"The direction of my athletic career will be determined this weekend...and I'm only 10!"
I hope you didn’t need to be anywhere in Frisco this weekend. There will be over 3000 families descending on Pizza Hut Park and surrounding soccer complexes in the next few days. And this is just on the girls side…the boys will do theirs later this summer. The mission? To play some soccer? Get some exercise? Have fun?
This is QUALIFYING! This is the tournament that will determine which teams make which division in which league. 200 teams competing for 123 slots. At the top, you have Lake Highlands Girls Classic League Division I. These are literally some of the best youth soccer teams in the country. The Sting and Dallas Texans clubs each have teams ranked in the top 20 nationally. Then there are the lower tier, but still respectable Divisions II and III in Lake Highlands. Utter failure would be to lose in qualifying and be relegated to Arlington or Plano select leagues.
And once you miss qualifying for Lake Highlands, your lot is pretty much cast. You might still stand somewhat of a reasonable chance if you are on the “white” squad of a major club. The clubs designate their “premier” teams by color…reserving the “white” designation for the “JV”. But if you are a small club or an independent team, forget about it. Sure you can enter the qualifying tournament each year, but you are sure to be seeded to match up with the best of the best of the existing teams, making subsequent qualification very difficult.
So, coaches and parents all over North Texas are trying to distract their darling daughters from Bratz dolls and slumber parties in favor of soccer camps, daily 2-hour training sessions and even two-a-day practices. Yes, two-a-days. Real, blood-sweat-and-tears, throwing-up, be-all-you-can-be-type two-a-days.
Don’t let me give you the impression that it is all driven by the adults. Some of these kids are naturally talented and are just out there excelling at something they love. Others are tremendously driven. These are the “Type A” personalities I feared in the 80’s. 10 is the new 15. They are making decisions for themselves now that, right or wrong, will have a real and significant impact on their futures.
The bottom line? The fate of America’s soccer future will be decided by a bunch of 10 year old girls on summer vacation.