Suzanne Burgman decided to organize her own soccer league in her community. A community league that would be low cost and meet the needs of the families that were involved. The community soccer league she has created has grown to 65 participants. Suzanne gives practical tips on how to start your own community based grassroots Soccer League. Get active in your community today!

 

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Background

Our family has been organizing soccer for kids in our community for the last 3 years. We were motivated to do this after our first year of playing in a traditional soccer league didn’t meet our needs for our 4 year old.  He wasn’t able to play on a team with his best bud, and the practices were on Saturday when we were often out camping.

The following year we asked some friends if they’d like to join us to play soccer every Monday.  We rented the field from the city (under $3 / hour), and met weekly to play.  We  really began to appreciate both of our kids playing at the same time on the same field.

The first year we had 28 kids playing, and last year there were around 65. While the focus is soccer skills, the overall goal is outdoor fun.  This has been a ‘no-cost’ league but there are a couple of optional costs if folks want (shirts, medals & ice cream).

The basics

 

Set schedule (start day / end day / time)

We have generally done an 8 week season with the first get together at the end of April.   5pm has worked well for us, and is also a MUCH easier time to book compared to 6pm.

 

Send email to interested families

Get awesome / enthusiastic / active / community minded families involved.

Gather volunteer coaches

Make sure to have coaches for each team and a couple of assistant coaches that are willing to help.

 Create teams

Create the teams. You can do this by yourself or with the other coaches.

 

More info on…

 

Costs:

In the past, I’ve paid for booking the field and have purchased some equipment along the way.  This has generally cost less than what it would have cost to put my kids in organized soccer. Also feel free to ask the families to help cover the costs. I have  found that many families are willing to chip in to cover the incidental costs that come up, or purchase equipment.

Equipment:

  • Each family is required to provide their kiddo with a soccer ball and shin pads.
  • Pylons –50 pack of pylons (under $25 from Canadian tire).
  • Pinnies – available from this local Calgary company called  Lynx Leisure Inc.
  • Soccer nets (totally optional – Pylons work well too!).

I have purchased some of the above equipment, but many other families have contributed as well.  This helps with the costs as well as the responsibility of storing the equipment and setting up for practices.

 

Coaches:

Some folks are hesitant to offer to coach.  I emphasize that enthusiasm is much more important that experience!  There are many online resource’s available to help with game ideas.  Our coaches were also great at emailing out their plan to other coaches, so that you weren’t stuck thinking of new ideas each week.

I like to have approximately 8 kids per team with a coach and an assistant coach. We have had 1 informal coaches meeting at the local pub about 2 weeks before the season starts.

Teams:

As mentioned above, I find 8-10 kids a good number but it really can depend on the age.

Toddler Team

We never intended to have 3 year olds play, but so many kids had younger siblings that were keen, so we made a 3-year-old team.  We made this team a ‘parented’ team.

Older Teams

Last year, I found that the older kids (grades 1 and up) tended to be better with gender specific teams.  I was initially opposed to this, but found for our group that it worked better.

Extra

I always ask if there are friend requests.  I know this can make or break a season for kids!  I do my best to accommodate and even switch kids part way through the season if it’s not working.

 

Set up:

We generally work on skills for the first half, have a quick snack, then return to the field and play a game.  Maximum time on the field is 1 hour.  Less time is much better for the younger ages!

 Older Kids

The older kids sometimes pair up with another team for a bigger game.

Younger kids

Often, the younger groups split in half and play 3 on 3. We try to maximize the amount of times each kid will be able to touch the ball and a smaller ratio helps!

Snack Time

We get families to bring their own snacks.  I had no interest in organizing a snack schedule!  This also helps with kids with severe allergies but feel free to organize a snack schedule.

 

Booking the fields:

In Calgary this is done through the city of Calgary but just check with your city of town to see where you can book the fields in your community. Generally, other soccer clubs have already booked 6pm-9pm.  They have priority booking from the previous year, so your chances of getting those times are slim.

If booking at 5pm, you do require a special permit, which costs more than the field rental for the season (approx. $26).  Last year, we also rented the adjacent baseball field to play on.  Field rentals are $2.30 / hour for the  City of Calgary field (Yes, under $20 for the season), and $1.10 / hour for a school field.

The fields are also available first come / first serve when they aren’t booked.  I don’t think you’d have an issue just showing up most weeks to play however I liked having the certainty of knowing it was ours!

More info for booking Calgary fields here. 

 

Building community:

Our family always heads to the playground after soccer for a picnic & play.  Other families will often join in! Other options include having a group BBQ /potluck after one of the practices.

Optional:

Photographer

We’ve asked for a parent to volunteer to be the team photographer.  We’ve emailed out team / individual pictures or loaded them onto a photo sharing website.

 

T-shirts:

Most families decide to get shirts but they are optional so some families decide not to get them.

Option 1:  Make your own

The first year, one mom bought a bunch of clearance shirts from old navy ($5) and got iron on soccer decals and printed iron on name decals.  Total cost was around $10.

 

Option 2:  Order screen printed T-shirts

Benefits

The last couple of years we’ve ordered in bulk, which has helped out in terms of volunteer hours!  They also designed a logo for us for free which was really helpful.

Cost

Total cost was around $12 +$2 for the iron on name decal. We’ve always had the option of iron on name decals on the front of the shirt.  This has helped the coaches tremendously!

Medals / ice cream:

On the last day, we handed out medals and a frozen treat at the end and the kids loved it.

Cost

The medals were around $3. We collected $5 from each family to cover the cost of medals and a frozen treat. Families have always had the option to opt out of this, but no one ever has.

 

Our little soccer group has evolved over the last few years. We love that it is low cost and has brought our community together. Remember, building your own community based soccer program can be as simple as you’d like!

Since starting our soccer league, a fantastic neighborhood Mom has gone on to set up a similar t-ball league in our community.  It too has been very well received.

 

By Suzanne Burgman

 

 

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