So your child wants to play soccer … where to start? Grab a ball and head for the backyard! Even very young players can learn basic skills and game concepts.

If she’s ready to play on a team, choose a program with a low-stress experience. Church leagues, the YMCA and local recreational leagues are great places to start. Many offer programs for players as young as 2. With summer coming soon, soccer camps and clinics are also a great way to introduce the sport.

Basic equipment for playing includes shin guards, long soccer socks and closed-toe athletic shoes. Many leagues and clubs provide jerseys. As players advance, additional equipment can be required.

The Soccer Club

If your child is getting serious about the sport, a soccer club is a great choice. These organizations promote soccer and organize leagues, tournaments and teams. Clubs usually involve a fee, but can provide added benefits such as individual coaching, clinics and a path toward playing on a college or national level.

Soccer clubs offer programs based on age and desired level of involvement. Age groups are designated as U10, U11, etc., which stands for under 10, under 11, and so on. This can be based on the calendar year, but many clubs use their season’s start date to determine age group.

Find a Soccer Club

With Georgia Soccer’s “Georgia Club Directory” parents can search by zip code and distance range to find a close-by club. There is even a map showing the locations, which click through to reveal each club’s details. 

Recreational

For kids of all ages who want to play for enjoyment
A great way to gauge your child’s interest level before advancing
More emphasis on participation vs. winning
No tryouts or cuts
Can be co-ed or girls/boys teams

Academy

Ages U9-U12
Tryout based, girls’ and boys’ teams are separate
Often requires travel to regional or state tournaments

Athena/Classic

Ages U13-U19
Tryout based, players may be cut, girls’ and boys’ teams are separate
Often requires travel to regional or state tournaments

Source: georgiasoccer.org

For more serious players, look for these club designations:

USSDA – U.S. Soccer Development Academy – focuses on elite player development; players try out for and play on a US National team.
ECNL – Elite Clubs National League – supports elite female players and offers team opportunities on a national level. Boys ECNL is a similar program for male athletes.

Atlanta United Academy

ATL UTD Academy is a specialized training program sponsored by Atlanta United and is designed for players in U12-U19 age groups. Players compete in the USSDA and are eligible to be signed to Atlanta United as a Homegrown player. The Academy also assists athletes in pursuing opportunities to play at colleges and universities nationwide.

Benefits of Playing Soccer

Promotes an active lifestyle
Encourages physical development and endurance
Improves coordination
Builds the concept of teamwork and developing relationships
Develops confidence and self-esteem

Source: usyouthsoccer.org

Soccer Basics: A Parent’s Guide
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