An Introduction to the NASA Soccer Program

If your family is new to this arena, you are going to find a number of options available to you through our club. The NASA program is designed to provide families with a soccer playing opportunity that is a challenging part of a well-rounded childhood. 

NASA is first and foremost intent on maximizing the amount fun children have while actually playing soccer. Our goal is to reduce the likelihood of early burnout and overuse injuries, while improving overall skills and developing smarter, more creative players. 

We accomplish this by conducting ourselves as a strictly recreational soccer organization that is not limited to playing only in recreational leagues. As such, the board has never authorized tryouts, and the rules regarding minimum player time are strictly enforced at all levels. The coaches are licensed and held to professional standards, but are unpaid volunteers (with the limited exception of the Rec+ program). 

Parent Volunteers who respect players at every level of the game are the core of the NASA program. NASA is a recognized Partner at public and private schools in North Austin and has been nominated for  AISD Partner of the Year  and  Project of the Year STYSA Volunteer of the Year  and  Coach of the Year  Awards have been earned by the organization.

NASA is a member of, and abides by the rules of the Capitol Area Youth Soccer Association (CAYSA), in the Western District of the South Texas Youth Soccer Association (STYSA) of United States Youth Soccer (USYS) of the United States Soccer Federation (USSF).

Players are first grouped based on the age of the players on December 31st of each year. Instead of referring to the 7-year olds or the 10-year olds, the U.S. soccer convention is to refer to the Under-8 or Under-11 year olds, or the U8s and U11s. It can get confusing at first, because at some point during the fall and spring season, the Under-8s will have their 8th birthday. NASA rosters teams all the way through the U19 age group.

Soccer is the most popular sport on Earth with a history dating back to the ancient Persians. Shortly after his ascension in 1154, Henry II of England banned the game because it was interfering with archery practice. This is about the earliest written record we have of the game.

Although widespread popularity of the game is moderately new to the United States, soccer is by far the most popular sport for the rest of the world, with the 1998 World Cup final game boasting a worldwide television audience approaching an estimated 2.7 billion people.

NASA Playing Options

Division IV (In-House Recreational U5-U10)

Under-05 through Under-10 is designated as Division IV. Starting at four (4) years of age, players (boys and girls) are placed on teams and develop beginning to intermediate technique in “small-sided” games. The team's field 3, 6, or 7 players on a side depending on the age bracket, and most play is against NASA teams. Starting at Under-9, teams may begin to play other teams in the greater Capitol Area Youth Soccer Association (CAYSA).

NASA pioneered the “small-sided” format in 1996, because it gives each player a better chance at playing the ball and provides a simpler game, which younger players can more easily grasp. The basic skills and tactics remain the same even when the players graduate into upper levels.

Teams in these age ranges are required by the higher soccer powers to be recreational. Any child registering who is under the age of ten (10) is placed on a team, and the teams are formed with the intent of balancing the average experience level of each team so that there are no “killer teams”. There are no “try-outs” or "player evaluations," and coaches do not participate in the formation of their teams.

There is usually one game and one practice of an forty five minutes to an hour and a half a week, depending on the age and team preferences. 


Division III (Recreational U11-19)

Under-11 through Under-19 is designated as Division III and is designed for 10 year olds and older players to develop beginning to advanced techniques, and also for the child who is entering the sport late. Often, these players are starters on their school soccer teams but also have interest in other activity such as cheerleading, volleyball, band, football, or baseball. Teams typically practice once or twice a week, play a weekend game and may attend a tournament or two. Most play is inter-league against other registered CAYSA Division III teams. Some NASA Division III teams enter Division II competitions such as the Spring South Texas Cup. Any Division III team that wins the Fall CAYSA Tournament must advance to Division II, assuming that a majority of the players return.

Team formation policies are the same as Division IV with all applicants assigned without try-outs.

Volunteers with advanced licensing provide coaching. Because of the wide range of skill levels present on a single team, coaches are often not able to concentrate on individual skill development, and those players wishing to upgrade their playing level will find the optional skills/development sessions necessary.


Division II, Super II and Division  I (U12-19)

The Division II bracket is the entry level for teams that have had tryouts and rostered players based on their skill. The competition can be a little more intense, and Division II teams typically practice two or more times a week and play inter-league against other registered CAYSA Division II teams.

In general, NASA does not encourage Division II play, however, it will be considered on a case-by-case basis. NASA  highly recommends  that a team requesting to play in Division II should have played at least two (2) season as a Division III team. NASA does not allow U11 teams to play in Division II.

One of several goals of the policy is to make sure that our families are aware of the options available and restrictions that arise or continue after such a move. For example, many believe that moving to a higher division of play will allow coaches to set aside the requirement that all players get at least 50% playing time. But that is not the case for any Division II or Super II teams playing in CAYSA or STYSA, and NASA enforces the minimum of 50% play rule for all levels.

Another misconception stems from the lack of understanding of the options available to a Division III team during the spring season. They actually have more choices, venues and competitive opportunities than the Division II teams, since they can choose to play in the CAYSA Cup with other Division III teams, the South Texas Cup with the Division II teams, the South Texas Directors Cup with the Super II teams, or even the Presidents Cup with the Division I teams, all while registered as a Division III team. 

