“Ex-college coach explains why high school sports should die.”

“Club sports pushing athletes away from high school.”

A couple of recent headlines demonstrating the rise and importance in club sports, and how they will be the saving grace of sports in America. While club teams are becoming more prevalent, they are forcing secondary school sports to either up its game or surrender.

Many families assume club sports are the key to getting recruited, while others still rely on their high school teams to strike recruiting gold. Neither is a sure path, only exceptional talent; timing and need will earn a scholarship for most athletes to the University of their choice. But club sports give athletes a better chance to improve their skills with better coaching, consistent competition, and the freedom to train as hard as the athlete desires.

Club sports: Why it’s a good investment

Club Sports are having a greater impact all ready than most experts want to admit. The NCAA recently surveyed over 21,000 current college athletes, asking them if they played club or high school sports. Athletes in a few sports overwhelmingly reported that they played on a club team:

• Soccer: 95% of women and 93% of men played CLUB soccer.
• Basketball: 92% of women and 89% of men played CLUB basketball.
• Volleyball: 91% of women’s competed on a CLUB volleyball team.
• Swimming: 90% of women and 88% of men competed on a CLUB swimming team.
• Baseball/Softball: 94% of softball players and 87% of baseball players competed on CLUB teams.
• Ice Hockey: 91% of women and 86% of men competed on CLUB teams.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, only 24 percent of football players competed on a club football team. But this is dramatically increasing with new clubs and 7 vs 7 football all across the country. Only 31% of men’s track and 32% of women’s track athletes competed on a club track team. A figure that can easily be improved with more track clubs. The raod block to more track clubs is that most schools control the tracks necessary to compete and deny public or club uses.

Data show club sports are sweeping through the U.S., and this trend is on the rise for all sports.

Club teams promise elite competition for their athletes. These performance and result driving programs immerse young student-athletes in their sport for up to 12 months of the year, focusing on honing their sport-specific skills. Boasting high-end facilities and knowledgeable coaches, club sports cater to ALL level athletes. Club sport athletes are never cut. In addition Club sports are not limiting to those sports that secondary schools have chosen for their students to participate in. Club sports can be found in Table Tennis, Judo, Rowing, Archery, Shooting, Bowling, Jump Rope, Weightlifting, Fencing and so many others. Most schools are lucky to field teams in Football, Basketball, Baseball, Soccer, and Track. Not all schools have wrestling, golf, tennis, or swimming teams. This is true of universities as well.

Club teams allow athletes of all ages to showcase their talents in front of college scouts, as well as really develop their skills. Most clubs produce great results and are positive experiences for all athletes. But like everything some clubs are not. The beauty about this is, is that athletes and their parents have the right to leave a club at anytime if they are dissatisfied with the coaching or opportunity. The freedom and power of choice, is power in the athletes and parents hands. Can you do that with your public school sports program?

School Sports still provide a vital role at this time.

Most athletes still enjoy competing for their school, if their school offers their sport. And it is important for Club operators and owners to recognize this and work with local school programs. Many savvy and successful clubs offer their services, facilities, and coaches to High School programs in their market, building lasting and beneficial communication bridges and opportunities for their athletes.

The sports that saw less participation in high school athletics were:
• Ice hockey: 65% of men and 74% of women competed for their high school team
• Tennis: 71% of men and 74% of women competed for their high school team
• Women’s rowing: 39% competed for their high school team
• Gymnastics: 11% of women competed for their high school team

For most sports, high school athletics are certainly not a thing of the past. In fact, there are many benefits to competing in high school sports. High school athletes represent their school and community, playing in front of family, friends and a crowd of fans. They get to engage in traditional rivalries and be featured in the local papers. Each of these benefits prepares them for competing at the next level. College coaches get to see how they react to high-pressure situations and how they represent their community.

The bottom line: Playing club, school, or both depends on your sport and your goals as an athlete.

Many factors need to be looked at:

• What sport do you play? For many sports, Club teams are the only choice.
• What are your goals as an athlete?
• How successful are the school sport coaches?
• How successful are the local club teams?
• Can you play both club and high school sports?
For Club Sport Owners and Operators your objective must remain the same, be inclusive and affordable, and always keep the athletes growth and experience as the core focus of your programs. Athletes should be picky in where the train and who the select to coach them. And school sports must improve the experience and opportunity to remain relevant. With all three elements working together we can an continue to produce the greatest athletes and future leaders possible.