Find the Right Club Team for You
Having been a high school coach I have seen many other high school coaches dissuade their players from club ball, much to my chagrin. I know my limitations as a coach, as well as the fact that being a teacher I only have limited time to devote to my players. Always keeping that in mind, I encourage my players to play club ball, get a skills trainer, or both. If they really want to play at the next level they have to put in more time than I can give them.
Since I often get questions from my players and parents about endorsing one club program or another–something I refuse to do–I wanted to give you the same evaluation tips I give them. Remember, not every team is the right fit for every player.
What is Your Goal?
Start by determining your end goal. Is it to garner a college scholarship? More playing time? Game development? Plain old fun? Your answers here will determine what clubs you should be looking at. A club team playing in exposure events might not be the place to find casual play.
Make a Short List
Compile a list of teams that you might be interested in based on your end goal. Contact the program director and ask if you can watch a practice. This is a good way to see what they run and how the team interacts with the coaching staff. If they tell you practices are closed this might not be a place you want to play.
Evaluate the Schedule
Ask the program director for a complete game and practice schedule. If they have no posted or written schedule, this means you may or may not have advanced warning for practices or games and this can create havoc with your schedule. Doing this allows you to evaluate time commitment required versus available time to play. A team that plays 1500 miles away every weekend may or may not have benefits over a local team.
Know the Costs Up Front
Ask for a copy of the cost structure. A well-run organization should have this on paper and you can ask them to explain the costs to you. Once you have that you can determine your total cost. Total cost should include all fees as well as your travel expenses. Remember, club teams that give the best player free rides to get them to play are often subsidizing those fees with higher fees for other team members.
Is Player Turnover High?
Look at player turnover. Do they have a set squad with very little movement or is it a revolving door with every tournament having a different mix of players? This could be an indication of a problem with the program and could affect your playing time.
Do You Like Your Coaches and Teammates?
Talk with the players and coaches. Make sure you feel comfortable with the personalities. The most important goal is to find a team that you enjoy playing on.