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from http://www.sparksoccer.ca/

Edmonton Minor Soccer Association (EMSA) and South West Edmonton Minor Soccer Association (SWEMSA) have brought forward a mandate, which will change the structure of community soccer throughout the city. No family will have choice of where their children will play soccer if playing in community soccer. If registering in community soccer, your child will play soccer within the community that you reside in. If your community does not have a soccer program, your child will be placed in the closest community soccer program.

Since Spark Soccer Development Program accepts children from all communities, this EMSA/SWEMSA mandate has made it impossible for us to operate as a community soccer program of choice for the U10/U12 age groups, which in the past participated in the SWEMSA league. They have forced us to leave the community altogether but we continue to offer our younger youth development program.

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Spark Soccer program forced to disband after feud with EMSA

More than 200 Edmonton-area kids aged two to eight left without a team or league

Scott Petersen, The Edmonton Journal

Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2007

EDMONTON - Aidan Stevenson, age three, is too young to understand why he can't play organized soccer this year.

His mom Karleigh would have liked to explain more, but has a hard time grasping all the minor soccer politics herself. Her first foray into the sport has ended badly, with Aidan among the more than 200 Edmonton-area kids suddenly without a team or league.

The kids, ages two to eight, were registered to play Spark Soccer starting April 23. The program costs more than community league soccer, and is designed to give players better coaching and more practice time than they'd get elsewhere.

However, Spark's feud with the Edmonton Minor Soccer Association over where Spark was drawing players from came to a head during the weekend. Spark disbanded after being left with no place for their teams to play. The kids and parents are now scrambling to get their kids into soccer leagues after registration had already closed.

"It's really disappointing," said Stevenson. "You hear all these horror stories about hockey parents and how crazy things can get, and to have an experience like this first time out to play soccer is pretty disappointing. I had no idea it was so political."

EMSA and the Southwest Edmonton Minor Soccer Association are trying to place as many of the kids as possible into their leagues. Mario Charpentier, the EMSA president, said it wasn't an option to allow Spark to continue playing community soccer for one more year as a solution to the problem.

"You're asking me to break the law of the organization, of which I am president, for one season," said Charpentier, noting the Spark soccer parents should have been more careful researching what they signed their kids up for.

"We have 139 communities in Edmonton who follow the rules, but now we have to be, well, maybe 'nice' is the word, and allow somebody to play within our system, but without following the rules? What would we do with the next 300, and the next 5,000 and next 10,000 that want to do the same?"

Spark was started four years ago with about 30 kids who scrimmaged only against each other. The program grew and eventually entered SWEMSA as the community team for Terwillegar Towne.

Spark first drew the ire of the local associations when it started drawing players from outside the community, causing concerns over whether elite teams were being formed. EMSA and the Alberta Soccer Association then evoked the rule that players must play in their own communities.

Spark couldn't comply and withdrew. It tried to hammer out deals to play elsewhere as a club development team, and then tried to join the YMCA's Little Kickers program. Both fell apart in the last two weeks.

"The parents don't understand," said Barb Sutherland, a Spark organizer. "They don't want to understand. They just want Spark Soccer for their kids.

"Obviously, people are looking for an alternative. If they weren't, we wouldn't exist."

For Stevenson, she's already had her fill of soccer politics from the ordeal of trying to get her son Aidan involved.

She doesn't foresee herself signing either of her young sons up for organized soccer again in the future, unless it's something they ask for.


© The Edmonton Journal 2007


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  • 2 weeks later...

Spark ran afoul of the soccer gods by not fitting into the square (and often black) hole that is community soccer.

Spark has been offering soccer "training" for U4-U10 from a team of interested and/or paid coaches. This is anathema to the theoretically random nature of community soccer where coaches are regularly and necessarily press-ganged into the job regardless of interest or aptitude. Many community teams don't practice. Spark groups do practice regularly and with a high level of instruction.

Any child getting lots of touches on the ball will develop skill. The fact that Spark gets them these touches (which could be led by anyone) is a big part of the program's appeal. Their methods are not secret and, in fact, are posted on their website for all to download and use. It is curious that SWEMSA is leading the charge to kill Spark when the Spark method was officially adopted as the zone-wide program for U4-U8 by SWEMSA.

I sat with the Spark people at a community soccer registration a couple of years ago (promoting the select program I was coaching in). There was a steady stream of "raving fans" showing up at the Spark table - I was amazed (and a little jealous) of these goings on. Parents and kids loved the Spark program.

Spark does not preselect "elite" teams (a laughable concept for U6 anyway) as they've been accused. What they do is try to group like with like in terms of interest and existing skills. These teams often are "successful" (again, a laughable concept) versus Community teams and other Spark teams. The losing Spark teams are rarely mentioned when people complain about Spark.

I've seen many Spark players and currently coach some at high tier U14. By no means are they producing teams of little Maradonas (or Messi's). Would that they were.

What Spark does do is instill a love of the game in kids that keeps them involved at whatever level their skillset and interest allows them to play. What greater endorsement of any youth sports program can be made?

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Soccer Steve wrote to tell us that he would be covering the EMSA vs. Spark issue on his show today (April 28). The show is being broadcast as I post this so it is late notice, but I just got the message now...

From Soccer Steve:

That EMSA versus Spark soccer program will be available on line @ soccersteve.com between 11 - 2 pm MST. here what happened with 4 coaches who went to a discipline hearing at EMSA or did they ???

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