Youth Competitive Soccer


My name is Bill Smith and like many of you, my wife Terri and I were clueless about local competitive soccer when our oldest son Zach said he wanted to move up to a competitive soccer team three years ago. Now we have three of our six children playing competitive soccer and we have learned a great deal about the various clubs and the inner workings of youth competitive soccer in the BCS area.

This document is a combination of both fact and opinion. I have tried my best to make sure you can always tell the difference between when I am giving an opinion or relating an objective fact. In any event, I hope that you find the information and opinions given here helpful. Competitive soccer is a great family endeavor and you are virtually guaranteed to have a positive experience with it. I wish the best of luck to you and your child on finding the best soccer club for your particular situation.

I welcome your comments and questions. If you believe that I have made a factual error about something, please let me know as soon as possible so that I can correct it. I have covered a lot of ground here and have done my best to be as accurate as possible. Besides a mistake, some new development could occur that necessitates a change to this paper. Updates and new information will be posted regularly to the web site If you would like to contact me, please feel free to email or call 696-2561.

Important Points

Like the military, competitive soccer is chocked full of acronyms and special terms and expressions. In order to understand any in-depth discussion on competitive soccer, it is essential to know some of the basic terms and concepts of competitive soccer. In each of the topics below, explanations of the most common terms are given.

Age Ranges Divisions Leagues Seasons Trainers Coaches

  1. Age Ranges: Competitive soccer begins with what is known as U11 or in other words with kids that are under eleven years of age by July 31st of the current year. If the child turns eleven on August 1st all the way through the next 12 months to July 31st that child is eligible to play on a U11 team. For the coming 1999 fall soccer season, U11 children will have birth dates ranging from August 1, 1988 through July 31, 1989. Note that there are five months included from 1988 and seven months from 1989 that fit into this range. >From a statistical perspective, most U11 kids will have a birth date in 1989. For this reason, all the new upcoming U11 competitive teams will be known as 89's.

    This is actually a very convenient way of keeping up with teams. As we move through time, we don't have to worry about keeping up with whether the kids are now U12 or U13. We can always easily remember that they are 89's. You also automatically know that an 86 team has kids that are approximately three years older than kids on an 89 team.

    So the new first year competitive teams attempting to be formed by all the various clubs this spring are 89 teams. Next spring they will be trying to form 90 teams. If your child is coming from U10 recreational soccer, he or she will be trying out for an 89 team. If you child is coming from U12 recreational soccer, he or she will try out for an 88 or an 87 team depending on their exact age.

    Competitive soccer also has a provision for "playing up" and that means that a child younger than the designated age range is eligible for membership in all age groups older than him or her. Ideally, it is best not to have children play up. But in some instances, especially with girls' teams where there are often not sufficient players to make an "age pure" team, playing up may be a necessity in order to even form the team.

  2. Divisions: The division that a soccer team plays under is an indicator of the quality of the team. Recreational soccer teams are all known as division three teams or D3. Competitive soccer teams may be either division one (D1) or division two (D2) status. A soccer team cannot just declare itself to be a D1 team. The fact that a team may travel extensively also does not cause a team to have D1 status. D1 status must be earned through placing sufficiently high at a qualifying tournaments held over multiple weekends every June in the Houston area. It is extremely difficult for a team to qualify to the D1 level. Once attained, D1 status can only be preserved by placing sufficiently high in the season results of a D1 league. Presently, there is only one team in the BCS area that plays at the D1 level and that is the American Stars 83 team. All other competitive teams in BCS are D2. Since D2 is the default status level of play for a competitive team, there is an extremely wide range of quality under the classification of D2. Some D2 teams are little more than recreational quality teams while other D2 teams are knocking on the door of D1 status.

  3. Leagues: What league a competitive soccer team plays in is very important. It affects how much a team will have to travel and the level of competition that will be faced. For the BCS area, there are basically three leagues that a competitive team can possibly play in. These three leagues apply for both boys and girls. Two of the leagues require a qualifying performance and the third league, TYSA (Timberline Youth Soccer Association), will take any BCS competitive soccer team that wants to join them. However, the catch with TYSA is that all TYSA games are played in the Houston area. The home field for BCS teams playing in TYSA is Zube (Zoo-bee) Park located near Waller just north of Houston. It takes about 50 minutes to drive to Zube Park from BCS.

    The top league available is called EDDOA (Eastern District Division One Association). However, that league is only available to teams that qualify at the D1 level. This league provides for both home and away games. As mentioned above, only one team in the BCS area plays in that league.

    The second most competitive league available to the BCS area is known as IAL (Inter Association League). This league requires playing through the same multiple weekend qualifying tournament as for EDDOA. Teams that don't quite qualify for EDDOA can still possibly qualify for IAL play. The lowest placing teams will not qualify for either EDDOA or IAL. So just playing through the qualifier tournament in no way insures an invitation into IAL. Most people agree that the IAL level of play is quite a bit higher than TYSA but still not close to D1. IAL is about midway between TYSA and EDDOA on overall quality. Since IAL is a better than average D2 league, some people refer to IAL as a Super Blue league. IAL provides a home and away schedule, but some of the away games are much farther away than Houston. Some people say the travel is more burdensome in IAL than TYSA even though IAL provides you with some home games. In a recent development, there is some talk that TYSA might provide home and away games for teams in the BCS area for the fall of 99. However, as of this writing, it is quite uncertain as to whether that will actually happen.

    Besides the three leagues explained above, there is also the possibility of a fourth option, a local BVYSA (Brazos Valley Youth Soccer Association) league. BVYSA actually has a state playoff slot for each age group that it usually forfeits every year to another league. This has been done because BVYSA has never had enough teams in the surrounding area to create a league of their own. However, the current BVYSA president, Mitchell Smith (no relation to me), informed that if he can get a minimum of five D2 teams in an age group to play in a local BVYSA league then he will no longer allow the state playoff slot to be given away. Now, getting five competitive D2 teams in a single age group for our local area has seemed impossible in the past. But if a team from Brenham and Huntsville could be included, it might be possible to form a five team BVYSA league, particularly for some age group like the 87's. Many of the existing BCS competitive teams are skeptical about playing in such a small local league because they fear that even if it could be created, it might be little more than recreational quality. But regardless of the quality, if there are at least five competitive teams wanting to do it, BVYSA is going to create it. As of this writing, the word I have from Mitchell Smith is that the chances on forming such a new competitive league for the fall of 99 are slim to none.

