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Great Falls Reston

soccer club


This guide was developed to assist parents by answering some of the more common questions concerning travel soccer programs available through Great Falls Reston Soccer Club (GFR).  This Guide attempts to cover the more common questions, but if you have questions that are unanswered here, please take the time to contact the Technical Director or the Travel Administrator. This guide has been developed primarily for the families of younger players and for those new to the world of travel soccer. There are a few questions at the end of the document that may pertain more to the older players as well as a list of references for more information. 

What is travel soccer?

Travel soccer is a sponsored division of GFR, intended for the players that demonstrate both the interest and ability to play at a level in the top bracket of their age group; or demonstrate the potential to play at the top level of their age group. It should be recognized that being a top player at age 8 will not guarantee that a player will be a top player in the teen years; soccer players are born varying levels of talent, but all soccer players must develop their skills and techniques through proper age-appropriate instruction and consistent commitment in training. In the same way, some players may not have the skill to make a travel team at age 9, but might be top players in their teens.

It is the desire of GFR to provide the opportunity within the greater Great Falls/Reston area for players at all levels of ability – and provide a roadmap to assist players in developing technical skills to ensure they can achieve their goals relative to soccer. Travel soccer provides a highly competitive training and playing environment for those players (and their families) that have the interest, athletic ability, soccer skills, commitment, and can meet the other demands placed upon them. Having said this, there is still a very broad range of skill levels and commitment requirements between a top Division team in a premier league, and a lower Division team in a competitive league. An extremely skilled player may decide the right environment is a lower Division team rather than the top Division team, just so that skilled athlete can also play another sport; or play with close friends. Those choices usually come as a player advances in his/her soccer career – not at the earliest age groups.
How does travel soccer differ from the regular House or Recreational soccer league?

