Do you really have to pay to play?

Ask any parent on the sidelines at a youth game every Saturday or Sunday afternoon if they want their child to become the best  player on the planet and you will always get the same answer – yes. Every parent wants their child to be the best, but with so many conflicting ideas as to how this is best achieved and supported it’s is so hard to know which way to go.

The academy system in the US gives most parents an option that makes sense – their children are trained by professionals who will put their child in a learning environment design to further their sport development. The major drawback, however, is the cost. The cost that parents have to incur in the US for their child to play is massive and it’s one that really doesn’t need to be so high, if there at all.

Does the rest of the world have to pay for their talented youth to be coached? Simply, no. Of course there are training camps and different sport courses available to help make kids further their skill set on the  field, but as much as these things are profitable for their alumni they are also extremely profitable for those conducting the training and are often more of a business than a helping hand to greatness. Street football, pick up games, school matches and youth teams are the norm throughout the world in the development of kids sports. This type of playing has its roots in a simple game of expression and fun, and links to superstars who play with a freedom they learnt from when they were young and more importantly without crippling their parents financially.

So what alternatives do we have? Let children stay in the stable environments that keep them enjoying the game and learning in different environments for as long as possible. We also have to move away from the idea that unless our children turn into Leo Messi it is a failure. For elite players who seem destined for the big leagues, the academy system makes sense – and if parents can afford it then great I guess, but for everyone else the game is more than just being trained relentlessly into being a player that is robotically able to progress through the levels until they reach the MLS or further afield.

What youth teams, pick up games and indoor sports give students of the game is a communal experience that increases the love of a game and allows for an economically viable alternative for most families than sending their children into academies. For working class families paying for their child to play is a step too far for some budgets and not possible, but does it really need to be? Talent and dedication is what makes a player great and be that in expensive boots or on a lush well-kept pitch or in some standard shoes and a muddy pitch, the skills, talent and love for the game push players to the top irrespective of how much they’ve paid for their training.

For those dedicated to raise their sports playing children in the arts of the game and not keen to pay should band together, start teams, work on training sessions. Get advice from trainers and scour the internet for tips and articles on how to keep the children’s development improving. Enter the local league and get your children competing as often as possible and put in situations when they are forced to play at their highest level. Let them learn from defeats and fight for success. That grit and fighting spirit that has seen the NBA filled with street playing basketball  – ignore the established pay to play academies and teach your kids to fight for what they love. Soon enough their talent and passion will take them where they want to go.

By working together and having a determination about where you want your child to go and them being prepared to work for their place at a high table, there is no reason why kids that don’t get the opportunities to be coached at elite colleges need to miss out. After all, it is not a game solely for the privileged – it is a game for everyone. Just ask the Brazilians who grew up in the favelas and went on to raise the world cup five times!!

Remember that the high school, college route is as attainable as any other way of progressing in all sports. It also increases the education that a child receives and puts them in the position of potentially earning a place for themselves at schools that will train them to as high a standard as any academy. But just remember one thing – you may not have to pay to play but you will have to fight to play!!

Good luck