Travel Soccer FAQ
West Side Soccer League & The New York Red Bulls
WSSL and the New York Red Bulls have partnered to provide a competitive travel program for soccer players -- ages 7 and up (starting in U8). The teams, formed through tryouts, train twice a week and play matches on Sunday afternoons. Many of the games will be played on fields in Manhattan with the rest to be played on fields in Westchester.
West Side Soccer League's travel program emphasizes the development of the individual player and team as a whole in an environment that is developmentally appropriate, safe, fun and centered on the kids. Professional Red Bulls trainers run sessions twice a week that follow a detailed plan and curriculum designed to improve individual and team skills. Trained parent coaches manage the teams at weekend games. Red Bulls trainers accompany teams and parent coaches to many games.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: What is the general overview?
A: WSSL's Travel Program includes a fall and spring season with professional training from the New York Red Bulls. Winter is an optional season for teams, but options for training, league play and/or tournament play are provided to those who want it. Tournaments on holiday weekends are encouraged, but not required. Training is twice a week in Manhattan with a game on Sundays. All teams compete in the Westchester Youth Soccer League with home games in Manhattan and away games on fields in Westchester and Manhattan.
Q: How many teams?
A: Two teams per gender, per age group starting in U8. This season we are fielding 29 teams.
Q: Where do teams play?
A: All training takes place in Manhattan during the week (2x), mostly in Riverside Park. Most WSSL travel teams play in the Westchester Youth Soccer League. As such, teams play home games on Manhattan fields and away games on fields in Westchester towns such as Armonk, Chappaqua, Scarsdale, etc.
Q: Is training mandatory, flexible?
A: Each team trains together twice a week. Players are required to attend two sessions each week. Flex sessions are available to accommodate major conflicts.
A: Teams are WSSL Red Bulls and wear Red Bulls uniforms.
Q: Are holiday tournaments required for Travel teams?
A: Participation in holiday tournaments is not required by Travel teams. But tournaments are fun and a great development opportunity and Travel teams are encourages to participate in them. Travel teams will be given recommendations from the League and Tournament Director about appropriate tournaments.
Team Training & Coaching
Q: Why does WSSL work with the New York Red Bulls professional trainers?
A: The New York Red Bulls are second to none in the New York area in terms of training expertise. With over 80 coaches on staff, the New York Red Bulls are committed to sharing a love of soccer with young people. They are professionals with a highly developed curriculum and high standards for the trainers in their organization. Trainers are selected through a competitive process. Over 500 trainers from around the world compete for each training position. After initial selections are made, a group of 150 trainers are brought in for face-to-face interviews and an on-field practical sessions. The trainers are evaluated on number of factors, including their expert knowledge of the game and their ability to communicate with and engage young players. Trainers receive weekly professional development training duirng the season as well as periodic evaluations.
Beyond the New York Red Bulls' excellence on an individual and group level, the New York Red Bulls and WSSL have the same philosophy regarding player development. Young players need to be inspired. They need to have fun. They need to be given the tools to develop mastery, to build confidence, to become a skilled player.
Q: What plan do theNew York Red Bulls trainers follow with the Travel teams?
A: The New York Red Bulls use a building block approach to player development. At a young age, mastery of the ball is vital for a player's future development. Players follow a path focused on motor, technique and skill development. As competency increases, tactical elements are introduced. Within each building block, an extensive curriculum is offered. This curriculum will be used with players and shared with parent coaches. An extensive online video library is available to inspire individual players to work on their skills and to help parent coaches deepen their knowledge.
In addition to weekly training sessions, the New York Red Bulls will provide the following to WSSL teams and players:
- a season-long development plan that maps out the topics and key learning outcomes for each session.
- session plans that will be shared with the parent coaches at each practice.
- team evaluations to share with the parent coaches.
- personal player evaluations to help players understand what they need to work on.
- weekly game analyis for matches.
- every parent coach will have personal access to the Red Bulls training curriculum that consists of more than 600 different drills and activities, a growing number of which are also accompanied by easy-to-understand videos.
Q: How do professional trainers and parent coaches work together to support a team?
A: Red Bulls professional trainers will work with WSSL Travel Teams twice a week where they will focus their sessions on key points of learning that feed into a bigger development plan for the season. Trainers will be focused on moving players from where they are to the next level of excellence with regard to motor skill development, technique and skills, individual tactics, group tactics and team tactics.
Parent coaches are invited and encouraged to attend weekly training sessions, but we recognize that this is not always possible. When parent coaches cannot attend, professional trainers will share the curriculum and specific lesson plan from the session. Professional trainers will offer strategic and tactical advice to parent coaches in advance of every game. When a trainer attends a game, then a game analysis is submitted to the parent coaches within 48 hours.
Professional trainers will join Parent Coaches at as many games as they can throughout the season. During each week of training and before and after weekend games, Parent Coaches and Red Bulls Trainers will discuss the progress the kids are making and what they can do as "the adult team" to guide the kids in the right direction. Training plans will be adjusted to suit the developing needs of the kids, as appropriate.
It is important to understand that we want the kids to be in charge of making decisions on the field during a game. It is tempting for a professional or parent coach or a parent on the sidelines to want to direct players so that they can be "successful" in a game. It is more important for the kids to make decisions and mistakes and to learn from them in order to develop into creative, independent and skilled players. We must all work together -- professional trainers, parent coaches and parents -- to curb our desire to TELL our kids what to do on the field and let them play the game at their level and to grow as players in a way that is powerful and lasting.
