Interviews With Scott Murray, Sasha van der Most, Teddy Chronopolous and Derek Armstrong on the New League
The landscape of youth soccer should be used to change as soccer has evolved dramatically over the past few decades. With the goal of developing soccer players who can compete and win on a world stage, a new league in Southern California emerges. Before, with our win-at-all-cost American mentality, our club soccer players were placed in a competitive scenario where technical training was often over shadowed by the importance of winning and practice training sessions took second place to soccer matches. This is changing. There is a new focus on the young youth soccer player, the U8 – U12 player, and their needs for development so they will be ready for the next level of training and competition. There is also an acute awareness that having our youth play 60 plus soccer games in a season is not beneficial. The U.S. Soccer Federation has set forth new guidelines for youth soccer players and clubs are embracing the training philosophy.
For decades, Southern California has been a national leader in player development. This fall there will be a new youth soccer league for competitive teams U9 through U19. This new league, Southern California Developmental Soccer League (SCDSL), will enable soccer teams from Ventura County all the way down to San Diego County to compete against each other and focus on player development. (Prior to the launch of SCDSL, competitive soccer clubs only had two choices, Presidio Soccer League in the San Diego area and the Coast Soccer League in OC and LA Counties.)
The SCDSL Founding Clubs are (in alphabetical order):
Arsenal FC, Beach Soccer Club, Chivas USA, Cosmos Academy, Irvine Strikers, L.A. Galaxy, Laguna Hills Eclipse, Legends FC, Nomads, OC Revolution, Pateadores, PVSC Exiles, Real So Cal, Slammers FC, So Cal Blues, So Cal Infinity, South Bay Force, South Coast Bayern San Diego Surf Soccer Club, United FC, and West Coast FC.
According to the league’s press statement, “The goal of the Southern California Developmental Soccer League is very simple; to allow all participating clubs to have the freedom to make decisions that are in the best interest of all their players and to place the League’s priority first and foremost on true player development. In the new league, all players will have the necessary tools to make their goals and dreams become a reality.” The league is the combined effort of many coaches and SN spoke with four, Scott Murray, Sasha van der Most, Teddy Chronopolous and Derek Armstrong, for this article.
Scott Murray, Director of Coaching for Real So Cal is one of the founding members of the new league and said in an interview with SN, “This league is for greater and accelerated player development. Our focus is on the development of the youth soccer player. We wanted to follow the initiatives of the U.S. Soccer Academy. The founding clubs all share a common vision and goal.”
Chivas USA Head Coach Sacha van der Most said, “Chivas USA is happy to be a part of this new league. It offers a good platform for our younger club teams to play competitive soccer.”
Teddy Chronopolous, Director of Coaching for Cosmos West said, “Most importantly, this new league is about the freedom to make decisions that are in the best interest of our clubs, teams and players.”
“The SCDSL is not excluding any club and there has been a quick groundswell who want to participate. We are not elitist and are looking for controlled growth,” said Murray.
Derek Armstrong, Director of Coaching for the Nomads Soccer Club in San Diego said, “Clubs that are outside of this new league can move in if they want to, no one is stopping them from applying.”
The Southern California Developmental Soccer League is open to enrollment from all competitive clubs, not just those participating in the U.S. Academy and ENCL soccer programs. For example, the Legends FC Soccer Club is not in ENCL and were pleased to announce their participation as founding members in the new league. According to Murray, “We look forward to accepting new clubs that share the same vision and philosophy.”
How will this work?
As Murray said, “All our clubs will play against each other, therefore Academy teams will play non-Academy teams and this will be good for the development of all the players.” Murray said “We are just getting started, have 23 clubs participating and should have more than 600 teams participating when SCDSL launches this fall.”
“While our new league will be competitive, players do not have to be of the highest level to participate. We want to make sure we have enough games for everyone; top tier teams as well as second and third teams in the same age group. It is about the overall development of the player,” said Murray.
Sacha van der Most said, “Personally, my philosophy on player development is to push players to the next level with the focus on learning being more important than winning.”