  4. Seasons: Competitive soccer is played in the fall and spring. The main season is the fall season. Depending on the league a teams plays with, a team will have about 10-12 regular season games and extra state playoff games if the team wins it season games. Some teams will also play in a fun tournament at the end of the fall season. This is especially true if the team didn't make it into state playoffs. In the spring, most teams just play friendly informal games and attend large tournaments from about February through May. The largest of these tournaments is actually a series of tournaments called Snickers Cup, so called because Snickers candy bars sponsors it. Snickers provides not only state champions, but regional champions, and a national championship. A team can win the state fall championship in its division, but it is actually more prestigious to win the Snicker's state championship in the spring. Of course, more prestigious still is to win region and then the national championship. The Snickers tournaments are open tournaments where really only D1 teams have a chance of competing. President's Cup is another prestigious tournament series one notch below Snickers Cup. Most BCS teams don't even attempt the Snickers tournament series, but a few will try President's Cup Most teams will enter one regular tournament a month and others will play three a month. It's up to the individual teams. Occasionally, a few leagues like TYSA will sponsor an abbreviated spring season, but only a few teams play in such spring seasons. Spring is mostly a tournament playing time and a time to hold tryouts to build the team up for the coming fall season. Most soccer teams quit playing around May, but those teams that want to move up to the next level will try play through the EDDOA multi-weekend qualifying tournament in early June. After that, most teams will just take the summer completely off in order not to burn out. But some teams, like the AGS teams, will continue to practice and play in friendly games throughout the summer.

  5. Trainers: The concept of a trainer is completely foreign to most people coming from recreational soccer. Afterall, isn't that what the coach does, train the players how to play? Certainly coaches in competitive soccer do run drills and instruct the players. However, at the higher levels of soccer, it is advantageous for a club to have several very highly skilled and knowledgeable people who can work with coaches and move around the various teams in the clubs to help train and demonstrate advanced skills to the players. A trainer in most BCS clubs acts an assistant to the coach of a team. He or she basically runs portions of the practice while the coach looks on. Trainers usually do not attend games, but some do.

    Another duty of the trainers is to help the club in selecting players to make up teams with. Trainers will consult with coaches about prospective players, but usually the trainer has the final say about whether a player is invited onto a team or not. Trainers are also usually involved in selecting the coach for a new team. The head trainer along with officers of the club looks over coaches' applications and helps decide who is selected as coach of a team.

    The power of a trainer varies a great deal from club to club. In many of the large Houston clubs, the head trainer often has more authority than anyone in the club. The benefit of this is that some parent can't run his own little fiefdom and just select players he subjectively likes. Most of the BCS clubs do not have all powerful trainers. More often the officers of the club have a lot of influence and the existing coaches have a lot of influence as well. All of the BCS clubs have at least one trainer and it is good to know what level of influence and authority the trainers have in the club your family belongs to. It is also good to know the background and qualifications of the trainers a club has. At higher levels of soccer, a good trainer can greatly aid the development of player skills.

  6. Coaches: Most coaches of competitive teams are a father of a kid playing on the team, just like in recreational soccer. In fact, nearly all competitive coaches were at one time very successful recreational coaches. In most clubs, the coach of a team may have never played soccer himself and does not have an extensive soccer background. Some of those kinds of coaches can still be very good, especially when teamed with a good trainer. In a few instances, the coach himself might have trainer capabilities. Occasionally, a coach with a long background in soccer will have high personal soccer skills such that he can demonstrate skills like a trainer can.

    It is important to remember that coaches are human and they have all the same personality differences as can be found in the general public. Some coaches are relatively quiet, saying only what they have to and while others yell all the time. Some are easy going and some are very intense. Good coaches come in all styles of personalities.

    If your child is trying to join an existing team, it is easy to know who the coach is and ask about him with other parents. If your child is trying to join a new team where the coach is not selected yet, try to find out who is the likely coach for the team. While it's not always possible to find out much about the potential coach of a new team, anything you can find out will be helpful and could influence your decision.

Soccer Clubs

At the time of this writing, there are four youth competitive soccer clubs in the BCS area. The clubs are listed below in alphabetical order each with a contact name and phone number.

Soccer Clubs Contact Name Phone
Aggieland Select (AGS)Juan Vasquez822-2460
American Stars (Stars)Gary Badger764-3065
Brazos Magic (Magic)Mike Kogut696-7935
College Station Soccer Club (CS)Luis CiFuentes693-9118

Just a little over one year ago there were only two clubs, American Stars and Brazos Magic. At that time, a family only had to decide between the two different clubs. It was even feasible to try out for both clubs and see which one might select your child and if both did, figure out which one was best suited for your child.

However, the spring of 1998 changed all that with the introduction of two new youth competitive soccer clubs, AGS and CS. Trying out for four different clubs, though not impossible, is really not a feasible thing to attempt. Tryouts can be exhausting for kids as they try their best to show how well they can play. For this reason, it is now more important than ever for a family to research the various clubs and pick one or two that they want to try out for.

One very recent development is that the Stars and Magic are on the verge of merging. Negotiations are under way as this is being written. Since the merger process is in its very early stages with no absolute guarantee of success, I have described the clubs as they individually exist right now in March of 1999. Still, as you read the information on Magic and the Stars, be aware that the benefits of both clubs could be combined in the near future.

Before giving a specific description of each club, it is worthwhile to make some overall comments that apply to all the clubs. All four of the clubs encourage ethnic diversity and all four have "scholarship" programs available to help economically disadvantaged players. All four clubs also have excellent coaches and the quality and good will of the people involved is uniformly high.

