Friday, September 22, 2017

What is Sharon Recreation Soccer (rec soccer)?

The Sharon Soccer Association provides an in-town recreation program in the fall and spring for children from pre-kindergarten through 4th grade. This program is designed to provide a basic foundation of skills for the developing player, while not losing site of the ultimate goal, that is, to have fun. The program is non-competitive; scores and standings are not tracked. Coaches are volunteers, mostly parents with help from high school varsity and junior varsity players. Instruction is also provided by trainers from Challenger Sports.

What is Travel Soccer?

Travel soccer is competitive youth soccer played in organized leagues between teams representing different towns. Travel soccer generally begins at age 8 or 9 (Under-10 or U-10 teams) and continues at least through high school (U-19).

My kid's not a great player... yet. Can he/she play travel soccer?
Parents should note that children do not have to be superstars to participate in travel soccer. For players at younger ages, the SSA attempts to be as inclusive as possible. As children progress, team selection becomes more competitive; but those who enjoy the game and practice their skills will, in turn, become more capable.

How are teams organized?
Following the rules of 
Massachusetts Youth Soccer Association (MYSA), Sharon's travel teams are organized by sex and age. There are separate teams for boys and girls. Additionally, teams are organized by age grouping. At younger ages, the groupings span two years of age (i.e., U-10, U-12, U-14 and U-16); at older ages (and in some more competitive leagues) groupings may span only one year (e.g., U-17, U-18, U-19). It should be emphasized that while age and grade are highly correlated, state and national rules use birth date, not grade, to determine eligibility to play on a particular traveling team. Leagues monitor age-appropriateness closely. Pictured ID's are issued to each player at the start of each season. The referee checks these ID's against the team roster at the start of each game. To ensure compliance with age requirements, SSA collects a copy of the birth certificate for each player.

How are teams selected?
Selection to teams is by tryout. SSA holds its annual tryouts in late spring of each year; player selections are announced shortly thereafter. Teams formed each summer remain largely intact for one year as teams may play outdoors in the fall, indoors in the winter, and then outdoors again in the spring. For younger teams playing 6-on-6, MYSA limits team rosters to 14 players. For older teams playing 11-on-11, the roster limit is 18 players.

How are the coaches selected?
The SSA Board of Directors appoints coaches for Sharon's traveling teams. A coach is almost always the parent of a player. Selection is often based on the observation of a coach's earlier performance in the town's recreation program. Some coaches may have played soccer in high school or college, but most have not. In its selection of coaches, the SSA puts primary emphasis on the individual's ability to foster a positive experience for the players and promote the mission of the association, including sportsmanship, fair play, and teamwork. Knowledge of the strategy, tactics, and skill of the game is helpful but ultimately secondary. Children learn to play soccer mainly by playing, and they won't play if the experience isn't rewarding.

Don't Sharon players need experienced soccer coaching?
The SSA recognizes that a strong youth soccer program depends on knowledgeable direction from coaches. Consequently, the SSA sponsors clinics and licensing courses for its coaches. All coaches of U-10 travel teams are required to complete an 8-hour course to earn the MYSA's "F license;" coaches of U-12 and older traveling teams are required to earn the "E license."
To help ensure the safety of Sharon's children, the SSA also requires all coaches to participate in the "KidSafe" program.

What league does Sharon play in?
Sharon plays in the South Shore Soccer League (SSSL). The SSSL includes teams from 17 nearby cities and towns: Abington, Braintree, Bridgewater, Brockton, East Bridgewater, Easton, Hanson, Holbrook, Quincy, Raynham, Rockland, Sharon, South Boston, Stoughton, West Bridgewater, Weymouth and Whitman. Within each grouping of teams by sex and age (e.g., U-12 Girls), teams are divided into as many as three divisions (i.e., Div. I, II and III) and two subdivisions (A & B) based on competitiveness, with Division IA being the most competitive. SSL officials classify teams into divisions based primarily on past performance.

So when do they play their games?
The SSL's main competitive season is the spring. The 8-game season begins in early April and continues through early June. Each team has one scheduled game per week. For a given grouping, all games are scheduled for the same time and day of the week, Saturday or Sunday. For example, all games for U-12 Girls may be scheduled at 1:30 on Saturday. Roughly half of the season's games are played at home fields in Sharon; half are played away – hence the term "traveling." The regular season ends with playoffs to determine champions in each grouping. League champions compete in the MYSA's Tournament of champions to determine state champions in each grouping.

