Warren Barton on High School Soccer

Warren Barton on High School Soccer

Part 2 of my interview with Warren Barton

This topic deserved a spotlight all its own. High school soccer, and the USSDA’s rule prohibiting its players from participating, is a hot button issue. Barton moved his family from Europe to America specifically for the educational opportunities and the community feel around American soccer. Playing for your school is a big part of that community feeling.

You can read Part 1 of our interview HERE. Barton talked about the Del Mar Carmel Valley Sharks‘ decision to join the ECNL (Elite Clubs National League). Here in Part 2, Barton talks about the Sharks’ focus on COMMUNITY. High school soccer, and the community around it, is very important to Sharks and Barton.

Why is high school soccer so important to you?

SN: Why is high school soccer so important to you?
WB: Like I said before, I moved my family here because I love what’s unique about American soccer. There’s an emphasis on community that revolves around education. In Europe, of course people are passionate about their football. But here, so much of sports passion revolves around community and education. Education is so important, and combining that with sports is wonderful. I love that my boys and my Sharks players get to have such involvement in their community.

“You will never hear me talk badly about a high school coach.”

SN: What is your response to the people who say the quality of coaching at high school is not good enough?
WB: You will never hear me talk badly about a high school coach. Especially around here in San Diego, they’re great coaches who also coach for local clubs. And even the ones who aren’t club coaches, they’re passionate for the game and their players. There are some really good high school coaches out there. They’re good guys. They’re working hard. Club players know how to play. They know what to work on. Having a different coach for a few months is just fine. It’s beneficial most of the time, in fact.

SN: Do you have good relationships with local high school coaches?
WB: I know all of those guys. I watch the games to see how my boys are doing. It’s my “time off,” but in a way it’s my busiest time because I’m going to three, four, five games a week. It’s busy, but it’s so fun, too. I talk to all of those coaches to see how my boys are doing through the season, too.

“Honestly, if they backslide a little, I’m fine with it.”

SN: Do you feel confident that your players are still training at a level so that they won’t “back slide” when they come back to club soccer?
WB: High school season is a chance to breathe a little. It’s time to enjoy it. Enjoy your friends. Honestly, if they backslide a little, I’m fine with it.

SN: Really? That’s one of the main arguments against letting kids play high school soccer — that the quality of their soccer will suffer during those months.
WB: I expect it, and I’m fine with it. First off all, their fitness is not going to suffer. They’re still going to get the fitness training they need. Maybe the sharpness of passing and quick decisions will slow down a little during high school, sure. You just retrain the brain once you get back to your club to get back to your quickness. It doesn’t take long.

“If they come back to club on Monday, by Thursday, they’re back to top shape.”

SN: When your players come back to club after high school, how long does it take them to get back to where they were before?
WB: First of all, let’s talk about what happens when they come back from high school. When my players all come back to club, they’re all so happy to see each other. It’s worth it. 100%. They never would feel that joy if they hadn’t gotten that break. Yeah, they lost a little speed. Their passing may not be as sharp on day one back from high school. Decision making needs to get back up to speed. These athletes have been been playing long enough. It all comes back so quickly. If they come back to club on Monday, by Thursday, they’re back to top shape.

“Everyone needs to take a break every now and then.”

SN: Does that mental break help athletes overall?
WB: Absolutely. When you’re under pressure, that’s when you’re at your best. The Elite players look forward to the big game. The best players enjoy it and rise to the pressure. But everyone needs to take a break every now and then. You can’t keep up that pressure 52 weeks a year. When the DA takes a break, they don’t play at all. When my kids take a break, they’re still getting to play soccer. And they’re playing with their friends, against their friends, and they’re representing their schools and communities.

WB: I can’t explain how important high school soccer is for players. Relax. Be yourself. Enjoy the game. Enjoy your community. It’s great for the players. It’s great for the parents. Let them breathe. Every player needs time to breathe. Have some enjoyment. 

“High school soccer makes kids better players in a way that just club soccer can’t do.”

SN: Abby Wambach is a big proponent of high school soccer. She explained to me that high school soccer helped her play for something bigger than herself.
WB: Yes. Exactly. Kids need that feeling of community. Again, it’s not just about being the best player and getting that one spot on an MLS team. It’s teaching kids to be a part of a community. High school soccer makes kids better players in a way that just club soccer can’t do. DA is a great choice for some players for sure. There’s no choice that’s perfect for every soccer player. For Sharks players, we love giving players and families the chance to play for their high schools.

SN: Thank you, coach, for your insight. And best of luck this season!
WB: No problem. Any time.

From everyone at SoccerNation, best of luck to the Sharks this season, and good luck at your high school tryouts next month!