Travel soccer travel teams are more competitive. There is, however, less emphasis on game results (more emphasis on individual player development) at the earliest age groups (U9 and U10) before true division structures are implemented, but the travel environment is still more competitive than most House or Recreational soccer programs. Therefore, making the roster, and staying on the roster, must be earned based on the team member’s skills, commitment, potential, and developmental progress. In the House or Recreation soccer leagues, all players are placed on a team roster regardless of playing ability. Recreational soccer also has unique requirements to encourage participation by players of all ability levels – so equal playing time by all players is the mandate. In addition, most House or Recreational teams are coached by volunteer parent coaches who may or may not have played soccer, whereas Travel teams are coached by professional soccer coaches who have coaching licenses and personal playing experience.  Travel soccer playing time is based on the team’s needs as well as the individual’s ability to competently display his/her abilities and is at the coach’s discretion.
During fall and spring seasons, most GFR travel teams (U9-U12) practice twice a week, and have the opportunity to participate in Academy training on a third night. There is generally a game every weekend; and 2-4 tournaments per year, depending on the decisions made by the team, and on the team’s competitive goals. Most travel teams practice 8-10 months a year – winter and summer are often only once a week, but this is beyond the level expected by any recreational team.
Finally, in the House league, most games will be played close to home. Players under 11 will play other teams of GFR House players; after that, they will play in the Suburban Friendship League – a league designed for the Recreational player to have a chance to play neighboring teams with similar skill levels. Travel soccer does require more “travel” than a house league. Generally, half the games will be home games – so will be played on local fields. At the younger age groups, it is rare to travel more than 60 minutes to a game, but this depends entirely on the allocation of teams into pre-Division structures. As the age group matures, the competitive levels determine positioning. As a result, a team may travel to Baltimore, West Virginia, Stafford, or Front Royal for a game – but again, this is likely to be only one or two games in a season.
How does the GFR travel soccer program work?
GFR sponsors travel teams in each age and gender bracket, beginning at the U9 age group.  At the U9 and U10 age groups, a pool of players in each gender group will practice together; they will be formed into team units, but there may be frequent movement between those teams during the first few seasons of play as the mix of players is adjusted.  All travel teams have the same fundamental mission for the players – to create a meaningful, fun and positive experience; to develop soccer skills, and to teach the lessons associated with team play.
As teams mature, they will generally fall into their own competitive positioning within a league that is right for that team. For the most part, there is likely to be an Elite (NPL - starting at U11) team, a second, and even a third and fourth team in an age group that might play in lower Divisions. The Coaches of those teams, along with the Travel Team Director, will continue to work together, as in earlier years, to assure appropriate movement of players between the teams, and make adjustments as team placement and mix changes. It is extraordinarily rare for a team to be formed at U9 and stay as a unit all the way to U19 – the average travel team has 3 player changes each year. Historically, GFR division placements and league participation have varied dramatically by age group. Some age groups have had Division 1 NCSL teams, followed closely by Division 2 teams, with a 3rd team playing in Division 1 of ODSL. Other years GRFL has had one team in Division 3 or 4, and struggled to field a second team. 
It also is not necessarily true that all the top players will play on the Elite team – sometimes skilled players do not want the pressure of an NPL team or a Division 1 NCSL team and may prefer the fun and neighborhood feel of a lower division team. A developing player may do far better on a Division 3 or 4 team, where they are able to get significant play time and experience, rather than sitting on the bench watching their Division 1 team play. In that environment, they have the opportunity to be a leader and gain often needed self-confidence along with the added play time. Again, the goal of GFR is to provide a wide range of opportunities to keep kids playing on GFR teams – from Recreational soccer to highly competitive Elite teams. A variety of options and alternatives to select from according to skill, interest, development needs, and goals – all which may change over time as the players and teams evolve. The Coaches, the Technical Director, and staff are there to assist families and players in selecting the right team and environment that will mean success for your player.
How does competition affect the travel soccer program?
At the current time, GFR travel teams play in several travel leagues: the National Capital Soccer League (NCSL), ECNL-RL (for U11 and older) and EDP -  for boys and girls ages U9 through U19. The youngest age groups (U9 &10) are grouped in a pre-Division structure (colors or letters). These pre-Division structures are changed every season to allow teams to play a variety of teams. Scores are not reported, and teams are encouraged to use these years as developmental years, with more equal play time between players and more movement of players between positions. Play is “small-sided” and on the smaller sized fields. This currently changes at U11, but this may continue to be modified depending upon league decisions regarding the VYSA small-sided play recommendations.
Around U11 (this varies by league) teams are assigned to particular divisions based upon their level of play. Division 1 in each league is the Premier division for that league. There are generally 10 teams in each Division. The number of Divisions in each age group varies substantially by league and by age group. It is best to visit the league websites for more information regarding Division structures if more information on this subject is desired. Each season teams are placed in a higher or lower division based upon their win/loss record. Generally, the top two teams in a division are moved up a division and the bottom two or three are moved down a division. For this reason and others, travel soccer play inevitably becomes quite competitive. It is also this structure, and the evolutionary process of the structure, which causes frequent movement of players between teams.
In general, the NCSL is regarded as the more competitive league and the ODSL, while still extremely competitive, might be comprised of fewer premier teams than in their counterpart leagues. However, this is a very subjective and debatable topic, which varies dramatically by age group, by year, and almost by day. In reality, during tournaments, ODSL teams easily and frequently defeat NCSL teams; and a Division 3 or 4 team might readily defeat a Division 1 or 2 team.
While age alone is not a limitation in making a team, in general, the competitive nature of travel soccer and the necessity of a team’s rigorous ongoing training may make it increasingly difficult as players get older to make a team if the player has no previous travel experience. This is particularly important to understand when trying out for teams in NCSL upper division level teams.
It is not skill level alone that is a determining factor in the evolution of a soccer “career” (our hope, of course, is that players will play from U6 to U19 at minimum)! There are many players on Division 3, 4 or 5 teams that are capable of playing on a Division 1 team – but don’t want the pressure, the impact on other sports or interests, etc. that playing on a Division 1 team might require.
How old must my player be to play travel soccer?
Early each summer, GFR forms its new travel teams which begin playing the following fall.  The age guidelines for the 2019/2020 soccer year are as follows:

