My 10-year-old son asked me recently why I didn’t get him involved in soccer until he was 7. I said, “I had no idea what the good programs were until I got to know your little sister’s BFF’s mom. She told me where to start. And since I didn’t meet her until you were 7, that’s why your early years were woefully lacking in soccer.” He was not appeased. So, to save you from your son or daughter resentfully asking why you didn’t sign them up for soccer sooner, here’s the scoop on soccer programs in the Iowa City area.
Program Type: Recreational
Seasons: Fall, Spring, Summer
Cost: $40 for Coralville residents, $50 for non-Coralville residents
The City of Coralville teams up with Iowa City Alliance to offer a fun recreational soccer program that is run through a combination of parent and professional coaching. Seasons last six weeks, with 45-minute sessions that have skill building games run by Alliance staff and 3v3 games coached by parents. Our kids enjoyed this low-key program, and it’s a lot of fun watching preschoolers try to figure out which goal they are supposed to try to score on–or even which field they should keep their ball on!
Program Type: Recreational
This is a skills building program for preschoolers. It is very convenient as they come to many area daycares, and the Iowa City Department of Recreation offers a program in partnership with Soccer Shots for preschoolers ages 2-4. One local mom comments, “I thought it was nice and positive and taught teamwork which I think lack overall in organized sports, just teaching kids how to cheer on others and be supportive when they fail.”
Ages: Kindergarten through Adult
Program Type: Recreational
Seasons: Fall and Spring
Cost: $50-70 per season, discounts for playing two seasons with the same team
My favorite “starter” program for soccer is Iowa City Kickers. They group children by grade and school, so they are likely to be playing with kids that they know from school and to make new friends from the grade above or below them. It is parent coached. That means it varies a lot in intensity based on the coach and their level of skill and interest in coaching. For our family, it was a great, low-key way to introduce our kids to the sport. And, as our kids have gotten older, it’s remained a fun way to play with friends without us as parents feeling the need to commit large amounts of time or money to year-round competitive leagues.
Why Kickers Is This Mom’s Favorite Recreational Soccer Program: It’s affordable! You really can’t beat the price. And, our kids have loved that they group the kids by school. They are always playing with their friends, and when you are watching on the sidelines on a cold, rainy day, at least you are hanging out with other moms and dads you already know.
Program Type: Competitive
Seasons: Fall, Winter, or Spring
Cost: $400 per season, discounts for playing multiple seasons. Scholarships are available.
This is a competitive league for age 7-18 with some travel throughout the region. Since my kids haven’t done this program, I asked the coordinator to tell me a little about it. He says, “Alliance Soccer Club strives to provide the youth in Iowa City with a competitive, valuable, and empowering learning environment. Alliance has quality soccer coaches that devote both time and effort toward getting to know each and every player at a personal and developmental level. This allows our coaches to identify players’ strengths, as well as areas of growth. At Alliance, we have a belief in creating a fun atmosphere while maintaining a focus around individual and team development.”
Ages: 4 through Adult
Program Type: Recreational or Competitive
Seasons: Year Round for competitive leagues, Fall/Winter/Spring enrollment for Beginning/Intermediate Levels
Cost: $110 for Academy 10-week session, $125 for Lightning 10-week session, $1165 for Year-Round Programs. Scholarships are available.
My favorite program for more advanced or professional soccer training is Iowa Soccer Club, often called ISC. They have several levels of play. Their Academy program offers 4-6 year olds one night per week of professional coaching from soccer experts. That gets young kids off to a good start in soccer with fun skills games and scrimmages. Their Lightning program for 7-10 year olds offers excellent skills development for a child who is starting to get serious about soccer, but it still only requires a one night per week commitment. Ages 10+ can also participate in a Practice Only Program or Practice Only Plus Indoor, which includes an indoor league during the winter.
What ISC is probably best known for is their competitive leagues for ages 7-18. This level of play requires a year-round commitment, with practices ranging from one to three times a week depending on the time of year. Some tournaments are local while some require travel within a few hours of Iowa City.
Why ISC Is This Mom’s Favorite Competitive Program: Their professional coaches are fantastic! While my husband and all the moms and dads we’ve worked with in parent coached programs were great, nothing beats people who know soccer like it’s their job–because it is their job! The level of skills development we’ve seen at ISC has been tremendous compared to what our kids have learned in other programs. It is also the single most organized extracurricular program that my kids have ever been involved in. The director gives fantastic and frequent communication to parents.
Have I missed your favorite soccer program? Add it in the comments!