Direct Kicks Newletter, August 2009 Edition
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Written by: Dave Lavallee
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Catching our breath after a successful Seaside Classic
The South County Youth Soccer Club is catching its breath after a great Seaside Classic. The club is proud that three of its teams—the U15 Boys Clippers and the U12 (8v8) Girls Strikers, won titles in their respective Seaside Divisions and the U12 (8v8) Girls Surf nailed down the championship in the Classic Division. Coach Lazar’s U19 Girls team-Sharks..also won first place in their Seaside bracket.
But the tourney’s success goes way beyond the results on the pitch. So Direct Kicks thought it would interview Steve Washburn in his first go at overseeing the Seaside, one of the most important volunteer posts with the club.
DIRECT KICKS: The Seaside Classic has come to be known as one of the best tournaments in the region. In fact, the club’s new tagline is, “The best tournament you will attend all year.” What are the factors and people over the years that have made it such an outstanding event?
STEVE: First and foremost, this event can only happen with a strong commitment from our volunteers. The club asks every family to commit to helping in some way, and most families meet that request at the Seaside. Many hands make light work, and we try to make it fun besides. Teens often get into the act with service hours for church or school, as well.
In addition to all of the happenings during the Seaside, setting up and taking everything down are also critical. In fact, the single most important reason we had the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of all being together on a single site was the respectful setup and the quality of our cleanup in previous years.
Finally, there are a few people who give much more of their time to the Seaside Classic. We have an 18-year-tradition of people stepping up for bigger roles, especially those on the Seaside Committee. In addition, our coaches shoulder an increased load at this time as well.
DIRECT KICKS: What surprised you most in your first stint at running the Seaside?
STEVE: Well, there are a thousand details that people rarely consider – except when they don’t work. Field space, lines, goals, tents, carts, awards, radios, vendors, restroom units, signs, medical and police personnel, placing teams, scheduling games, referees, scoring, inviting and hosting the college coaches, trash, recycling, photographers, emergency evacuation procedures, sponsors, generators, bands, registration, directions, rules, and too many more to remember off the top of my head.
DIRECT KICKS: In club notices and local publicity, much was made of the 184 teams, the 3,000 athletes and 12,000 total attendees at the Seaside. But little has been mentioned about the volunteers. How many volunteers worked the Seaside, and who among them deserve special praise for going well beyond the call of duty?
STEVE: We’ve been using a rough estimate that there were in excess of 2,500 hours of volunteer time. Any attempt at a complete list would fill all your pages.
Ted Sorlien, Murray Gates, Rich Dunn, Mike McCabe, Andy Gagnon, Mary Ellen Murano, Al DellaBitta, Ed Irzyk, Deb Fagan, Dave Sheppard, Tom Keating, Kathy Damicis, Beth Palumbo, Rich Pepe, Diane Castro, Marj Nozzi, and David Kalen each deserve at least a paragraph or two. Andy Curtis was particularly patient with my zillion questions. There are many more.
DIRECT KICKS: Club members heard from many parents about how much they enjoyed the event because it was at one venue. How did you pull it off and will that be a strategy in the future? Direct Kicks understands that one main sponsor was a key player in making that happen?
STEVE: For the past few years, URI has not been able to host us on the fields we had historically used. In response, Jay Primiano has been building and nurturing a relationship with the great folks at New England Turf, and they have continued to make more space available to us than planned. In 2007 we needed an extra field on very short notice, and they came through. By 2008, we were able to use five fields more than the six we contracted for through URI. This year, they gave us the use of more than 48 acres of organic turf farm as a donation. We only paid for six of our 24 fields. New England Turf also is a company we can be proud to call a partner. They are breaking new ground as one of only a handful of organic turf farms in the entire country. They have also been an advocate of our efforts through Ted Sorlien to add and expand a recycling program to the Seaside trash disposal. This year, we recycled about 50 percent by volume. Next year we may do even more.
DIRECT KICKS: What was your most positive experience of the tournament?
STEVE: For me, it is the little things. There is nothing like the excitement as the fields first kick off on Saturday morning, and it was pretty stunning to look up for the first time at about 7 Sunday night and see that the entire place looked like a turf farm again – with a huge tent in the middle for no apparent reason. The smiles as we handed out the awards, and the numerous appreciative comments we have received in person, electronically, and in response to our Seaside Improvement Survey.
DIRECT KICKS: What was your most challenging/unpleasant experience of the tournament?
STEVE: Unfortunately, we had to scramble for some last minute dropout teams. We also had a couple of vendors that did not show up.
DIRECT KICKS: Those who went to the Seaside Surf Party Saturday night thoroughly enjoyed the music and athletes from Project Street Soccer. The kids had an especially great time testing their skills against the Project Street Soccer duo. But attendance could have been better. Will you hold this again next year and what changes might you make to improve attendance?
STEVE: I think the weather conspired against us a bit. As the wind picked up Saturday afternoon, people felt that they needed to go home or to their hotels to put on warmer clothes. Many of those did not return after a long day on the fields. Our timing was off a bit too in how soon we got people over there and cranked up the music. We have been reviewing the lessons learned from numerous aspects of the weekend, and the Surf Party is no exception. It is too soon to decide about next year, but if we do another Surf Party, we already have some great ideas for improvement.
DIRECT KICKS: You took some additional steps to ensure that the Seaside attracted top referees this year. What were some of those measures and what was the feedback from the officials?
STEVE: The two most important parts of any tournament are the quality of the competition and the referees. Our referees have improved dramatically over the past few years, and we have worked to continue to develop that trend. The first job is to make the best referees want to come. This year we tried to pay them on site for the first time. There were a couple of glitches, but nothing we cannot correct for next year. We also gave our referees a Seaside Classic commemorative coin. Several of our Seaside referees used that coin at the US Youth Nationals the following weekend. Believe it or not, the most important aspect from our referee survey is the presence of a field marshal on every field and the speed with which more officials arrive any time there is trouble brewing. We were very fortunate that Mike Forte negotiated to have several referee assessors at the Seaside, providing the referees with guidance, and us with outstanding expert feedback. We also provide fruit, water, and a place to get out of the sun during their breaks. This year, we also provided a few alternate-sounding whistles since some fields were close together. There are even more ideas brewing for next year.
DIRECT KICKS: This year, champions were awarded Seaside Classic beach towels instead of trophies or medals? What was the reaction from players?
STEVE: We wanted to get away from adding another dust catcher to a shelf, and have something that people will use all year. The surfboard shape fit perfectly with our beach theme, and the towels that proudly proclaim champion were a huge hit. We had some other ideas, but these were such a success that we will probably do them again next year.
DIRECT KICKS: Generally, what were the impressions of the players at the tourney?
STEVE: The competition was deeper this year than ever before, and seeing so many talented children is always a pleasure. However, I am elated to watch as teammates and opponents alike share in celebrating successes and supporting each other when things didn’t go their way. Absolutely priceless.
I also would never have predicted that well over a hundred players of all ages came up to me or one of our other tournament officials and said, “Thanks. I had fun.” That is a real lift.
DIRECT KICKS: Thanks so much Steve. We can’t wait to see what you have in store for us next year.
STEVE: 2010 will be a special year for us. It will be a World Cup year. We’re looking at ways to make it possible to watch those games on site. Bet on a few more surprises, as well.
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