 Birth Year 2016 201520142013201220112010200920082007/06
 Travel Team U9 U10U11U12U13U14U15U16U17U18/19

Can my player play “up” an age group or “down” an age group with friends?
None of the leagues, or VYSA rules, allow a child to play “down” an age group in travel soccer. The age group of the team is determined by the age of the oldest player on the team. In some situations, players may be allowed to play “up”. The main consideration for playing up is whether the player is able to play at the same competitive level as the other players on the team.  Final approval for any playups will be given by the GFR Technical Director.   
How does my child get on a travel team?
Players must attend “tryouts” in order to join a travel team. The first step of the tryout process is to register your child for Travel Tryouts on our website (  Tryout registration is FREE and normally opens in April.  The tryout sessions take place in May or June for each age group.
At the annual tryouts, all players currently rostered on a team must also tryout again (though the tryout may be different for current players than for the new players to enable the coach and trainer to clearly see new players). Many teams, however, may have additional tryouts at other times during the year. The tryout may simply consist of inviting a player to play as a guest at a tournament, or to practice with the team (players may not play in league games unless officially rostered to a team). Once a player makes a soccer team, the player is on that team for the “soccer year” which in practice generally runs from the period following June tryouts through June of the following year.  A player may elect to transfer to another team between fall and spring seasons, but as stated earlier, most movement occurs after end of the spring season. 
If my player was invited to participate in a special training program, is he guaranteed a slot on the travel team?
No. There is no training available that will guarantee a slot on a travel team. Participating in the Pre-Travel Academy, winter training and conditioning, spring break and summer camps, extra coaching – all will help a player develop new skills and improve technique. Developmental training is an excellent idea if it is what your player wants to do – and if it is fun and challenging. However, there is not any program offered in which participation will guarantee a slot on a travel team. It is not possible to anticipate what players will come to the tryouts for any travel team. An outstanding player may relocate into our area, bringing tremendous skills. The decision regarding who makes the team will be made at/after the tryouts. 
When and where are tryouts?
GFR requires that all its soccer teams hold open tryouts every year, generally in May or early June and often during the last few practices of the spring season. Tryouts are held at local fields – the same fields where GFR travel and house teams practice and play. Tryouts typically consist of 2-3 or more practice sessions to evaluate your player’s athletic ability, skills, and interest. After the tryouts, an offer may or may not be extended to your child. Alternatively, after the first tryout, the coach may ask your child to return for additional tryouts or suggest that the team is not a good fit for your player.
How do I find out about a tryout?
All tryouts for GFR teams will be posted on the GFR soccer website –  Messages announcing tryout registration will be sent via e-mail to all current GFR families. Newspaper advertisements, bulletin board notices, word of mouth and asking players to try out are common methods.
What can I expect at a tryout?
Players attend (a minimum of 2) tryout sessions, each lasting approximately 90 minutes.  Coaches will lead players through different drills, scrimmages and other activities to access skills on several levels.  Players should wear a white t-shirt (or current grey numbered practice jersey), bring a ball, water shin guards and cleats.
How are players notified after tryouts?

The first batch of invitations to join the team will normally be sent by e-mail after the second tryout. As only a few letters are sent at a time to ensure that teams are properly filled, a commitment to join the team is required from the player/family within 48 hours.  If you have not received notification within one week of the final tryout date for your child’s age group, please contact the Technical Director. 
What happens after my child is invited to a travel team?
Players will accept a place on the travel team by finalizing the offer through the GFR website.  Travel soccer is a year-long commitment, so payment for the entire year will be required.  Several installment payment plans are available.
How much does travel soccer cost?

There is no getting around the fact that travel sports  – in any community – are expensive. Participation on a GFR travel team is expensive (compared to the House or Recreational leagues), but is well within or less than what is paid in other communities.  Most travel team parents should expect to pay between $2,350 and $2,500 annually, plus the cost of uniforms.  Financial assistance is available to families who qualify (see information on Financial Assistance).  
What other formalities will I need to complete?
Parents will need to submit proof of the player’s birthdate as well as a photo (headshot) and a medical waiver.  
Are Great Falls and Reston residents given priority over players from neighboring communities?
There are no residency requirements for GFR travel teams. We encourage players from all surrounding communities to try out for GFR travel teams. 
What uniforms do travel teams wear?

