Last week I posted this... It details my frustration with the policy in place for using the soccer fields at NE Metro Park in Travis County.
Here's the quick rundown of what has been going on: First, I emailed my County Commissioner, Sarah Eckhardt because I was having a very difficult time with the Travis County Parks Department. Their website has no contact information beyond telephone, and I wasn't having much luck with their phone system. Since then, I have had a chance to visit with Kurt Neilson (the head guy at Travis County Parks?). He kindly returned my phone call. Today I also was called by a board member of CAYSA. She and I had a good discussion... Apparently, my persistent questioning is beginning to raise eyebrows - and my name has been whispered through the corridors of power :)
Here's the deal:
- The NE Metro Soccer complex is only for games. They have a policy in place to restrict the fields/playing time so that they can maintain the fields. Understandably, they want the fields to have grass and for players playing on them to be safe, etc.
- Travis County isn't the only organization that does this... Paysl, Round Rock, and other CAYSA fields are also off limits to practice. (They do allow select teams to practice on game fields - but that's a whole other can of worms.)
- Each organization leaves its teams to practice wherever they can find a spot. Granted, "practice" does not require a soccer field or a goal - so most teams practice at schools or churches or wherever they can find a patch of grass... Some organizations have practice fields, but they are typically so full that its pointless to try to practice there.
I am left with a few questions: (I think these questions seriously need to be considered)
- Why aren't there more practice facilities? Why didn't we build the NE Metro Practice Facility fields ...for instance?
- The demand for practice areas should be just as great for game fields - so why haven't we addressed this issue? Is anyone attempting to create more practice areas or are all future fields going to be more "game" fields?
- Why is Travis County even in the soccer field business? Here's the dilemma I see: If I pay taxes, and I am paying for these fields, then shouldn't they be open to me and everyone else? If the county builds a pool or a playground or a volleyball court or a tennis court - they each have rules, but they are available to anyone. ...these are County soccer fields, right? - not Paysl, or Caysa, or whomever else right?
Believe it or not, I am not trying to be a pain. I love great game fields just as much as the next guy! ...what I am trying to get addressed, however, is the fact that there are not enough practice fields!
I sincerely doubt my questions will ever be answered - so in case you were wondering - here are my plans going forward...
I am giving up. I tried to "fight the system" and I lost. I really do not desire to be labeled an extremist or an instigator of ill-will or a rebel or a trouble maker. I'm just a dad who coaches his kids soccer teams and wants them to have a nice area to practice. I've given youth soccer 4 years of my life (and Saturdays!!) and soon my kids will graduate to select teams... Ironically, I was thinking of serving on a local organizations soccer "board" to give some back, but after this experience, I'm not sure I want to do that now.
Here are my humble suggestions to the powers that be - take them or leave them or completely ignore them if you wish:
- Open up the soccer complex - or gate it and lock it up completely. The sign on the front of NE Metro park says its a "public" park - if the fields are off limits then announce that to the public. Don't hide it... There needs to be a sign clearly stating that "These soccer fields may only be used by reservation and under no circumstance are they to be used for practice."
- For every game field that is created in the future - create a practice field. There are 18 fields at NE Metro. Imagine if we also had 18 practice fields there! ...Now that would be something to be proud of! That would be a soccer complex that the whole nation would look at in envy!!
- Recognize that this system is making it harder for kids to play soccer - rather than making it easier. Much is said in coaching seminars about keeping kids playing past elementary ages. Like baseball, kids are leaving soccer at alarming rates. Could it be that both baseball and soccer are doing the same things? Both are limiting the really nice fields and making kids practice in areas that barely resemble a soccer field or a baseball field. Practicing should be just as important, maybe even more so, than games...We need to make everything about soccer fun - including practice!
Those are my humble opinions and suggestions...
One final note: I am not angry. Nor, that I am aware of, have I mad anyone mad. None of the people mentioned or the organizations listed above have been in any way mean. All of the conversations have been cordial... It's just that I am in the minority. I guess I see this whole issue from a different perspective.