You’re Still Supposed to Have Fun Playing with Southbay FC founder Kelly Gray

Kids are kids and they need to have fun. Nowadays, there’s a tendency to push kids into picking a particular sport at a young age. There’s the prevailing idea that if a kid isn’t specializing early, they’re falling behind.

This week on the Raising Competitors podcast, guest Kelly Gray says in actuality, kids should be doing the opposite. They should be able to try out as many sports as they want when they’re young, and hold off on choosing a main focus until they’re older.

For nearly a decade, Gray played in Major League Soccer. He became a coach soon after retiring from the field. He saw both kids and adults questing for player perfection when they should have been focusing on progress. Kids need to be able to enjoy their experience in sports, Gray says, and have the opportunity to learn different skills.

Those extra abilities will serve them well as they get older and put them ahead of the competition when it really counts.

What You’ll Learn:

  • Aim for progress, not perfection
  • Encourage diversity of experience
  • Allow young athletes to fail
  • Wait to specialize until kids are older
  • Offer breaks to prevent burnout


“Every player is going to develop at their own pace. As long as you feel like they’re still progressing in some way, then I think you’re doing your job, and I think, as a coach, you still get that fulfillment out of it.”

Kelly Gray

“As long as you’re upfront about what your philosophy is and how you want to get there and what is important to you, you attract people that are looking for that exact same thing.” -Kelly Gray

“We cannot have them specialize early. We are doing them a disservice developmentally by having them specialize early. I want kids to play every single sport under the sun. If they have an interest in it, go play it.” -Kelly Gray

 “We’ve noticed that parents these days don’t allow their children to fail. And we, as high-level athletes, know that failure is actually a huge part of growth. If you don’t fail, you don’t grow.”

Kelly Gray

“Just because something doesn’t go the way that you planned, doesn’t mean that it’s done. It just means you need to learn something. You have to persevere. You have to keep going.” -Kelly Gray


You can follow Kelly Gray on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook @iamkellygray. More information about Cinch can be found at Check out his podcast, Athletes Rising, at or wherever you get your podcasts. You can find out more about South Bay Football Club online at

Mentioned This Week:

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein (Click here to order your copy)

Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement by Rich Karlgaard (click here to order yours)

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Episode 19