There are many youth sports organizations based in Elk Grove, all with the purpose of teaching children the sport these groups have a real passion for. But, in this city there is no single sports group that serves as many young people as the Elk Grove Youth Soccer League (EGYSL).
There are more than 6,000 boys and girls who play for a team sanctioned by the EGYSL. So large is the task of organizing coaches, games, officials and fields that a few years ago they broke down the Elk Grove area into regional clubs to take care of running youth soccer in their territory.
“They are not their own non-profit, but they are given their own authority because the Elk Grove Youth Soccer League is a 501-C-3 and we grant the authority to each of our ten clubs and they operate by the bylaws we give them,” EGYSL president Debra Carlton explained. “They paint their fields, organize their players into teams.”
Carlton and her fellow EGYSL Board of Directors realized a few years ago that the overall operation really couldn’t continue with volunteers only. With more than $2 million in resources EGYSL hired a full-time Chief Operating Officer, along with a full time director of coaching, now tabbed as the “Technical Director.”
“We basically created in the bylaws a specific process where each territory elects their own directors to represent their own club,” Carlton said. “About five years ago we had grown dramatically and we wanted to be known as a very professional organization. We had felt that with six thousand players that it wasn’t wise to continue being run by volunteers.”
Andrew Donnery, who came to the U.S. from Liverpool, England, is the CEO. He has worked with several U.S. organizations including the Wilmington Hammerheads professional team and the Coastal Carolina Soccer Camps.
Earlier this month EGYSL hired Adam Smith as its technical director and Girls’ Director. He formerly worked for the Portland Timbers, a MSL franchise, as its Academy Director.
Other paid staff includes Rafa Ramirez, the U12- U18 Girls’ Director, Greg Rubendall, the U12-U18 Boys’ Director, Rey Harris, the U9-U11 Director and Ben Ormsby, the U4-U8 Director.
EGYSL has the mission of teaching the sport of soccer to young people in an area that is just a little larger than the Elk Grove Unified School District. There are “recreational clubs” that typically take on the colors of its neighborhood high school: the Elk Grove Community Club, Franklin Soccer Club, Laguna Creek Soccer Club, Rancho Murieta Soccer Club, Sheldon Soccer Club, South Florin Soccer Club, Vineyard Soccer Club and the West Lake Recreation Club.
On top of that EGYSL runs a competitive group for their more elite players called FC Elk Grove, along with a league for young people with special needs, “TOPSoccer.”
Now in its 22nd year, EGYSL fields a total of 415 soccer teams and using about 800 officials, have about 400 games a week in parks throughout Elk Grove. Plus, in order to better serve their clientele, a league has been opened at 9880 Waterman Road.
Carlton admits there’s always going to be some disgruntled people, given the enormity of the EGYSL. That why recently parents of the Elk Grove Soccer Club all received an email that their club was going to break away and become their own entity, separate of the large parent organization.
“There were about six people out of our organization a bit confused about our roles and they resigned their position,” Carlton explained. Initially, they removed money from their club bank account and grabbed some equipment thought to be their group’s property.
However late last week the money and soccer equipment taken by the EGSC leaders were returned to EGYSL. But, it’s a bit up the air whether the EGSC leaders will proceed with plans to field their own soccer league in the fall of 2015.
In their Dec. 15 announcement the group said they would take on a new name, Elk Grove Recreational Soccer League.
“The (new EGYSL) bylaws would have removed any/all decision making power from the recreation clubs,” they wrote in their announcement. “Ultimately, these bylaws changes would have created a homogenized recreation division with players wearing one standard uniform. In other words, EGSC would have ceased to exist if we did not make the decision to break away from EGYSL.”
The Citizen attempted to contact a representative of EGSC for further explanation, but no one has responded to a request for an interview.
“They did this really without the knowledge some of their own parents and not really understanding our structure,” Carlton said.
Carlton defended EGYSL’s position as a parent organization for all the area clubs.
“As one nonprofit entity we have great buying power,” she said. “We have access to fields and referees; together we educate our coaches and provide ethical standards by which we all abide. With that foundation, the clubs are required to abide by a consistent set of bylaws, rules, and policies so that one club does not overshadow another. “