Montclair Soccer Club
Agreed with the recommendations to do whichever friends play in, since that (and carpools!) are important. That said, we were very underwhelmed by Montclair U8 rec soccer. The coach was committed but very unsupported, and the whole league felt somewhat disorganized. There was definitely no professional coaching support for the rec teams last fall, at least at the U8 level. I am sure that the experience is somewhat coach-dependent, but we honestly felt our child got more out of Soccer Shots. I appreciate that it is volunteer-run, but so is NOLL/SOLL, which was a dramatically different experience at similar levels. I have heard that Montclair gets more structured at the competitive levels, so maybe it's better then, but we are going to try another league for rec soccer next fall.
Ask about where their friends play. If you are looking for “organized playdate” sports, you want to keep it FUN. Montclair does FANTASTIC rec soccer, and that would be my recommendation. Look at the websites, and see where the teams practice. That will make a difference- carpooling may be key.
I have been a rec soccer coach in both Montclair and EBU, and I can tell you they are very, very similar - virtually identical in many ways except for the locations of the practice fields. (Montclair is centered around Montclair, of course. And EBU is more centered around North Oakland.) I'm currently with EBU and can share more about that. If your son is 8 right now, I'm guessing he'll be in 3rd grade in the fall, which would place him in the U10 age group. U10 rec games are kind of all over the place - mostly in Alameda, but also throughout Oakland. Most U10 rec teams in EBU have their weekday practices at Bushrod Park in Oakland. For all age groups, fall season games typically start the last weekend in August and run for 10 weeks through early November. For rec teams, there is one weekday practice per week, and practices start in mid-August. They generally try to form teams with groups of kids who attend the same schools (makes carpooling easier + more fun for the kids to play with their buddies.) The cost to play fall soccer also automatically includes the spring soccer season, which usually goes for 8 weeks in April/May and only includes games but not the weekday practice.
The huge downside to all of this is that they don't get the schedules sorted out until a week or two before the season starts. This has to do with securing access to playing fields. So as coaches, we put in a list of requested locations and days/times for our weekly practices, but we don't find out until right before the season starts. Same thing with games. If you are a family with a ton of other activities and a tightly controlled schedule, this will drive you crazy and/or be a total waste of your money.
Coaching of rec teams is all done by parent volunteers. So I have seen some really accomplished/wonderful coaches and some who are really just kid-minders. It really varies widely. Both Montclair and EBU offer clinics and the like for parent volunteer coaches who want to get better at coaching. And back when I coached for Montclair, they actually sent professional coaches around to rec teams' practices to help out. (So maybe 3 out of 10 practices a season, you'd have a pro coach there helping out, teaching new skills, etc.) That was really nice. (Also like 5 years ago, so I'm not sure they still do that.)
Honestly, I'd make your choice based on which club other kids at your son's school play with. It will make all your lives easier in the long run. Good luck with whatever you decide!
Archived Q&A and Reviews
Bay Oaks vs. Montclair Clippers Soccer Teams
Our 8 year old boy will be trying out for a competitive soccer team. We're ambivalent about the cost and time commitment. He wants to play on a competitive team. We would like him to be challenged, as he's getting the idea on his rec team that he can be one of the better players without practicing or much effort.
We'd appreciate any insight on Bay Oaks and the Montclair Clippers: location of practices and games, real costs (Bay Oaks site says $825, $137 uniform, additional costs for end of year party, registration for jamborees and play dates; Clippers has different costs for team w/ professional coach (do you get assigned or can you choose?), $95 uniform). Both have summer camps, but Bay Oaks appear to be half days while Clippers are full-day. (We work, so 1/2 day's not practical, how much does it matter if he doesn't go to the club's summer camp?). Volunteer requirements. Do team parents tend to carpool to games and practices, to alleviate some of the time demands, or do parents want to watch their kids?
