Thank You And A Call To Action!
My name is Ted Nagel and I wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you to the Lakewood Community on the occasion of my retirement as Lakewood High School's Girls Soccer Coach. I'm mostly writing to the younger families with girls aged 6-14 to consider joining the Beautiful Game as it is known around the world.
In recent years, participation in girls soccer has dropped off to the surprise of many of us who have been involved with the sport for the past 20+ years. Lakewood has been a vibrant soccer coummunity since my family moved here 12 years ago. The boys soccer programs have continued to thrive due to a number of factors, but the girls soccer participation rate has continued to slide over the last five years that I have coached. This trend is also nationwide (https://www.soccerwire.com/soccer-blog/new-study-shows-negative-trend-in-youth-soccer-player-retention/?fbclid=IwAR34nhCOp7hFsVsewpSwjAFOUxpuvJRP5Z109dBpSBgeEp4eS1pyVGEeBMo) and to those of us who love the game, it is very concerning.
From my perspective, I believe that the national trend is due to those involved in soccer at a high level being more concerned about developing the talent that can win the USA a World Cup over developing a love for the game and a participation rate at the grassroots level. We have adopted an "up or out" mentality in soccer that tells kids that if they haven't reached a national level team by age 14, they might as well hang up the cleats. This approach is a terrible mindset for youth sports and it is not limited to soccer. The benefit for kids in sports is that it is important to their personal growth. Having an ultimate goal of playing for your high school team, as most kids dream about for most other sports, is perfectly fine. And communities should be able to provide the coaching, facilities and other resources to allow them to do that all within their local community.
Luckily, we have all of those things here in Lakewood. We have dedicated coaches and our new high school coach who is willing to put the time and effort into training both the coaches and the players. We have enough fields to support a robust local travel program and we have enough volunteers to support a larger number of kids playing. We have had great success at the high school level with our girls program winning their half of the conference last year and the boys program accomplishing the same thing this year. As I retire, my record of the last five years was 42-37-5. We have played competitively in almost every game other than maybe two or three opponents who went on to compete for state titles. We have tremendous traditions within the program and the girls accomplishments off the field were probably even more impressive with two presidents of the LHS National Honor Society and two Female Athlete of the Year recipients in those five years along with a team GPA for a 40 student team of 4.0.
But our numbers are concerning. My first year, we had 45 girls try out. This year, we had 34 which is almost a minimum number to maintain a JV program. And maintaining that JV program is so very vital to a healthy overall program that requires a coach to develop athletes into soccer players, not just put soccer players into a system as the best schools can do. This past season we had a senior captain starter who had never played soccer before her sophomore year and never played outside of high school practices. That is indicative of a true community team.
So I ask the young families of Lakewood to sign up for Saturday soccer with Lakewood Soccer Association (LSA) at: https://www.lakewood-soccer.com. And for those already playing LSA and who really love soccer, take a look at playing travel soccer with Lakewood United Football Club (LUFC) here: https://www.lakewoodunitedfc.org.
Soccer has so much to offer young kids and Lakewood is one of the best places to learn and love the game. I hope to see some new young faces out on the field, especially yonger girls. And don't be afraid to start at any age. If you are an athlete, you can succeed.
Thank you to those who have supported me these past five years! And good luck to all of those supporting our girls moving forward. Come join up!
Ted Nagel is the outgoing Lakewood High School Girls Varsity Soccer Coach.