Our most popular program at PSU!
PSU's Travel program is appropriate for players who have played in a team for a few years and have a real passion for the soccer. Participation on a travel team is contingent upon participating in an informal tryout (participate in a PSU practice) and approval by Director of Coaching Nathan Bell.
Our travel teams practice 2 times per week plus an optional ballwork session and an optional mixed-age pickup session each week in the fall, winter, and spring. Our teams play weekend games in a travel league in the fall and spring, and select tournaments during the winter. In order to join a travel team, a player must commit for all three seasons in a given year (fall, winter, spring).
If you are interested in trying out for a Park Slope United travel team, please email PSU Coordinator, Gianluca Masucci.
Competitive youth sports exist in a landscape in which programs typically wind up focusing primarily on winning (at the expense of teaching values) or teaching values (at the expense of developing as a player). There is a gravity towards both ends of the spectrum, so our mission requires an extra level of balance and awareness.
Christian Pulisic is young, but already he is the best player on the US National Team, and one of the best young players in the world. The US has never produced a player with as much potential to become a world star. His father charted a course for him that is very similar to the "middle path" that we have devised for the PSU players. As parents who all have a vested interest in the development of your young soccer-playing children, we encourage you to read this article about the path and parenting of Christian Pulisic.
OUR GENERAL PHILOSOPHY
Fielding two even teams each year, per age group, allows the teams to have a distribution of types of players (aggressive and quick-thinking, attackers and defenders, leaders and followers), which helps each player find a role that plays to their strengths. As long as players demonstrate a love of the game, display good behavior, and attend practice, and are developing, they will retain their spot in the team from year to year. Two even teams also allows for a healthy competition between the teams that raises and pushes forward both groups.
At Park Slope United our players have developed more quickly than players at other clubs. A large part of this is our innovative coaching philosophy emphasizing dynamic environments and constant decision-making. But even more has to do with the way we are structured to create a positive developmental environment.
We have decided upon the policy of registering each team that has at least one year under their belts for the State Cup, a tournament based on the format of the World Cup. In each division there are 32 teams, which are divided into 8 groups of four. The teams are from Westchester, NYC and Long Island. Over the fall each of our teams will play three games on weekends when there are not league games. If the team finishes first or second in their group they will play knockout matches through the spring. Teams that win the Gold division at U11 and above qualify to move to the Regional Tournament. The winner of the Regional Tournament goes to the National Finals.
While it is important for young players to have the comfort of a secure spot in their group, it is also important to provide tangible goals to work towards.
Our plan, once the kids grow into all of the ages, is to bring a U10, a U12, a U14, a U16, and U18 group to an international soccer tournament each year. From the kids who are interested, we will select the strongest roster of players eligible by age.
This provides an incentive for kids in both teams to raise their level so that they might be selected for this special opportunity. Director of Coaching Nathan Bell will be the head coach for these tournaments, and be assisted by one or two coaches within the age group that travels. In the week prior to the tournament, he will hold a weeklong camp to prepare the teams.
These international experiences give the kids a worldly perspective on the game and the opportunity to interact with kids from different cultures. But most importantly, these trips give the kids a healthy incentive to work towards throughout the year.
ID CAMPS & EUROPEAN TRAINING VACATIONS
One of the reason PSU competes in the NY Club Soccer League is the league's Player Development Program, which is part of the national ID2 program that selects players for the USA Youth National Teams. This is a regional selection that occurs to pool the best players of each age group for monthly training and occasional trips.
There is a cost to participation below U12, but at U12 and above all participation for those selected is free.
In the near future we will be partnering with a major European soccer cub who is interested in working with us to hold ID camps in Brooklyn. We will partner with the club(s) that show the biggest commitment to offer our top players (that they deem of a high enough level) the opportunity to train during school breaks at their academy in Europe.
These training opportunities are a great way to experience the level of some of the best young players in the world, while being immersed in a foreign culture obsessed with soccer.
Playing time is an extremely tricky finite commodity. Following the principle of scaffolding, we believe that it helps the development of both the stronger and the less skilled players to give the more skilled players a slightly greater share of the playing time. Playing alongside strong players helps those with less confidence. But all players need to play enough to gain feedback on their play, try new things, and experience success.
If a player is meeting the expectations of the coach (attending practice and paying attention during the game), then each player shall receive at least 30% of all available playing time over the course of a season, and the opportunity to try at least two positions.
It’s also important for teams to have the experience of pushing hard to win certain games, with those not on the field supporting those chosen by the coach. In knockout games of tournaments and in the State Cup, playing time is not guaranteed to any player.
Rosters are designed to provide enough playing time, have enough players at practice to work on the age-appropriate themes, and guarantee that there will be suitable numbers at games in which multiple players have conflicts. If the schedule is friendly and nearly every player can make it to every game (rare), then the coach and player manager may request that each player miss a game so that there are not too many players on the bench throughout the season.
It is suggested and preferred that players speak to their coaches themselves regarding playing time. This builds their sense of autonomy and allows them to grow from the feedback received by the coach. It is more helpful for the coach and player to speak directly (with follow-up from a parent) than for messaging regarding playing time to come from a parent, who has on their own spoken with a coach.
CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
Each season we gather the captains chosen by each team to have a dinner with the club’s coaches. At this dinner the coaches and senior staff teach the team leaders how to be a role model for their team. Players work to be chosen as one of the captains of the team each season, and also to be selected for one of our Travel Program and Girls Program annual Awards: Best Teammate and Most Improved Player.
We believe in peer mentorship and find that three years older is the right age gap to relate to each other's experience, while providing guidance. Once each age group reach U9, they are partnered up with the age group that are U12. We foster these connections by organizing pickup games and partnering interested players with a "buddy from the other age group."
Player evaluation after fall and spring season
Weekly optional Mixed age pickups that allow players to be challenged against kids from different teams and ages, while expanding their network of friends.
Weekly optional ballwork sessions that build skill repertoire and comfort on the ball
Travel Team-wide parties twice a year