Normally meetings of the NCYSA Recreation Council aren’t anything to write home about because Rec soccer seems to often be an afterthought for many. It’s all Challenge and Classic. But that seems to be changing, in part due to the renewed efforts if the NCYSA VP of Rec and the Asst Director of Rec. Having the last Rec Council Meeting during the Soccer Show meant we had a lot of attendees (last time we barely met quorum). So here’s my recollection of what happened at the meeting and what seems to be coming down the pike for Rec in NC.

Disclaimer: Much of what I write here is based on notes I took as well as what I recall happening at the Rec Council meeting. It should not be viewed as a definitive account, though I’m doing my best to be accurate and true to the discussion during the meeting. If you were there and notice any mistakes, or remember something different, by all means post a comment. Minutes are usually posted within a few weeks on the NCYSA Recreation Page.

Before the meeting began, one of the state registrars, Judy Ennis, noted that many associations were getting their recreation registrations in late or not at all. She asked for ideas on how the state could make registration easier and noted that the free software they provide to leagues for registration was having features added and to definitely use it if you were still using Excel to track registrations. One suggestion I made was to allow for Drop/Adds to be made in bulk via an Excel spreadsheet just like the initial registrations. We tend to hold our registration file until the very end since our Rec rosters do change right up until matches start. If we don’t we have to fill out a form for each player that drops/adds. Judy noted that was a reasonable idea so if you find you have a bunch of drop/adds to do, ask Judy or Susan if it’s OK to submit them in one file accompanied by a single Drop/Add form or if they need some other type of affirmation/registrar signature. Ask first! This was just an idea session.

The agenda for the meeting was a full page long so we knew the 4:30 end time was optimistic.

First up was the Recreation State Cup which was the bulk of the agenda. The bulk of the matches were held in Shelby with a handful of divisions in Wilmington. 50 teams participated this year compared to 66 last year. While there were 16 less teams, 20 associations participated, matching last year’s number. GYSA and GCCSA brought 17 of the 50 teams. While 8 associations from 2005 did not return, 8 other associations brought teams in 2006 who didn’t in 2005. So it was a wash.

One of the biggest concerns is that the Rec Cup struggles to attract teams. I took my Co-ed U10 team this past year and we had an absolute blast. It was an awesome experience for the kids, even if the hadn’t placed. Next year our association will encourage more teams to attend since the cost/travel wasn’t the main reason people didn’t go. It was concern they wouldn’t be competitive. A handout was distributed that listed the results of an informal survey of associations asking why they didn’t go the the Rec State Cup. The results weren’t surprising. This isn’t the complete list (I combined many similar answers), but you get the idea:

  • Didn’t know about it, wasn’t promoted to us
  • Lack on interest
  • Not sure
  • Too far to travel
  • Too expensive
  • Schedule conflicts (SATs)
  • Some teams have been together too long and have an unfair advantage
  • It’s recreation, they shouldn’t have a ‘State Champion’

I spoke up about what a great experience our team had had in Shelby. I stressed to them that our kids had a ball. Getting the silver cups as finalists at the end were icing on the cake. We had no idea what would happen if we won, took 2nd, etc. We just played to play. As Sunday wound down and it was clear we had ended up in second place, we had to track down a tournament official to ask if there was anything else. So in our case the kids clearly played for the love of the game. Getting recognized for their hard work at the end was a confidence boost, but had they placed 3rd or worse they’d have still had a great time.

A few others talked about why they did or didn’t go, closely aligning with the bullets above. Though not statistically significant, those associations that had taken teams this year seemed to have positive feedback.

