One of the touted features of the new SCDSL is the club player pass. In case you are unfamiliar with how club soccer works, each player is assigned to a specific team during the roster freeze period of August through November. Players each have laminated player cards which are required to be shown at each game. No card, no play. In years past, players were only allowed to play with their own team during this period for any league game. The player pass system now allows players to play for any age appropriate team in the club, as long as they don’t play for more than one team a day. Here’s the official rules from the SCDSL website:
Players registered to a SCDSL club may be loaned to play on a SCDSL team from their club. Players registered to a SCDSL team may be loaned to another SCDSL team within the same club for a given match or day. ALL PLAYERS MUST BE REGISTERED, THROUGH CAL SOUTH, TO THE SCSDL IN ORDER FOR THE CLUB PASS RULE TO APPLY. PLAYERS REGISTERED TO OTHER CAL SOUTH LEAGUES MAY NOT PLAY ON A SCDSL TEAM UNDER THE CLUB PASS RULE.
Players may play “up” or at the same age group when being loaned. Players may play “down”, if they are age appropriate and legally registered to an existing SCDSL team. No player may participate on more than one SCDSL team on a given day. The maximum number of games a SCDSL player may participate in on any given day is one (1) for Regional Competition Game Days and two (2) for Showcase Competition Events.
If used in the context of player development, I think the pass can be a wonderful thing. It allows players to be rewarded for excellence and play with a higher level or age group team, or allows a player who is struggling the opportunity to play with a lower level team to develop some confidence. Teams with injuries also have the option to use other players to boost their roster instead of having to forfeit.
Unfortunately, whenever adults are involved, things can go awry. Clubs can use the player pass to manipulate league standings by sending in a group of higher tier players to help lower tier teams win. Not only does this hurt their opponents, but what about the lower tier girls assigned to that team who are now sitting on the bench? How is that great for their development? Understandably, coaches can also be hesitant to give players the opportunity to play as they are concerned about alienating the rest of their team. There’s no limit on the number of players so one U10 team sent their whole U9 team instead!
Recently I’ve been involved several situations concerning the player pass…
One scenario involved a girl from Little Soccer Girl’s top tier team who has been really struggling the whole year. Her playing time has been limited and we really wanted to build up her confidence. On a weekend our team had off, we reached out to the next tier team to have her play with them, but they refused. Hmmm… Fortunately the third tier team welcomed her and she had a great time and even scored! I know that they were short that weekend, so it worked out perfectly for all.
The next situation involves Big Soccer Girl. Playing in Tier One has been challenging and she’s been having some issues with her confidence. At the beginning of the season her playing time wasn’t what she hoped for, so I started looking for opportunities for her to play with one of our club’s other two teams at her age level. Most of our games were on the same days, so in order to play for them she would have had to miss her own game- not a good plan! Fortunately, the showcase days for the tiers are difference and she’s going to be playing with the third team this weekend. The second team has 16 players already, so I definitely didn’t want to ask them! She loves the coach and has played with the team previously, so I think it will be a good fit for her. I’m not sure if their opponents will think so…
The last situation is the worst- it may have been unethical. When a team uses the player pass, you simply write the player’s name on the roster and show his/her player card to the ref. There isn’t a way to check (at least not that I know of!) if that player is really eligible to be playing. Last year in CSL, if a kid’s name wasn’t on the official roster, they didn’t play. Final, end of story. The write in aspect allows for a much bigger grey area. Recently, Little Soccer Girl’s team traveled to play a league game. As the game began, I noticed that two of the girls on the other team didn’t have numbers. One was wearing a white Under armor shirt only and the other had a white tank top on over her jersey.
At half time, I questioned the ref about this situation as all players should have a number. He said he would talk to the coach about it. I thought that maybe they would use tape to put numbers on the girls’ backs (we’ve done that before!) or find another solution. Instead, the ref came over to me and said that the coach said they would just have to forfeit. Hmmm…forfeit? What? They had 11 girls, so even if the two girls without uniforms sat out, they would still have one sub. (We play 8v8 at that age) Of course our coach didn’t want to forfeit, so we let the game continue. Fortunately we ended up winning so there wasn’t a problem. I don’t know if there was any misconduct involved, but the whole situation was really strange. When I got the match report with one of the girls’ names written in, I tried finding her on any of the club’s rosters. Nope, couldn’t find her anywhere.
To wrap this all up, I think the player pass is overall positive, but there is a great temptation to use it improperly. I’ll let you know how it works out for Big Soccer Girl.