Retention Deficit - BC Soccer Shares 2018 Retention Survey Summary

BC Soccer conducts feedback outreach on recent trends in youth soccer registration.

February 21, 2019 Vancouver BC

It’s that time of year when many organizations around the province are in the process of registering players either for the first time or re-registering all the subsequent age groups. 

Within the last 10 years or so, national youth registration in soccer has been gradually trending downward particularly amongst females. This despite the fact, that Soccer is still the largest team sport in Canada by some margin. BC has weathered national registration trends before, but recently (the last two years), our Province has also experienced a registration decline. Other sports have not been immune from decreases either but getting to the bottom of why kids stay or leave the sport has, until now, been largely anecdotal speculation. 

The consequences of declining registration may extend beyond just the youth game.  Is it possible that lessening participation in youth soccer may impact the Province's Adult Leagues in coming years?

BC Soccer took a proactive approach last year by conducting an on-line player survey in partnership with specific soccer clubs that volunteered to participate. The objective was to try and pinpoint some of the key issues facing today’s players, in the hopes of finding potential solutions to stem the tide of those leaving the game.  The survey was sent to just over 14,000 players/participants and their parents from U6-U17 boys and girls in all areas of the province, with a response rate of 17%. BC’s total Youth Soccer population sits at just over 90,000.

BC Soccer President Kjeld Brodsgaard says tackling player registration issues head on in BC could be the start of wider national research: 

“We were very keen to hear from actual players in our province. Throughout the project we’ve also kept other provinces aware of our work and have shared our survey with them.  New Brunswick has translated the survey to French and a number of other provinces and territories will survey their respective participants.  Once their data collection has been completed this will be shared by all.  Hopefully the results will assist us on finding workable solutions to address this problem on a provincial and national level.”

Although some of the feedback provided was not surprising, (and in some cases even validated long held beliefs), it was empowering to receive specific factors from those who are directly impacted.

The survey also raised some great questions about our game and potentially a disconnect between how adults perceive the youth playing experience versus how the players themselves view their own participation in soccer.  The results also prompt an important question about the "development", and the many different connotations to an all-encompassing word. Each individual club has its own nuanced interpretation of what development is.  One issue that became abundantly clear from the survey is that the coach’s role is pivotal in program delivery, which becomes the biggest factor in player retention.  What we didn’t learn from the study was what specific factors make a coach either excellent or poor. 

Here are some of the highlights from the report:

Why Kids Play Soccer:

Such a simple question yielded some seemingly obvious answers. 

An overwhelming 68% of respondents, in their own words, volunteered that they enjoyed soccer.  Contained within those many responses, was the word FUN.  The next highest response, (54%) was playing with FRIENDS.  And if it wasn’t pre-existing friends from school, neighbourhood or past teams, it was about making new friends through soccer. 

Interestingly, only 19% listed “development” (i.e. learning new skills/techniques and tactics) as important, while competition (winning, scoring, being in a competitive environment) was an even lower priority at 14%.

Why do kids leave soccer?

Although 75% of respondents were happy, answering “excellent or good” with regard to their respective soccer programs (answering “Excellent” in most cases) the 25% who characterized their experience as only “fair or poor”, were very specific as to the reasons why.

Of the group of 25% that indicated they were “not likely to return”, 39% cited poor coaching as the biggest reason. Next came lack of development/learning (26%) and intriguingly, inconsistency in Kick-off or training times (17%).

Other factors that influence whether a child returns or not, include a disparity in ability within a team or a league (20%) and disorganization or poor communication (20%).


Jason Elligott, BC Soccer’s Executive Director, summarized the survey results this way:

“Player retention and player satisfaction will not be solved with one solution, or by one organization.  These are big issues that require multiple regional specific solutions from the collective soccer community in BC.”

BC Soccer’s vision is to ensure every British Columbian has the opportunity to be involved in soccer as part of a lifelong commitment to an active and healthy lifestyle, no matter the age, gender or skillset. Afterall, the game does belong to the people and has a positive impact on communities. Have we succeeded in providing a balanced approach that focuses on both individual and team development in addition to meeting the social and “fun” requirements of the young player?       

BC Soccer will continue to analyze the results and begin the process of using the data as an opportunity to work towards addressing some of the feedback while also inviting input from all the stakeholders in the province.

Read the full Executive Summary HERE.

Read the full Report HERE.

About BC Soccer:

BC Soccer is the provincial sport governing body with the mission to govern, promote and develop the game of soccer in British Columbia in a professional and progressive manner. Established in 1907, BC Soccer is the largest provincial sports organization (PSO) in BC and the third largest soccer-specific PSO in Canada with over 150,000 participants.  As a professional not-for-profit society and a member of Canada Soccer, BC Soccer is committed to providing the widest opportunities for existing and potential participants, as well as provide support in the most effective and appropriate way for current players, parents, volunteers, member clubs, leagues, and districts.

BC Soccer is comprised of more than 120,000 registered players, over 2,200 registered referees, and thousands of volunteer coaches, administrators, and soccer leaders. Working with its 40 member Youth Districts and 11 Adult Leagues as well as their affiliate member clubs, BC Soccer operates under the guiding principles of Professional Leadership, Passionate Service and Progressive Collaboration. In managing its relationships throughout the larger soccer community, BC Soccer’s vision is to ensure every British Columbian has the opportunity to be involved in soccer as part of a lifelong commitment to an active, healthy and involved lifestyle.