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The times they are a-changing

As you read this message, the world of soccer is changing around us.

These are interesting times in all levels of soccer, starting at the top of the game, with the appointment of Jürgen Klinsmann as head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team.

This is the first of several dramatic changes that have the possibility of changing the soccer landscape, from the national team to the youth game. In hiring Klinsmann, U.S. Soccer has made a bold move in an effort to inject new energy into our National Team, and in so doing establish new priorities in our youth environment. I applaud Sunil Gulati for taking this action. He continues to place his stamp onto the changing soccer landscape. We are all anxious to see the results of these efforts.

Of course, change has not been limited to the senior level. I just returned from the US Youth Soccer Annual General Meeting, where we continue to see further evolutions in the game. Over the course of its first 37 years, US Youth Soccer — co-founded by Washington Youth Soccer’s own Karl Grosch and two other visionary leaders — has spurred tremendous growth in the game of soccer in our nation. To have grown from its humble beginnings to serve over 3.4 million players today is quite a remarkable story in itself.

Like most organizations, along with growth, comes many barriers and formalities. This can be defined as many things, from infrastructure, to rules, regulations and policies. Just as Washington Youth Soccer was among the first to recognize, and take, the needed steps for change three years ago to ensure the continued growth and development of young players in our state, so is US Youth Soccer now faced with a similar call for change on a national level.

After serving on the US Youth Soccer governance committee for two years, and going through an exhaustive process of review of governmental structure, my fellow committee members and I recommended many changes to the Board of Directors of US Youth Soccer. Among those changes included voting to expand the Board of US Youth Soccer by giving the authority to appoint two independent directors to the board. Once the criteria for those positions are identified, the board will take on the task of finding and selecting the appropriate individuals. Just as we have done at Washington Youth Soccer, this change will add positions that will give the board an increased ability to operate free of regional politics, and make the key decisions necessary to continue the positive growth of US Youth Soccer. In addition to this, US Youth has adopted the club player pass for its National League Series. This will allow these US Youth teams to now compete on a level playing field with other competitive organizations. Washington Youth Soccer adopted the club player pass now three years ago, as we too saw the competitive landscape changing around us.

These changes are only some of many that must be taken by US Youth Soccer. As US Youth Soccer faces ever increasing competition, the need to make these necessary changes are paramount for future success. There will be more changes in US Youth Soccer taking place in the coming months and years, all for the benefit of its 3.4 million members.

Throughout US Youth Soccer’s first four decades, Washington Youth Soccer has been a consistent leader amongst the youth soccer organizations in the nation. Just as U.S. Soccer and US Youth Soccer have done in recent months, so have we been actively making the necessary changes in our structure to further benefit our membership, and continue to provide the most effective and efficient systems for providing opportunities for enjoyment and development of youth soccer players at all levels of play in our state.

Per our Constitutional Convention, we have taken several steps to further connect with the membership in recent months.

In November 2010, we named Hillary Beehler to the new position of Director of Member Services. In the months since, Hillary has traveled to several clubs and associations, and met with members from around the state to learn about the specific issues they are facing in their regions, to provide useful information as to how Washington Youth Soccer can better assist its members, and to open a direct dialogue between the state office and members. Her blog, “Set Plays” includes thousands of words of information developed from these meetings that has been of significant use to club and association administrators statewide.

Likewise, Technical Director Gary White has traveled the state attending coaching meetings and conducting coaching clinics and summits to interested clubs in every district of Washington Youth Soccer. These informative summits — which are in addition to the free online coaching videos and literally hundreds of coaching education seminars and license classes being conducted statewide on a year-round basis — have given Gary the opportunity to meet with hundreds of coaches, and to help put our state’s association’s most influential leaders — the youth soccer coaches who work directly with our players — in touch with valuable resources and information to improve their knowledge of the game and ability to serve our young players.

We have also elected new board members from a diverse set of professional backgrounds that further enhance our ability to operate a strong business in difficult economic times, and increased communication to our members through the monthly PlayOn! e-newsletter and monthly Technical Zone in focus newsletter sent digitally to our coaches. These publications, to which you can subscribe for free by clicking here, are a significant benefit of membership in our organization, with valuable information for players, parents, coaches and administrators alike.

As we move into the 2011-12 season, I am excited by the possibilities formed by our recent alignment with B.C. Soccer and Oregon Youth Soccer to produce Soccer Pacific, and by the advancements on a national level in concussion awareness that have been made since we helped spearhead the Zackery Lystedt Law in 2010, at the time one of the most comprehensive legislations in the nation regarding concussions in youth sports.

Just as at the highest levels of the game, Washington Youth Soccer is continuing to evolve to stay ahead of the curve in global soccer development — a testament to the hard work and actions of our Club, Association, Board and State Office leaders.

The times are indeed a-changing — but with visionary leadership, committed coaches, hard-working players and dedicated parents, we are fortunate to be on the leading edge of these changes, doing our part to build upon the foundation of US Youth Soccer’s first 37 years, and to further grow the game in the decades to come.

I will see you on the pitch…

Doug Andreassen
President


 
Washington Youth Soccer

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