The costs of playing for each club vary quite a bit. Even within one club, teams have different costs. Variable player costs within a club can occur for a number of reasons such as different trainer's fees for some teams, more or less players on scholarship for some teams, different tournaments entered, and so on. Typically, each team in a club operates as its own little financial entity. A parent will usually volunteer to be treasurer or manager for the team. That parent will collect fees that are mostly paid to the club and some fees which are used by the team directly such as for any tournaments they may enter. The exception to all this is AGS. All players are scholarshipped whether economically disadvantaged or not. Sponsorship money and private donations take care of all essential fees, but there is little extra money for club advertising and entering expensive tournaments.

I hesitate to comment on the specific player costs of the different clubs as it is constantly varying. But my experience has been that from most expensive to least expensive the clubs can be ranked in this order: Stars, College Station, Magic, and AGS. However, this is something you definitely have to check into for your own particular situation.

The method of forming teams is fairly similar with all the clubs in that tryouts are held and players are invited to join the team. Although a team roster can take up to 18 players, most teams initially only invite 15 players onto the team although some sign up the full maximum of 18. If a club has more players tryout than can play on one team then the club may try to form a second team. Most clubs have difficulty forming two teams in an age group as the ones not selected onto the A team of a club often don't like being on a B team and thus they typically try to make it onto the A team of some other club. Forming hierarchical A, B, and C teams, if possible, in an age group is the traditional strategy used by AGS, Magic, and the Stars. One variation of this strategy is to make the A team the best possible while making the B and C teams as equal as possible from the remaining players. AGS plans to use that strategy if they get three teams to form in an age group.

Sometimes a club will use the strategy of making two or more teams in an age group as equal as possible by spreading the talent evenly between the teams. In this way, no one team is optimized over another team. CS uses this approach and Magic basically used this approach with their two boys 87 teams. Although more accurately speaking, Magic's 87 teams are separated mostly on existing friendships of the players rather than any special assessment of the players' talent.

Most clubs allow each of their teams to decide what league they want to play in. The traditional strategy on this is to first decide whether a team wants to play in the June EDDOA qualifier tournament. As mentioned before, high placement in that tournament offers possible IAL and EDDOA invitations. If a team doesn't want to do that, then it either enters TYSA or plays what games it can locally. The common club philosophy is to let the teams play as high as they are able to qualify in whatever league that might be. The exception to this is CS which, while not outright banning one of its team from playing through EDDOA qualifiers, strongly promotes that its first year teams play in TYSA.

Everyone that I have personally been involved with in the various clubs has always had the kids' best interests at heart. But having said that, be aware that what one person thinks is genuinely in the best interest of the kids can be completely opposite of what another just as well intentioned person thinks. Differences occur over how teams should be formed, how many kids should be on a team, what leagues are best to play in, and how much traveling should be done. These are all natural points of contention so it is wise to select a club that you are in general agreement with on these basic points.

In the listing of the teams for each club, be aware that these were the teams that played in the fall of 98. Besides the teams that are listed, every club is always trying to form the next years' new 89 teams in both girls and boys. Being optimistic, I will go ahead and list those teams even though some of the clubs may not make 89 teams. Some of the clubs also have sure plans on some other age group teams besides the new 89 teams. Those teams will be listed and marked as likely new teams.

For each of the teams listed, a note is also given on where they played in the fall of 98. Unless otherwise noted, the teams are expected to play in the same league for the fall of 99.

My impressions of the four clubs come mainly from having children that have played with all four clubs. Presently, I have an 86 son playing with AGS, and 88 daughter playing for Stars G86, and an 89 son who will play for AGS 89. In addition, I have spoken with numerous parents with children in the various clubs. Below is a brief history and description of each club.

Aggieland Select (AGS):

This club was formed by Juan Vasquez and Ruben Arredondo in May of 1998. Both have been very active in local soccer for many years. Besides heading AGS, Juan is also the president of the local referee's association and of the Aggieland Adult Soccer League. Administering soccer organizations is a full time job for Juan, but it does provide numerous contacts and relations that greatly aid AGS.

Presently, AGS has the following ten teams. They often can field teams in other age groups by combining players. For example, they have about five 85 players and with help from the 86's they can field an 85 team. The teams listed below are their standard teams that they have a regular fall season schedule for. Note that years preceded with a G as in G87 indicate a girls team.

Team Coach Notes
AGS 91 (U08)Luis MuņosPlayed in the CS U8 rec league.
Moving to U9 rec
AGS 90 (U09)Juan VasquezPlayed in the CS U9 rec league.
Moving to U10 rec
AGS 89 (U10)Juan VasquezPlayed in the CS U10 rec league.
Attempting EDDOA
AGS 88 (U11)Francisco AldapePlayed in TYSA.
Staying there
AGS 87 (U12)Ricardo OthickPlayed in TYSA.
Staying there
AGS G87 (U12)Mitchell SmithPlayed in CS U12 rec.
Going to TYSA
AGS 86 (U13)Antonio RamirezPlayed in TYSA.
Attempting EDDOA
AGS 84 (U15)Edie LopezPlayed in TYSA.
Staying there
AGS G82 (U17)Juan VasquezPlayed local friendlies.
Continuing that
AGS 82 (U17)Jose LunaPlayed in TYSA.
Staying there

Likely new teams for the fall of 99:
Team Notes
AGS 93-94Playing Rec
AGS 92Playing Rec
AGS G89Playing in TYSA
AGS 2nd 88Playing Rec
AGS 83Playing in TYSA
AGS 81Playing in EDDOA
Monterey 85Playing in TYSA
Chivas 86Playing in TYSA

Monterey 85 is based out of Madisonville and is coached by Rutilio Caballero. They played in the CS U14 rec league for the fall of 98. For the fall of 99 it will be registered under AGS and play in TYSA. Chivas 86 is from Huntsville, and like Monterey, it will play under the AGS banner in TYSA for the fall of 99.

