Welcome to the 2019-20 soccer season! Although everyone has been training and maybe played some tournaments or friendlies in recent weeks, this weekend marks the traditional start to the new season. The first Saturday after Labor Day here in eastern Pennsylvania brings out tens of thousands of players, coaches, referees, family and friends to celebrate our great sport. Whether this is your first opening day, your tenth, or more, the anticipation and excitement is there.
Our hope for everyone is very simple: have a fun and safe soccer season. First and foremost, this game is for the players. We should all recognize the reason children want to play and come back each year is because they enjoyed the experience. Kids play because they have fun. Fun is a relative term as it could mean being with friends, having a laugh, wearing a uniform, being part of a team, learning a new skill, playing a certain position, scoring a goal, saving a goal or making a great pass. Whatever is the motivation for each player to enjoy soccer, let’s support it. Let’s keep the kids motivated. Let them play. Our goals for our kids should include having an injury-free and stress-free season.
A number of changes were made this year to the laws of the game - the rules of soccer. As with anything new, there will be a period of adjustment. Everyone involved - players, coaches, and referees are adjusting to the new rules. Please be patient. No one has played, coached, or officiated the perfect game yet. Undoubtedly, there will be some moments this season to illustrate that. However, what we must do is maintain our civility. Regardless of new rules, we must be respectful of the decisions players and referees make in split seconds. Consider your perspective from the sidelines; this means both your physical location to the play as well as your emotional connection. Consider that no player or referee welcomes instant and harsh criticisms during a game... no more than anyone would at school or work. Research has shown poor sideline behavior is chasing young players and referees of all ages out of the game. Let’s work to reverse that in Pennsylvania.
I’d also like to recognize the outstanding work from our member leagues and clubs that make opening day, and every other soccer day, possible. There is quite a lot of planning and effort that goes into each season. We plan for the good things and even the challenges. We don’t always know what the challenges may be, but we prepare. One unfortunate issue that is tough to prepare for is when an individual approaches players to influence them to leave their team to join another. To be clear, 'recruiting' in that manner is a violation of our bylaws. It’s very disruptive and disrespectful to other coaches, clubs and families. Collectively, we can do better. I know so many clubs that are offering quality programs and enable kids the chance to develop and grow. There are many others who are striving to grow and improve. Many are working with each other and sharing best practices and resources. I’m impressed and encouraged to see such progress and cooperation.
So many incredible things have happened in our soccer community recently. With member clubs winning regional and national championships, our ODP teams celebrating regional championships and gaining national recognition, the United States Women’s National Team record-setting crowd at Lincoln Financial Field, the formation of PHL 2026 to support our World Cup bid, and the first place Philadelphia Union streaking toward playoffs are just a few of many highlights. We have a lot of momentum and lot of support. I know coaches are excited, I know referees are ready, and I know - without a doubt - the kids are fired up and ready to play! On behalf of over 120,000 children, here’s to a great season. Best of luck to all!
Chief Executive Officer
Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer