OYSA Changes Structure
of Fall League
By Chuck Keers,
Executive Director, Oregon Youth Soccer
Oregon Youth Soccer has historically administered all of the competitive leagues in Oregon. These were typically state-wide leagues, which had the advantage of making sure the best team had the opportunity to play each other and made it easier to match teams of similar ability for balanced competition. On the downside, state-wide leagues necessitated more travel and expense, occasionally requiring overnight stays.
Over the last few years, more and more clubs have established regional competitive leagues so that their families do not have to spend the time and money associated with state-wide travel, particularly for the U11 to U14 mid-level teams. Clubs saw some benefit of having local control of their league schedule and at the same time reducing costs for their families.
OYSA has made a number of significant changes to the structure of our Fall League in a similar effort to increase participation and keep costs down.
Our U11 league has been split into three regions within the state; Southern, Central Valley and Metro. In the Central Valley and Metro regions, teams will play the typical home-and-away format. However, there weren't enough teams in the Southern Region to do this without teams playing each other multiple times, so we have established a jamboree format for some of the games and included teams from the Central Valley region for variety and some crossover competition. This seems to be a welcome change, as our U11 numbers are up dramatically compared to last year. We have also modified the team rules this year to allow an academy-style program, eliminating rosters and establishing a pool of players within clubs to allow greater flexibility in team formation, which was very well received by our coaching community.
The U12 to U14 Division II and below leagues will be playing the typical 12-game fall schedule, but where possible (meaning when we had sufficient numbers of teams) we have divided the state into two regions - North and South - to try to keep travel down. Division-I teams will play state-wide and will also follow the traditional 12-game fall schedule.
Premier Gold and Silver teams at U12 through U14 will play state-wide to enable everybody in the state to have exposure to all of the strongest teams. This is not only important from a developmental perspective, but also ensures all clubs in the state have equal access.
The other significant change this year to the Premier Gold and Silver league structure is that we have scheduled only one game per weekend for these teams, and extended the season through March -taking two months off in December and January. The basic plan is to play eight games in the fall and six games in the spring, ending right before the start of State Cup. This model was encouraged by a number of the big clubs in the state and was supported by most of the senior coach leadership in meetings facilitated by Mike Smith, our coaching Technical Director. It allows more time for family, practice and other winter sports, and is consistent with best practices advocated by the US Soccer Federation player development guidelines, which encourage more practice and less game time.
We are also regionalizing our Olympic Development Program for the youngest age group, players born in 1997. The basic concept is that regional training centers will be established - probably North, South, East and West, where players would be selected and participate in a number of ODP training sessions closer to home, with less significant investment in time and money. After a couple of months of training, 20 or so of the top players from each region will be invited to a central evaluation tournament and players will be selected to the state team pool. If this process works well for the '97s, we will expand it to other age groups the following year. Read more about this in the ODP to Regionalize Youngest Age Group. If this process works well for the '97s, we will expand it to other age groups the following year. Read more about this in the article in this newsletter.
The structural changes to the leagues (and ODP) implemented this year should help more players participate in competitive soccer, should help keep the costs - in time and money - down and should provide more flexibility while strengthening player development by following national best practice recommendations.