AGS is just the opposite of all the other soccer clubs which have mostly Anglo players and a small percentage of Hispanic and African-American players. AGS has mostly Hispanic players with about 10% Anglo and 5% African-American. Note also that for 98-99 calendar year AGS supported three recreational teams that all played in CS.

In just one year of existence, AGS has grown to be the largest soccer club in BCS in terms of players and teams. This was done without decreasing the number of teams already playing with Magic or the Stars. While some players did transfer from Magic and Stars teams to AGS, the vast majority of the AGS players are new players to competitive soccer.

As mentioned previously, AGS has a unique cost structure. No player is ever required to pay anything. AGS has several sponsors that take care of registration fees and other essential expenses for all the players. AGS sponsors include ASL (Adult Soccer League), ARSA (Ref Assoc.), LULAC, 3-5-2 Soccer, STYSA, BVYSA, CSSC, City of Bryan, and BISD. AGS also welcomes donations from those families that can afford it, but there is never any pressure to donate. The only drawback of the no fee approach is that AGS teams cannot afford to play in expensive tournaments. This frugal approach also means that the AGS kids have not had formal uniforms this past year. They played in bright yellow AGS t-shirts and socks provided by the club. However, new uniforms for most of the AGS teams have just recently been donated by LULAC.

AGS is sending most of its teams through the June EDDOA qualifiers and they believe that they will have more teams qualify at the D1 level for the fall of 99 than any other club in the BCS area.

American Stars (Stars):

Founded in 1994 by Glenn Collins, this club was a spin off from Magic and is the second oldest club in BCS. The Stars are best known for their Texas State Champion Division 1 Boys 83 team. Presently, the Stars have the following six teams.

Team Coach Notes
Stars 88 (U11)Tom ScullionLast played in EDDOA
Team is now disbanded
Stars 87 (U12)Tom HartgrovesPlaying in IAL
Staying there
Stars G86 (U13)Jett McFallsPlaying in TYSA
Staying there
Stars 85 (U14)Dan RuizPlaying in TYSA
Staying there
Stars 83 (U16)"Connie"Playing in EDDOA
Staying there
Stars G81 (U18)Jeff MorganPlaying in IAL
Staying there

Likely new teams for the fall of 99:
Team Notes
Stars 89Coaches are yet to be assigned.
The teams will play as high as they can qualify.
Stars G89Coaches are yet to be assigned.
The teams will play as high as they can qualify.

The Stars are the only club in BCS with some teams that played D1 in the fall of 98. Both Stars 88 and Stars 83 played D1 in the EDDOA league in the fall of 1998. The Stars 83 will definitely continue to be a major power in D1 level soccer, but the Stars 88 have disbanded for the spring and are not returning for the fall of 1999, unless they are completely reformed from scratch. The Stars 85 and 87 are also notable teams as the 85's won their TYSA season league division and the Stars 87 went into the state playoffs and finished third place in state in the high level IAL league.

Besides the D1 teams they have, the Stars are also well known for their two girls teams. In recent years, the Stars have had the only competitive girls teams in town and all the other clubs just directed girls to the Stars. However, that special status is changing as AGS now has two girls teams and CS and Magic are working hard to build some girls teams of their own.

Brazos Magic (Magic):

Founded in 1986 by Mike Jones, Magic is the oldest soccer club in BCS and it has a long history of very successful teams. Presently, Magic has the following 5 teams.

Team Coach Notes
Magic 87 (U12)Paul HarperPlaying in IAL
Staying there
Magic 87 (U12)Mike KogutPlaying in TYSA
Attempting IAL
Magic 86 (U13)Steve VoltinPlaying in TYSA
Staying there
Magic 84 (U15)Kelley HesterPlaying in TYSA
Staying there
Magic 82 (U17)KC DonnellyPlaying in IAL
Staying there

Likely new teams for the fall of 99:
Team Notes
Magic 89Coaches are yet to be assigned.
The teams will play as high as they can qualify.
Magic G89Coaches are yet to be assigned.
The teams will play as high as they can qualify.

One of the greatest assets of Magic is that it annually hosts the large and prestigious Aggieland Classic tournament. This tournament covers two weekends in February, one for boys and one for girls, and it draws scores of teams from Texas and beyond. Not only does the tournament bring recognition to Magic, it is also an important source of funds. Revenues from the tournament allow Magic to keep player fees low and still provide nice equipment for all the teams.

The flagship team for Magic is the 82 team which has almost won the state D2 championship for several years in a row. They just keep barely missing with second place finishes. This team is a very high level team and has actually played and beaten the Lady Aggies of Texas A&M. The 86 team is also a very good team as it recently won the fall season TYSA league championship.

Although they recently "aged out" of youth soccer, the Magic 79 team had a remarkable career with two Snicker's State Championships. The first came in the spring of 1991 as a U12 team and the second came in 1998 as a U19 team. This team proved that a team formed from kids living in the local BCS area could win at the highest levels. One reason for the big gap between their championships was the coming and going of star player James Takow from Cameroon. After the 1991 season, Jame's dad was finishing his Ph.D. at Texas A&M and moved his family back to Cameroon and the Magic 79 team lost a national caliber player. But sometime before the 98 spring season, James returned to BCS and the 79 Magic team regained the extra edge it needed to win a championship again.

Magic has not had a girls soccer team for some years. However, this year Magic is making a special effort to recruit girls into what they are calling Brazos Mystic.

  • College Station Soccer Club (CS):

    Traditionally, CS has been a recreational only soccer club that organizes and administers all the recreational soccer teams in College Station. If recreational players are counted, CS is larger than all the other soccer clubs, but if only competitive players are counted, they were the smallest club in the fall of 98. However, CS could grow to have as many or more competitive players than Stars or Magic for the fall of 99. AGS will definitely have more competitive players registered than all the other clubs. The CS competitive division was formed in March of 1998. In the fall of 98, CS had the following three competitive teams.

