1) Why is Iowa Soccer all the sudden interested in offering a recreational league in the Greater Des Moines area?
Our mission is to provide soccer opportunities. Through sound financial management we've recently just surpassed our operating reserves level. Over the last two years of strategic planning, we've been on a path to extend competitions services for our membership statewide and with additional reserves available to reinvest, are now finally able to pull the trigger on offering more competitions for our members.
It also happens that in late August we received an invitation from GDMJSL leadership to address its member clubs at a GDMJSL meeting about the services we would provide in a league and how we would manage a Level 3 league in this area. It was our understanding GDMJSL members indicated interest to leadership in hearing from us about a league we would run.
We have been transparent and collaborative in creating the elements behind our proposal for a Level 3 league in the Greater Des Moines area. We firmly believe that we can improve the soccer environment by offering competitions for our members -- from recreational through select. Creating a better environment and being more focused on achieving player development goals through league play will keep more players, coaches and referees in the game.
We are seeing our years of planning now finally come to fruition. We've already been running competitions for recreational and select members statewide and will continue on this path in the Greater Des Moines area. This fall we kicked off our recreational level North East Iowa Soccer League (NEISL) and are poised to have teams competing in our recreational level Western Central Iowa Soccer League (WCISL) next spring.
There is no hidden agenda as to why we're on the scene. We are keeping the team entry fee at $25 and reinvesting reserves to cover the balance of what we're projecting it will cost to run a league option that is different from your current choice. This is a commitment to recreational soccer to "provide soccer opportunities."
As a point of reference, the GDMJSL existed before the Iowa Soccer Association did. Iowa Soccer is the State Association member of US Soccer and US Youth Soccer and to which your club belongs. GDMJSL as an entity is not a member of Iowa Soccer, but it has provided the service of league play to member clubs since the 1970’s. Therefore, Iowa Soccer has not before sought to run a league offering the same service in this area. Please consider that from our perspective we have respectfully deferred to GDMJSL, choosing not to offer league play in "competition" with our own member clubs. In recent years member clubs from across the state, including many in the Greater Des Moines area, have asked us to run league play. Our planning and strategies to answer member calls for our services and leadership are now coming to fruition. In short, we're answering member needs.
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2) Are we going to have a voice?
YES! Iowa Soccer runs league competitions across the state and is engaged on a regular basis with league participants. By the very nature that soccer is what we do, we will have a finger on the pulse of what is happening because we're in regular contact with participants. In our league you'll find that you'll hear from us (so you know what's going on) and that it's easy to be in touch with us (don't need to wait for a meeting to bring things up). You come to us with issues? We deal with them. Have a question? Pick up the phone or shoot us an email. Need to voice concerns or great ideas? Let's grab coffee. The idea of having a voice isn't achieved solely through semi-regular group meetings and voting.
In our other leagues we have found it effective to have a meeting with league participants prior to and after each season. We sit and talk soccer, listen to challenges and collaborate on solutions. Our league director and staff has the experience of running competitions and takes input and feedback into consideration when making decisions. It's worked. We don't see why that wouldn't work for this league.
We're also going to set up an advisory panel. It will be our go-to group of 6-8 people that we can bounce ideas off, meet with as-needed (or regularly) and who you can go to with feedback. We'll set up a rotation of 12-18 months (still need to nail down) so that we balance continuity with bringing on new perspectives.
We understand there may be some skeptics. We just ask that you take a thoughtful look at the approach we've taken in working with focus groups in getting to the first step of developing an initial proposal. We think you'd be hard-pressed to claim that member voices aren't all over what this proposed league looks like.
At the presentation November 10 you heard us say that "We will not press the stop button tonight, after this presentation, December 6 or any time beyond then when it comes to collaborating with members and asking for input into the league." If there is more we have to do to earn your trust on this, let us know.
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3) A $25 team entry fee? How is this possible? And what happens in year three?
We have made a commitment to recreational soccer and offering league competitions -- to members statewide! The team entry fee for this league will be $25 in 2016-17 and in 2017-18; it is projected at $40 in 2018-19 (year three).
As we included in our initial proposal and stated at the meeting, we are reinvesting reserves into this recreational soccer initiative. Reserves -- not fee increases -- will be used to fund league expenses not covered by the $25 per team fee.
Year Three: We've done due diligence throughout this proposal and league development process. As of this point in time, we're projecting three years out that the team entry fee will be $40. That is a projection based upon the fact that we currently operate leagues, so we have a good idea what that entails and about where expenses are likely to land. This league will have its own budget and we'll be able to track expenses more precisely in years one and two.
We realize there may be skeptics out there and our explanations won't please everyone. But we'll always represent the facts to you and work in a transparent and collaborative way in making sure you feel you're getting value for the team entry fee.
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4) Iowa Soccer hasn't done anything for recreational soccer. What do you do?
The GDMJSL existed before Iowa Soccer, running a league in this area for clubs which eventually became members of Iowa Soccer (Iowa Soccer came to be after US Soccer implemented the governing bodies known as State Associations.) Iowa Soccer has taken a respectful and deferential approach to the League because of its history in the area – we chose not to offer a League for our local members because GDMJSL already offered that service. This has led to the unintended consequence of being perceived as “not doing anything” with our recreational members in this area. We have done a poor job addressing the perception that our organization is disconnected from recreational soccer in the area. And in other parts of the state where we already have recreational leagues, our members would tell you we are engaged in rec soccer and collaborate with them.
Further, here's a list of our rec soccer competitions/programs.
- Kohl’s American Cup is a tournament we've run for nearly 20 years. When faced with declining team entries, we made a single rule change allowing for guest players that helped spike team entries by 80%. This past June we also hit a record 125 team entries.