All GFR travel teams are required to adhere to the uniform requirements and vendors specified by the club.  The required uniform kit includes Home/Away/Practice jersey, shorts and socks.  Warm-ups and a backpack are optional.  
Currently, adidas is the official sponsor and supplier of Great Falls travel uniforms. Our colors are Royal Blue and White.  
In which leagues do GFR travel teams play?

GFR currently plays in several leagues:  The ECNL-RL (VPSL) for top teams U11 through U19, National Capital Soccer League (NCSL) for U10 through U19 teams, and Eastern Development Program (EDP) for U11 through U19 teams. 
What type of training is provided?
The GFR travel teams are trained and coached by experienced individuals who are selected by the Technical Director.  A coach with the appropriate experience level will be assigned to each travel team.  
Coaches will work with teams twice a week (sometimes more often) during the soccer seasons (fall and spring).  The third night of Academy training (Fridays) is also provided to younger travel teams (U9 through U13), with emphasis on conditioning and on building technical skills. Participation in the Academy program is included in the annual travel fees and participation is strongly recommended.  Participation in a winter indoor (futsal) league; additional winter training; summer training and a one-week half-day summer soccer camp are often the norm for a travel soccer team, but the team Coach and the Technical Director will work together to make recommendations for the right approach for each team. 
When do travel soccer teams play their games?
Most GFR travel games are played on Sundays but there are some Saturday games. It is not uncommon to play games on both a Saturday and Sunday of the same weekend, especially if there have been weather delays due to closed fields. Occasionally, there may be a game on a weeknight based on weather cancellations at the end of the season. The fall season runs from early September to mid-November. The spring season runs from the end of March or early April until early to mid-June. The winter season (usually two sessions) generally will involve participation in an indoor league such as futsal, with games played on a Saturday or Sunday depending on age group.

Most teams also participate in tournaments. Tournaments consist of 3-4 games during a weekend. Generally, tournaments are held several weeks before the season begins (i.e. in August and March), after the season (November and June), and during breaks in the season such as the Columbus Day and Memorial Day weekends. Tournaments may be local (i.e. the Washington DC metro area) or elsewhere in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, etc. Top flight teams may travel to prestigious tournaments such as those in Texas, California, Florida, and other locales. The Technical Director and staff will provide a list of recommended tournaments each season (based on Division level and team goals), and teams may select up to 4 tournaments annually. If a team desires to play in more than four tournaments, they must work with the Technical Director to seek approval. Many Great Falls soccer travel teams at the U-12 and older ages also compete in State Cup events. These events may also require out of town travel.
How many players are on a team? 
Most of our U9/U10 teams will have 11-12 players; most of our older teams will have 15-16 players. However, this is an average, and teams of this size will have mandatory rules about participating in all games and practices. An older team may add additional players, but give players the flexibility of missing a game when another activity creates a conflict in the same time slot. These are the things to discuss with a Coach when considering playing for a team.
What volunteer positions are needed to support a team? 
Teams organize in a number of different ways, based on a structure that works and is comfortable for that team unit. Generally, there is a team manager who is the administrative lead for the team and often acts as the communication vehicle between the parents and the coach (for issues not specific to one player). The team manager generally handles most of the administrative details of the team such as roster preparation and changes, notices for new players and discussions with interested parents, communicating information and plans from the coach to the parents etc. The team manager position is the most time-consuming job on the team besides the coach. Teams which share the workload seem to be the most successful and stress-free, and there are logical positions to be filled.  There is an equipment person who initially orders and then brings the team equipment (team bench, tent and flags) to the games.  The team will need a uniform coordinator to ensure the uniform kit is ordered, distributed and then to handle replacements etc.  Many teams have an “activity” coordinator if the team plans to do a lot of events (DC United/Washington Spirit games, parties etc). It takes a great deal of time and energy to operate a travel team and requires significant help at times by all player families. Every family should look for a way to contribute to the team, and to ensure that jobs are changed frequently to prevent burnout.
What is the player’s time commitment?
Most GFR travel teams operate throughout the calendar year, including outdoor league play in the fall and spring, indoor play in the winter and camp and tournament play at various times throughout the summer. (High school age travel teams sometimes do not play in the spring when their high school squads are competing.)
Most GFR travel teams train twice a week for 60-90 minutes per session. The majority of teams participate in the third night of Academy training (Fridays). Including tournaments, most GFR travel teams play approximately 15-20 games each spring and fall season (this includes tournaments and scrimmages) and possibly 8-16 games during winter indoor league play (one session or both).