    Team Coach Notes
    CS 88 (U11)Jim SamuelsPlayed mostly local friendly games
    Moving to TYSA
    CS 87 (U12)Kimbrough JeterPlayed mostly local friendly games
    Moving to TYSA
    CS 84 (U15)Bob DeOttePlayed in TYSA
    Staying there

    Likely new teams for the fall of 99:
    Team Notes
    CS 82Playing in TYSA.
    CS 89Playing in TYSA. Two teams formed
    CS G89Playing in TYSA.
    CS G88Playing in TYSA.

    Using mostly U17 and U16 players from high school, CS will attempt to form an 82 team coached by Bob DeOtte. John Holman is set to coach CS 84. John Austin is set to be one of the boys 89 coaches. Denise Jansen is set to be the girls 89 coach. John Devine is slated to be the girls 88 coach. Other coaches will be assigned as teams form.

    CS 84 played a fall TYSA schedule and therefore traveled away for every game like all the other BCS teams playing in TYSA. The CS 88 and 87 teams did not travel this past fall, as they basically played a few friendly games with some other local teams as their schedules permitted. They also played in some fall tournaments as well. But even with a very limited 1998 fall schedule for the 87 and 88 teams, those teams did improve and they can play competitively with some of the other similar age teams here in BCS that play in TYSA. While improvement did occur and some games were played, the CS teams that only played local friendly games do not want to play that way in the fall of 99. They strongly desire some form of a league to play in.

    The original premise of the CS competitive club was that they were going to play local as much as possible. And the CS 88 and 87 teams did in fact play mostly local friendly games in the fall of 98. But in many ways, CS is now just like all the other competitive soccer clubs in that they will play in TYSA and have to travel.

    What I think is different about CS is that they stand more ready to play in a local competitive league, if one existed, than any other club in town. The general philosophy of AGS, Magic, and the Stars is to let each team attempt to qualify as high as it can even if it means playing away from any local league that might exist. CS, on the other hand, would strongly promote that its teams play local and not attempt higher leagues, especially those teams in their first year of competitive soccer.

    So while CS definitely does have a strong desire to develop a local competitive league and minimize travel, until such a local league actually ever comes into being, CS has little choice but to play and travel just like all the other competitive clubs.


    It is tempting to just say that you and your child can pick any club and be just as happy with one as another. All the clubs have good people with happy players and parents. If they didn't, the club wouldn't even exist. More appropriate is to say that depending upon you and your child's own unique situation, it could be that any one of the clubs might be the best choice for you.

    People new to youth competitive soccer often ask me to make specific recommendations for them. So, for what it is worth, I will give you my own analysis and approach on how to select a club for various situations. Before giving my specific age group recommendations, I will give you my overall recommendation on what club I think is best. Next, I will go out on a limb and give advice for each specific age group. I'll start with the easy situations first, the older kids, and then I will work through to the most difficult situation which is for the first competitive year 89 (U11) teams.

    The club I like best overall is AGS and here's why. They practice all together in a large group year round (yes, that includes the summer too). They practice four to five days a week depending on the time of the year. Sounds unbelievable, doesn't it? It works like this. Like every other team in all the clubs, each AGS team has two primary days of practice per week. Each player is asked to do his best to make the days his team practices on. All other days are optional. Come or not as you please. If you miss a designated day of your team's practice, you just try to make it up on another day. Because of this practice approach, AGS is more flexible than any other club in that it is easier to play other sports like football, baseball, and basketball while also playing soccer.

    The benefit of having all the AGS players practice together is that young and old players alike learn from one another. At practice, the kids warm up together and then they are separated out by age groups for drills and games. But they all get to watch each other and they do get to play with kids a few years younger and older than they are. Teams that have a designated practice go aside with their own coach to practice alone if they want to. Because all the players are together in the same practice area, it is very easy for each coach to coordinate with one another, set up scrimmages, and work drills with each other. None of the other clubs hold practices with all their teams together.

    During the winter months, AGS practices every day of the week from 6:00pm to 7:30 pm under lights at Sadie Thomas Park on MLK drive about 0.5 mile west from where MLK intersects with Hwy 6. AGS is the only club to have all its teams practice under lights. In the other clubs, each team is on their own, practicing by themselves at whatever field the can manage to find. The vast majority do not have lighted fields.

    Presently AGS is practicing Monday through Friday from 5:45 to 7:00pm at Lamar Junior High in Bryan located on the corner of Briarcrest and Villa Maria. On April 5, 1999, AGS will practice Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday at Lamar and Monday and Wednesday at Smith Ranch Fields. These are two world cup size fields that I personally built on my ranch located at the south dead end of Arrington Road just to the south of the Nantucket subdivision.

    AGS offers completely open practice sessions. Even if your child is already registered with another team, he or she is perfectly welcome to come practice with AGS. Attending practice sessions is also the way that a child tries out for an AGS team. Simply let the trainer know that your child wants to be considered for an AGS team. After a few sessions the trainer can let you know what your child's options are with AGS.

    Besides the amazing practice opportunities that AGS provides, another special feature of AGS is that most of their coaches have trainer capabilities. Hispanic families grow up on soccer. All the Hispanic dads have played soccer since they were kids. Their knowledge of the game is profound. Even more amazing is that their physical skills are still good even at advanced ages. For example, Antonio Ramirez coach of AGS 86 (U13) still plays adult first division soccer. That's the highest local adult level there is. Usually only very fit young people can play. Juan Vasquez himself is also a first division quality player. Other guys like Ruben Arredondo, Francisco Aldape, and Jose Luna can all personally demonstrate advanced skills. And this is not to mention all the older sons of these guys who help train. AGS has no paid trainers, but it doesn't need paid trainers because they have so many high quality volunteer trainers. The amount of soccer knowledge and talent present at an AGS practice is astounding.

