With the Fourth of July weekend coming up most teams in the U.S. are on their summer break, except for those elite teams that are still participating in US Youth Soccer Regionals or have advanced to the Nationals. This month long break gives the players (and coaches!) a much needed break from the regular practice, game and tournament schedule that lasts at least 10 months in most areas of the country. This is a time for the kids to go to the pool, play with friends or just hang out. It's also a time when many families head out of town on vacations. But for some, this is a time for MORE SOCCER.
3v3 tournaments pop up everywhere at this time of year. Parents or coaches pull together five or six kids, hold practices and attend one or more tournaments. On the surface there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with this; the kids love to play soccer, the format is fun to play and entertaining to watch and there's no conflicts with club soccer. All of those things are fine but this means that kids end up practicing and playing soccer 12 months in a row without any real break.
There are some people that won't see the problem with that. The chorus goes, "If they enjoy playing, what's wrong with having them play during the summer?" The answer is that the quickest way to burn out, break down, get injured and lose motivation is to do something (anything!) continuously without a break for too long. How long will it take for PLAYING soccer to start to feel like work? If kids play club soccer for 10 months with two practices a week, games on the weekends and tournaments every month or so and then play 3v3 tournaments during the summer, how motivated are they going to be to get back to soccer practice the first week of August?
Professional athletes in all sports take a month or two off each year to rest their bodies and their minds so that they are fresh and ready for the start of the new season. Surely our young athletes need at least as much of a break, if not more.
I can always spot the over-scheduled kids during the first week of practice for the fall season. They have usually just finished a week long pre-season camp (held for three hours a day in 90+ degree heat) and are wearing a brand new 3v3 tournament t-shirt their parents bought for them at a tournament a few weeks ago. These are the kids that are often tougher to motivate and engage. They go half speed and give only partial effort. It's hard to blame them, they're just pacing themselves because they've been going none stop for a year or more without a break. Why should they get all excited and work hard now? What's so important about this practice? They've had a hundred just like it over the past year.
It's impossible go 100% all of the time, without a break, for year's on end. What you get when you try is a player that will pace themselves and give just effort enough to get by. Is that the kind of soccer player (or people) we want to develop?
So before you sign-up for this summer's edition of the '3v3 National Championship Tournament Series', take some time to consider whether your time and money could be spent in a better way. One that would have your kids anxiously anticipating the fall season of soccer. Rested, ready and eager to learn and enjoy playing the game they love.