For many kids, middle school is the place where the game of soccer goes from a recreational activity to something more serious and competitive. Typically, there are tryouts for positions, and coaches start to become more concerned with winning than having fun. A number of professional players, coaches and soccer experts believe there are a lot of good things about representing your middle school on the soccer field.
Proud and Fit
You get to stand up and be proud. "Playing for your school ties the academic to the athletic and allows you to play for something bigger than yourself: your school and community," says former U.S. national team player Tony Sanneh.
It gets you fit. "Instead of going home after school, you are out on the field, running and sweating and increasing your strength and stamina," says Pierre Barrieu, fitness coach or the U.S. men's national soccer team.
It builds unity. "Competing for victories and titles with my classmates gave me a sense of camaraderie I take pride in to this day," says Chris Henderson, former U.S. national team player and current technical director for the Seattle Sounders.
It creates memories. "I was the only player from school team to go on to play soccer in college, but those teammates were friends that I spent each day with during school, and are my friends to this day," says former professional goalkeeper and current youth soccer coach Mike Ammann.
Make the Grade
It's a way to support your kids. "In middle school, the games are almost always nearby, so it's a great way for parents to get out and cheer on their children," says Sunil Gulati, president of U.S. Soccer.
You have to study hard. "School teams usually require students to maintain a high grade-point average in order to compete, which can be a strong incentive," says Michael Lewis, journalist and author of "Soccer for Dummies."
Get in Touch
It makes you budget your time. "Playing middle school soccer helps students learn how to better organize their time, which pays huge dividends in the long run," says Sam Pierron, director of special projects for Sporting KC, a professional soccer team.
You get more touches. "School teams usually train four or five days a week, which means more touches on the ball, and that's always a good thing," says U.S. national team midfielder Michael Bradley.
It's About the Team
You lean on others. "In soccer, no one player can do it all by himself, so being a part of a team helps kids learn to rely on and trust one another," says David Kammarman, director of soccer operations for the Los Angeles Galaxy.
You get to be on the inside. "Being on any team is something special. There are always certain things that stay within the team and that teaches trust and honesty," says U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley.