Accountability on and off the field
Typically, in high school, players are given more responsibility, such as equipment duties, warm-up duties, locker room duties, social media duties, etc. Someone not performing their duty can have impacts on efficiency of practices, games, and/or team morale. Off the field, player actions can impact ability to play. Attendance at school, grades, conduct in school can all impact ability to play. There is another level of personal responsibility at the high school level. You quickly learn that your conduct, actions, and ability to care about more than just yourself influence team dynamics and success.
High school soccer is 5-6 days a week. That’s a lot of soccer. Players have to take care of their body and know when to listen to their body. If players aren’t eating healthy and staying hydrated, it really shows at the high school level. Performance can deteriorate quickly. And with little down time, it’s hard to recover. Accountability for your diet and hydration is critical during the high school season. Players should start practicing “listening to their body” and communicate with their coach on how they are feeling and utilizing their athletic trainers. If players are properly hydrating and eating well, but still feel they aren’t recovering, it is important they take those cues and be proactive by letting the coach know and seeing the athletic trainer to prevent injury.
Camaraderie, Inclusiveness, Recognizing Strengths Through Diversity
At the high school level, you might be playing with D1 recruits and players who only play during the high school season. For some players, this is a stepping stone for college and a professional career. For others, it might be their last memory of playing soccer. It is important for players to recognize, understand, and embrace this diversity in skill. Players should find strengths in all players. This doesn’t have to be soccer skill related strengths. Do players provide motivational strengths? Do they challenge the top players by always trying their hardest in practice? Do they provide humor or ability to take a tense situation and keep everyone relaxed? High school soccer allows players to find the best in others (outside of soccer skill) and hopefully utilize those non-soccer strengths to build a stronger team. This is a life skill they can use the rest of their life on and off the field.
Learning to Win
The high school season is short and intense. It is a grind. There are a lot of emotional and physical tolls because of this. High school teams want to win. Where the club is more about player development and learning to play “the correct way”, high school soccer tends to be about winning and it doesn’t matter how you win. Grinding out games, “winning ugly”, “parking the bus”, doing what is necessary to win the game is usually the focus. Players are given certain roles each game and formation and tactics can change a couple times a week. It is a nonstop, ever changing landscape for 2-3 months. The high school season allows players to work on being focused, disciplined, and adaptable.
High school soccer affords players the opportunity to play for the whole community. Friends, classmates, parents, teachers, administration, and people from the community come out to see your games. Especially those county and state tournament games. There is a sense of pride in playing in front of a whole community that inspires you to play better. A feeling that you always don’t get when you are playing club. Newspapers come and interview the players and put goals from the game on the newspaper social media where everyone can see it. This is talked about the next day in school. And it isn’t just the best players that get the interviews and highlights. Any given day, any level of soccer player can be at the right place at the right time that can give them a moment that the community is talking about the next day.