Hello VYSA families,
I wanted to take a moment and share some information with you all. I’m Nick Schellenger and I’m the coaching director for the Viking Youth Soccer Association. My job is to recruit, manage, and support our coaching staff, run tryouts, assess players, create teams, and guide our player development process. You all see the results of our work, some attend board meetings, but after my conversations with many families this summer, I think there is a benefit to sharing the following information. Those of you who know me, know I struggle to be brief. But it’s a measure of my passion for this club and I really feel like every word is worth reading.
The following is a joint message from the VYSA board members, coaching director, and registrar:
VYSA has a few core values that we base our decisions on: Providing competitive soccer experiences, inclusion and equity, and player centered development. The first value defines our existence. If we are not providing competitive experiences, we are a recreational program, and the surrounding area parks and recreations programs already provide that. So we exist to serve players who want more. The second value is what sets us apart and makes this a special club. We believe strongly that money should never stand in the way of children getting high quality instruction and playing experiences. Our club fees are “at cost” to families and they are some of, if not the, lowest around. We are a club that welcomes all and we do our very best to provide developmentally appropriate experiences for every player. Finally, we are committed to the development of all players and design our club’s programming with the player experience as the focal point. Not only do we want to be educating players about the technical and tactical qualities that make soccer unique, we want to be teaching them lifelong skills about the importance of community and the pursuit of excellence.
One of the most vital initiatives toward creating a more fulfilling player and family experience, is to grow the infrastructure of our club. Bottom line, we need more passionate people with a vision of the future to get actively involved with the club. We are developing our coaching staff with growth and continuing educational opportunities so we can provide the highest quality of instruction to our players and comprehensive programming. We are also always actively recruiting qualified coaches. Right now, many of our coaches are working with multiple teams and filling gaps in our programming (winter season, goalie training, etc.). These needs are hard to meet at the moment without coaches burning out and leaving.
With that said, creating a player centered environment is about more than coaching. We would like to see people who aren’t active board members attend board meetings and bring ideas, opinions, and offer support. This will not only allow us to provide more programming and fun family experiences, but it will make sure our work is tuned in to the needs and wants of our members. Many people have opinions about the decisions we make and programming we provide, and thankfully so. We want and need your input. It is valued and heard. VYSA wants to invite those people with ideas and the desire to help to the board meetings to express those thoughts proactively. Again, with so much responsibility on so few shoulders, we’re always at risk of losing leaders because of the amount of work it takes to keep this club running.
- Holistic Player Development
VYSA is being built up to create good humans. Soccer is just the training method we use to reach this goal. Our players are being coached to become self-confident leaders. VYSA equips players with the goal and life skills to work toward excellence and importantly teaching young people that we have to support each other to be our best. To truly meet the needs of a player, VYSA has adopted a holistic approach with a focus on family involvement. We are looking at more events where club families can develop relationships and interact. A club where older players are more involved and taking pride in the successes of the younger level players, and visa versa, is a great sign of club health and we will try and continue to develop this. The job of our coaching staff is to make sure what happens on the field is special. We’d like to empower families to take on the challenge of planning and organizing some special experiences (for players and families) off the field. Please reach out to the club with any ideas.
To VYSA, equity means breaking the “pay to play” barrier that exists in youth sports and allowing all who share our values to participate.
If VYSA ever has “extra money” we have looked to reduce fees. We have built our fee structure to provide service at cost to families and offer financial aid to all those in need. We’re willing to support equipment costs and try to recycle jerseys and equipment to make sure no player is denied the opportunity to play for any financial reasons. Anyone who has been to board meetings knows this club has no interest in “profits”. One look at our registration fees and a comparison to how other clubs (soccer and other sports) and you will see clearly that keeping costs as low as possible is a value we haven’t forgotten.
VYSA has developed into a regional club and is not only a club for Holmen players. VYSA will not restrict participation from a child based on factors outside of their control, like where they live. Our club may have its roots in Holmen, but we offer something special and worth sharing with those who share our values. We are not looking to serve other communities so we can recruit talent or make “dream teams”. For many years VYSA has struggled to make teams where players are playing at the appropriate age groups and we were forced to shift players between teams, despite this not being in the best interest of those players. This is a practice we are looking to end as it conflicts with the player development value. For the past two years, we’ve only had two girls teams, U12 and U15, serving players from U10-U15. Now we have 6 teams (two U11, two U12, U14 and U16). This growth has benefitted players by allowing them to finally play at their age appropriate level and with their peers (which allows them competitive experiences at tournaments and in games).
