Anyway, Hope Solo had something to say this week about youth soccer and how it’s become a rich white-kid sport.
Hope Solo says youth soccer in the U.S. has become a ‘rich, white kid sport’
CLOSE Former U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo said Tuesday soccer in the United States has become a “rich, white kid sport”…
She’s not wrong. I mean, mostly not. She says that the average cost for competitive soccer is $15,000 a year and there’s no way we pay anything like that. Maybe a quarter to a third of it, which is still a ton so there’s no need to inflate.
Anyway, I thought it might be interesting to show you guys what the inner workings of just choosing a team looks like.
My daughter Ruby is thirteen. She’s a soccer goalkeeper. She wants to be Hope Solo when she grows up. It’s tryout season.
When my girl throws her fearless self at a ball, this is what she’s dreaming of.
(Yes, I know Hope has some personal issues going on. No, I’m not worried about her being my kid’s idol. Hope Solo is the best female goalkeeper there has ever been. Maybe just the best goalkeeper, period. She also stands up and speaks out about the inequality involved in women’s professional sports. Ruby doesn’t know or care about anything else in the woman’s life.)
This is some highly intense shit, let me tell you.
Ruby tried out for four teams in the last two weeks. All the teams had initial tryouts in the first week and all four invited her to a second tryout in the second week.
Ruby was offered spots on all four teams.
Seriously, this is like a miniature, middle-school-girl version of Jerry Maguire. None of the teams were allowed to make offers until 6 p .m. today. We all sat around my cell phone after dinner, waiting for the offers to roll in.
And it’s not as easy as just picking the team where her friends are playing, or even just picking the team that she’s been playing with. This is the third year in a row where her current team has either broken up or been merged with another team and given a new coach.
A team based in Truckee that is only taking four girls this season total.
This team is very highly ranked — third in the state of Nevada (don’t ask me why a Truckee, CA team is ranked in Nevada, but it is.) The top two teams are in Southern Nevada, so this is by far the highest ranked team in our area.
Ruby would be their second keeper. The offer said that she’d alternate games with their other keeper, instead of switching off at the halftime and both playing all the games. I’m not sure if that means she only plays in half the games or if in the other half she’ll be on the field. I sent an email.
The biggest drawback here is that Truckee is a 45 minute drive from our house. We’d have to travel there at least three times a week for practices and games. Ruby usually has extra keeper practices as well. This year she’s practiced four days a week instead of two. I’m not even sure we’d be able to do all of the winter indoor training, because the drive might be treaturous.
If she choses this team, she probably won’t be able to play basketball this year, because of the travel time.
Their tryouts were by far the most well organized and Ruby liked the coach a lot. She also was super relaxed and just had fun with the girls, which was nice to see.
In Reno there are two highly ranked teams. The one Ruby was on last season and another one — which made this offer.
This is one is interesting, because they’ll have enough U15 girls who are still in middle school to have an actual season.
U15 is a strange transitional year. Any girl born between Jaunary 1 and the school cut-off date in early September is going into the ninth grade and any girl born between September and December is going into the eighth grade. High school kids play high school soccer in the fall, not club soccer. Ruby’s birthday is in December, so she’s going into the eighth grade this year — if she doesn’t play club soccer in the fall, she just skips an entire season.
Ruby would play regular U15 soccer in the fall, with other girls who are in the eighth grade (and maybe some ninth graders who chose not to play school soccer, although that’s rare.) This team actually plans on having TWO teams in the spring — an elite team made up of the older girls and the best of the younger girls, and a regular U15 team (read: B team.)
They have two keepers already and Ruby would make three. One of the other two, the coach is sure will go to the elite team. It would be between Ruby and the other girl for the second spot. I’m confident Ruby would prove herself — but there’s a chance she’d spend the spring playing on a B team.
The coach from this team has never coached Ruby, but still knew her well enough to acurately know her weaknesses (she has a tendency to bat the ball away sometimes, instead of catching it — she needs to work on her hands) and her strengths (she’s fast and fearless with her dives. She also has a gorgeous drop kick.)
