Social Buzz: Washington soccer community responds to new youth age / year designations

Social Buzz: Washington soccer community responds to new youth age / year designations

socialBUZZWelcome to a new feature on called “Social Buzz” where we will highlight soccer topics that are trending in social media in the state of Washington!divider-arrow-1

The number one most talked about topic this summer in Washington state soccer circles? It’s not the Sounders, not even the US Women winning the World Cup.

BUZZ: When was your soccer kid born? Are they going to be saying goodbye to half of their teammates? These are just starter questions for Washington players, coaches, teams, clubs and families after the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) issued a new set of rules this summer, including new age brackets for players.
Says the USSF: Birth-year registration calendars will now align with the start of the calendar year and run from January to December, rather than August to July as it had previously. For example, a U-15 player (players 15 years old or younger) would have a birth year of 2000 (Jan. 1 through Dec. 31) for the 2015 registration year. In 2016, U-15 players would be born in 2001 or earlier. Birth-year registration applies to all player age groups and not just players age 12 and younger. 

How are we responding? Check out this forum thread viewed over 7,000 times with nearly 200 posts.  See more here.

The River City Cup is underway this weekend in Spokane. (Erik Smith)
(Erik Smith)

Here are a few sample quotes from Washington Premier Soccer ( posters:

  • “Daughter’s birthday is 28 July. Cutoff date doesn’t matter, she’s going to continue to play on the same team. Now she’ll be 19 months younger, rather than 12…She doesn’t really care about playing with classmates. She has school friends, soccer friends, skiing friends, softball friends, etc. Imagine that, meeting new people…”
  • Is it marketing? Absolutely. Regardless, the growth of these ‘birth-year academy’ teams will, I think, change the resistance to the switch. On the girls side, I don’t see the birth-year teams at all, ok a few ECNL teams but they pretty much disappear from the rest of the field of teams I see in tournaments after U14. The boys side is different. The birth-year teams are appearing more. For example, look at the number of birth year boys teams in FWRL this coming year…”
  • “What I find amazing about the US youth system is there is so much time spent putting things in boxes and defining walls. Associations. Leagues. Teams. Players. The vast majority of my first-hand observations of the leadership in youth soccer (state / district / association / club / league) spends like 90% of their time either determining what cannot be done or working to work around the prior rules around what cannot be done. It is really quite exhausting and I find it utterly useless in moving the game forward and bettering the players’ experience. Such a simple game yet such a convoluted youth experience.”
  • “Clubs whose philosophy has led them to select players based on technical and tactical soccer skills should have little trouble in shifting rosters 6 months to birth year. They will have little need to recruit new kids (small clubs) or move kids up or down between A/B/C/select levels (larger clubs). Clubs who choose rosters based on the oldest/biggest kids available will need to either recruit a whole new team or change their philosophy independent of club size…”
  • “Birth year is coming. You can either get out and try and work on some practical solutions to the inconveniences it causes or you can bitch about it on the internet. I prefer to try and figure out how to make it work (and it can be made to work) instead of wasting time tilting at windmills. Unless of course you think that the powers at be of US Soccer spend their time reading these forums and sit around waiting for the pearls of wisdom that drop here. Hint – they don’t…”

Follow-Up: The age year shuffle from “school year” to “birth year” will disrupt players, friends, families and club teams across the state and country. So why do it? “We’ve been in a favor of it for quite a while,” says Sam Snow,U.S. Youth Soccer’s Coaching Director. “It’s a matter of aligning with what the rest of the world does. It makes it easier for the teams that travel overseas. Also, for teams from other countries that come here to play in America, it makes it more straightforward what age group you’re in.” 

But, some wonder about “relative age effect.” The theory, as outlined by Malcolm Gladwell in “Outliers,” is due to the age group cutoff being Jan. 1. Those born earlier in the year are older, bigger, faster, more coordinated and more experienced than their late-year counterparts. As a result, they receive more minutes of playing time, more attention from coaches and more positive feedback on their performances, and that increases their enjoyment of the sport and willingness to continue to train and participate.

Soccer is not immune to this relative age effect. It is prevalent throughout the world and the United States. The only difference being that traditionally the soccer year cuts off on Aug. 1. In fact, research into the ODP program shows that it is prevalent at the regional, state and national levels. Bad news for young American soccer players born in July.


One thought on “Social Buzz: Washington soccer community responds to new youth age / year designations

  1. It is silly to change it at the rec level, because most kids enjoy playing with their classmates. If the change is made at the rec level it should start with the younger teams. For the rec team I have coached for 7 years I would lose half the players. Players who aren’t looking to play in college, just looking to play with friends.

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