Anyway, we'd like to do this without it taking over our lives (too much). Is one or the other of these clubs more likely to do that? Thank you, BPNers
My son has participated in Bay Oaks for one year, after playing rec for 4.5 years. Overall, I am very pleased with the program. I thought we only (only!) paid about $700 for the year, but maybe that is the difference between state and regional levels. Yes, the uniform is pricey, as is paying for tournaments (State Cup is $800+ for team, if I remember correctly, so per player it's not too prohibitive). I think my son's coaches are terrific--low-key and supportive, but I think they are making the boys be better players. There is a big time commitment--2 practices a week, 1.5 hours each time. They've been at different places in Alameda. Home games are at Alameda Point. Yes, parents do watch the games, bring snacks, etc. I think many of the boys on our team have worked out carpools, including us. I know other families who are very happy with the Clippers also, but I don't know anything about them.
If you sign up for one session by a certain date, a second session is free. So we paid for the morning session and got the afternoon session for free--thus we had full-day camp (this is Bay Oaks I'm referring to).
The answer will vary from year-to-year and team-to-team as each club will generally field multiple teams at each age group depending on the turnout at tryouts. There are generally more teams at the younger age groups and fewer at the older age groups as kids drop various sports due to the time commitments.
Both Clubs at this time play in the NorCal League for competitive with a few teams playing in ECNL and the Jack London Youth League for Rec. Depending on skill level of the teams the clubs will determine whether the teams will play at the National Premier (NPL), State or Regional levels in the NorCal. NPL teams generally require the greatest time commitment and travel. Generally, 3 practices per week, year round play 4-6 tournaments. travel can be as far as Fresno. NPL doesn't start until they are older, i.e,. under 14s. State Level teams generally practice 2 times per week, play Fall and Spring with 3-4 tournaments. Teams are generally within a one and 1/2 hour drive. Regional teams practice 2 times per week, play Fall and sometimes Spring with 2-3 tournaments.
Teams are generally within a one hour drive if not shorter. These are ball parks and will vary depending on the opponents that are flighted with your team. Your child will be placed on teams based on his/her performance at tryouts. You can always opt to play in a lower flight team if one exist.
For your specific questions:
- We'd appreciate any insight on Bay Oaks and the Montclair Clippers: location of practices and games:
From my recollection Bay Oaks uses Alameda fields, specifically Point fields for practices. They have at times also used Raimondi Field in Oakland. Montclair has a variety of fields in Oakland. Practices have been generally held at Merritt College, King Estates MS or Shepherds Canyon.
- Real costs (Bay Oaks site says $825, $137 uniform, additional costs for end of year party, registration for jamborees and play dates)
It will vary by club, team and number of jamborees. You could approximate $30 per player per jamboree.
- Clippers has different costs for team w/ professional coach (do you get assigned or can you choose?), $95 uniform).
Depends on the team your child is selected for. More of a team decision to go with a volunteer or professional coach. Per above you can always to choose to play for a less competitive, generally less expensive team if one is fielded at that age group.
- Both have summer camps, but Bay Oaks appear to be half days while Clippers are full-day. (We work, so 1/2 day's not practical, how much does it matter if he doesn't go to the club's summer camp?)
It is generally recommended that players attend the summer camps with their teams. For Montclair Competitive teams at least one summer camp is included with the player fee.
- Volunteer requirements.
Yes! Generally fairly minimal... but HELP is required to keep the clubs and games going for all the kids who want to play!
- Do team parents tend to carpool to games and practices, to alleviate some of the time demands, or do parents want to watch their kids?
Depends on the team and parents.
With all of this being said, your best bet for a great soccer experience is to take your son to multiple club tryouts. Check out the coaches, families and other players. See if you player fits with the coaches plan and philosophy. It makes a difference. Long time soccer mom, both Bay Oaks and Clippers
Re: Soccer for a 5 year old
Montclair Soccer (and I think the other Jack London Soccer leagues -- Rockridge, West Oakland, Piedmont, etc.) offers low-key Spring Soccer starting in March (registering now), including for U6 (5yo) players. My 5yo played U6 soccer last fall and had a great time. There's more info here: https://montclairsoccer.pbwiki.com/Spring-Soccer, and the main Jack London site is http://www.jlysl.org/ Soccer Mom