What Do I Need to Start a Soccer League?
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It takes a true vision to start an entire soccer league. The logistics and administration become exponentially more challenging than running a single team. Your reward will be seeing hundreds of adults and children absorbed in games that forge friendships and fitness, happily exploring soccer as a means toward personal achievement.
You’ll need a critical mass of players for your league to function and grow. Tim Almaguer, executive director of Friends of Patterson Park in East Baltimore, inherited a youth league run by a church in East Baltimore, Our Lady of Pompei, in 2005. He grew the league from 100 to 300 players as of 2011. He plans to start a citywide league and considers 120 to 150 players on six teams to be the minimum. Matt Noah, president of the Fargo Soccer Club in North Dakota, started with four players and grew the club to 500 players in seven leagues as of 2011. Edna Whittier, trying to start a new soccer league for women in 2011 in Roanoke, Virginia, regards 100 as the minimum number of players to launch an outdoor league.
Field And Arena
Your league needs a place to play where it can count on maintenance and reliable access for scheduled games. In the summer, for example, Almaguer obtains permits to use city parks for a nominal fee. In the winter, the league moves indoors to the nearby Du Burns Arena, where he buys time for $100 to $125 an hour. Players practice free at the recreation center on the grounds of Patterson Park. You may need to purchase nets and goals for the fields, as the Fargo Soccer Club group had to do.
Needed equipment includes balls, shoes and uniforms. Adult leagues and suburban children’s leagues typically ask players to provide their own shoes and balls. Leagues vary on whether numbered T-shirts are provided as part of the playing fee or if teams arrange their own. City leagues with players of modest economic backgrounds may look for donated equipment. Almaguer obtained 300 free balls from the U.S. Soccer Federation. In addition, U.S. Youth Soccer gave the Our Lady of Pompei league the funding through an Adidas grant to buy 25 pairs of shoes. “We have the child and parents fill out a form that states, ‘here’s your size 7 shoe; when you grow out of it you have to pass it back.’ And we do provide T shirts,” Almaguer says.
Funding and Insurance
Your new league will require you to come up with out-of-pocket funds for field or arena rental and referee fees until team fees come in hand. Youth city leagues trying to avoid charging players look to grant writing, in-house park or church budgets or local businesses to underwrite operations. Insurance is mandatory; Almaguer’s league, run by a nonprofit, negotiates a separate rider on its insurance for youth teams.
An award-winning writer and editor, Rogue Parrish has worked at the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun and at newspapers from England to Alaska. This world adventurer and travel book author, who graduates summa cum laude in journalism from the University of Maryland, specializes in travel and food -- as well as sports and fitness. She's also a property manager and writes on DIY projects.