Sharon's a fairly small town. How well do we compete in the SSSL?
Larger cities and towns (e.g., Braintree, Quincy, Bridgewater, Weymouth) certainly have some advantage in South Shore Soccer League competition due to their large populations. But small towns have proven that they can compete. Whitman once had a dominant program for girls. Easton's girl’s teams are currently extremely competitive. Sharon has had a U-16 Boys team that won a state championship as well as a U-12 Girls team that won the South Shore Soccer League Championship and played in the Massachusetts Tournament of Champions. What matters most to the success of a team is the dedication of the players, parents and coaches.

Are there special rules for SSSL travel soccer games?
Town teams play in uniform. Sharon’s uniforms are maroon. Players must wear shin guards and cleats. It is strongly recommended that players wear mouth guards. Players must not wear jewelry (or any other objects that may cause injury). Travel games are closely refereed, following modified international FIFA rules. Most games have licensed and uniformed referees. For older age groups, there may be two linesmen. Currently in the SSL, U-10 teams play 6-on-6; older groups play 11-on-11. U-10's and U-12's play with a Size 4 ball. U-14 and older teams play with a size 5 ball, the same as adults. Games take from 1 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on age. U-10's and U-12's play two 30-minute halves. U-14's and U-16's play two 35 and 40-minute halves, respectively. U-17 and older teams play two 45-minute halves, the same as adults. Time runs continuously except, at the discretion of the referee, for injuries and other major delays.

What is "Club" Soccer?

Club soccer refers to an organization or team created for purposes of playing at a competitive level above inter-town competition. Teams are typically comprised of players from different towns, and even regions, and most clubs participate in the Massachusetts Premier League (known as "Maple"), which is sanctioned by the Massachusetts Youth Soccer Association ("MYSA"). Information regarding the Maple league and a listing of member clubs can be found at www.maplesoccer.org.

How does “club” soccer differ from town “recreational” soccer and town “traveling” soccer?
The recreation department in a town, such as Sharon, may organize an in-town program for its youngsters. Such a “rec” soccer program normally encourages wide participation by the children of the town, so there are no tryouts. Usually participation is limited to town residents.

Separately, a private non-profit organization, such as the Sharon Soccer Association (SSA), may organize one or more “travel" teams to compete against similar teams from other towns. Broad participation may be encouraged, especially at younger ages, but participation in the teams is by tryout. MYSA sanctions and governs the leagues in which these travel teams compete; and it recognizes only one affiliated organization, such as SSA, to represent each town. For this reason (and not because of any formal connection to town administration) participation in a MYSA-affiliated travel program is usually restricted to residents of the town with which the association is identified.

Clubs are formed to organize “premier” level teams to compete against similar teams from other clubs. Participation in these premier teams is by tryout only and normally the tryouts are highly competitive. There are several levels of the Maple league, separated by age, and the league is structured as a pure meritocracy – teams advance in the divisions based upon their past success, and teams from lower divisions can advance by successful results in their division.

Maple league play starts at the U11 level and goes to the U18 level. At the U13 level and above, the divisions are more structured, with Division 1, Division 2, and typically several levels of Development or "D" level plays and the teams complete for a Statewide Cup Championship. Winners represent the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in U.S. Soccer, Region 1 Championship play.

Who should participate in “club” soccer?
SSA encourages its players to participate in club soccer if they desire a higher level of competition, more training and exposure to a more professional level of coaching. Many club coaches are highly trained and paid by the club for their efforts. There is a substantial commitment involved. Tryouts are in mid to late June and from there clubs typically train from late summer through early the next June, with two outdoor training sessions per week typical when weather and light permit. Maple has both a Fall and a Spring season with all games on Sundays. The times vary, and games can be anywhere around the state. The State Cup Tournament, for which teams seek to qualify throughout the year, is in early June and is currently held at the Citizens Bank Fields in Lancaster, Massachusetts. Most clubs train and/or play during the winter with varying level of degree. In addition, many clubs play in regional tournaments throughout the year (particularly on Columbus Day and Memorial Day), and some of the more elite level clubs travel to tournaments nationally. Fees vary widely and can range from $500 to $1200 per year, depending on the leagues and tournaments in which the team participates.

Will club soccer conflict with town soccer?

MYSA permits a player to be rostered both on a town “select” traveling team and on a premier “club” team, at least until U-15, so dual rostering is not prohibited. There will be some inevitable scheduling conflicts between club and town soccer. Practice times may conflict. Games may also conflict, especially considering travel times. Nevertheless, nearly all players who elect to join club teams continue to play with their town teams, and SSA is committed to working with the players and coaches to work through conflicts. It almost always works out. For girls, who play spring South Shore League games on Saturdays but club games on Sundays, there will be few if any conflicts between games.

What about other questions?
Several SSA coaches and parents have children who have participated in Maple and club soccer over the years and would be happy to speak with you about this subject. Please visit the "Board and Contacts" page to determine the most appropriate person to direct your questions to.