The Sports and Fitness Industry Association’s Outdoor Soccer Participation Report for 2019 found that 42.8% of all outdoor soccer participants are in the eighth grade or younger. With this statistic in mind, it is important for community rec centers to offer successful and sufficient youth soccer programs.
For the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis, this starts with having the right coaches. “Some best practices for offering youth soccer is ensuring adequate coaching,” said Ashley Chitwood, the youth and adult sports director for the Indianapolis Y. “Make sure all coaches are comfortable leading a group of players and always have staff there to help if they need it.”
Chitwood also said it is vital to make sure the program is about more than just soccer. “Make sure coaches are teaching the players more than just soccer, but also life lessons and how to work together as a team,” she said.
Gilbert Duran, the youth sports director at the Yakima Family YMCA in Yakima, Washington, agrees the programming is about more than just the sport. “Our YMCA program offers soccer as early as three years old as a beginner’s program in order to expose kids to others for socializing,” he explained.
The biggest challenge these two YMCAs have faced has been competition in the market.
“There’s a variety of soccer leagues and soccer clubs that makes it tough to compete,” explained Duran. “But there is a small window of interested youth who still need to improve and are not ready for the big soccer programs and other club leagues.” Chitwood agreed competition is difficult, but the Indianapolis Y focuses mainly on recreational soccer — perfect for those just starting out.
In order to have a successful youth soccer program, you have to have participants. A key way to get participants is effective marketing. Duran said the Yakima Y markets their youth soccer program through their website and social media advertising.
The Indianapolis Y gets the word out about their program through many different platforms. “We market within our facility through Delivera, flyers and our TV monitors, as well as our preschool parents,” explained Chitwood. “Also, we market through community outreach events, schools’ newsletters and reaching out directly to new members and past participants.”
Offering a youth soccer program not only benefits the kids, but it can benefit your facility as a whole. “Not only will having them involved in soccer get them to come to your facility and be able to see all of the other activities that you offer, but offering a well-organized league and having friendly staff will make them want to be more involved,” said Chitwood.
If your community rec center doesn’t offer youth soccer, it may be time to consider adding this popular outdoor sport.