The fees for this team are considerably lower than pretty much every other team, because they have sponsors, which means that the club isn’t made up of all rich white kids, which I love. And they practice about 5 minutes from our house, which is an obvious plus.
Interestingly, this team had the most disorganized tryout of the four. The coach put all of the strongest players on one team and the weaker players on another. He put Ruby in the goal for the strong team, which meant she didn’t touch the ball once. Literally, not once.
He told us later that he already knew he wanted Ruby, because she’s been on his radar for a while. So he stroked her ego and made her feel like a rockstar.
A brand new team.
I think this one is out. I’m not confident they’ll get enough girls to actually have a team, which means we could choose them and then have to go back to one of the other teams anyway. And the rumor mill says that most of the girls who are leaving Ruby’s team from last year are going here en masse and Ruby wasn’t particularly happy with those girls.
She did like the coach of this team a lot and I think he has the most coaching experience of all the teams. He was for sure playing college soccer before some of the other coaches were even born.
Ruby was offered a spot on the ’03 team in the club she played for last year.
This would be playing up to a U16 team. Since every other girl will be in high school, she would really, truly have no fall season.
The coach said that she’d be offered a lot of keeper-specific coaching during the fall and that she could practice with the ’05 girls (which is actually a very good team and since Ruby’s birthday is in December ’04 isn’t such a huge playing down.)
She can’t play games with that team though, because she’s too old. She could guest play in tournaments with them, if they play up to ’04, which they often do.
She would be the head keeper on the ’03 team with coaches who already know her. The keeper coach loves Ruby — she practices with him twice a week and he knows her really well — and went to bat for her, convincing the head coaches that she could keep for an ’03 team.
I’m pretty sure that this team is going to be mostly made up of girls from Ruby’s most current team (so girls she struggled all year to connect with) and girls from an ‘03-’04 team that she played on the year before (she loved the girls on this team, so she’d be excited about that.)
This team is by far the most expensive choice — and I’m turned off by learning that girls pay 4X the fees as the boys do. Her team last year was made up entirely of rich white girls. Like — mega rich, mostly. There were two working class families (ours and one other) and both of those girls really had a hard time fitting in.
One thing I noticed in the last year is that it does Ruby almost no good to play on a team that’s considerably better than almost all the available competition. In Reno, there are only two teams that play at a significantly higher level than the others. She plays on one of them and they are well matched with the other.
When she plays against any of the other teams, she often sits in the goal and never touches the ball for the entire game.
Options #1 and #2 (especially if she makes the elite team in the spring) both play in a Northern California league, which means they’re playing tougher teams. Option #3 probably won’t play NorCal in its very first season. Option #4 may or may not.
She’ll have to make a choice in the next day or two.
What it costs.
Just for the record, I guess . . .
Last year, Ruby’s soccer fees were about $2300. That included coaching, league fees, tournament fees, and her kit (three uniforms, a warm up suit, and a backpack.) We spent another $500 on one-on-one time with a keeper coach. Ruby has equipment needs that the other players don’t have. This year we bought a pair of padded keeper pants ($30) and two pairs of keeper gloves ($60 each.) She also got a new pair of cleats (We got seriously lucky and found a pair on clearance that fit her perfectly, marked down from $70 to $35.) We traveled to several tournaments and spent money on hotel rooms and food and travel. So, somewhere in the vicinity of $4000.
Could we have gotten up to $15,000? I mean. Maybe. We could have hired a personal trainer. But that’s some pretty serious overkill. Ruby didn’t go to any camps this year — those run $500 to $1000 each. There are extra fancy-pants camps that would have involved air travel and much higher fees. We could have flown to tournaments instead of driving. We could have stayed in higher-end accomodations.
I’m highly aware that my older kids would not have been able to play soccer the way Ruby does, if that had been their thing. Not without scholarships (which every club in our area offers — or at least says they offer.) I am one hundred percent certain that there are kids who will never get to develop their talent because of the cost of playing.
Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She lives in Reno with her husband, three superstar kids, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes and is the author of Viral Nation and Rebel Nationand the upcoming novel The Astonishing Maybe. She is the original Ninja Writer.