Fans' View

Fans’ View: Lifeblood of youth soccer

Photo: Courtesy of Montgomery United

My sons play for Montgomery United. We are a fairly large club, with about 600 players on travel teams and 1200 in our recreational program (including our 3 to 5 year olds).

Last Saturday was our picture day where everyone has the opportunity to get their team and individual photos taken. As I watched the event unfold, I realized how many people it takes to make a club function — and how most of them are volunteers.

Because we have so many recreational players, often we are begging parents to coach. Some of these coaches haven’t played soccer, but are willing to step up and help out. We do have paid trainers at most age groups to help them, but these volunteers are still responsible for coaching games.

Most of our travel coaches are paid, but there are some that aren’t. My husband spent hours planning training sessions as our elder son’s coach — as a volunteer. As for the assistant coaches, many of whom step in to run practices or coach games on the weekends when the head coach has a scheduling conflict. Their payment? A cool coach’s shirt and maybe a thank you gift at the end of the year from the team.

I’ve given up counting the number of hours our Rec Coordinator spends putting kids on teams, creating a schedule, and putting out fires. The fields not mowed? He gets the email. Uniform got lost? He gets the email (and forwards it to me, but that comes later). Don’t like your coach? The number of players on your team? Email him. He also coordinates the Rec Select program, which means more hours scheduling tryouts, finding coaches for the teams, and registering for tournaments.

It’s no different for our Event Coordinator. On Saturday, we had a snack bar to raise money for the club. Doesn’t sound like too much work, but every hot dog, hamburger, Gatorade, and snow cone cup had to be purchased and hauled to the site. She had to find more volunteers — there’s that word again — to man the grill and make those snowcones. We rely on our parents to help us. I am very thankful to the many that give their time to make these events run smoothly. In addition to simple events like picture day, the Event Coordinator also plans our two tournaments and Socktoberfest, which is a huge party for all the kids in the club to come together and play. Its my favorite event, because the Union comes out with the blow up attractions from Toyota Plaza and, most importantly, Union players. Again, I can’t even begin to imagine the hours that are spent organizing and pulling off these events.

I also volunteer. In my PSP author bio I describe myself as “coordinator of all things wearable,” which includes all uniforms and spiritwear. We are maybe unique in that we have our own heat presses to allow us to press numbers and logos on shirts. As a club, we make all of the jerseys for our rec program (yes, that’s over 1000 shirts). Every year I put out the call for volunteers and every year volunteers step up to get the shirts done. So at picture day on Saturday, I had volunteers helping to make MonU shirts and hoodies for the players and their parents to purchase. Thankfully, I’m almost done with rec uniforms this season.

Of course, this doesn’t even scratch the surface. I didn’t talk about our field coordinator and all the volunteers that set-up and line fields. The folks that volunteer to be the liaison to ICSL, DELCO and PAGS. The team managers in travel who register for tournaments, send out schedules, relay information from the coaches, pick up uniforms, and plan fundraisers.

As a club, we could not function without these moms, dads, sisters, and brothers who sign up to do the tasks that allow our club to function, be it coaching, selling snow cones, making shirts, lining fields, organizing teams, whatever — all which allows our kids to play soccer.

So from me to all who volunteer at my club or yours: Thanks for all you do!

You are the lifeblood of youth soccer.

5 Comments

  1. I have never been paid for my coaching or coordinating, but I am very happy to wear the “cool coach’s shirt!” I know I’m not speaking just for myself, but I coach and help to coordinate a program because I love the sport, and I love coaching. My body has long since decided that it is incapable of playing the game at level that I would enjoy, but at least now I can help the younger generations learn to love the game as much I have for my entire life.
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    Coaching is an honor, and I’m proud to be in the fraternity.

  2. Atomic Spartan says:

    In the early 19th century, French writer Alexis de Tocqueville, after touring the early USA, remarked about what he saw as a uniquely American penchant for voluntarism – citizen-formed organizations which aim to serve the public good and improve the quality of human lives. At that time, he knew of nothing like it in Europe, and his writings became influential in social reform movements.
    .
    Not knowing how European clubs handle the logistics for rec and travelling football clubs similar to those here, can anyone fill me in? How much is done by volunteers? How much by paid staff?

    • This is a really good post as I’ve been thinking on this almost all day.
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      I was contemplating as much regarding european football and almost posted something similarly to AS…. but in my typical cynical fashion as that tends to be my default posting position… which I did not think the article deserved.
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      I appreciate the erudition of your thoughts and important question. I too would love to know how european grass roots football operates…
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      This is an interesting article from the perspective of gratitude to volunteers of soccer in this country… it also spurs one to think a bit deeper about how our questionable infrastructure works when compared to other countries — whether that was an intended outcome by the author or not.

  3. Yes Staci! Volunteers need to be celebrated more. It was probably one of the biggest reservations I had about writing a series on youth soccer that could be viewed as critical. People who volunteer their time to youth sports deserve nothing but our support and praise!

  4. The parents often thank me for all the ‘work’ I put into being a Commissioner of the age group of 10-14 for NPAA intramural soccer.
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    Fact is, I appreciate their thanks, but the real thanks is in the the joy the kids get out of the program. It makes the hours lining the fields, scheduling practices, games, and field equipment worth it.
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    Two kids went straight from intramural to the 7th grade school team this year. That is what makes it so worth the time and energy.
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    Someday, in the future, some kid is going to look back and remember the time we spent together in the game and that is priceless. That is the legacy of volunteerism because then that kid will volunteer to coach their kid’s team, and it is ultimately why I do it.
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    Thank you to all of you other parents out there doing the dirty work. None of it would work without you.

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