Thursday, August 22, 2013

Letter from ECFC President, Steve Tanaka

August 21, 2013

Welcome back, everyone!

I hope each of you got to spend some quality time this summer with your families, become rejuvenated, and are ready for the fall season! We are well positioned to have a fun and successful fall with Residence Camp kicking off preparations for the league play and team training starting on a regular basis for all our teams.

I have written this newsletter to keep you apprised of the club’s summer activities and developments, including our performance and areas of need. As in prior newsletters, many of these items are informational. There are also some areas in which we are looking for support, so please take the time to read and consider them.

Club Performance

Tournament Play
This summer, we had teams from all levels of our club produce quality results during tournament play. Our emphasis has always been on developing players and giving them the requisite skills to be successful, yet it is always gratifying to see positive competitive results in addition to quality play. To highlight a few:

Topping the list is our M95 Green team (U-18 boys coached by David Smith) which qualified to compete in the National Premier League (NPL) Champions Cup in Aurora, Colorado. This tournament crowned the NPL national champion. The M95s competed very well and we want to congratulate them on being recognized as one of the top teams in the country.

The F96 Green team (U-17 girls coached by Amanda Potts Huppert) also performed well in their summer tournaments. These girls were semi-finalists in both the US Club Regional tournament and the Mt. Hood Challenge, two prestigious and highly-competitive tournaments in the Pacific Northwest.

On the other end of the spectrum, the M04/05 (U-8/9 boys coached by Angel Planells) were tournament champions and the F03/04 (U-9/10 girls coached by Todd Schilperoort) were finalists in their respective Gold Divisions of the Westsound Summer Classic. What a tremendous performance by some of our youngest members!

Congratulations to all of our teams on their performance this summer!

Residence Camp
Last week, 71 Emerald City FC players and 8 coaches, staff, and chaperones participated in our annual Residence Camp. This mid-August camp offers a special opportunity for our players to gain concentrated fitness, sports psychology, goal-setting, teambuilding, and targeted soccer skill training, in addition to having great fun. The four-day camp was held at scenic Camp Casey on Whidbey Island. It gave our players a jump start for the fall league season, and, in the case of our high school girls, great preparation for their high school tryouts and high school season. Our coaches noted that many of our players exhibited tremendous growth, and feedback from families was exceptionally positive. One of my own daughters has already asked me to mark it on next year’s calendar!

I would like to extend a special thank you to Ruth Nicholson whose contributions directly related to the success of the camp. She was instrumental in the planning, negotiating, and facilitating of the camp experience, and we are all grateful for her diligence and attention to detail. Thank you, Ruth.

Additionally, I would like to thank Alisa Artis (F98/F01 parent) for volunteering to chaperone the kids during Residence Camp. Her contributions were also invaluable as she ably assisted Ruth in many of the logistical issues of Camp and was the main “homesickness” counselor for some of our younger campers. Thank you, too, Alisa!

Alumni Performance Notes
It is always nice to hear of the accomplishments of our alumni because it gives further credence that we are developing strong players and citizens. Recently, two of our alumni have received special attention:

DeAndre Yeldin, Seattle Sounders FC, became the first true rookie since 2005 to be named to the MLS All-Star team. DeAndre also participated on the US Men’s National Team in the U-19 World Cup and performed very well.

Aaron Kovar, Stanford University, who, as a freshman, was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and to the All-Pac-12 Second Team, was more recently named to the College Soccer News Preseason All-America Second Team and to Top Drawer Soccer's Preseason Best XI Second Team.

Notes from the Board of Directors

In June, ECFC held its Annual General Meeting at which the election of new board members took place. I am pleased to announce that Kerry Bauman was elected as a new member of the board. Kerry is a biologist who brings two years of volunteer board experience with her and is a valuable addition to our team. Welcome Kerry!

At our August board meeting, the election of officers took place. These are your board officers for the 2013-2014 playing year:
Steve Tanaka (F01, F98) President
Ryan Hatton (F99) Treasurer
Tom Leahy (F01) Secretary
Liz McDougal (F95, M01) VP Membership
Kerry Bauman (F01) Member at Large (Team Operations)
Mark Nebel (F00) Member at Large (Club Events)
Jon Bakken Coach Representative
Clare Fuget (F96) Player Representative
Theodore Looney (M97) Player Representative

Volunteers Needed

We are facing a number of challenges in light of the tremendous growth that the club has experienced in the past year. Therefore, we are actively looking for volunteer help within Emerald City FC in two major areas. Please contact me at to discuss your interests and willingness to help our club.

Board Member: We have one vacant board seat. Board members oversee the strategic, financial, and legal aspects of the club and provide support to club staff, including the operations, financial, and coaching staff. The open position carries a two-year commitment which will expire in June of 2015.