    Another great feature of AGS is the number of games they play. As most trainers will tell you, the game itself is the great teacher. The more you play soccer the better you get. It's that simple. So besides providing lots of practice opportunities and all the normal fall season games, AGS also schedules lots of friendly games with other local teams and even provides its older teams free entries into the local adult league. Kids have the opportunity to play as much soccer as they can stand.

    Kids can improve their skills significantly with all the soccer clubs. But I truly believe that AGS provides the best training system of all the clubs.

    So if AGS has such great advantages in the practice and training areas, why shouldn't every kid just play with AGS? Well, there are other considerations that can sometimes outweigh those advantages and I will discuss them in my age specific recommendations below.

    Age Group: 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89

    Frequently Asked Questions

    1. How hard is it to get on a competitive soccer team? next question

      Many parents coming from both a recreational soccer and little league baseball background worry that getting their child onto a competitive soccer team is very difficult. They think it might be as difficult as making it onto a baseball all star team. As mentioned in the recommendations section above, there are only a handful of teams where it is difficult to get on. For first year competitive soccer players in our current environment with four clubs, I will go as far as saying that any kid that wants to play competitive soccer will be able to get on a team. Some of the clubs will be desperate to get players to help complete a new team. Sometimes the very best team to form in an age group will actually turn down players who are trying out. Last years Stars 88 turned away some players, but I don't think any of the other 88 teams turned away a single player. So don't worry about getting your child onto a team. It's not near as political as baseball is and the need for players is so great that it's actually kind of fun to see how much each club wants your child to play with them.

    2. How good does your child need to be to play on the best teams? next question

      As mentioned above, to play on most teams in a new competitive year, your child doesn't need much talent at all, just the desire to play. But what about making it onto the best team in an age group? That isn't so hard either. First of all, you never really know which club is attracting the best new kids. Secondly, the very best kids rarely ever migrate all to the same club. The best talent is usually split between at least two clubs and sometimes between all four. Almost by chance, one of the clubs will get a slight majority of the best new talent. If your child happens to be trying out with whatever club has the slight talent edge, how good will he or she need to be to make the team? In my experience, if your child was one of the top three players on his recreational team, he can usually make it onto the best team. Now obviously, if you count up the top three players from all the rec teams in BCS, that's way more than a maximum roster of 18 that a team can take. But remember, not all the best rec kids go onto competitive soccer and the ones that do usually get split up between the clubs. This splitting of talent is not good for making the best possible teams, but it does make it easier for kids to get onto the best teams.

    3. What are tryouts like? next question

      A tryout is very much like a regular practice session. The kids and parents fill out paper work and get an identifying number to pin on the player. If trying out for an existing team, both the existing coach and club trainer will be running the tryout. If it's a brand new team, then a club officer and a trainer will conduct the tryout. Most tryouts consist of a series of drills that attempt to reveal the level of ball handling skills the players have. Usually, the tryout will end with small sided games or even a full sided scrimmage to reveal how well the players handle the ball and make decisions in a playing environment. Most clubs will hold a series of tryouts on usually 2-3 different dates. The more times a kid comes to a tryout for a club the more likely he is to be selected by the club.

      The only club that handles tryouts different from this is AGS. AGS allows any kid to come to their practices at any time of the year. The head trainer always recognizes a new kid and will greet them and suggest what group to practice with. Nothing is changed about the practice. The kid just works right in with the existing club members and the trainer observes how the child does. Although a kid may not be invited immediately to be added to the roster of a team, AGS has never cut anyone from their club. They are allowed to continue practicing indefinitely. The only requirement is that the child must have been previously registered with a recreational league and if the child does not have a current registration, the child will have to be ultimately registered with some AGS team to be allowed to continue practicing per STYSA rules. AGS has so many team opportunities that it tries hard to find a team for every kid that tries out with them. Trying out with AGS is very easy because all you do is just start going to AGS practices. Within a few days, an AGS trainer can tell you what the options are for your child on AGS.

    4. Is out of town travel really necessary to obtain maximum improvement in soccer? next question

      The short answer to this question is yes. It's not travel itself, of course, that causes maximal player development. It is the fact that travel provides the opportunity to play against high levels of competition of varying styles. A great deal is learned by playing good teams. If there was some way you could make a stream of good teams always travel to your town, then no, travel by your own team would not be necessary. But of course, that's not realistic. Even teams in Houston, where there are many good teams, travel far and wide to seek the best competition. Some of the top D1 teams even make trips out of the country to gain exposure to different styles of play.

      Travel is time consuming and many parents understandably want to minimize it. The kids, on the other hand, love to travel out of town. They are excited by seeing new towns, new teams, and just eating out. So the goal then is to seek a level of travel that is a good compromise between the time and expense required and the benefits gained by the experience of playing new and better teams. Different clubs and even different teams within a club have different opinions on this. It is thus very important to align your family with a team that thinks the same as you about travel.

      This fall I will have three kids traveling to competitive games and one of my younger kids just starting U6 recreational soccer. That's four kids playing soccer. On top of that, I play adult competitive soccer myself and sometimes have to travel as well. Obviously my wife Terri and I cannot watch all of these games. It is physically impossible to. Even if they were all played locally, we could see more games, but still not all of them. Everyone's game in my family is considered equally important. Therefore, our first goal is to make sure that everyone has a safe ride to their game. In many ways, arranging a ride to an out of town game is easier than arranging a ride to a rec game. In rec, everyone is expected to make it to the fields on their own. In competitive soccer there is always a meeting place where the families park their cars and arrange rides for the children. In other words, you don't have to worry about arranging a ride the night before, you just bring your child to the arranged meeting place (the Exxon at Hwy 6 and Rock Prairie seems to be a favorite place) at the designated time and arrange a ride on the spot. Typically, a little more than half the parents make the trip to any one out of town game. This provides way more than enough rides to get the kids safely to and from the games. Parents are always glad to help one another. Sometimes you drive and sometimes they drive. In scores of instances, I have never had a problem arranging a ride the day of the game for any of my kids.