Teddy Chronopolous said, “The league’s season is only 3 months and we want to make sure we get the maximum player development”.
David Barry, President of Pateadores said, “Our new league will allow our coaches to prepare our teams following U.S. Soccer best practices and incorporating the unique style of play that our Club is known for.”
Murray says, “Taking my own club as an example, my own customers, we want them to know we have their backs and are doing something we really believe in, something that will be really good.”
Soccer coaches running a league?
The concept may make some people ponder the thought, but as Derek Armstrong said, “The founding members are all soccer people governing the league and that is a good thing. Experienced soccer people should be running soccer in California and everywhere across the country.”
The combined experience of founding club’s Directors of Coaching is amazingly impressive. For instance, Murray holds an USSF National “A” License, has been the Director of Coaching for Real So Cal for 5 years and prior to that was also the director of coaching for several other youth clubs. With more than 20 years experience leading youth soccer in Southern California, Murray has the knowledge and understanding required to help youth soccer in California reach the next level. Joining him are Teddy Chronopoulos, Don Ebert, Derek Armstrong, Colin Chesters, Sacha van der Most and so many more highly accomplished soccer coaches. These coaches bring more than two centuries of combined soccer experience. (23 founding clubs with probably an average of 20 years experience per coach; the math is simple.)
Many of the Directors of Coaching in Southern California agree that the soccer stars of tomorrow should not be playing 60 plus soccer games a season and that the emphasis of organized competitive soccer should be on player development not on a club’s winning record. Murray says “Winning is one component, and an important one, but not the only focus.”
What will make this league different?
Murray said, “The emphasis will be on technical development, especially for our younger soccer players between the ages of 8 to 12.”
Murray hopes to help players avoid many of the undue stresses placed on them today. For instance, parents being overly concerned about college scholarships when players are still very young and developing may seem absurd, but is pervasive. This focus on tomorrow can detract from the development of the player today and place too much importance on winning. Steve Hoffman, Director of Coaching and Player Development for Cal South also believes the emphasis on college scholarships often overshadows player development and the joy of the game.
How competitive will SCDSL be?
Murray maintains that the league will be competitive and acknowledges that the participating clubs are excellent but states the league will be more development oriented. Proud of what the team of clubs has been able to accomplish, Murray says “The SCDSL is 110% competitive, with the top soccer minds in the country today and some of the best coaches in the state, the league, by its very nature is competitive, but our emphasis is on the player development and not the win-at-all-cost mentality which can be disruptive to the growth of the player.”
When asked who was in charge of the new league, Murray quickly explained that this league is being led by experienced coaches and the administrative procedures are currently being set up. SCDSL will have an executive board and a technical board. The new league is also determined to dedicate more resources on coaching and referee education.
Does Southern California need a new league?
Derek Armstrong said, “Why do we need a new league? There is no doubt, what so ever, the people in Orange County were unhappy with the administration of the Coast Soccer League (CSL), so this is basically a progression of the development of youth soccer. Coast Soccer League has moved the game of soccer along over the years and has been responsible for some very good accomplishments, but unfortunately, there comes a point for change. The issues with Coast probably started when the Cosmos Academy formed.” Is there room for three leagues in Southern California? Armstong thinks so and said, “We are going to have teams in Presidio and a new league; which ever league suits what is best for the program and the development of the players.”
Life is a series of changes. Sometimes existing organizations and bylaws need to be updated for the betterment of player development. When they are not, sometimes evolution forces change. What is the response to the new league? Parents seem excited and club directors, who are not as yet involved, search for answers. Michael Duggan, Director of Coaching for Carlsbad Lightning said “We are not making any decisions yet. There are a lot of questions to be answered and we are looking at what is best for our players, our teams and our club.”
The SCDSL will be announcing specific details within the next few weeks. For any clubs that would like to find out more information about the SCDSL, please feel free to contact any of the following points of contact from the founding clubs and they will be happy to answer your questions: