You know the Internet is a dangerous thing! Give any idiot a computer and they’ll start spouting off like an expert on all sorts of subjects! Hopefully I won’t come off that way! If I do, I’m sure the dozen or so readers I may attract will tell me so
Well I guess an intro is in order. I’ve been a soccer dad for about 4 years. About the time my oldest son was old enough to play soccer, some local parents in the area, tired of being told there wasn’t enough demand for a city league, decided to put together a small mini-camp for area youth interested in soccer in the Fall of 2001. We signed our oldest son up and along with about 15 other children, they practiced, played scrimmages, and had a really good time. The two coaches who put it all together did an excellent job.
While there were leagues 30 mins or so away from our town, the parents weren’t satisfied with that being the only option. So a handful of parents decided to put together a soccer league in the Spring of 2002. Well over a hundred children signed up to play in U6, U8, and U10 divisions. My son played U6 for the coaches who originally ran the mini-camp and had a really good time. We played out behind one of the local elementary schools while the older children used the outfields of our city ballfields, with the blessing of our Recreation Department. Since I had a web background, I offered to help the league communicate with the parents online, and thus mebanesoccer.us was born.
So far so good. My son had a sports activity he enjoyed and I could help out with some web stuff. Little did I know. It was clear the league would go on based on the success of the first season that Spring. However, My son’s coaches both had son’s who would age up to U8 that fall while he was still under 6. So they asked me if I wanted to take over the U6 team in the Fall.
Um. See. Well. I’ve never coached soccer before. I hardly had played soccer before (pickup game or two in college). The closest I had come was videotaping our middle school soccer team’s games for the coach. Yup – that’s right. I was a nerd in school. And instead of actually trying out for soccer in middle school, I video taped the games. I ran track in high school (hurdles), but never tried out for soccer. Regret it now considering how much I love the game, but then – the only thing the sprinters on the track team knew was the soccer players who also ran track had GREAT endurance!
So needless to say, I was hesitant. But given how new the league was, we really had trouble attracting coaches. So with a promise of help from my wife, I agreed to coach the team. Well, then the parents who had put the league together approached me about coordinating the U6 division as well since I had helped organize things online. "Sure!" I said.
Well, that summer in 2002, we had over 200 children sign up with almost 100 children in U6. Parents had been waiting for a soccer league to be local for the little ones and jumped at the opportunity when it arose. I’ll never forget the first season trying to assign players to teams in an Excel spreadsheet trying to keep the average age and gender breakdown for the kids somewhat even working from a stack of paper registration forms. Aaaaaaaaah! I lost significant hair that week.
Well, I pulled it off, but vowed never again. Since I had some web programming background, I decided to start writing some tools to make it easier for the division coordinators and the coaches to manage their teams. Since almost all of our coaches had Internet access then (they all do now), this made things much easier. Overtime that set of tools has grown and grown to where we now do all registrations, team assignments, coach and sponsor management, and many other tasks online. Parents can see the latest schedules, results, and teams using the front end tools of SoccerSys, which I dubbed it. I’ve had a LOT of fun writing up the various tools that we use. Stuff gets added each year. Who knows, maybe someday I can make it generic so other leagues can use it – it sure has come in handy.
Well, as time passed, our league grew and grew until three years later we had 550 players in 4 age divisions and the city has broken ground on a new $1 million soccer complex since we conflicted with baseball so much in the Spring and it was clear soccer WAS popular in Mebane. Needless to say, assigning players with a point and a click and not having to enter hundreds of players into a computer from paper forms has been a blessing.
And voila. Thats how I went from nerd videotaping my middle school soccer games to helping run a small soccer league with over 500 children playing. Having been involved with the league from the start, I’ve seen and learned a lot. While the Internet has a LOT of information and I’ve learned much from the hundreds of youth league websites out there, sometimes you really are flying blind and building up a league is trial and error.
We’re still a young league. We hope to have our first challenge team active within the year and are now faced with some daunting administrative tasks such as filing for non-profit status, affiliating with the North Carolina Youth Soccer Association, and modifying our rules which were NOT drafted with small-side in mind, something that we’re struggling with.
Considering how soccer has become such a near and dear part of our lives, both the children playing and the parents helping organize things, I figured I could blog about the various trials and successes we have. I doubt I’ll update this blog daily – in fact it may be a week or two between posts some times. But other times I may post a lot if we’re dealing with a number of things (like right now) So I hope you enjoy reading and encourage you to post your thoughts and ideas. I’m hoping if a few people find this blog useful I can help share ideas from readers with other readers and hopefully take advantage of a few myself.
Who know what will happens – but it’ll be an adventure! I promise the posts won’t be this long!