      In the BCS area for the fall of 98, virtually all the teams were willing to travel out of town for regular season games in order to gain the most player development possible. The only two competitive boys teams that did not travel in the fall of 98 were the CS 87 and CS 88 teams. And even those teams will now be traveling for the fall of 99.

      Definitely, skills improvement and player development can occur without playing out of town, it's just that at this time, I strongly believe that the maximum rate of improvement cannot occur without playing at least half your regular season games outside the BCS area.

    5. Are there risks to playing at the D1 level? next question

      Most teams aspire to this level and would love to play so high. However, very few BCS teams have ever made it that high in the local BCS area. The most recent team to make it to that level was the Stars 88 team coached by Tom Scullion. However, the team did very poorly in the fall of 98, losing every one of its EDDOA season games. Some of the kids on that team were demoralized by losing so much and they transferred onto other teams at the end of the fall season. A number of local parents learned of this situation and they naturally were concerned that it could happen to their own kids if they were to play on a local team that made it to the D1 level.

      I spoke with Tom to see why he felt his team did so poorly in EDDOA this past fall. Tom said that the team he went through the June qualifiers with was very strong and would not have had such a poor season if it had stayed intact. However, after the June qualifiers and before the start of the fall season, he lost three of his top players for various reasons. The team he played through the season with was not the same team he qualified with and they were just not able to compete effectively.

      If unlucky, such as they Stars 88 were, some kids could feel like they had a bad experience playing at the D1 level. A lot depends on the nature of each child and whether they can see far enough ahead to know that bearing hardships now often brings great success later on. Remember that losing every game is a possibility at all levels of competitive soccer. It can easily still happen at the D2 level.

      D1 soccer is generally played more intensely than D2 soccer. No team can be successful in a D1 league with a casual approach to soccer. What I tell my children is that it's like everything else in life, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. My own best experiences playing sports have always occurred while playing at the highest level I possibly could. I encourage my children to do the same, but in the end, I let them make up their own mind at what level they want to play.

    6. What's the differences between Rec, D2, and D1 soccer? next question

      Besides the implications of needing more talent and better athletes to compete at the D1 level, there is another even greater requirement, balance. To compete effectively at the D1 level, you must have a very balanced team. You cannot have a weak player at any position. In rec and D2, balance is important, but not as important as in D1. At the lower levels of soccer, you can work around less skilled players and star players have a bigger impact. In D1, the defense is so good that there are no players who can dribble through a whole team and score single handedly as happens in rec and sometimes in D2. So when the Stars 88, as mentioned above, lost three top players, this upset the balance of the team's talent and made them very weak in the EDDOA D1 league.

      Balance comes not only from having an even spread of talent. It comes from learning to work as a team. A balanced team does not have "ball hogs". It has team oriented players that will gladly trade their own 50-50 chance at making a goal to give a teammate a 90% chance at goal. As easy as it sounds, it's actually quite hard to build a team of youngsters that all play unselfishly and trust one another with the ball. Balance and great teamwork is seen most often at the D1 level. You really can't make it into that level without it.

    7. Have the clubs ever considered unifying? next question

      Ever since my first personal experience with competitive soccer in the fall of 95 when 86 teams were attempting to be formed for the first time, I have seen a strong need for unification of the clubs. Talent was split so badly for the 86 kids that year that that no team actually formed for the fall season. Neither club had quite enough kids towards the minimum 12 players required to register a team. To Magic's credit, they took what 86 kids there were from their failed attempt and the Stars' failed attempt and held practices for them and then entered them into two tournaments at the end of the fall season. Had the Stars and Magic been merged into one club, I have no doubt that an 86 team could have easily formed and played a normal fall season schedule.

      >From that experience, it became obvious to me that with one big competitive club, more teams could form and the teams that did form would be better. From that point on, I began working hard on encouraging Magic and the Stars to merge. In the early spring of 98 the Stars actually offered to merge on an equal basis with Magic, but Magic turned them down. In the fall of 98, the presidents of all four clubs met and discussed unification of the clubs. But still there was no agreement. Just a few weeks ago in March of 99, Magic approached the Stars on merging, but they did not offer to change their club name. This most recent merger offer has stalled once again with no progress likely.

      One interesting note to the most recent merger offer is that neither AGS or CS were invited to participate. My guess is that CS would not have participated even if invited, but that AGS would have participated if they had assurance that a new club name would be created. AGS is proud of its rapid rise to ten teams and it would not merge with any club unless a new club name was offered.

      As the BCS area grows, there might be room for two strong competitive clubs, but I don't think anyone can make a case that our area can support four strong clubs. Certainly four clubs can eke out some kind of existence with a handful of teams each. However, I think the leadership of some of the local clubs are now more aware than ever of the problems caused by too many clubs for too few competitive players. For this reason, I believe that some level of consolidation will ultimately take place.

      One thing I have learned over the years is that whether clubs merge or whether even more clubs are created, the kids will get to play soccer and good teams will be made. All the club options make a little more work for the parents on figuring everything out, but it's definitely worth the trouble for the benefit of the kids.

    8. What is a friendly game? next question

      You might wonder aren't all games friendly games? Well, yes they should be. But a so-called friendly game is really another name for an informal game that is arranged outside of a normal season schedule. Friendly games are not governed by as many rules as regular season games. For example, in a regular season game your team can only play teams entered in your team's age group. In friendly games, age and gender differences can be completely ignored. The teams can loan players to one another. All kinds of things can be done in friendly games that are not allowed in official games. Young boys teams might play older girls teams. A friendly game can be nothing more than a scrimmage with coaches refereeing or it can be very formal with official referees and proper time keeping.

      Friendly games are most often arranged between local teams from different clubs. These games supplement practices and official games that the kids play in. If you believe in the principle of the more you play the better you get, then you try to arrange as many friendly games as you possibly can for your kids. However, not all coaches believe in playing friendly games. Some argue that if there is time to play a friendly game then there is time to hold a practice. My opinion is that kids go through so many days of practice that playing friendly games really doesn't detract from practice time. Besides, the kids really love friendly games because they are so much fun. And isn't having fun the whole point of playing soccer?

