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2022 Ohio Soccer Outlook: Grassroots Soccer and Loving the Game

Grassroots soccer is the game we love in its most basic form where players are learning and loving the game through play. Although the term “grassroots” is often interchanged with recreational or developmental this is a misconception, grassroots soccer exists at all ages and in all levels of play.

To expand on this topic we spoke with Worthington United’s Director of Coaching, Kevin Donovan. “Soccer being played by anyone at any time for the love/desire of playing;” soccer at its purest form is how Kevin describes grassroots soccer. “Oftentimes the term “Grassroots” gets attributed to those just learning the game for the first time, or the lowest levels of soccer.” This school of thought can be misleading - there are many times where well meaning coaches miss the mark with players, taking away from the objective to learn to love the game by focusing too much on drills and technical topics. Then, on the other side of the spectrum you can find very high level players in the later part of their high school careers or as adults who are playing in programs where the focus is completely on playing to grow in understanding and love of the game. Coach Kevin points out “In Grassroots soccer the game itself is what players should get to experience.”

Grassroots soccer should be a catalyst for falling in love with the game.

Coach Kevin shares that while soccer is certainly a popular game in Ohio, and it is great to see the number of youth and adults playing in our area, the foundation to producing lifelong players is by creating the right playing environment.

“You fall in love by playing the game, by having passionate coaches who share that passion with players, and by being appropriately challenged and supported enough to grow in your craft.”
-Coach Kevin Donovan, Worthington United*

*Worthington United is a sponsor of Columbus Soccer Moms and Dads

“Players who fall in love with the game ultimately go further and stay in the game longer, and you do not fall in love with the game standing in lines, doing prolonged isolated technical work, or listening to a coach monolog.” He went on by saying that “We have lots of good soccer players, though I believe we still do not produce enough high level decision makers.” Coach Kevin believes that the constraints of overly programmed environments that do not promote game based practice models not only take away from a player’s ability to quickly and creatively make game speed decisions but ultimately restrict their developing desire to play.

Ohio communities need better educated coaches and leaders.

Ohio leadership both from OSA and US Club Soccer have put a lot of time and resources into growing the game. OSA specifically called out grassroots soccer as an avenue for growing the game when they consolidated to one state organization last year. We agree, grassroots is where we will grow the game and its not only where we will find future players but also future coaches, future referees and future leaders of the game. But first we need players to want to play and to love to play.

We asked Coach Kevin Donovan what he thinks our communities need from their grassroots programs. “Recreational programs that use the game as the teacher” and “better educated rec/club coaches who are passionate about the game and sharing that passion with young players.” Kevin continued by saying our communities need “safe learning environments, which includes physically, mentally, and socially safe environments, where players can express themselves as people and players without fear of being reprimanded. Our players who are learning to love the game need a safe place to be creative and to make mistakes without fear. Our grassroots programs should be safe communities where players, coaches and parents alike have a growth mindset and a culture of learning by doing and by making mistakes.

Coach Kevin concluded by saying “Community programs need leaders who are committed to personal growth, evolution of ideas from the status quo, and a sole focus on what is best for their players.”

Grassroots soccer and community clubs need your support.

“As someone involved with a “community club”, I feel as though our community genuinely wants our program to succeed. A large percentage of our players live right here in our local community, and the hope is that we have a good product so that they are not forced to look elsewhere.” Coach Kevin explained the biggest partner in grassroots soccer is the parents. “Coaches and parents are the ones most responsible for the environments in which our children play. I think it is important that youth soccer programs have player-centered missions, and that parents choose clubs based on their belief in that mission, and their trust in the organization's ability to deliver on that mission.”

Coach Kevin shared the two ways to deteriorate a soccer experience:

1) When a club/coach does not deliver on their stated expectations/mission

2) When parents do not support the club/coach mission and plan for the players

About Kevin Donovan

Kevin grew up playing youth soccer in San Antonio, TX and participated in South Texas ODP as a youth player. He played Division III Soccer in Texas and received All-Region and All Conference accolades.

As a highly educated and respected coach, Coach Kevin has extensive experience in addition to his credentials as a Grassroots Instructor from USSF, he also holds a U.S. Soccer Federation “B” License and Director of Coaching Diploma from United Soccer Coaches. Kevin has coached at nearly every level of youth soccer. He was an NCAA Division III assistant coach, a varsity high school coach and has served as Director of Coaching for two separate clubs in the Columbus area. He is the current Director of Coaching for Worthington United, a community club serving Worthington, Ohio and the surrounding areas and a valued sponsor of Columbus Soccer Moms and Dads.

Website/Social Media/Contact:

Cell Phone - 210-639-8436

Worthington United is a sponsor of Columbus Soccer Moms and Dads

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