Committee Members: We are now forming several important committees to identify and implement improvements to key areas of club operations, including fields and website design. Additional committees are likely to be added in the coming months. We have begun to compile a list of people willing to volunteer and an abbreviated statement of their qualifications. There is no specific term commitment to these committees as their level of effort and duration will be tied to the specific tasks of each work group.


Brad Agoos, coach of the M02 Green and M98 White teams, has recently taken a position with the Portland Timbers professional soccer team. This is a very exciting opportunity for him, and we want to express our congratulations to Brad for this accomplishment. We are certainly sad to see him go as Brad was rapidly becoming a vital member of our coaching team. However, just as we strive to promote our players to the highest possible levels of the game, we also want the same for our coaches. If you see Brad, please wish him the best.

Brad’s departure has some effects on our team coaching assignments. I am pleased to announce that Scott Smith has been named as the M02 Green team head coach and CJ Hamel has been named as the M98 White team head coach.

Club Management

Over the summer, members of the board and our coaching directors evaluated our coaching organization, including its management hierarchy. We had several meetings to look at our direction, diversity and range of programs, recent club growth, staff workload assignments, and the skill sets of our coaching directors.

As a result of this process, we have concluded that a combination of an expanded, team-based volunteer program, a more coordinated program management approach, and a modest restructuring of the coaching hierarchy was the best course of action to improve our performance.
  • Starting with the Development team formation meetings in August, team volunteer positions will be updated and will include new positions such as team registrar, team events coordinator, and team board representative. The changes for upper club teams will be staged over the fall season and during team formation for next year’s teams as appropriate. These new positions are designed to increase our efficiency, communication, and member connection to the club.
  • We are working to identify and create process improvements that will better connect the programs in the club and increase administrative efficiency.
  • Some positions will remain unchanged in the coaching hierarchy, but a few additional positional positions are being considered to target specific areas of need. More information will be available in the coming months and will be noted in the next club newsletter.

Current and Upcoming Events

Development Team Formation Meetings
Team Formation Meetings for our Fall Development teams will take place on August 27th at Jane Addams field (the former Summit #1 field across from the Nathan Hale HS stadium) at 5:30 pm and on August 28th at Miller Playfield at 530 pm. These are very important meetings for our Development team families and it is highly recommended that all parents attend at least one. The focus of these meetings is to introduce families to the Development coaching staff, talk about the Emerald City FC development philosophy, offer insights and methods for parents to best support their players for their learning and growth, and to provide information about the upcoming season.

Deadline for High School players to register for Sportsworx
August 31st is the deadline for the club to sign up our players for Sportsworx, the online college research program that we provide free of charge to our high school-age players. There are several aspects to Sportsworx which are of tremendous benefit to our members: a college research tool, a scholarship program which provides thousands of dollars in scholarship money to select schools simply for being a member of our club, and a fundraising program for the club which was detailed during the May team formation meetings. The only prerequisite that Emerald City requires of our high school-age players to participate in these benefits is that the player must be registered in Korrio with full payment or a payment plan in place. Please make sure that your child meets these requirements so that they do not miss out on this tremendous program. If you have any question that the requirements are met, please call Amy Wakeman at (206) 713-4656.

Fall Season Play Begins
The first games for the fall season will be during the weekend of September 7th. The Puget Sound Premier League (PSPL) is in the process of populating the leagues and schedules will follow shortly thereafter. You can check the PSPL website for schedules at for your specific teams. Please bear in mind that the home teams are responsible for scheduling the fields and times for their games, so check back frequently for changes.

September Board meeting
The next Emerald City board meeting will be held on Sunday, September 8th at 7:00 pm in one of the party rooms at Arena Sports Magnuson. Each monthly board meeting is open to all of our members and we fully encourage our membership to attend. For future planning, our board meetings are held on the second Sunday of every month and are usually held at the Arena Sports Magnuson site. Any changes to the board meeting schedule or location will be posted on the website.

Board Topics

One of the purposes of this newsletter is to educate our members on significant and sometimes easily misunderstood topics. Although it would seem that youth soccer should be a simply-managed activity, in truth, there is a lot more complexity to the process than meets the eye. This section of my newsletter is intended to give you more information on some of those complexities. In this issue, I am covering our philosophy about “Playing Up” and Fields. Upcoming issues will provide information on being a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, the benefits of having highly qualified professional coaches, and the reasons why volunteerism within the club is so important.

Emerald City FC Philosophy about “Playing Up”
Over the past few years, we have had a number of players “play up” on an older team in an older age group. This year, we are placing increased emphasis on keeping our players in their own age group. This has generated a number of questions from parents, especially among families whose children had previously been playing up. Director of Coaching, Erik Oman, has written the following explanation which I would like to share with you:

Our Emerald City FC coaching staff is continuously working to stay current with the latest information related to player development and the technical and tactical evolution of the game. We strive to always put our players first in every decision that we make for the club. With our move out of SYSA to become an independent club, we have, in the past three years, had to rely at times on moving players up to older age groups to solidify some of our teams in an effort to keep those teams and our club viable.

