Choosing the right level of competition in athletics for children is a hard decision. There are many factors that go into choosing between school, recreation, or club teams, including price, availability of your family, location, friends, the athletic level of your child, and other variables.
Two of my children have competed in all levels of athletics, playing on club, recreation, or school teams. We have chosen different levels and at different times to adjust with our family schedule and the needs of our children.
This article may help give more information as you make that choice for your child and family.
Club Teams (Select Teams)
Club teams are sometimes called select teams. They are private teams owned by a gym, individual, or club. Athletes must try out for club teams on a yearly basis. Not all athletes will make the team.
If your child does make the team, equal play time is not guaranteed. Club teams are based on age and have different levels of competition, with the highest level travelling. This travel can be anywhere from within the DFW area to around the country. Some clubs also offer out of country travel for special events.
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Coaches are professional coaches, some of whom have played the sport in college or at a higher level. Athletes must sign a contract that outlines expectations for the year. That contract may not allow for participation in school sports.
A higher level of commitment is required for club teams, but that does not always mean a higher level of competition.
Playing on a club team also has a fee involved. That fee can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand or more. The amount families pay depends on the club, their affiliation to professional clubs, and level within the club. Some sports are more expensive than others. Many times the yearly fee does not include uniforms, travel expenses, or extra training.
Recreational teams are organized by the city. Many cities use Plano Sports Authority, but some may have their own organizations. For example, Allen has Allen Sports Association and McKinney has McKinney Soccer Association.
Athletes do not need to try out for recreational teams but must sign up through the organization. All of the children that signed up are then placed on teams based on the number of sign ups, coaches, and locations.
Coaches are volunteers, usually a family member of one of the players. Because children are randomly placed on teams based on age, the level of play may be higher or lower than what your athlete needs.
Recreation teams only play teams within the same organization, so their is no travel involved. The fee for recreational teams is much lower than club teams, usually around $100 to $200.
Recreational teams only play for a few months, then sign ups begin again. Many organizations allow athletes to request the same team placement from season to season. Sometimes the fee to participate in recreation teams includes uniforms.
When your child enters middle school or high school, there’s an opportunity to participate in school sports. In DFW, a few sports are available to kids in seventh grade, with more opportunities at in high school.
Students must try out for the school teams, and not everyone who tries out will be selected for the team. Some sports are “no cut,” such as track and field and cross country, but many only have a certain number of spots on the roster.
Schools do not provide all sports. For example, there are area teams for lacrosse and hockey, but there are not specific school teams for those sports. The practices are held during school hours or immedietly before or after school, and games are held on a specific schedule with the schools playing each other.
School team coaches are also teachers, so they have a close connection to the athletes. Most uniforms and accessories are provided by the school, so the only fees are for optional fan gear.
Travel is involved between schools, but it is all within the DFW area, usually less than 30 minutes from your home campus. Bus transportation is often given to the athletes to go to and from the school, but depending on the school, that may always not be provided.
Make the Right Choice for Your Child
Both of my older children have participated on all three levels of sports teams. We made the switch from recreation to club teams when COVID-19 protocols required city-run athletics to stop, but private club teams could continue.
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My 14-year-old daughter left her club team but still plays on her school volleyball team and a recreation team. Between school volleyball, school track, and theater, she does not have the time to commit to a club team. My 12-year-old son is still playing with his club soccer team and will continue to play for them forever. He is also on his school’s cross country team, band, and soccer team, but none of those seasons compete for his time, so he can do it all!
There is no right or wrong answer when choosing a level of competition is sports for your child. Some kids thrive on one level, while others don’t. If your child wants to be an athlete there are many choices for play in DFW. I hope this helps guide you and your family.