A Division II higher team or player does not have the option to step back down in the spring, regardless of how bad a fall season went, without getting a review and rare exception from the state. Meanwhile, a Division III team can to play in a non-recreational cup: their club, league and tournament fees are all lower, while they get to wear the exact same uniform to play the exact same schedule against the exact same D2/S2/D1 teams that they would play if they chose to pay more for the benefit of the label of a higher division number.

If a Division II or higher team is accepted for play under NASA, the following guidelines will apply:

  • Team must provide their own certified coaches and trainers, subject to board approval
  • Minimum certification is a STYSA U-12 module or NSCAA State Diploma then an E License or NSCAA Regional Diploma for the older age groups
  • The Manager must meet all NASA/CAYSA/STYSA deadlines and filing requirements
  • The Coach or Manager must attend the NASA/CAYSA/STYSA required meetings
  • Team must wear NASA approved uniforms
  • The team may attend any free clinic or free training session provided by NASA for NASA Division III teams
  • There can be no more than two (2) practices per week (in addition to any clinics offered by NASA)
  • The team must schedule practice and game fields via the ASDG/NASA Field Scheduler
  • The team must abide by all NASA policies regarding field (both match and training) usage
  • The NASA Director of Coaching (or board designate) may attend or participate in the team meetings, training sessions or games at his or her sole discretion
NASA has frequently had teams that were forced into a promotion to a higher division based on their on the field performance. Our goal is to support this success, while maintaining our recreational ruleset. 

NASA has fewer teams in the older age groups, and fewer options for player placement. New players are welcome at all ages, and when space is available, players will be placed on teams. 

Other Upper Division Playing Options

There is typically an assumption that Division II and higher teams are "select teams." NASA is committed to recreational soccer and the club has deliberately avoided adopting a select model. NASA has been very successful at developing entire teams upward through the higher divisions, as opposed to separating the players annually and creating new teams. When space is available on one of our team rosters, any player who applies is welcome, and no player will be cut to make space for a new recruit. 

However, when a child reaches the age of ten (U11), they may decide to try out for a team in a another soccer organization that is "select." These are also sometimes referred to as "competitive" or "travel" teams, but our "recreational" teams are competitive in the most sporting sense, and travel based on their level of play. Some even travel nationally.

It should be noted that "it is the recommendation of US Youth Soccer that tryouts where cuts occur not take place until 13 years of age." That is, not until U14!

Try-out sessions are held in the late spring for players wishing to register with select team for the following fall season. Placement is based on the player's demonstrated abilities, development potential, and the number of available positions on the team. Players are usually chosen by a coaching committee and placed on team divisions according to skill level. Minimum playing time is not always guaranteed. Coaches are usually paid, and as a result, often feel (and are) evaluated based on win/loss performance. A higher level of commitment is demanded of parents of these players because of the increased costs and frequent travel requirements. All of these pressures can result in a greater emphasis placed on winning at the cost of both player development and enjoyment of the game. 

NASA teams have proven year after year that a selection process is not necessary for player and team success at the higher competitive levels against teams from select organizations, and that it is a lot more fun to do it that way. But, we do encourage everyone to be aware of the alternatives available at other organizations. There are many such options in the Austin area, but NASA has maintained a relationship with the River City Rangers for over 20 years.


O.D.P. (Olympic Development Program)

Late in the fall season, players age 14 and above are eligible for nomination to state and area O.D.P. teams. These teams gather the very best players for additional training and selection for a player pool from which will eventually be selected our National Team. Try-outs are by invitation only, and players selected have the opportunity to play in national and international competitions.

Comparison of Programs For Under-11 (10 year-olds) and Older


Div III
U11 and older
Div II/Super II
U12 and older
 
 Div I
U12 and older
 
Practices per Week
1 or 2
2
 2-3
Games per Week
1
1 or 2
 1 or 2
Opposing Teams
8 to 9
10 to 12
 6
Licensed Coach
Yes
Yes
 Yes
Professional Coach
No
No
 No
Tournaments per Season
0 to 1
1 to 2
 2 to 4
Basic  Fees per Year (Fall & Spr)
$360
$420 / $500
 $600
Additional Fees and Tournament Expenses
$0 to $50
$40 to $100
 $40-$100
Level of Family Commitment
Variable
Moderate
 High
Precludes Other Sports/Activities 
No
No
 Likely

All Teams Play the regular season games in CAYSA: Austin, Bastrop, Copperas Cove, Dripping Springs, Georgetown, Marble Falls, Pflugerville, Round Rock, San Marcos, Temple, and other associations in the greater capitol area.


Adult Opportunities

NASA provides pick up playing opportunities for adults through the Austin Soccer Development Group. Competition levels range from novice to advanced at any age.

NASA coaches, parents and friends are invited to join weekly adult soccer fundraising games throughout the year. These games provide adult players the opportunity to join in a 'pick-up' format with no long term team commitments.  Players donate $10 each time they play. Teams are coed, mixing accomplished players with novices under guidelines that allow first time players to quickly enjoy the game. These games are lots of fun for players and spectators, and embody the best of what soccer can be.  Game times and locations are posted on the NASA calendar.


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