Rec Soccer Builds Confidence, Camaraderie
That Can Last a Lifetime
At the end of the season, some coaches look back and evaluate the job they performed by the team’s win-loss record. Others consider the number of players that received interest from high-level clubs or colleges.
Stephen Schwecke, coach of the BU17 Cheetahs, instead asks himself two questions.
“Did the kids have fun? And do they want me to come back?” he says. “If the answers to both of those is ‘yes,’ then I’m happy.”
That’s not to say that Schwecke’s Cheetahs, which play in Washington Youth Soccer recreational leagues, haven’t been successful by other measures as well. In 11 years since the tem first formed at age U7, Schwecke says they’ve had just one losing season, typically finishing with 7-8 wins over the course of the usual 10-game schedule.
Three of Schwecke’s players have been together since that first U7 team formed over a decade ago. One of those is Davis Baillie, who Schwecke says is the poster boy for what a rec soccer player should be.
“Davis is one of the nicest kids you’ll ever meet,” he says. “There’s no mean bone in his body. He’s also a talented player who has played every position for us; he does whatever we ask. He’s also been a terrific team leader who supports his teammates, propping them up when they need a lift. He loves the game, and he has fun. And that’s the core of rec soccer.”
It’s likely that almost everyone reading this article has had personal experience with recreational soccer, either as a player, or a parent. Recreational soccer is the level at which nearly every player in America begins — picking up a ball and teaming up with friends to have fun playing a game they enjoy. Winning is great, but the focus is on fun and basic skill development, along with fostering a lifelong love for the game — there are no tryouts or cuts, seasons are shorter, tournaments are fewer, and the financial commitment is less.
Schwecke says that the primary difference between recreational soccer and more competitive levels of play, like Select or Premier, is the single-minded focus of the players.
“The focus and the willingness to give whatever it takes to win are the biggest difference,” he says. “Kids at the higher levels are more dedicated to soccer — they practice away from the field, and play soccer year-round. My players love soccer in soccer season, but when it’s over, they’re off to basketball, or baseball, or whatever other sports they love to play.”
In fact, Schwecke says that he has often found himself coaching his soccer players on the t-ball field in the spring, or taking them on Scouting trips in the summertime — activities that, like recreational soccer, help a group of friends come together and bond over a shared interest in a healthy, active way.
“Over the years, I’ve really gotten to know these kids, and their parents, too,” he says. “Our families have become friends. The parents have told me, ‘We’re so glad you’re you. You share the same values we do. You don’t yell, you make it fun for the kids.’ That means the most to me.”
To learn more about Recreational Soccer, or to find a team or club in your area, visit washingtonyouthsoccer.org.