Recreational soccer vs Club soccer

Pros and cons of moving your child from Recreational soccer to Club soccer

For a parent who wants to enroll their child in a soccer programme, there is often the question of deciding on what category of soccer to begin with. On one hand, there is recreational soccer for the purpose of enjoyment and development1. The requirements of commitment are not very demanding and so provide easy entry for those new to soccer. Then, there is club soccer where the stakes are higher. A child will have to show greater competitiveness for a place in the team, be available to travel for games, among other things.

What if the child has been enrolled in recreational soccer and then a parent decides to move them up to club soccer? Are there more advantages than disadvantages to this? Bearing in mind the nature of both categories of soccer in terms of similarities and differences, we can know what to expect before making this decision.


Experience: With the right coaching, playing recreational soccer gives your child a familiarity with the rules of the game. There are some independent coaches and soccer academies who offers team practices as part of their services. Elite Soccer PK offers a variety of services from 1on1 privates to group clinics and team practices, to ensure all players learn a strong philosophy. Studies shows that a volunteer parent is not the right option for player development. A good reason to hire a coach is to stand teaching the kids the values of soccer and what to expect when going club with a strong base; you can treat it as “pre-Club” where you play in a recreational league but train with the club mentality. Playing recreational will help them learn and understand how to play, what soccer is and is not. Spending some time in recreational soccer would present an advantage over other children who enter club soccer as first time soccer players. Your child will be one of the most experienced players from day one. Despite its relatively leisurely form, there are many useful skills to be learned while playing recreational soccer. Showing up for practice, obeying instructions, looking out for teammates and playing in the interests of the team are part of expectations in club soccer.

Good Foundation: Club soccer is demanding and is usually for those who want to play the sport in high school, college and may probably make a career out of it. A child who has played recreational soccer before moving to club soccer would know if they enjoyed the sport and want to move on with it. Recreational soccer combines the right amount of physical, tactical and technical demands without as much pressure to make it primarily a learning and fun experience. This experience comes in handy in club soccer.


Adapting to Higher Demands: Club soccer demands higher physicality than recreational soccer. As such, a child who may have been used to a rather relaxed pace may find it challenging adjusting to club soccer. There will be more practice matches for more hours2 a week and if a child isn’t up for the extra demands based on what he was used to in recreational soccer, it may weaken motivation3 and enthusiasm for the game. Recreational teams are usually coached by volunteer parents; their knowledge of the game and the standards they require are significantly lower than those of licensed coaches who may have played soccer at college or even professionally.

Travel: Club Soccer requires that your child travel with the team for games outside your locality. This is certainly something to consider when deciding to switch from recreational soccer where games are played within familiar environments. Your child may go out of state for tournaments4 up to twice a year and a parent would consider what this could mean for the child’s performance on academics and other social aspects of the child’s life.

Cost: A higher level of financial commitment accompanies the increased commitment in time and attention involved in moving from recreational to club soccer. The higher prices may be used to cover fees for entering competitions, coaching, and referees5. Depending on the quality of the soccer academy, the costs may be quite high compared to what you may pay for recreational soccer. Meanwhile, paying the fees is not a guarantee that your child will play; they will still have to put in the required amount of competitive work to be selected for games.

Loss of Control: For the parent, you should expect to give up some decision-making influence over your child’s soccer as they transition to club soccer. Licensed coaches who handle club soccer teams operate within a structure where the inputs of parents on child’s performance will not be readily demanded. Good coaches are attentive and flexible to a child’s peculiar abilities and challenges, but the child will be integrated to the strength of the team, not vice versa. Essentially, parents should be ready to take the back seat and let coaches to their job.


As with anything else, the advantages must be weighed against the disadvantages in order to make an informed decision. At the very least, soccer can be a wonderful recreational activity with its fair share of benefits to the player. If exploited to its full potential however, as would obtain with club soccer, the benefits to be derived can be further maximized.


An overview of Recreational Soccer

Comparing Competitive Soccer to Recreational Soccer

3Club Soccer vs Rec Soccer

4Parent Education Series

5Five mistakes soccer parents make with their players

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