In a belated effort to restore some semblance of balance to collegiate athletics, the NCAA is considering some significant changes to off-season training for a number of sports, including soccer. Currently, collegiate athletes in soccer pretty much face year-round training and competition, including international tours in the off-season.
The NCAA's Resource Allocation Workgroup is proposing to ban off-season competition and international tours, and to reduce the number of games in the season by about 10 percent. These are rational steps to reign in a sport--that like many others on college campuses--has gotten out of control.
Yet to hear the college soccer coaches yowl, you'd think the NCAA was proposing to shut soccer down. These coaches--many of them foreigners--need to realize that college soccer is NOT PRO SOCCER, even though it may appear that way at times.
An article in last week's Potomac Soccer Wire illustrates the hysteria. “The spring [off-season] games are critical,” noted University of Utah women’s soccer coach Rich Manning on his twitter feed. “Who would want to run, lift and train for 6 months a year with no games. And when you consider the NCAA doesn't allow players to play on outside teams, it's almost a death sentence to anyone getting better from ages 18-22."
A death sentence? Coach, most of these players are going to have to go on to something other than soccer, or at least they should (although coaching apparently is always an option). They ought to have some time to do something else in their lives. They don't need to train all year either. Yes, they need to maintain their conditioning, but that's not the same.
As for getting better (or playing all the time), if they want to go pro, go pro.
Bad as the Utah coach's comments are, they pale in comparison to the utterly ridiculous statements of Rob Kehoe, Collegiate Programs Director at the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. He's quoted in Potomac Soccer Wire thusly: “If you have players that have eight months without competition opportunities, what happens to their discipline? In a campus situation, they’re going to be bored and involved with the scourge of the college campus, which is substance abuse and relationship abuse issues. The sport serves as a deterrent from being involved in things that are irresponsible, illegal activities that are very prevalent on college campuses."
Whoa! We had no idea that colleges were such cesspools, with soccer literally being the only thing saving these poor young men and women from a life of destitution and ruin.
Soccer is a good sport, but it's only a sport. There are plenty of good ways of allowing college soccer athletes to maintain (and even improve) their skills without subjecting them to year-round competition. They need an occasional break from soccer, and time to focus on what the rest of their lives will bring.
Soccer COACHES, of course, have nothing better to do, but that's exactly why they shouldn't be the ones determining what limits should be placed on the sport within colleges.