Dwindling volunteer numbers putting Milton youth soccer in jeopardy

A Milton Youth Soccer Club player brings the ball up the field.

The Milton Youth Soccer Club (MYSC) is facing the very-real possibility of shutting down as it watches a trend of losing volunteer coaches and board members continue.

The club has been losing board members over the last few years and is currently down to just a handful who remain. With some of those set to move on or have their positions expire this coming summer, MYSC might have to drop certain programs or cease operations all together.

Additionally, the board finds itself in a constant struggle to have enough coaches for all of its teams and is trying to find ways to recruit more helpers.

“I am worried about the coaching situation--but hopeful that parents will continue to step up and that we can find a way to support them better in the future,” said board member Scott Tomasi who acts as the referee and equipment coordinators.

“I see private and premier programs growing in all sports; as players and parents commit to those year-round sports, the pool of volunteers will go down across the board. I think we will see it first in the board membership and the program’s organization volunteers. It is easier to step up [and coach] when your child is on the team and you will likely be at the practice or game anyway; it is a bigger ask of a person to show up and sort equipment, register teams, organize uniform orders, or try to find those resources for other coaches. I think we will see the volunteer program organizers for youth sports go away before coaches.”

This past fall, MYSC had 38 coaches for 22 recreational teams which were comprised of 171 registered players. On the travel side of the club, there were just six coaches for the six teams and 55 registered kids. This spring, however, the board currently has just four coaches lined up for the seven expected travel teams. Tomasi said the board will be forced to ask people to volunteer to coach multiple teams if more don’t step up; otherwise, certain teams might not be able to play their season.

The club allows for co-coaches and usually has a better time finding assistants once head coaches are in place. While the time commitment is a large factor in people shying away from volunteering, Tomasi thinks it’s more that potential coaches are worried that they don’t possess the knowledge required to run a team.

“This is very prevalent in travel where it is more competitive,” he said, “but we also see it in recreational soccer. We have tried to give more resources and clinics, but it is a leap of faith to volunteer for something on the hope that the board members, who are also volunteers, will help you if you need it or that you can find help online.”

The club’s board tries to make the endeavor less of a burden than people might think--taking on the tasks of registering players, scheduling games, ensuring that fields and equipment are ready, and handling any parent/player issues within the program. Additionally, MYSC offers training for coaches to get a better sense of the role and how they should be leading a team.

An incentive offered in the attempt to garner more board members is waiving childrens’ registration fees for anyone who serves more than a year. The board is also discussing potential incentives for people willing to volunteer as coaches.

“When I joined the board eight years ago, it seemed like it was easier to get people to volunteer to coach; now it’s like begging,” said eight-year board member Sarah Metcalf. “Our board members usually stay on for less than five years and help while their children are in the youth soccer program--then they move on. I love seeing the kids out on the fields--smiling, laughing, and having a great time. But that may come to an end unless we can get more volunteers to run the programs we offer.”

Another piece of the problem is that the premiere travel programs--which can come with an annual cost about eight times as much as that of MYSC’s--is pulling away players and, thus, coaches. Tomasi, however, thinks that there is still a place for Milton Youth and that it provides a valuable option to the area.

“I like the idea of town sports, because we offer opportunities for the novice who would like to try the sport for the first time--as well as the player who has played for awhile and wants to be more competitive and challenged,” he added. “We offer this without the year-round dedication to a single sport or money to play for a premier club program. My girls have tried town softball and basketball and learned to love those sports because of the volunteers who run these programs. I am grateful to those volunteers, and I would hate to lose that in our community.”

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