In-house, Travel, or Premier - Which to Choose?
Soccer in the U.S. has never been healthier. As participation numbers continue to surge across all ages, opportunities to play at different levels have increased at a rapid rate. With more opportunities come more decisions for parents to make concerning the appropriate development of their child in the sport. This document is intended to serve as a guide in that decision-making process. Tryouts for local premier clubs are underway. Additionally at a younger age, there is minimal difference in coaching at the rec and premier league. Most involvement includes interactive games and touches on the ball. Level of play should be progressive in terms of skill and time commitment allotted: 1. In-house 2. travel (rec plus), and 3. premier.
At CPYS, our primary concern has always been, and will always be, about teaching the sport to your children in a safe, fun, and developmentally-appropriate fashion. While we’d love to keep all of your kids with us forever, we also realize that wouldn’t necessarily be in the best interests of each player. More and more of us, as parents, are trying to figure out which level of soccer would be the best fit for our child(ren). In making any decisions, we feel the following five factors should be considered:
Skill - Think about the level your child is currently playing.
Is s/he consistently the best player on the field, or at least one of the top couple?
Do other parents seem to think so, too? Keep in mind, too, that we’re not just talking about scoring the most goals or kicking the ball twice as far as everyone else.
Can your child trap the ball?
Does your child play his/her position instead of running wherever the ball is? Does your child know when to pass, when to dribble, and when to shoot?
If so, then maybe pushing your child up a level is something to consider.
Time Commitment -
In-house requires the least amount of time. You’re practicing once or twice a week, with one game on Saturday mornings, all in CP.
Travel takes a little bit more time as you are practicing twice a week, possibly attending an occasional special training session offered by CPYS and our partners, and playing once, maybe twice, a week with games potentially an hour away in some cases. Also, most of these games are on Sundays, between noon and 6:00 pm. Is that going to be a problem?
As for premier, most clubs will run 2 - 3 90-minute practices per week, in-season. Out-of-season training varies, but you should expect your child to have some training all year, except for approximately June 15 - August 1, and November 1 - December 31. There will typically be one or two games a weekend, possibly more if there is a tourney. How far will you travel? That depends on your club, and your team’s success. At an entry level to premier, you should expect games throughout Indiana and the Chicagoland area, mostly, but not all, within a two-three hour radius. Beyond that, some clubs will offer off-season training opportunities that may or may not be mandatory.
Enjoyment - This one is really tough to answer. Each kid is different. Each club is different. Really, each team within the club is different. Typically, a child’s enjoyment of the game is driven by some combination of how much s/he truly loves the game, his/her teammates, and the coach. While any level of soccer can be more or less enjoyable from season to season, you want to be sure to consider the goals of the team at that level. At CPYS we’re very clear that one of the main concerns of in-house soccer is to teach your children the sport in a fun environment. At the travel level, we still have a lot of fun, but development typically becomes the primary objective, with some combination of fun and winning games becoming our secondary objectives. At the premier level, they’re still trying to achieve all of those goals, but most clubs will be very clear that their primary purpose is to win soccer games. That can potentially add a level of pressure that not all children are comfortable with. They also aren’t guaranteed minutes in games at the premier level in the same fashion that they are through CPYS in-house and travel teams. In fact, many players find that playing time is not usually equal on a club team. In short, any one of these levels offers your child an opportunity to have a great experience, but you’ll want to make sure you think through some of the above issues first.
CPYS in-house costs remain mostly the same from year to year at about $100.
Travel is comparable at $140, plus a uniform purchased once every two years for about $55.
Premier is a significant step up with costs beginning at around $1000-$2000 for access to a coach/trainer. There is also often a cost associated with gear (uniforms, warm-ups, practice wear,...) that may exceed $200. Some tourneys require hotel stays. If the team does well, they may play in additional tourneys that have fees that weren’t included in the original cost. Also, there may be off-season training opportunities that come with a cost. In short, it’s not unusual for one calendar year of premier soccer to cost in excess of $2,000-$3000.
Long Term Plans in the Sport - How old is your kid? 7? 12? Do you have any idea what s/he wants to do 5, 7, 10 years down the road? I don’t. This is really tough to answer. If you think your child is going to play collegiate soccer, then s/he probably needs to play for a premier team at some point. Just interested in playing for the high school team? Maybe travel soccer will be enough, though honestly, here in CP, we’ve had a lot of success with both our boys and girls programs at the high school. The high school level can be competitive, depending upon the number of girls that try out and how many have had exposure to premier or intensive training. There’s no denying that their professional coaches and trainers can more consistently deliver training that will push your child further than we can. That said, our coaches work hard to deliver excellent training at each practice. They know what they’re doing. How hard should you push your child? Another tough one. The last thing you want to do is burn a child out. Many of our board members and coaches are in our 30’s and 40’s (and maybe beyond) and still playing the game recreationally. Each path through the sport is unique and knowing when to push and when to pull back is one of those things that we don’t have a user’s manual for.
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. That was a lot to process. At the end of the day, there is no definitive flow chart for how to decide where your child should play. Personally, I would encourage you to talk with people whom you trust who have kids playing at the different levels. Listen to their input. Talk to more people. Talk to your child about what s/he wants to do. Go observe a practice or a game of one of CPYS’s travel teams or one of the local premier teams. Speak to the coach in person. Do your research. The main goal of CPYS is to help your child develop in the game, whether that’s with us, or with someone else. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at