In soccer, high school has taken a back seat to club soccer for recruiting and development. High school soccer's value is primarily for social development and physical activity. Written and unwritten rules that supported an earlier soccer system are on the chopping block. Some don't make sense. Others have to be updated or eliminated based on usefulness.
Unfortunately, lawsuits will be a major agent of change in the future. Parents that identify faults in procedure, process, or rule books will complain. If they go unheard, some will elect to sue.
A recent article detailed a lawsuit filed by a mother and step-father against their local high school. The suit was filed because their son did not make varsity and was not permitted to play JV soccer as a Junior per school rules.
The parents concluded that this rule amounted to age discrimination.
The situation unfolded as follows.
The mother says her son, a junior who played JV soccer, tried out for the soccer team in August. He didn't make the varsity team. The family accepted that, but were upset he wasn't named to the junior varsity team.
The family says they were told that juniors aren't put on JV; the district gives JV preference to freshmen and sophomores.
The family says that's age discrimination.
The district lets female juniors play on the JV team, according to the suit. The boy's family says that's not fair treatment of the sexes.
The stepfather said "If someone said 'Cut all the blacks,' that would be illegal. And it's illegal for age too."
The district also says that being on a sports team is a privilege, not a right, for the students. The students don't have a constitutionally protected right to be on a team, the district argues."There is no evidence that the decision was based on the student's age or that the decision was otherwise unfair,".
The suit also alleges that the head soccer coach, favored students who attended his summer soccer camps, and paid him a fee something the suit alleges is a "pay to play" scheme.The district says, seven students made a team without having attended summer camps.
The couple that issued the suit appear entitled and slightly eccentric. Having said that, the family has a legitimate query. Where do you go if you are a junior or senior that doesn't make varsity and desire to continue playing soccer? What if that player does not play club and has no alternate avenue to play soccer? What if a player needs the social bonds that being on the soccer team with friends offers?
Some believe forcing physically immature freshman to play with juniors is too large a physical gap. Perhaps. Where is the evidence?
I coached High School Soccer for two years. Public high schools require coaches to complete a series of training programs that arm them with the skills to manage crisis.
Schools and districts do not provide sufficient risk avoidance training. They teach crisis management but not proper soccer coaching methods. The organizations that set game schedules have NO understanding of the relationship between rest and recovery.
High school soccer players are competing in a provably unsafe environment. I foresee lawsuits that attack every item of questionable scheduling, training and coaching requirements.
Injuries can be expensive. They are time consuming and can effect academic performance. In a nation where academics impact future options, one avoidable injury could alter a kids college trajectory. (The cost of ACL surgery)
I for-see an increase in lawsuits aimed at re-structuring the following list of items.
1. Game schedules
The body needs between 48, 72 and 96 hours to fully recover from games and training sessions of varying degrees of intensity.
Below is my local high schools regular season game schedule.
Tuesday 08/21/18 Home 4:00PM
Saturday 08/25/18 Away 9:00AM
Friday 08/31/18 Home 3:30PM
Tuesday 09/04/18 Away 7:00PM
Friday 09/07/18 Home 4:45PM
Wednesday 09/12/18 Away 7:00PM
Friday 09/14/18 Away 4:00PM
Saturday 09/15/18 Home 12:00PM
Monday 09/17/18 Home 4:45PM
Thursday 09/20/18 Away 3:30PM
Friday 09/21/18 Away 4:00PM
Monday 09/24/18 Home 4:00PM
Thursday 09/27/18 Home 4:00PM
Tuesday 10/02/18 Away 7:00PM
Thursday 10/04/18 Home 4:45PM
Friday 10/05/18 Home 4:00PM
Tuesday 10/09/18 Home 4:00PM
Thursday 10/11/18 Away 7:00PM
Tuesday 10/16/18 Home 4:00PM
Notice the game days with red coloring. There is no recovery built into this schedule. The good people that designed this have not demonstrated an understanding of periodization or the science of recovery. When games are scheduled this close together, players aren't able to FULLY recover physically or mentally. Within the red zones, the risk of contact and non-contact injuries increase and fatigue begins to accumulate.
2. The condition of practice and game fields.
Hard grass fields, long grass, hard astro-turf, high quality turf and wet fields have different long term effects on athletes. (John Davin of Manchester United on Turf Fields)
To minimize the negative effects of the varying types of playing surfaces, purchase hard ground, soft ground and normal weather cleats for your child. In addition to this, an injury prevention program will further reduce the effects of playing on difficult surfaces.
Proper footwear will help younger players minimize growing pains as their bodies develop.
3. The volume and quality of training
Most high school coaches don't have higher level coaching licenses. Those that have higher level licenses rarely participate in continuing education. As a result, the latest methods of session planning, psychology and periodization are not noticeable in the high school soccer experience. Periodization is a method that helps teams safely achieve peak soccer performance through organization and measurement.
4. Game tactics
Some soccer games resemble rugby. If your teams tactics are to tackle hard and disrupt the opposition through sheer aggression, injuries will occur.
A re-organization of high school soccer is on the horizon. Lawsuits too....