A few proposals had been talked about at the previous council meeting and those came up next. First up was the idea to move the Rec cup to the Spring in stead of the Fall. During the discussion of this, many associations brought up how hard it was to judge if your team was ready to go by early October. The problem is moving the deadline later makes it very hard to organize the tournament and know the resources that will be needed where. The state officials noted they MIGHT be able to shift the deadline a week later, but by doing that they would have to be much stricter about the deadline (some teams get in after the deadline to fill out brackets now). There was no overall consensus about moving to the Spring. Some felt with the State Games in late Spring, having the cup in the Spring as well would be overkill. It seemed to be trending towards No/Maybe so I expect this will continue to get looked at, but is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

Next was a proposal to add 8v8 brackets for U13 and above. Many recreation leagues play less than 11v11 due to the size of their player pool. The thought was they could attract more older teams if they added 8v8. 11v11 brackets would still exist, though there was discussion about leagues with full size teams participating in 8v8. Concern was raised about a team ‘splitting’ to bring two teams, but that wouldn’t be possible due to the way teams are rostered. This proposal got a lot of support and was adopted.

Another proposal was to add some type of U8 bracket/festival to the State Cup. Most felt this was too young for kids to be traveling and the proposal was voted down. As part of this it was noted that District 5 has a festival where kids this age can play and perhaps it would be better to have districts hold end of season festivals that U8 teams could attend if they wanted to. This, of course, would necessitate that the districts actually form and function (more on that later).

The associations who regularly host the State Cup have asked that the tournament be awarded for three year cycles to ease planning and preparation. Currently it is awarded year by year. Moving to a three year cycle would bring it in line with the Challenge and Classic Cups. I noted that if this was done, they need to make sure there is an escape clause that if a ‘mid-state’ cup is added in addition to the current ‘East/West’ setup to reduce travel times that this not have to wait until the three year cycle is up. It was felt this proposal needed further review.

The final item related to the Rec State Cup is likely to be the most controversial. The VP of Tournament has stated publicly that he feels there should be no brackets for U10-U12 and a festival format should be used instead. As expect the discussion of this point brought forth mixed views. Some felt that kids are subjected to plenty of festival and non-competitive type events as it is, so there was nothing wrong with having a competition for those that wanted it. Others felt festival was the way to go. I noted that we enjoyed playing in a round robin format where everyone got four matches, but I also felt that at the end of the day, having a couple teams get the added boost of being awarded the cups was a good thing. I didn’t see coaches coaching to ‘win the cup’ in our bracket. The matches were VERY competitive, but everybody played a lot of time. I did not see a team where kids sat out more than 50% of the match. In my limited experience, I felt the competitive atmosphere, in the U10 boys bracket anyway, was healthy and fun. I also noted that part of the appeal for teams to come was that is was the ‘State Cup’ If it’s just a festival I believe you’ll have trouble attracting teams. I’ll go into this more in a later post.

In the end, it was clear there were many divergent opinions about this so a committee was formed to meet and discuss this topic and to bring a proposal to the council later this year. Yours truly is a member so I’ll keep you posted!

While the Rec State Cup took up the bulk of the meeting, districts were discussed towards the end. With all the previous discussion of academy programs and the role districts could play in organizing matches and friendlies, it was an important topic. District 5 is well organized and offered to serve as a model and resource for other districts looking to get formed. District 1 and 2 were also getting organized with one of them meeting after the rec council meeting. District 3, which is basically all of mid North Carolina including Raleigh, Greensboro, and Charlotte, was discussed at length. Most felt it was WAY too big. I personally had been talking with the Asst Director of Rec about possibly forming a District 3A with other nearby associations in between Greensboro and the Triangle. Most felt that District 3 needed to be split up and that we needed less administrative overhead and more communication between neighboring associations. I left the meeting committed to trying to help form District 3A because our association would love to play friendlies with neighboring teams and also possibly form inter-league seasons for U14, etc where associations may only have one or two teams worth of players. More info on this will follow I’m sure.

In the end it was refreshing to see many associations saying they really DID want to see the districts form and start to become a resource. Hopefully as more districts form, this will encourage other associations to do the same. So if you’re part of an association near Mebane, expect to hear from me soon asking if you’re interested! :)

At this point the meeting wound down, ending an hour later than planned. This was a good thing – seeing so many associations participating was encouraging. The next meeting was tentatively scheduled for March.