Here is a list of benefits that come from having professional trainers and parent coaches working together to support a team:
- Training holds a long-term perspective where the goal is to help the player become a well-rounded soccer player and to give them the tools to better master the game. Training should never be about the next game.
- While the goal of the game of soccer is to win and winning is fun, at the developmental level, soccer should not be taught to achieve a winning score. It is easy enough to put the fastest player up front and the biggest player in the back and get a win, but that strategy is not what is best for developing youth players. Our trainers and parent coaches will work to guide players to learn first and foremost. Winning will be a fun part of the equation, but so will mastery of a new skill!
- Parent coaches can help the trainers by allowing them to focus on our top priority: developing the skills of the soccer players.
- Involved parents are a great resource. They have parenting experience that helps them to support kids. They will be selected based on their experience and track record for being good on the pitch. And they will have training -- both from the NYRB trainers in situ and via ongoing Coach Education Clinics. Selecting and working with our parent coaches is a top priority.
- Parent coaches work closely with the trainer, even if they are not able to come to every practice. Through the development plan and weekly conversations, the coach knows what the team is working on and how to guide them as they take the field for a game.
- The most important thing for a coach to do in a game is to let the kids play, not to tell them what to do. Every time a coach tells a player what to do they are hampering that player's problem solving ability and desire to think and make decisions for the better of the team. A player who listens to the coach before making a decision will never survive at the next level where the game is faster.
Player Requirements & Tryouts
Q: What is required of players?
A: Players who have the talent, desire and the commitment will be invited to participate in West Side Soccer League’s travel program. Players will need to commit to both a Fall and a Spring season with two practices each week and to games on the weekends that will be both in NYC and in neighboring towns and cities. Players must be committed to being a good member of the team and must uphold the League's standards with regard to good sportsmanship.
Q: When are tryouts?
A: WSSL holds tryouts for travel teams in early June in Riverside Park. Tryout dates will be posted on the WSSL Calendar. Official tryouts will only be held for gender and age groups where there are enough players to field a team. This may fluctuate from year to year.
Q: How will players be selected for Travel Teams?
A: A team of professional trainers from the New York Red Bulls work with WSSL to run tryouts and will assess the skill level and athleticism of the players who participate. Professional trainers from the New York Red Bulls assess the skills of players in small sided games. Team selections are based on performance at the tryouts. In some instances, where player rankings are close, additional information from previous Leagues or Clubs is sought. In some instances, call back tryouts are required.
Players who are ready to compete at a higher level will be invited to join a team. Players who are not ready for Travel level play may be invited to join a Tournament team or will be invited to continue their skill development in the Core program, where they may take advantage of weekly team practices and games, as well as weekly professional skills training for U6 to U12.
Q: What is required of parent coaches?
A: Each parent coach must have fulfilled AYSO Safe Haven training and age appropriate coach training. Further, each parent coach has to fulfill requirements from WYSL which include a 2-hour orientation and an 8-hour coaching course. Coach clinics offered during the season are required for parent coaches -- a minimum of 2 per season. All parent coaches must adhere to a strict Code of Conduct.
Q: What is required of parents?
A: Parents will all be required to uphold the utmost standards for good sportsmanship possible. The League has a no-tolerance policy for poor sportsmanship by players, coaches or parents. Every parent will be required to volunteer to help the league, the division or the team. Parents are required to support their children in upholding the letter and spirit of the law in WSSL.
Q: What volunteer opportunities are available to parents?
A: Parents can volunteer to coordinate travel teams at the Division level, working closely with the League and the Division head to plan practice times, manage registration and player card production. Parents can also volunteer to manage a team. A team manager focuses his or her duties on the team making sure registration is handled in a timely manner, that fees are paid and that carpools are arranged for away games.
Q: What other administrative support is provided to teams?
A: The League supports each Travel team with volunteers who are dedicated and committed to the WSSL approach to soccer. The League's automated system will make it easy to communicate with teams and parents and to manage fees, training and game schedules.
Q: How do parents register their children for a Travel team?
A: Parents will pre-register their children for a travel tryouts in late May through early June. Pre-registration allows the League to prepare for tryouts based on the number of children per age group. Pre-registration does not guarantee a spot on a travel team. Once tryouts are completed, players who are offered a spot on a travel team will be invited to register for a travel team through WSSL's website. Any players who registered for the Core program and have also been selected for a travel team will need to decide if they plan on playing on both teams (most players do not). If the player is only going to play on a Travel team, they will be dropped from the Core program and registered officially in only the Travel program.
Preregistration, as outlined above, is a requirement for all players interested in playing on a Travel team. Participation in tryouts is also a requirement for each player. Registration will be completed from a team level once teams are formed.
Q: What about transportation to games in Westchester?
A: Transportation is up to the teams. Carpooling is recommended. Shared Zipcars are a good option. Games in Westchester are rarely further than 45 minutes from the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Some away games will be held closer on fields such as Randall's Island.
Q: Can Travel players play on more than one team?
A: Players who have elected to play on a WSSL Travel team may not play on another Travel team as that violates WYSL rules. In addition, we do not recommend that our players join another non-travel team (unless it is a school team and the schedules do not conflict). Too often, schedules compete and one team ends up losing out. Even if the schedules do not conflict, WSSL believes a second team to a WSSL travel team might be too much for the player. That said, some players participate on both a travel team and a recreational team via the Core Program.
If you have read this far and still have questions, please email Gabe Boyar, Travel Director, here.