We’d like to take a moment and address some specific items that have come up this year as our program has evolved:
We had more players tryout this year than ever before, which is amazing because it is a sign that the love of the game is growing in this area. In some cases, there were too many players for one team, and not enough for two. A team playing in the 11v11 format can roster 22 players, but tournaments only allow 18 players to “suit up” during matches. To maintain a player centered decision making process, and to balance the values of equity and a competitive experience we have decided to add players to rosters (beyond the 18 we can take to tournaments) participate as a “training team” player. They train with the same players, coaches, and field space as their peers and they will receive equal attention and instruction. If a player did not make the roster for tournaments, they will continue to practice and train. We want to develop all players to the best of our ability as a club, and if a player can’t attend a tournament we’ll look to bring a training team player in their place. We are scheduling friendly matches with other clubs where training team players will have the opportunity to develop skills in a game setting. If there is interest from other players of the same age group throughout the year, we will look to create a team for these players. We say all of this to let you know that we value all of our members and are looking to create the best experience we can offer with what we have.
We’d like to quickly explain our U10 tryouts as we typically do not take U10 teams to tournaments. A U10 player’s age and developmentally appropriate placement is in our fall academy program, FAST. However, we know many players in this group are ready for a more competitive experience. U10 players were encouraged to attend tryouts for several reasons. 1) The tryout experience can be anxiety producing for players and there is a benefit to going through and understanding the process. In the future, we may characterize this tryout as a “practice tryout” so the purpose is more clear. 2) For players who are ready for the next level of play beyond academy, it is appropriate to give them the opportunity to show the qualities they possess to play at the next level. The intent is to assess players and recommend appropriate placement to meet their needs. Those placements are our fall academy, or a move to a U11 team. There was discussion during board meetings whether or not to take U10 teams (7v7) to tournaments as their experience is different from the U11 (9v9) and decided not to do so this year. To be clear, there are no U10 tournament teams. Players did not get cut, they were either recommended for U11 or to the U10 academy.
Changes to Spring Soccer
For many reasons, our spring season will look different for players looking to continue playing in a competitive environment. In the past, our fall team players (who are typically the players looking for a competitive experience) would register in the spring for the recreational Tri-Rivers League. They would then have the option to attend two tournaments. This process had many benefits to the community and the club, but it also created many logistical challenges. These players were often split up onto different teams so that we didn’t have competitive teams playing recreational teams. Therefore, changes are being made to provide more clarity and consistency to players and families who want to play fall and spring soccer in a competitive environment.
We are still working out the details of how this will look, but the current plan is to have players register for either a competitive or recreational team for the spring. The competitive teams will play in the Southwest Classic League (Saturdays with 2 games per game day) and attend two tournaments. Recreational teams will participate in the Tri-Rivers League as we have done historically. This will allow our fall team players to stay together and provide more consistency in their growth as a team.
VYSA will still continue partnering with the park and rec to organize our recreational league and find and support coaches working with those teams in the same way we do with our competitive team coaches. VYSA does not require a year long commitment from players to play in the fall AND spring, but for those who are able to make that commitment particularly with the competitive teams, this will help us honor the value of providing a competitive experience and (hopefully, over time) eliminate the confusion of spring registration.
Soccer club’s have governing bodies that set many of the rules we operate under including tryout windows, offer letter dates, and some of the language used in those letters. We understand that in June, it is hard to think about the fall, but we need enough time to plan our programming, so we need to have commitments well in advance. In the future, your offer letter will include a link to register for the fall season. Deadlines will be more important, not to exclude anyone, but to ensure we can plan properly. This process requires a lot of work so it would be great if, as a community, we could help one another think about the upcoming seasons, help remind other families about registration, and if there is ever a question about this process, please reach out so we can help.
We are looking forward to the fall season and thank every player and family for being a part of this organization.