Fall Recreation UpdateLeague Wizard | July 4, 2010
Parents and Coaches,
The Fall soccer season is always the ‘season of change’ in youth soccer. With the soccer ‘year’ running August 1st to July 31st, this is the season the league will often work to improve our programs and make changes based on the past year or years.
I wanted to share a few of these with you to ensure everyone understands what the league is trying to accomplish and the steps we’re taking to constantly improve our programs.
Please take the time to read this entire email as it highlights numerous things the league is doing to ensure our programs are still the best they can be. We have held extensive discussions this summer over numerous issues and are doing our best to enact changes we believe are in the best long term interests of the players – at all levels.
1) If you have seen the soccer fields this summer, you know they are in rough shape. Especially Fields 1 and 2. As the children who started playing in Mebane in 2002 (when we started) grow up, we have more older players on the fields which can stress them more. Add in expanding younger divisions and the fields need more time to recover.
So in order to help the fields recover, the soccer complex will remain closed through August. Obviously this will impact pre season practices in some way. We’re still working to obtain alternative field space we can use as well as adjust the practice schedules. When we finalize the plan, we’ll let you know. It’s possible that teams may only get one practice slot a week in August, but we’re doing what we can to get enough field space to avoid that. We’ll keep you posted.
2) If your child was on a U8 team last year – it has come to our attention that some coaches have told their teams they’ll just ‘move up’ to U10 intact. However, that is incorrect. U8 is a single year division. U10 is a dual year division. In order to ensure balance in the U10 divisions (this year AND next), U8 teams CANNOT move up intact and *will* be broken up. At MOST 3-4 players in a ‘core’ may be allowed to stay together with a coach/sponsor. But all U10 teams need to have U9 AND U10 players on them – in fairly even numbers. Our #1 goal in creating teams each season is balance and parity to allow for competitive divisions. So if you don’t return to your team – this is likely why.
3) The same goes for the older age groups. We’ve had numerous complaints and concerns about the clear imbalances at the older (U14 & U17) age groups, primarily because of the small # of players. We’ve also heard of coaches actively trying to recruit players to their team to ‘win the tournament’ We will be working hard to balance those divisions and that means some players may not return to the old teams, which is never assured in the Fall. If your child was told by a coach to play for them because their team was going to win the tournament, etc, know that it’s unlikely we’ll allow that team for form as the coach had hoped.
4) When our league was formed, we had approximately 250 players across 3 age groups. Numbers dictated that our teams be coed at all levels – we didn’t have enough girls to form independent divisions. Over the years some girls have quit our program because of this. However, even among those that have stayed – many have suffered from a lack of ball touches in practices and games because of our structure. Anyone watching the World Cup this month knows how important a ‘1st Touch’ is and the only way to develop that is to actually touch the ball – a lot. Ask most girls in coed the #1 thing they don’t like? “The boys never pass the ball” Now that we have girls travel teams, this deficiency is becoming even more apparent – first touch is a MAJOR issue.
Our league today is much different than it was 8 years ago. We provide soccer programs to over 1,100 children a year. We are the 11th largest NCYSA Recreation program in North Carolina. Our mission is to provide the best learning environment for soccer at ALL levels of play. Our league has had many staunch advocates of coed play, myself included. “It’ll make them tougher!” “It’ll instill a fighting spirit having to fight for the ball!” and so on. But year by year as we’ve observed the progression of players through our system, many of those advocates, myself included, have realized that coed was, in effect, holding a number of our female players back. For some of us it took seeing where our female players were compared to those in other areas once they started playing travel – the difference is striking.
So starting this Fall, in divisions U5, U6, U7, and U8, we will NOT be offering coed divisions.
Instead we will have girls teams and boys teams at those levels. A change like this will not be simple and we know there will be some difficulties in coaching assignments, sponsorship, and travel arrangements. But we ask for your patience as we implement this change and know we’ll be doing everything we can to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Girls will NOT be allowed to play on boys teams under any circumstances for U5-U8. Once players age out of U8, they will either choose to play travel (where genders are split) or move to U10 Rec where teams will still be coed. Long term we hope to also split U10 once numbers allow. Beyond that, we don’t expect to be able to. This structure will provide an ideal ‘choosing point’ for players. Aging up to U12 – they are either playing travel already (gender split), can move to a coed team in Rec, or choose to play MS soccer (or some combination).
For our returning coaches, the league will do whatever we can to ease this transition. For some coaches who feel they need to continue coaching all their returning players, you can ‘double team’. This means you’ll have a separate girls team and boys team built from your old team last season. We will work to ensure they practice together on the same field (possible since the teams are small). For games, we can either work to schedule them at the same time on adjacent fields (so you and an asst can coach both teams) or back to back. So, in effect, you can still have your returning players without much, if any, added time commitment. Obviously this is something we’re doing in the short term. Long term we hope to expand our coaching ranks as part of this change. A sizable majority of our coaches are male. We hope this change for U5-U8 will also help bring more women into our coaching ranks as well, which also will benefit our program over the long term. And no – we aren’t limiting who can coach what. We’re grateful for coaches of any gender coaching any team!
Change is never easy. We know some people will be at best uncomfortable with this and at worst hostile to it. Please understand we spent a LOT of time researching and discussing this, both within our own ranks as well as with other leagues. Long term many of our most experienced coaches and officers felt this was in the best interests of our younger players. We ask for your support as we implement this to ensure our programs are providing the best soccer environment possible for the most children.
Apologies for the long email and I hope everyone has a great 4th of July!