We held our annual coaches meeting this week and had a lot on the agenda!  In addition to the various rule tweaks we always discuss, the main topics of discussion were forming a non profit corporation for the association and pursuing membership in the North Carolina Youth Soccer Association. Moving towards affiliation meant we had to reduce our field sizes and numbers of players in a match.  Those are fairly big changes.  But the benefits of affiliation also weighed heavy on our minds. In the end it was unanimous – we’re going to incorporate and hopefully apply for affiliation at this winter’s NCYSA board meeting.  We also debated a number of minor things that I’ll talk about after the flip…

As a young league, we often make minor tweaks to our rules and procedures each year to try and make things run smoother as we learn from our experiences.  While we have relied heavily on the published rules and procedures of various mature leagues around the country with detailed online info, we also found that sometimes you just have to mold things to your locale and population. But other times it comes down to us being a young league and worrying about the big stuff first.  Anyway, in case any of you are faced with similar things, this is what we talked about and changed in preparation for this season:

  1. While not exactly requiring a team to have an assistant coach, we discussed how important it was as coaches to have one to avoid match reschedules due to a head coach being out of town. While most teams have at least one assistant coach, a few teams don’t.
  2. We talked about the process for rescheduling matches and that the referee coordinator needed a minimum of one week advance notice. The advance notice was also necessary to schedule a police officer (required by our city council for all sporting events) and to ensure our parks department had staff available.  We debated having set makeup days in advance, but our lack of fields makes this tough to do and it wasn’t clear this would be better than rescheduling matches as necessary (usually during existing practice slots of one of the teams)
  3. Our end of season tournament rules allowed for one period of overtime in U10 and U12 before a shootout (regular season matches can end in ties).  However the coaches felt the overtime period did little to further decide the match and that we should eliminate it and go straight to a shootout.
  4. For divisions where offsides is called – we used to have the line judge immediately indicate a player in an offsides position (even if they had no advantage) with their flag, leaving the actual call of ‘advantage’ up to the ref.  The thinking was the flag indication helped the coaches realize a player was offsides and try to correct/teach it.  However, in the end it was simply too confusing for the head ref with the flag going up and down, so we’ve moved to normal FIFA rules where the line judge will indicate offside advantage with the flag and the head ref makes the final call.
  5. We had a number of instances where matches had a team wearing yellow jerseys resulting in players confusing the ref for a player, so we have disallowed yellow as a jersey color in U8 and above.
  6. Previously when we needed to sub players, we’d yell ‘SUBS’ when a break in play occurred and we were allowed to sub (which is during any break in play where a team has possession of the ball).  But often with parents screaming, the fast pace of the game, etc. the head ref wouldn’t always hear us.  So we wanted to come up with a better way to indicate a desire to sub.  We’re going to try something new.  Each coach will be given an international style checkered flag which they will raise when they need to sub.  This will give the far linesman and the head ref a chance to see this and know subs are needed on the next stop in play. We’ll see if this helps.  We chose the checkered flag since we use red and yellow flags for the linesman (that’s just what we’ve always had).
  7. We used 6′ x 12′ goals for U10 and U12.  We decided that they were too small after MANY 0-0 ties and shootouts that went 4 or 5 rounds, so this season we’ll be getting 6′ x 18′ goals to give the shooters a better chance.
  8. We used to pay our officials the same amount per game, but realized our head refs should be paid more than a linesman and have adjusted our pay schedule accordingly (which also brings us into line with NCYSA guidelines).  Hopefully this will help recruit more head referees.
  9. Our penalty kick hash mark was 12 yards away from the goal in all divisions that needed one, however we found that sometimes the players had trouble getting good hard shots on goal during tournament shootouts.  In the older divisions we figure the bigger goals will help but in U8, we moved the mark in slightly to give the shooter more advantage (but not so close as to endanger the goalie)
  10. We’re going to mandate mouth-guards for all players in U8 and above and the league will simply buy enough for every player and give each coach enough for their team plus a few spares.  They will be checked for before the match when we check cleats and shin-guards.  We’ll try to enforce their use during the game by reminding the player and their coach, but won’t stop play for a mouth-guard violation.

That about sums it up.  Lots of little tweaks to go along with our smaller fields and rosters.  But everyone is really excited about the upcoming season and our possible affiliation with the NCYSA.  I’ll keep you posted!