The Price of Soccer

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Jon Townsend stopped by to discuss a great article we read about the cost of player development, titled “The Game is Free” for It’s a great article that makes you step back and really think about why we are paying so much money for the price of soccer development and for our kids to play soccer. Jon Townsend was interviewed regarding his article on a podcast called Youth Soccer Evolution which is no longer around, but we have the audio of the interview below. 

I thought about this article again after a friend posted on facebook that in Norway: Professional Sports Gambling pays for youth sports. Money is siphoned off of the gambling pot to keep youth sports funded and inexpensive. Interesting idea. By the way, this is a country of 5 million people that is producing world class talent in multiple sports. Thoughts?

other answers included:

  • Yeah… I agree… there are so many creative ways to do stuff like that … I don’t know if we lost our creativity in the US or if greed just always prevents that kind of stuff.
  • Love this idea but the American mentality has changed so much. Hence the reason we have pay to play in pretty much every sport. It’s to separate the haves from the have nots.
  •  In England the sponsors actually paid for the full price of the kit. It was amazing. And then we only paid £2 a practice. So much cheaper then $2400 for a year of soccer 🤑🤑🤑🤑
  • It’s an interesting idea. Not much different than state lotteries that support schools. One of the things that would be interesting to see is even if we had a funding mechanism to keep youth sports affordable would those who have the means simply “buy more” for their youth athlete?


You can find the article about Norway in the New York Times here. They discuss the way that Norway approaches youth development, however this article is specifically about soccer, so let’s move on 🙂 

Jon has great stories about growing up in a Latino community in Chicago and San Jose, CA., and how that helped shape not only his soccer development, but his way of thinking about it. Jon feels he is a product of the street game and academy system, and players should not just depend on an academy for development.

One of the biggest problems facing player development today in the united states is the lack of what Jon refers to as “street play” which is basically playing in your back yard with friends and family or on the streets with friends and family. This part of the equation for player development is missing in the United States. The biggest issue is that street soccer is not part of the culture in America, therefore it’s difficult to force kids to do something that is not part of the American DNA. In other countries this happens organically. The soccer federations never set out to administer street soccer, it just happened due to the pure natural love that those countries have for soccer, sport, family, and their neighborhoods. 

Jon discusses some of the reasons he wrote the article. One reason is that he spent some time in Europe, and in Europe kids are playing all over, the house, streets, parks, and fields. In the US we have an abundance of land, but don’t let kids play on that land unless they belong to a league or club team. This is hurting the youth soccer development. Instead of kids playing outside at the park, kids play video games. There is so much money that allows kids to have an abundance of opportunities for many many other extra curricular activities.  Listen to the interview with Jon Townsend and find the following:

  • Jon Townsend discusses the environment he grew up in and how it impacted his soccer development.
  • No player has ever reached a high level just by playing in an academy system, free play must be utilized to maximize soccer development
  • Parents view dollars as an opportunity and think they can buy their way to talent, so soccer development is viewed as the more money you spend the higher level kids should be able to play.
  • Way too many coaches making money off parent’s ignorance about soccer development. Parents are desperate and willing to pay whatever it takes.
  • Intensity, volume, and frequency is what will help you improve
  • Creativity is being coached out of the kids and they are not allowed to be artists with the ball during their soccer development. Cant expect kids to be creative if they are made to do anything.
  • Free Play is one of  the best tools for player development and it’s free, but parents want to pay for it because they feel that soccer development should cost a lot of money.
  • Is the obsession with control that so many coaches and adults have hurting our soccer development?

Finally Jon discussed his plans for his book on his player development journey as a player, which will be appropriately titled “Its just a ball”. Can’t wait to read it Jon.

You Can Follow Jon here: And let him know how much you enjoyed the podcast and article!

Twitter @jon_townsend3


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