By Andi Mannes, RC, Region 12
As my AYSO Region’s primary season ends, my inbox gets filled with questions from parents whose kids want to keep playing soccer into the spring. “What next?” they ask. “My kid wants to keep playing soccer!”
So with “More Soccer For More Kids” in mind, here are five programs a Region can run which can be organized quickly (even in time for this spring), with a lighter volunteer load that can keep kids within AYSO for an additional playing season. All can be run co-ed if necessary, although single gender still is the first choice. And my fellow RC Brent Whittlesey has added in four more ideas that may take a bit more volunteer time, but can still be kicked off for this spring!
Get a plan in place, and open registration while your primary season is still going on! You can use the email blast feature on eAYSO to get word out toRegion families about new offerings.
Here are ten “quick start" programs you can launch for this spring!
1. Run a second U-5 season (or start one if your Region does not currently offer it). Up to 50 players can be accommodated with one Master Coach, a few older (U-14 and up) kids to help, one field and 90 minutes a week. The AYSO NBOD recently broadened the definition of a Master Coach making it even easier for a Region to offer a U-5 program. This age group is thirsting for a chance to get out and play as much as they can!
Tip: Advertise with flyers at local preschools and I can promise that you will be amazed at the response. If field space is an issue during the week, offer it on Sunday afternoons.
2. Offer open soccer/pick-up game nights (or weekend afternoons.) Four adults can get goals anchored down (or use pop-up goals and no keepers),distribute pinnies, monitor subs and get the kids started. On a U-10 sized field, run the games sideways and you can have two short-sided games going at once.
Tip: Email U-12 and up telling families that the kids can drop in any time between 5 and 7 p.m. and play. Sub players every 5-6 minutes. Even older kids love this sort of playing opportunity. In my Region, we have an inflatable pop-up arena we use and invite the U-16/19s to play in it during summer. It keeps the game incredibly fast and really helps with footwork. The kids love it, and it takes only two adults to set up and monitor.
3. Run a spring recreational league. This is the most labor intensive of all of the ideas, as you will need to recruit coaches and schedule a roster of games. However, it does satisfy the kids who want to play a full second season.
Tips: The emphasis should be on skill building and fun! Games can be run short-sided giving more touches on the ball.
4. If you have a coaches who specializes in certain skills (for example goalkeeping), ask if they will run 90 minute skill building clinics on weekend afternoons.
Tip: Kids can do an hour of drills, then scrimmage for 30 minutes.
5. If weather does not permit outdoor soccer, check with a local park & rec facility and see if you can sponsor an indoor league.
And here are four more quick start ideas from my colleague, Brent Whittlesey, RC of Region 1567:
6. Tournament Team League. One AYSO Region organized a spring soccer league for the girls U-12 tournament teams in the Area. The tournament teams planned to play in one or two tournaments during March, April and May. The other weekends they were available for local games. With eight teams participating in the program, there were at least six teams not at tournaments and available every Saturday for local matches. The coaches loved the program because it kept their players in condition and gave them the opportunity to experiment with formations and player combinations that they would not want to try out at tournaments. The parents loved the program because they didn’t have to drive to a tournament, or pay tournament fees, for every weekend. The girls loved the opportunity to play in a structured but informal situation.
Tips: The organizing Region charged the teams to participate based on the cost of field rentals plus $100 per team for the spring season.
7. Spring Soccer League. Another AYSO Region observed that surrounding Regions were not offering spring soccer, and invited players in all age divisions to register for the spring season as visiting players. The program included kids in the U-6, U-8 and U-10 divisions. The program attracted AYSO players from other Regions and new players who registered only for the spring season. Many of the players who participated played the following fall back in their home Regions.
Tip: eAYSO has the capability for an AD to “transfer” a player temporarily from one Region to another for a temporary program, which facilitates the organization of this kind of program.
8. EXTRA™.All executive members have been briefed on AYSO’s EXTRA™ program,which is intended for players who are looking for a more focused and competitive program. Spring is a great time to form EXTRA teams and get them started playing. Areas can take the lead on such a program by asking each of their Regions to provide one EXTRA team in each age division for a spring EXTRA program. If there are eight Regions in an Area and they all contribute one EXTRA team in each division, every division can play four games each Saturday and the program will be a hit. The players will enjoy competing against teams and players who they did not see during their regular fall schedule in their home Regions.
Tip: There is an application process and approval required to offer an EXTRA program. Here is more information on how to get started! [link:http://www.ayso.org/flex_programs/extra.aspx]
9. VIP. AYSO’s VIP program is a very rewarding program and should be established in more of our Regions. Why not take the opportunity to start a VIP program during the spring, when AYSO Regional Commissioners and other volunteers don’t have the pressure of running the fall soccer program?
Tip: Here’s more information on how to start a VIP program.