Indy Millennium Soccer players know they are “sons first, students second, and then, players—in that order.” Those priorities have made them among the best in Indiana two years running, WTHR reports.
With club teams a growing business, some cities are pinning their hopes for economic growth on youth sports. But as the stakes go up, more and more young people from low-income families are excluded. “Players’ fees” of up to $6,000 per year are imposed, which doesn’t count the cost of uniforms, equipment, and travel. Private coaching can cost $100 an hour or more.
Indy Millennium is a soccer club that runs nine teams for players from ages 8 though 17 who get experienced coaches and play at an elite level. They don’t have to pay, but they are taught that assists in life are more important than assists on the field. Coaches emphasize character before they even start talking about soccer skills.
Along with being respectful of their families, teachers, coaches, and peers, players must maintain their grades and volunteer at least 10 hours per week to stay on the field. They also learn the importance of teamwork and that no player, no matter how skilled, can do it alone.
Youth sports are an ideal place for character formation.
Matthew Braswell explains why it’s good to love football (or any sport) in The Hedgehog Review. Quoting Michael Serazino, he says, “. . . if you look hard at sports, you can’t help but see contours of religion.” Braswell continues: “He cited the early sociologist Émile Durkheim, for whom religion was of interest not so much as a body of scripture or doctrines but as a means of social solidarity and common purpose. When people come together to worship, whether the ostensible object of their worship is a religious totem or a battalion of athletes, they are affirming themselves as a community.”
The opportunity for youth sports is to cultivate a community ethos of “sons first, students second, and then, players—in that order.” When passionate athletes who want to win have a goal higher than winning, the common purpose truly serves the community.
Westfield, Indiana has a tremendous asset in the Millennium Soccer program. The Positive Coaching Alliance offers resources for parents, administrators, coaches, and athletes—including former UCLA coach John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success.