- Since we had done so well with bolstering team entries in the spring version of the Kohl's American Cup, we added a fall one starting in 2012. This edition of the Kohl’s American Cup has been held in the Greater Des Moines area and despite the fact it is offered on a regular GDMJSL weekend, we've averaged 75 team entries. In 2014 we added the U15-U19 Free Play Festival for Level 3 players to the traditional team competition weekend so that more kids would have more opportunities.
- We introduced and run U09-10 Academy leagues and festivals in the Greater Des Moines area and on the east side of the state. These came about in large part due to member desire for us to create a better playing environment to help keep kids in the game.
- We're also now on track to expand our U09-10 league offering to non-academy teams in the Greater Des Moines area as early as fall 2016.
- In fall 2015, we launched our North East Iowa Soccer League (NEISL) for level 3 Iowa Soccer members (85 teams this fall)
- We are slated to launch the Iowa Soccer level 3 league Western Central Iowa (WCISL) in spring 2016 (teams expected 60-80)
- We offer an Iowa Soccer "Friendlies" instrument by which you can seek out/find additional matches. GDMJSL teams have already utilized this.
- And we're here (the GDM-area) now, trying to further our mission while also responding to member interest in an Iowa Soccer recreational league in this area.
There is also an administrative services and support piece to what we do and resources offered for all our members, 75% of whom are rec.
- Mandatory risk-management and coaches hard pass program
- Volunteer background checks
- Insurance: general liability, directors and officers, and participant accident
- Player registration and roster management through LeagueOne online registration solution
- Ensure registration and roster compliance
- Team travel documents – notification to travel and guest player forms
- Thetournamentcenter.com – one-stop tournament management, entry and travel website
- Board Chair and Executive Director e-news – resources for affiliate presidents and boards
- US Youth Soccer membership
- US Soccer Federation membership
- Administrative resources
- Hearings and appeals for referee abuse and assault
- Club toolkit "running your clubs"
- "Excellence in Leadership" training program for clubs
- Parent resources and toolkits
- Coaching materials on website
- Alliance 4 All Sportsmanship program
Programs for players?
- Mandatory small-sided Games from U06-U12 which promotes a fun playing environment, player and coach retention. In 2017 US Soccer is mandating small-sided games for all its member organizations. Iowa Soccer mandated small-sided games in 2003.
- Iowa Soccer Association Developmental Camp, open to players of any playing level
- Alliance 4 All Sportsmanship Program
- U09-10 Academy: to promote a better playing and coaching environment with goal to improve retention
- League options from level 3 in certain areas of the state to a level 1 and level 2 statewide league
- Tournaments for level 3 through level 1
- Olympic Development Program
- Clinics conducted upon request
Staff as your resource
- Staff assistance is available to members for issues ranging from club management to coaching clinics to starting a new league. Staff is here to live our mission to "provide soccer opportunities" and achieve our vision "soccer the sport of choice".
- Contact staff anytime if you need support or if you want to talk about concerns or ideas.
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5) Your proposal is for 6 league games and we're used to the traditional 8 game schedule. Why?
- First, the primary desired characteristic of a new league that came from the focus groups was they wanted a league that was flexible. Flexibility takes many forms, including the consideration that "less is more". Six games -- over eight weekends -- is a reflection of what the focus groups landed on.
- Second, there was consensus around having to travel less and fewer games will help address travel issues. Recreational teams/families were being asked to commit extra time to playing soccer because of travel.
- Third, focus group members pointed out that teams don't always even get in all eight games. Because of the challenges of getting enough players to eight games on eight consecutive weekends, coaches would have to reschedule matches. And it isn't unusual for reschedules to not happen.
- Fourth, spreading six games over eight weekends, as proposed, results in more flexibility than the current eight games over eight weekends offers.
- Fifth, but really first, is the element of player development. More is not necessarily better when it comes to games. We're looking to run a league that has consideration for player development and a better balance between training sessions and matches will help that endeavor.
- On the player development note, having a BYE weekend, or weekend off in the middle of the season is not a bad thing.
- Alternatively, with the added flexibility of BYE weekends, teams may choose to play in other competitions. You need not just look to a league schedule as the only way you can get in games. Iowa Soccer will offer tournaments, festivals and already has a tool for finding friendly matches (some GDMJSL teams have used this tool). In time as our recreational leagues around the state get to having the same/similar league play dates, we can also look at scheduling cross-over league matches with teams from other regions of the state.
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6) We want our coaches to get more training but Iowa Soccer hasn't contacted us about options anytime recently. Will this change?
On January 1 we will have a new Director of Coaching (DOC) who will bring a different approach and new ideas to coach education and player development. By also running a Level 3 league in the Greater Des Moines area, he will have an entirely different mechanism by which to deliver coach education and player development initiatives to you. Further, our (eventual) former DOC will take over as the Director of Recreational Programs and will bring a background in coaching education experiences to recreational programming initiatives. We expect to be able reach many more coaches going forward and help create a better environment for players by helping the coaches.
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7) We pay player registration fees to Iowa Soccer. Why do we have to pay a team league entry fee?
Player registration fees (a.k.a. membership fees) go to the general fund and cover the array of services and benefits enumerated in the answers to Question 3. Player registration fees constitute only 1/3 of Iowa Soccer's budget. And for every player that registers, $1 of their fee is sent to US Soccer and another $1 to US Youth Soccer.
A league is a program and programs are funded by what is termed "user-fees". Businesses have to cover costs of programs (or products, for example) and league play is a user-fee program.
As detailed in our initial proposal, for 2016-17 and 2017-18, we are holding the team entry fee at the current $25 per team entry fee you currently pay the GDMJSL. We're committed to running a league for our recreational membership in the Greater Des Moines area and will be reinvesting operating reserves to make sure the program is paid for as it gets off the ground.
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