Proper player development models rely on being able to move players up to older teams based on ability, as chronological age does not necessarily determine ability on the field. Children develop at very different rates physically, emotionally, socially, technically and tactically. Keeping players developing properly in the game demands that they are appropriately challenged on the field while also having the opportunity to be successful and develop confidence using the skills and tactics that they are learning. That is why we are working to create a ‘Club’ atmosphere where all of our teams support one another and our players feel connected to the other teams in the club.

We welcome the opportunity to move players up in age groups when it is developmentally appropriate to do so. In fact one of the big reasons that Emerald City FC plays under the US Club Soccer banner is the flexibility afforded under the US Club system to move players up as is appropriate. There are, however, some administrative issues behind the scenes, including having players listed chronologically for the benefit of college coaches in the recruiting process, that influence how we go about the rostering process. For administrative purposes, we will roster all of our players initially in the age group where they fit chronologically. Then, we will create the team rosters that reflect where players have been placed developmentally.

As we continue to grow as an independent club, we will have fewer and fewer occasions where we will need to have under age players playing up simply to fill out team rosters. We will continue to welcome opportunities for younger players to play their way up to older teams with their performance on the field and it will be at the discretion of our professional coaching staff to make those recommendations on a case-by-case basis.


One area in which we receive a great many comments and complaints is fields. I would like to note that the club gives a huge amount of attention to field issues. We want the experience of our members to be the best it can possibly be and we realize that the quality, quantity, and location of fields has a profound effect on that experience. Addressing field issues and associated problems is of extremely high importance to the board, club staff, and coaches.

The fields process is detailed and complex.

Emerald City gets the vast majority of its fields from the City of Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation. The Parks department is responsible for overseeing all public parks and public school fields within the city limits. This includes West Seattle, but does not include Shoreline or any of the private school fields. The Parks department takes requests from any potential users and has an obligation to allow equal access to all those who request space. However, in practical terms, field access may not be available to individuals or late requesters during certain times of the year because of heavy use by athletic groups such as Emerald City, SYSA, and CYO, lacrosse, youth football, ultimate Frisbee, and many others.

The Parks department cannot fulfill all of the requests put to them due to the number of users and a limited number of fields. Its field scheduling program is an adaptation of an accounting/ billing program and has limited ability to adapt to changing conditions. Due to these limitations, the method that the Parks department uses to assign fields is to copy the previous year’s field allocation for each user as the basis for making the current year’s field assignments. This method would probably work as well as any if there were no changes in the user’s needs, but it is quite inadequate to handle the needs of any growing organization like ours. That means that we regularly need to formulate and submit supplemental field requests.

This fall, we will have over 450 players playing for Emerald City, an increase of more than 25% from the same time last year. With such growth, receiving the same field allocation as we had last year is completely inadequate. Our current field allocation equates to over 100 players per training session or about 7-12 teams on the field at a time.

We regularly put in requests for additional fields with the Parks department, but it is limited in what it can offer us since all of Parks’ fields were assigned during its initial allocation to users. We have also put in requests with the Shoreline Parks department, Shoreline schools, University of Washington, Seattle Pacific University, Seattle University, Starfire Sports complex, Memorial Stadium, and all private schools that have available fields. So far, those additional requests have not yielded very many additional fields for us; however, one of those requests is still under consideration.

This is the reason why we have not been as responsive to putting out our upcoming field and team training schedules as we would like. Ruth Nicholson, our scheduler, has been working diligently to prepare the team training schedules, but I have directed that the schedules not be disseminated while we still have open possibilities to acquire more fields. While it is inconvenient to not have the desired two-week notice on upcoming training event locations, it is my belief that this inconvenience is better than the disruption of multiple changes and revisions to the monthly schedules after they have been released. In general, we all know the approximate times that our kids will train and it is mainly the field venue which we need to know. I’m hopeful that families can deal better with a late notice of venue, but if this is not the case, please email me and I will consider a change of policy.

Another concern in this area is the increasing frequency that some other clubs are poaching fields. This has become a big problem in that it makes a very uneven playing field for clubs—we are paying for fields and those clubs are not. While we have the official permit to use the space and can kick those other users off of the field, many coaches are reluctant to do so, citing our philosophy of doing things for “the good of the game.” From that perspective, I can understand their actions, but it must also be looked at in a business context. Teams utilizing space for which they have not paid are raising our club fees as we cover for their usage. We may not want to be the “field police,” but we must protect our own resources. Over the past year, we have spent well over $14,000 on field rentals. Given such a significant commitment of funds, we need to make sure that we are not supporting organizations which are not reserving and paying for fields appropriately.

Obviously, there are several issues that affect our field access and usage. As mentioned in the Volunteers Needed section of this newsletter, we are forming a fields committee to research alternatives, discuss strategies, and make recommendations for our club. Please give consideration to being part of that team. If you are interested in helping with this effort, please contact me, Steve Tanaka, at