      Because the attitude concerning playing friendly games varies so much from club to club and coach to coach, I believe that it is an important point to investigate when joining a club. If asked point blank whether their team plays friendly games, every coach will say yes. But the more telling question is whether they will play friendly games with every similar aged team in town regardless of club. Ask what other local teams they have played friendly games with. If the team your child is considering is brand new, ask what local teams the age group one year older than your child has played. If they haven't played every other similar aged local team in a friendly game then you have to wonder why and whether that is ok with you or not.

      Some teams play lots of friendly games along with all of their regular season games and tournaments. Other teams hardly play them at all or won't play teams in certain clubs. I recommend joining a team that plays lots of friendly games with all the clubs in town.

    9. Do all the soccer clubs have good relations with one another? next question

      Parents in the various clubs have always been generally very friendly to one another. Any relations problems between the clubs have always occurred at the officer and coach level. Several years back when only Magic and the Stars existed in BCS, the relations were at their all time worst. Now, their relations have improved so much that the two clubs occasionally talk about merging. With the emergence of AGS and CS, this has changed the scene greatly. Magic/Stars are now in a rivalry with AGS to recruit players who are willing to travel and play at the highest level they can. CS is in a rivalry with all the clubs to recruit those same top players and just play them in TYSA.

      This competition for players always keeps the relations a bit tense. And depending upon the individuals involved with any given club, the relations can be more or less strained. For example, you can occasionally still hear somebody from one club try to use the FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) principle against another club. To me, it says more about the club that is trying to spread rumors than it does about the club the rumor is about. Don't take at face value any rumor you hear about a club. Either disregard the rumor entirely or check into it yourself before you accept it as truth. It has been my experience that virtually all bad rumors about any club are false.

      Even with the competition for the players, most of the clubs do hold friendly games between themselves. Some of the clubs are more friendly than others in this regard. You can tell a lot about a club by asking whether it plays friendly games with all the other clubs. The clubs least affected by these competitive issues will gladly play any similar aged team from any club.

    10. What's bad about youth competitive soccer? next question

      No matter what sport you and your child become involved in it will not be perfect. There is always room for improvement. Competitive soccer is no exception and you should not be shocked when the occasional unpleasant event occurs. Some of the bad things you could encounter include the following:

      • A coach who doesn't really follow the rule about playing all D2 players at least 50% of the game.

      • A coach, who although well meaning, is very harsh on the kids.

      • The win at all cost coach who will do anything to win, even in a friendly game. For example, a team one year younger than your team shows up for a friendly game with only ten players. Do you try to make it fair and play short yourself? Do you loan them one of your own players to make it even? Or maybe you agree to let them use a young guest player? No, the win at all cost coach makes the younger team play a man down and does not short his own team by the same amount.

      • The coach who pitches a fit over what he believes is a bad ref call and acts so badly that he is asked to leave the park.

      • The spectator who loses control while watching a game and uses foul language.

      • The spreading of ill founded bad rumors about other teams and clubs. The competition felt between clubs on building teams can lead some people in the various clubs to say bad things about other clubs that have no basis in truth whatsoever.

      • The rules monger who goes beyond simply enforcing the rules and on to stretching and interpreting rules to the advantage of their own team. Everyone agrees all rules should be followed, but there is judgment required in applying the rules so that good sportsmanship and the spirit of the rules are observed. For example, a team shows up late for a game and exceeds the time limit for lateness on your watch by 45 seconds. Do you go nuts with the ref trying to enforce what you believe to be a violation of the time limit rule and thus ensure a win for your own team or do you relax and let the kids play? Believe me, there are numerous other instances where following the rules is not cut and dried, and where a rules monger can create big problems for everyone.

      No doubt there are numerous other bad things that can come up in youth competitive soccer. These are just a few that I have seen. None of it is world ending and it occurs so rarely that it doesn't even begin to offset all the good times that you and your child will have with youth competitive soccer.

    11. What does the term O.D.P Mean? next question

      ODP stands for the Olympic Development Pool. This is the player selection process that ultimately leads to membership on the U.S. national team. Here are the steps one must go through: Area Pool, Area Team, State Pool, State Team, Regional Pool, Regional Team, National Pool, and finally National Team. Players have to be nominated for the initial pool tryouts and then they are selected from there on based on their performance. ODP players can come from D2 or D1 teams, but as you would suspect, the vast majority of high level ODP players play on D1 teams. Improved chances at making ODP are yet another benefit of playing at the D1 level.

    12. Are there cultural and language problems in youth competitive soccer?

      I hear this question applied in two different situations. The first, is where somebody asks why the traditional Anglo majority clubs can't recruit more Hispanic and African-American players? All the clubs try very hard to make it easy for minority players to join. They provide scholarships and they go out of their way to make such players feel welcome and comfortable. And they are successful in getting some minority players to play, but not nearly as many as they would like.

      When someone asks me what it's like to be in the minority as an Anglo family on an Hispanic majority club like AGS, it makes me smile. I remind them that just in the same way the Anglo clubs go to great lengths to make minority kids feel welcome, the Hispanic kids and parents do the exact same thing for the Anglo families. All the Hispanic kids are just as fluent in English as the Anglo kids. And all the coaching instructions are spoken in English at AGS practices. The kids will sometimes use Spanish commands while playing like, "Pasa la pelota! (pass the ball!)", but the Anglo kids pick up quickly on that and it helps them to learn another language. Although not as fluent as their children, the majority of the Hispanic parents do speak English. Whoever is in the minority with any given club may initially feel uneasy. But after they get to know everyone, you quickly learn that you have far more similarities than differences. Nothing gets people together like watching their children play sports. And Soccer is the king sport of the world played by more people in more countries than all other sports combined.

    The Referee says you scored goal # since March 31st, 1999.

    Soccer information courtesy of Elite Software