By Jeff Nations
Devon Pence and Chris Hill are determined to make certain that the Shenandoah County Soccer League stays up with the times and ahead of the curve.
Pence, the SCSL's new president, and new league commissioner Hill are helping spearhead several changes they hope will help with player and coach retention, and even expand the league beyond it's current stable participation rate of about 500 players in each of the spring and fall seasons.
"We're trying to be more creative because we are competing with football and basketball and tee-ball and Little League," Pence said. "We're trying to be more creative in ways that we can reach out to the community.
"It's exciting. We're anxious to see how big we can grow this, how many kids can we get? How many coaches can we get?"
The SCSL has long partnered with the Shenandoah County Parks and Recreation Department, hosting SCPRD events at the league-owned six-field SoccerPlex in Mt. Jackson, and will host stargazing and movie nights on the fields this year. The SCPRD helps promote the league and permits usage of the five soccer fields at Strasburg Municipal Park.
Pence said the league is actively pursuing partnerships with area businesses and organizations through sponsorships and advertising opportunities at the SoccerPlex.
"There's so many opportunities for us to go out to the community, but we don't want to go out with our hands open," Pence said. "We want to go out and we want to show the community the marketing benefits of the Shenandoah County Soccer League."
As for the league itself, several changes are in store. This year, the SCSL will for the first time offer travel soccer clubs to its players. Previously, the league was strictly a co-ed recreation level for players ranging from U6 (starting at age four) through U18. The league is offering two travel teams -- U10 boys and U14 girls -- and has plans to offer more in the near future.
"We've never really tried to get teams at each age group," Hill said. "Winchester United and Front Royal have great travel programs that they've built up. That didn't happen overnight. Basically we had a choice of having our kids go over there and try out, or trying to establish something here."
The SCSL is also taking a different approach to all-star soccer, for the first time hosting their own Battle in the Blue Ridge All Stars Soccer Tournament on June 29-30 for boys and girls teams ages U8, U10, U12 and U15. The tournament is sanctioned by the Virginia Youth Soccer Association.
"We've got a lot of new things going on this year, one of which is we're having our own tournament," Hill said. "Historically we've participated in all-stars tournaments in Fairfax and Warrenton. After our rec season, we have a tryout for an all-stars team. Basically that's just a tournament team, and they travel to the neighboring counties or cities and participate in these all-stars tournaments. So this year we decided to do one ourselves and hopefully promote this league as well."
The SCSL is holding tryouts today for all-stars at Strasburg Municipal Park from 1 p.m.-2:30 p.m. There is no fee or pre-registration required to try out.
The SCSL's spring season is already underway, and registration for the fall season begins on May 1. Pence said registration is available online at www.shenandoahcountysoccerleague.com.
Hill hopes the changes will help the totally volunteer SCSL continue to grow and thrive.
"Our mission with the rec level is that soccer's about having fun, and promoting good sportsmanship mainly," Hill said. "It's an opportunity for anyone who wants to play soccer to come out, have some fun and get some exercise and just enjoy it."
"... Travel's just much more competitive in nature. It's a much more physical game, the coaches take it a lot more serious, as do the kids and parents."
For more information on the SCSL, visit the league website or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ShenandoahCountySoccerLeague.
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>