Challenges for Young Athletes in Club Sports

By Shelia Albrecht

Middlesex Phantoms Club Soccer Team – 8 Bedford and 6 Lincoln players. Tryouts will include players from Concord next year. Bedford players Alex, Dexter, Matias, Jeffrey, Joe, Ryan, Andrew, and Quin who are coached by Ilir Ujkaj, have played together for 2.5 years. The team will feed strong, skilled players into the John Glenn Middle School athletic program, making the Bedford school team more competitive than it has been in past years.

Only a few short years ago, summer sports options in Bedford included playing summer Babe Ruth softball or baseball, maybe a few rounds of golf at the VA, or swimming and playing tennis on the Wedgewood teams. Through club and travel sports teams, summer 2012 has been a season of sports opportunity for Bedford youth, girls and boys, elementary age to high school.

Bedford Middle School and High School athletic teams are now filled with exceptionally talented and skilled players. High school teams, notably the girls’ basketball, softball and tennis teams, won championships in 2012.

Club sports teams, which are regional teams of young athlete who are committed to improving their skills and playing at a competitive level, are a large part of the reason for this new energy and talent among Bedford athletes. Hundreds of Bedford youths are participating this summer on ice hockey, field hockey, lacrosse, soccer, basketball, softball, baseball and tennis Club teams. Fellow athletes may come from neighboring towns such as Lincoln, Watertown, Lowell or Waltham. The coaches are paid, trained and experienced youth coaches.

Ruby Kennedy, parent of a 5th grade son who plays Club soccer and baseball and an 8th grade daughter who plays Club softball, comments “I think kids these days tend to become specialists in one or two sports at a younger age and as a result, their skill level is higher, requiring opportunities other than town sports can satisfy.

“Club teams often require a much higher commitment in both time and expenses. Players have to travel farther to practices and games, but they have the opportunity to develop their potential by playing with other skilled players who are passionate about the sport. For many of these team sports, the level of play is dependent on the entire team, and playing with less skilled players [as is found on general recreation teams] can hold back the development of the individual,” Kennedy said.

The enthusiasm for artificial turf fields, an overwhelming volunteer response to the Outdoor Recreation Area Study Committeeand plans for the Edge Sports Center expansion are examples of the energizing momentum oftown athletics in 2012. As summer ends, Club teams are already organizing for fall and winter programs. While Middle School and High School students are preparing for the pre-season fall sports programs, many will supplement these after school programs with nightly and weekend Club programs.

Club sports haveincreased exponentially in Bedford over the last 3 to 4 years and arecertainly a contributing factor to the exciting seasons so many Bedford teams sports had in 2012. These results are sure to be repeated in 2013 as more and more skilled and motivated young athletes progress through the many Club sports opportunities available to our Bedford athletesyear round.