By Matt Settles
Coach Settles recently completely his 11th season as a high school coach in Indiana. The former collegiate player at the University of Southern Indiana is also a regular contributor to the Soccer Toolbox
A hot topic and issue that high school coaches around the country continue to deal with each season is the 10 month schedule of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, or DA as most refer to it. This high level version of club soccer is intended for top level or elite players that are looking to play collegiate soccer and beyond. The problem is that after changes were made several years ago, the DA league now runs almost the entire year and conflicts with the high school season. Players have been told they can’t do both in playing for their DA team and high school team, which has caused a lot of controversy and effected hundreds of teams and programs across the country. There are always two sides to every story, so the pros and cons of both DA and high school soccer will be discussed.
The obvious and main advantages of DA soccer is that players get to train and play at a high level. Top players come together to practice and train, which pushes players to get better and challenges them to improve. These players then play other DA teams with top level players, which creates a high level game experience. The coaching is or should be on a higher level compared to most high school programs. DA soccer is not perfect though and there are many areas not mentioned or discussed by those that support it. What happens to the players that are not in the starting lineup and only get limited minutes as a sub? Are they getting the game experience and playing time needed to develop? What about the atmosphere or more specifically, the fans and spectators at DA games? I’ve seen and heard of DA games with only a small group of people in the stands (mostly parents and families). This may not seem important to some, but if players are looking to play at the next level, there are hundreds and sometimes thousands of fans at collegiate games. Other important issues include the travel, costs, and time commitments that are required and expected from each player and family.
High school soccer provides a lot of things that the DA does not and will not ever. The pride of playing for your own school, playing with your friends and teammates, playing in front of family and classmates, playing against rival schools, and competing for a state championship, are just a few of the many examples. The talent level of your own team and competition will be lower in most cases, but this all depends on the level of the high school program. Also, the coaching will be different and possibly not as high compared to DA soccer. The travel requirements and costs will be much lower for high school soccer, which is a big factor for a lot of parents and families across the country.
The reality is that every player and their situation is different. The main issue that I can’t seem to understand is how players playing both DA and high school soccer is not allowed, or at least not encouraged. This doesn’t make any sense in my opinion and players should be allowed to do both if they want. There is no proof that players will drop off by playing with their high school team for a few months. In a lot of cases, I would argue that these players would improve and be better prepared going back to their DA team. High school soccer is taking a big hit by losing most of the top players across the country who are moving on to the DA with hopes and dreams of making it big. A college scholarship is great and a chance of making the national team is incredible, but whether these things happen or not, is it worth missing a chance to play with friends, for your hometown school, and possibly a state championship? These are tough decision that every DA player has to make and have to live with whether it turns out good or bad.