While most GFR travel teams, particularly younger teams, encourage their players to participate in other sports, travel teams also expect that team members will give preference to travel team games over conflicts with other sports. If your player is on one of the Elite teams, this is absolutely true. Some of the lower Division teams may make an exception to this rule, but it is best to understand the expectations of the Coach and other players before accepting a position on a team.
My child wants to play high school soccer. Will playing travel soccer help? 
Possibly, though there is no guarantee that your child will make his/her high school team. The fact that your child is participating in a higher level of play with more practices and games against better-skilled competition will improve their game and increase their chances of making their high school team. 
Where do travel soccer teams travel to for league play?
Locations for league games are generally within the area bounded by I-81 in western Virginia, Annapolis on the east, Baltimore on the north and Richmond on the south. Locations of games are ultimately determined by the league in which your team plays (NPL,  NCSL or ODSL) and the makeup of the teams in your division. At times, you may find that a game will be played in a close-by community or one that requires a 90-minute car ride. In general, at least half of your games will be played on your home field.
Is there any financial assistance available?
GFR makes every effort to ensure that all children in the Great Falls/Reston area who are accepted onto a travel team are able to participate without regard to financial considerations. If your son or daughter’s participation is jeopardized because of financial considerations, talk to your coach or the Travel Administrator about your situation.
What are the advantages of playing for a Great Falls travel team rather than for another club?
The most important objectives of GFR are to:
1) Maintain a safe, positive, fun and challenging soccer environment for all players; 
2) Develop and prepare players for the future – both on and off the field – by teaching soccer skills as well as important “life skills” including leadership, communication, character, teamwork, responsibility, time management, self-discipline, sportsmanship and respect for others. 
3) Engage high-quality coaches and trainers who provide the highest quality training and who motivate each player to work to his or her highest potential.  

For additional information, see our Why GFR Travel? Page.
How is the coach chosen?
All coaches must apply for a coaching position to the GFR Technical Director. The factors considered include the coach’s experience, temperament, and commitment. The GFR Technical Director selects all travel team coaches after a careful examination of the coach’s credentials. 

