Club Sports: The New Cliché

Competitive sports organizations shift focus from player development

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Club Sports: The New Cliché

Freshman Liz Sims and her club team celebrate a win.

Freshman Liz Sims and her club team celebrate a win.

Photo by Sara Sims

Freshman Liz Sims and her club team celebrate a win.

Photo by Sara Sims

Photo by Sara Sims

Freshman Liz Sims and her club team celebrate a win.

Alaina Anderson, Staff Reporter

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Your palms are sweating. You’re tired and your muscles feel weak, but it’s the last play of the game. You need to score this point or else you will lose the game for your team. You take a breath, close your eyes, and take the shot. When you open your eyes, you realize you’ve missed your shot and devastated your team. All of the practice from the week prior doesn’t matter because you’ve lost the game.  

This feeling is not uncommon in athletes who play club sports. Teenage athletes who play for competitive sports organizations feel the idea of having fun and improving their skills has been overshadowed by money and the need to win.

Many teenage athletes started playing a sport at a young age and at a recreational level, but in order to succeed and develop their skills, they sought for a higher level of coaching and competition. This higher level is often found by paying to play for a certain club or organization. 

When I initially started soccer it was a lot more laid back and relaxed. Now playing club, you have a lot more to worry about, such as playing time.”

— Izzy Baker

These organizations began in order to select the best players and formulate teams of athletes with similar skill levels and a goal of mutual development as a team. However, as the organizations began to grow, many have lost sight of this goal and instead began to focus on other aspects of the game.

“Clubs are a form of business where if you pay money, your child gets to play on a team,” said Skutt Catholic volleyball coach Renee Saunders. “Many club owners make a lot of money, leading me to believe that money is the driving force behind them. That being said, there are clubs that do it for the right reasons and focus on quality rather than quantity,” Saunders continued.

Due to the financial and business aspects of these organizations, most clubs focus more on increasing the number of teams in order to increase revenue, rather than developing players. Along with the increase of teams, the quality of coaching is affected. As a result, experienced athletes find themselves paying large sums of money to have a coach who neglects to develop their players.

Even though these coaches often don’t focus on their players’ fundamental growth as an athlete, they are still often paid to coach. Many coaches are paid in some form or another. Most clubs pay their coaches hourly wages, which often comes out of the team’s budget. The majority of paid coaches choose to coach older teams, which is usually when the focus shifts away from developing skills to playing to win.

“I started playing club volleyball when I was 8 years old,” remembered freshman volleyball player Emma Heglin. “It used to be about just having fun and hanging out with your friends, but now it is all about winning. My coaches rarely run developmental drills at practices. Instead, they focus on scrimmages and how we are able to compete,” Heglin continued.

Nicole Heglin
Freshman Emma Heglin talks with her team during a timeout.

Many athletes have had similar experiences in other sport organizations. “Our practices and coaching are totally different from when I started playing club soccer,” said freshman soccer player Will McMeen. “We used to spend entire practices working on different skills and drills, but now we just scrimmage other local teams. I feel like the scrimmages and my current coaching doesn’t  help me improve technically as a player. It only teaches me to win,” McMeen concluded.

Sport organizations have, in the eyes of many, lost sight of their original goal, and in turn are beginning to lose popularity. Until they once again unite under this goal, recreational sports may just be the way to play.