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Sand & Surf Soccer Focuses on the Future

Jan 21, 2016 08:33AM ● Published by DigMB Staff

There are big changes afoot in the world of youth club soccer.  Locally, Sand & Surf Soccer Club – the only Manhattan Beach-based club soccer program  – welcomed a new director of coaching, Chris Chamides.  On a national level, the U.S. Soccer Federation has mandated an age realignment that will see soccer age groups shift from school-based age groups (Aug. 1 – July 31 birthdays) to a calendar year (Jan. 1– Dec. 31 birthdays), which will go into effect on the club level in 2016.

DigMB recently sat down with Chris Chamides to discuss his vision for Sand & Surf and to get his thoughts on how the age realignment will affect our local players.   

DigMB: Chris, you’re coming from a background that includes MLS experience at two professional clubs, as well as 13 years of experience coaching on the college level at schools like UMass and Cal State LA. What drew you to youth club soccer, and particularly, to Sand & Surf?

Chris Chamides (CC): It was a natural evolution for me after starting a family and having two young boys who have shown an interest in the game. I was looking for an opportunity to become immersed in a program and to have a positive impact on a local community.  And I was really pleased when the most local program, Sand & Surf, came to me with an opportunity to be an architect of something for the future.

DigMB: It’s interesting to hear you use the word ‘community.’ You don’t often hear that as an emphasis in the club sports world. 

CC: We’re trying to stay as local as possible on all fronts: coaches, players, and fields for games and training sessions. We want to make ourselves as accessible as possible to our local community. This is a great sports town. By making our club as convenient and as professional as possible, we’re hoping to be the first option for families here.

DigMB: The South Bay is generally known as “Soccer City USA.” I’m sure our parents who know the game would want to hear what lessons from your collegiate and MLS experience apply to youth club soccer?

CC: The similarity across all the levels of soccer starts with the idea that the player must be comfortable on the ball. We see that with the most elite teams in the world, and we want to develop that from an early age with our youngest players. The difference between the levels is that winning is not the be-all-end-all in youth soccer. The emphasis at the youth level is player development.  We work with all of our coaches to make sure we are answering the question ‘what is best for the player’s individual development?’ rather than ‘what do we need to do to win at all costs?’

DigMB: When you talk about player development, do you mean only for your club players, or are you hoping to see that emphasis on a wider front?

CC: We actually run several different programs throughout the year. We have recreational programs, including spring break camps, summer camps, and a winter development program that are open to players of all levels. We also offer a ‘youngers’ development program for 5- and 6-year-olds. In addition to these more rec-oriented programs, we offer the full-blown competitive club soccer experience, with teams starting from age 7 and working all the way up through high school.

DigMB: Going back to the active community we have here in South Bay, one of the issues you hear a lot about with youth sports is ‘specialization.’ What’s your take on multi-sport athletes and how the club works with them?

CC: I’m coming from a generation where we all grew up playing multiple sports. There are a lot of positive things to gain from that in terms of coordination and overall athletic ability. We are not preaching that soccer is the only option for your child. We like to think our club is open to working with athletes who have other interests.  Yes, we do ask for a certain level of commitment in terms of practices and games, but we try to balance our rosters and stay convenient with local practice fields to make it easier on those multi-sport families.

DigMB: I understand the US Soccer Federation is making changes to the youth system. Can you talk about those changes and why they’re being implemented?

CC: Yes. US Soccer, which is the governing body of youth soccer development, is making changes across the country. Specifically, they’re changing how our teams will be built. In the past, soccer age groups have been tied to the academic year.  But as of Jan. 1, 2016 club teams will be built based on birth year. So, there will be a lot of movement in rosters as teams get realigned to the birth year calendar, and all coaches, parents, and players are going to have to show some patience. The reason this is being done is so we as a country can be in line with the international soccer standard. 

DigMB: While existing teams will have to deal with reshuffling, how does that kind of change affect new players and families who might want to get involved with club soccer?

CC: This is really a ‘rebooting’ time for club soccer, an opportunity to start fresh with new teams.  So it’s actually a perfect time for a new player to get involved with the club, because each team will be rebuilt to the new age standard, which will create openings on rosters that need to be filled. Our tryouts are coming up the first week of February, and any interested families can go to our website (sandandsurfsoccer.com) for more details.

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