One of my former teammates in Norway, is on the Norwegian U20 team, and tweeted this morning about their match versus the United States later this afternoon.
The thought popped into my head, about how much money has gone into developing Andrine the Norwegian player, versus any one of those US U20 players.
Here is a brief idea of the player development system in Norway (my knowledge stems from both watching first hand, as well as the research I did for my Masters Thesis on comparing the female soccer systems of Norway and Canada). The girls play in their local club growing up. Some Norwegian females, being from very small towns, will often play on a boys team, or with the boys, into their teenage years. For this training, the girls will pay a club fee (around $250) for the year, and travelling expenses if they travel to tournaments such as the Dana Cup or Gothia Cup. Coaches of these teams for the most part receive no pay, or a very small stipend.
Players once they hit about 12, are then identified for area select training. This does not cost any significant amount of money and the players gather in with the other top identified players in their district and train together, outside of their club team, once or twice a week. There is also the opportunity to attend a camp in the summer that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer puts on in conjunction with StatOil for the most promising talents in the country. Players again, as far as I am aware, pay little if anything for this opportunity.
Once top players are around 15, they begin high school, and will move to a Toppserien or Division 1 club. Top players also, often will attend a sports high school. For the general school population, they will pay a private school fee that is expensive (approx $15,000/year), but for the top players, such as those on the youth national teams, their fee will be waived. The girls train at these sports schools, such as “Wang” and “NTG” in Oslo, 3 times a week every morning and are coached by players such as Olympic Gold Medallist, Monica Knudsen, or Katrine Pedersen, who is the Danish captain, and captain of Stabaek, one of the best clubs in Norway.
In terms of their club play, these Norwegian players move on to a Toppserien or Division 1 club, if they are good enough, at age 15. The clubs, are often part of larger sports club, in which everyone must pay a member fee, thus giving the club a good portion of money to work with. The players then are training and playing with players who are on various National Teams, and are being challenged at practice every day and learning the necessary habits on and off the field, to play at a professional level. This is in addition to the training they are receiving 3 mornings a week with some of the top coaches in the country at their respective high schools.
For club play, top young players, will often receive at least a small stipend that will cover their expenses to practice, so for the most part, top players once they hit 15, are no longer paying to play at all, and often are even able to make some money. By the time players have finished high school, it could be said that parents may even break even in their investment into their daughter’s soccer, or paid very little.
On the other hand, from my experience in Connecticut, and from talking to friends around the country, youth soccer in the US, and now becoming moreso in Canada, is a very money driven endeavor. I believe it really affects the development of both the game, both from the standpoint that there is little quality control in the coaching that is provided, and furthermore, because economically, many potentially talented players are left out because there families do not have the exorbitant funds necessary to fund their development.
From when girls are little, parents pay not only for their reasonable club fees, but also are paying for extra training. That being said, I will mention that many girls that we train, do not possess even the most basic of foot skills at age 10, but the quality of instruction that is out there in the US and Canada, is a whole other blog topic.
In Connecticut, once players hit about 10 or 11, they join a premier club. Premier club fees, run in the neighborhood of about $3000 a year, not including expenses to travel to the many tournaments that these teams will go to. My boss has a daughter who was recently named a high school All-American. He estimated that he paid around $5000 for his daughter’s soccer until she hit high school, and once he hit high school, in the neighborhood of about $10,000/year between premier club fees and travelling to tournaments. So it would be reasonable to say that at the end of the day, some girls on the US team’s parents would have paid upwards of $50,000 for their development.
Just some interesting food for thought for anyone following the Norway-US U20 women’s game today..
The user pay model in North America is why we fail. I believe the US Men would have already come very close to winning the World Cup by now if they found a way to embrace their entire soccer audience and provide training to the less financially fortunate. The game unfortunately is upper middle class in North America and we here in Canada have more recently begun the journey the Americans took up in the mid 90’s.
As a person who makes his living in the user pay model of today, i truly do wish that the work we do could be done not off the backs of a families personal financial commitment.
When the game becomes more popular and important enough in all circles maybe soccer will begin to take on the Junior hockey model type formats with Club owners with philanthropic philosophies.
As a Canadian soccer parent, the commitment to time and financial resources is significant. I would like my kids to have the opportunity to develop themselves in the sport; however it is a personal investment that there are no clear financial returns (yes there are many other non-financial benefits to having kids involved in sports)This blog shows me that it need not be this way. The current level of engagement in soccer in Canada is growing but not yet to the level such as hockey or like Football in Europe. I think that once the sport becomes more mainstream to the average Canadian, then the tide will turn the other way. In the meantime, I just encourage my kids to pursue development and excellence in whatever they decide.