Should I Switch Clubs?

I started playing soccer in the recreation league, as many do. By the time I was in the fifth grade I was begging my parents to let me try out for the local travel team. All my friends were moving to the club level and I didn’t want to be left in the dust. My parent’s words of caution are still fresh in my ears today, “There’s a chance you might not make the team, Mandy.” It was definitely a fair call out, who wants to see their child’s dreams shattered when they try out for something and are not quite ‘good enough’. Yikes! But, I insisted. My expectations had been set so I was ready for anything. After tryouts, when I found out I made the team- it felt that much sweeter!

I played for the local team for a few years and had so much fun! The practices were harder; the weekends became more chaotic with travel and tournaments; and the competition both for playing time as well as the other teams was much greater. I thought it was amazing! Then, when try outs were approaching again, I learned a lot of my friends were going to try out for a new ‘academy’ style club in Eugene, about 30-45 minutes from us. I felt loyal to my local team and decided not to follow. I didn’t understand why they would go. That year was a huge learning year for me. Without the original group of girls I had been playing with, our level of play dropped. I had a new coach that didn’t really fit my style. In all honesty, I became one of the best players and I wasn’t prepared for that. I didn’t like being singled out by my coach as an example player. I didn’t want to wear the captain’s arm band he insisted I wear at all games. I used to hide it in the bottom of my bag and tell him I forgot it at home! While I learned a lot that year about team structure and coaching style, I didn’t necessarily grow in the skills category. The next year, it was time to move on. There was no doubt in my mind.

I wasn’t growing or improving my skills.

FC Willamette was the club where I grew most technically. The coach was no nonsense and hard driving. He would yell at us in his strong English accent, “My grandmother can move faster than that, and she is in a walker!” When you did something good it was, “Top banana!” or “Different gravy!” There was one practice where we were scrimmaging and I made the wrong choice as the sweeper, the last defender. I had to redo the play over and over until I got it right. The entire group, not just my team because we were an academy, had to wait for me to figure it out. It was embarrassing and tough but you better bet I never made that mistake again. It was a huge change from my local team, but I loved it. The intensity and style wasn’t for everyone and slowly my team shifted again, girls quit or left for other club options. I was at another crossroads.

I wasn’t getting the right exposure and I was growing frustrated with lack of consistency of the team.

At that point, I was a junior in high school and trying to decide if I would play in college. I was playing ODP with several girls from Portland that were very talented. I knew if I wanted to play in college I would have to elevate my play once again. Just as I did in fifth grade, I had to sell my parents on the idea. To play in Portland would mean an hour and a half drive twice a week and consistently on weekends. Things fell into place in two ways, my parents said, “yes,” and I actually made the team after try outs! Switching clubs that one last time was the right decision for me. I was playing for the best team in Oregon, growing my knowledge and skills of the game, and got the right level of exposure for college coaches to see me play. We were playing in the big tournaments and won state which sent us to regionals. All of that coming together solidified my decision to go after my dreams and play soccer in college.

Everyone’s story is different and whether you move clubs has to be the right choice for your situation.

Some important things to consider as you look at your options:

  • Are you growing as a player on your current team?
  • Is your club offering you the right level of exposure (are you playing in showcases and top tournaments)?
  • Are you ready for another level of commitment?
  • Are you happy? *It’s okay for a coach or team to be hard but at the end of the day it has to feel rewarding and you need to enjoy the sport
  • Will the new club fit your family and personal needs? i.e. Can you afford it? Are you comfortable driving long distances and spending that time on the road?

My last thought on this subject takes us back to my decision to try out for my first club team, my parents were right to set my expectations. As you move clubs there is always a chance you may not make the team. Especially if you are aiming high. With each of my moves, I was not the top player on the team and I was never certain I would make the team but that’s what made the move appealing. I wanted to play and learn from the best. However, I always planned a backup option in case things didn’t work out. Prepare yourself mentally and strategically, you don’t want to be left without a team. Ultimately, playing soccer is key! You can’t improve without touches on the ball!

I hope my story can help you in your journey! If you would like to talk through anything in more detail or you would like the support of an advisor please contact me or visit the JHConsulting website and fill out the “Get Started” form for a free consultation.


Mandy Raff comes to us from Modesto, CA. She grew up playing club soccer in Oregon and played in college for the University of Idaho. She is extremely passionate about helping others achieve their college soccer dreams!