October (WAGS Tournament; 200+ college coaches in attendance). 

It should be noted that the WAGS Tournament in mid-October is the premier recruiting tournament on every college coaches recruiting list. Once again, if an Ohio player wanted to attend this particular tournament, they'd have to resign themselves to the fact that they wouldn't be able to play high school soccer in order to do so.  This, to me, is putting these athletes in an unenviable position.  Administration, at the OHSAA level, is creating a situation in which the premier level players in Ohio are having to choose between what they WANT to do short-term (play high school soccer) and what they feel like they NEED to do long-term (attend occasional recruiting tournaments with club teams). 

If you're asking yourself whether or not colleges regularly recruit at high school games, the simple fact of the matter is... no.  Although a college coach might occasionally make an appearance at a high school game, it is usually to check up on a recruit, and they'll only do so if it fits into
their already hectic schedule. For most college coaches (whose schedule directly conflicts with the Fall high school schedule in Ohio) it is simply not possible to get out to more than a couple of high school games per year. 

That being said, they must make the best use of their time as possible.  Having the ability to attend a WAGS-type tournament, where they can see literally hundreds of talented players all within a couple of days, is how and where they see the greatest benefit and use of their time.  Although that may not seem reasonable to most, it is certainly true, and for those who have attended this type of recruiting tournament, they know exactly what I mean.  Now that I've discussed the problem, I'd like to offer up a few potential solutions.

 Solutions

As was indicated in the heading at the top of this memo, the solution that I'd like to present will require the high school and club coaches to work WITH one another in an effort to provide our athletes with the most positively exciting and rewarding experience possible.  To that end, I suggest the following:

 Step 1
Create and maintain an ongoing dialogue between high school and club soccer coaches, players, and parents.

 Reasoning
To alleviate the overwhelming feeling that high school and club soccer programs are at odds with one another.  Much has been, and is being said, that simply isn't true.  If our objective truly is to benefit the kids, then let's discuss every conceivable way, utilizing the resources of both organizations, to make that happen.

 Step 2
Accept each others strengths.

 Reasoning
High schools have the potential to offer young athletes one of the most enjoyable experiences they'll ever have in terms of team sports.  The opportunity to represent a school, and all of their respective peers, can and should be an experience that that no one should be denied.

Clubs, on the other hand, have the potential to promote these aspiring young athletes to hundreds of college coaches during the course of any given season.  Although they don't get the recognition that they might get while playing high school, they certainly increase their chances of playing for a particular college.

Bottom line... TOGETHER high school and club programs can offer our young athletes a soccer experience they'll never forget.

 Step 3
Do away with the "No Outside Competition During High School Season" rule.  As I understand it, OHSAA rules are regulated sport-by-sport, and are implemented by the various high schools that
make up OHSAA by simple vote.  It would seem to me that if the high school coaches and athletic directors wanted to change the rule at the OHSAA level, then they could, and they could do so very easily.

 Reasoning
By doing away with this rule, you effectively allow players the opportunity
to do BOTH.  When I say both, I mean represent their respective high school AND compete with club teams at major recruiting tournaments during the same competitive season.

 Step 4
Create a mid-season, Saturday only Jamboree type recruiting tournament somewhere in Ohio, perhaps the Lodi Complex in Cleveland, or Ankeney Complex in Beavercreek, as both are large enough to accommodate dozens of teams.  This one-day Jamboree would coincide with the WAGS Tournament (Columbus Day Weekend) and would bring together hundreds of high school players (less those attending the WAGS Tournament) and dozens of high school teams in a common location.  By doing this, college coaches could conceivably attend the event, see hundreds of players at one location, and be back for their respective Sunday college games.

 Reasoning

Given the fact that tournaments, such as WAGS, are very selective in terms of which teams they accept, the chances of more than a few Ohio club teams getting into the tournament is very slim and, subsequently, the numbers of Ohio school players involved very small.  Regardless of
whether or not any Ohio-based club teams get into WAGS, the idea of having a mid-season Jamboree still makes sense.  As I indicated above, college coaches simply can't get out to very many high school games due to their schedules, but they could and would be willing to do so if there were hundreds of players to watch at one location.  Note that I am aware that the high schools already maintain preseason Jamborees, however, they're used more to prepare for the upcoming season than anything else.  I'm sure most college coaches would much rather see the players and teams in mid-season form.

 Conclusion

We, as adults and soccer enthusiasts, have a responsibility to provide our young athletes every conceivable opportunity and positive experience imaginable as it relates to this wonderful sport of soccer.  If the writing and distribution of this memo somehow contributes to, or facilitates the beginning of some type of discussion concerning the issues mentioned herein, I'll consider it a worthwhile endeavor.  If not, at least I tried.  I honestly feel that, although I have represented MY
particular point of view, I also represent the point of view of many others.

Thanks for your time, and if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me either by phone or e-mail.

Your Friend in Soccer,

 Greg Sheen

937-270-3180  GLSheen@earthlink.net


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