This is the third year in existence for the “new” Southern California Developmental Soccer League (SCDSL.) If you’d like to read my first thoughts on the league click on… SCDSL First Thoughts or if you’d like to read about all the Southern California Leagues…click here. Over SCDSL’s three years of existence there has been rapid and dramatic growth, both in number of clubs participating and distance between the clubs. There are now over 60 member clubs with home fields ranging from Santa Barbara to Bakersfield to Victorville to San Diego.
Here’s some of my observations from our second year in the league…
Organization | The league is still well run with organized scheduling and an informative web site. Information is given to teams and managers in a timely manner and is clear and helpful. As a manager, it is simple to print game cards, use the iPhone app to report scores, and add game information to the web site. There seems to have been a bit more chaos this year on the management level with more teams joining the league, but that hasn’t impacted us at all.
Level of Competition | Quite simply, almost all of the best clubs play in the SCDSL giving them the ability to play each other on a regular basis. I don’t have any cold, hard facts, but playing tier one in the SCDSL (especially at the younger levels) gives you one of the strongest collection of teams in the nation. Having three tiers allows for most teams to play against appropriate competition.
Showcases | I know some people dislike the Showcases, but they are some of my favorite days! Showcases are almost like a mini-tournament where all teams from an age level play at the same venue. The youngers play two games and the olders only play one, but for us it’s been a fun day where we can see friends from all different teams. The North teams play the South teams and get a chance to see teams that we wouldn’t ordinarily play. I love being able to watch all of the girls’ friends play and getting to hang out with my friends. Results don’t contribute to the standings, but definitely add some bragging rights.
Player Pass | The ability of players to play for more than one team during the season has been a blessing this year. LSG’s team has been majorly impacted by injuries and using players from other teams has really helped them be able to play. They have frequently used girls from younger teams which although hasn’t necessarily given the team a competitive advantage, it is a great development tool for the younger girls. LSG has also played on another team in her club which is great for her personal development. BSG’s team has also taken advantage of the player pass to bring up girls from the second team to assist when girls are out from injury. This has been both helpful and positive for the team. I think the key to success with the player pass is coaches working together and looking out for the success of both teams.
Driving | With teams from far flung places joining the league, many teams are driving significantly farther this year. Both my girls are in the top tier, so most parents on our teams know what to expect as far as driving. BSG’s games are mostly local (hooray!) with a few major exceptions (four games an hour or more away). The biggest problem lies with the tier two and three teams where they are traveling two or more hours for regular league games. This is especially an issue in the North divisions where teams in BSG’s club are definitely struggling. Does an 8 year old U9 tier 3 player need to be driving two hours for a 50 minute game?
Scheduling | This is purely based on my experience and observation, but both my girls have mainly early morning games. On one hand, that’s nice, but on the other it gets tiring to have two early games on a weekend. Last year I thought there was also a rule that away games (over a certain distance) would never be scheduled before 9am. That is definitely not the case this year, as well as the initial league founding guidelines of minimizing Sunday game. (At least I seem to remember that being a priority) The number of games has changed from 10 to 14, necessitating many Sunday games. With all that said, I certainly would not want to schedule for that many teams and clubs! Overall though, the scheduling is organized and seems to take into consideration coaching conflicts.
Opponents/Standings | One thing that is very “fair” about CSL is that every team in each division played each other twice- home and away. In SCDSL it’s seemingly random who you play twice…at least I hope it’s random. LSG plays two of the top teams twice this season, but all games are counted equal in the standings. To very badly quote from Orwell’s Animal Farm, “All teams are equal, but some teams are more equal than others.” I’m not sure how you can say you won the bracket when there is an uneven distribution of games. Oh well, it’s all about development, right…right?
Club Consolidation/Mergers | This is the change that has started to change Southern California soccer the most- the abolition of CSL’s rule about clubs limited to three teams in an age group. All teams in a club also had to play at a home field within a certain distance. For the most part, this rule prevented satellite teams forming and limited the size of the big clubs. Now clubs can have as many teams as they desire leading to the demise of some of the smaller clubs. This is a whole topic unto itself, but along with the advent of ECNL on the girls’ side, this has majorly impacted the So Cal landscape. A future where there are 20 teams in an age group at a club and only a few big clubs doesn’t seem out of the question. I don’t really know if this is a negative or a positive, but it’s kind of sad to see some of the old clubs go.
What do you think?