In addition to meeting all licensing requirements, participating in the Positive Coaching Alliance, all coaches must apply (and pass) the VYSA KIDSAFE program, which is designed to ensure Coaches (as well as all volunteers and GFSC Board members) do not have a criminal record that should prevent them from working with youth in our community.
What can parents expect from travel team coaches?
GFR travel team coaches must meet high standards for technical competence; knowledge of soccer rules and tactics; ability to work effectively and positively with travel team players; and the ability to interact effectively and positively with travel team parents, other coaches and club administrators. Travel team coaches are responsible for the selection of travel team members; for team training; for all on-field decisions; and for the overall conduct of the team on and off the soccer field. The travel team coach is the official representative of GFSC in dealing with players, parents, league officials, and the public.
Can my child be cut from the team?  
Yes, in rare circumstances a coach may decide that a player is no longer suited for a certain team. Skills develop at different rates in different players. The top players on the team this year may not be the best players next year. Additionally, a player’s goals and interests may change. Some players burn out easily, especially at younger ages – moving them to a less competitive environment for a season or two may help ensure they play soccer for many more years. The GFR Technical Director and Coaches are often better than parents at seeing indications of frustration and burnout. As parents, we may be frustrated or disappointed in a shift to a different team, but need to be cautious that that disappointment doesn’t lead to more pressure on our player. As a practical matter, this is almost always confined to June as the team’s roster is prepared for the upcoming fall and spring seasons and offers to join a team are for a full year (fall and spring seasons). If a team is moving up to a higher Division status, lower performing players may be moved to a less competitive team to add players that can help a team perform well in the higher Division. Likewise, if a team is dropping to a lower Division, it may lose some players to higher Division teams.
There are a number of reasons why it becomes necessary to move, or even cut, a player and the discretion belongs entirely to the coach and the GFR Technical Director. Experienced travel coaches know, however, that cutting a young person can be one of the most difficult things a player will face. Not surprisingly, parents can become very emotionally involved. The GFR Technical Director and the player’s coach will work together to give feedback to players regarding areas where improvement is needed. However, sometimes it is not clear what changes will be made until after the season concludes, and the next year’s Division structure can be anticipated. At that point, it may depend on what new players come to a team tryout before movement decisions can be finalized. When faced with a cut, the coach, and the Technical Director, will often try to talk a player, and the player’s parents, into moving to another team more correctly positioned for the players skill set. Experience shows that if the parents and child opt to move the player to another team, it frequently results in a very positive experience. Many GFR players have left teams, joined other teams where play time could be increased, improved, and rejoined the original team with a dramatic increase in skill level. Both the coach, and the GFR Technical Director believe that it is their responsibility to work with the player and the parents to try to find the player another, more suitable team. It is wise to work with them rather than fighting them on a decision which may benefit the player greatly over the long term.
What is the State Cup and what teams participate?
The Virginia Youth Soccer Association State Championships (or State Cup) is a state championship competition conducted annually by the Virginia Youth Soccer Association (VYSA) for boys and girls teams in the U12 through U19 age groups. It is a part of, and a qualifying event for, the US Youth Soccer Region I Championships and National Championships conducted by United States Youth Soccer (USYS). Winners of the VYSA Championships advance to the USYS Region I Championships, and in the U14 to U19 age groups, Region I winners advance to the United States Youth Soccer National Championships.  
As a sanctioned member of US Club Soccer, all our top teams starting at the U11 age group are automatically entered into the US Club Soccer Virginia State Cup Competition with the winners, and, in some cases, the second place teams in that competition moving on to represent the State of Virginia in a regional Competition, usually held in Massachusetts, and the winners and runners up of the Regional competition moving on to represent the region in the National Competition in Chicago or Colorado in late June or early July.
The Coach, GFR Travel Director, and team determine if teams will participate in State Cup competition. If so, league schedules are adjusted to enable play in both State Cup and league games. For details, see, under the State Cup tab.
Is GFR interested in accepting existing teams as transfers from other clubs? 
GFR’s philosophy is to provide as wide a range of travel team opportunities as possible to our community. Therefore, we are interested in discussing transfer opportunities with teams from outside of GFR, or in sharing a team with another local community when it makes sense to do so. While the criteria for such transfers are being developed, the overriding factors to be considered include:
-- The current team(s) in that age group and any resulting impact on them (house and travel).
-- The need to fill a gap for a deficient age group and gender.
-- The number (if any) of local Great Falls/Reston residents already on the team requesting the transfer.
-- The anticipated opportunity for GFR players to be added to the team.
-- The availability of resources, such as fields for practice and play, that a team may be able to bring with them.
-- The past history, if any, of that team with GFR.

For any additional information, please reach out to the Technical Director at [email protected] or the Travel Administrator at [email protected].

Recommended links for further information:
Great Falls Reston Soccer Club -
US Youth Soccer (USYS) –
Virginia Youth Soccer Association (VYSA) --
Virginia ECNL-RL -

Great Falls Reston Soccer Club PO Box 836 
Great Falls, Virginia 22066 Phone: 703-859-6267
Email: [email protected]


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