The Rosevelt Soccer Club – which is based in Westbrook, but also serves kids from Scarborough, Gorham, Windham and beyond – has just wrapped up its second year, and not only are headcounts up and expansion plans on the table, but the club’s various teams recently picked up five championship wins.
John Morgan, former Westbrook High School boys head coach, founded Rosevelt and still helms it. “We’re trying to maintain the quality of our programming while also accommodating increased interest,” Morgan says.
In the recent Maine State Premier League Finals, held at Thomas College on June 5 and June 12, the Club’s U14 team topped Dirigo (out of Gardiner) 3-2, and the U16 team bested DSA United (out of Camden) 3-2 on PKs.
Then, in the Coastal Summer Challenge Finals, held at Bowdoin College on June 19, the Club’s U9 team topped GPS Phoenix (out of Portland) 3-0, while its U10 outfit defeated Seacoast United 2-1 ,and its U16 squad topped Seacoast United 1-0. The U18 team, which Morgan coaches, reached the finals in both tournaments, but fell 4-3 on PKs to DSA United in the Premier League bout and 3-2 to Seacoast United in the Coastal Challenge contest.
Soccer Maine, US Youth Soccer’s official governing body in the state, operates the Maine State Premier League, while Seacoast United themselves established and hosted the Coastal Challenge. Seacoast United and GPS (Global Premier Soccer), the State’s two single largest Premier clubs, were affiliated with Soccer Maine in the past, but went their own way a few years ago, opting to engage mostly teams elsewhere in New England.
For Rosevelt to compete successfully against Seacoast and GPS is a good indicator of how far the Club has come in a short time.
Morgan took pride in his kids accomplishments: “Our U10 team went 4-0 against Seacoast teams, and won their bracket,” he said. “Our U9 team, of their four wins, I think three of them came against Seacoast or GPS teams; and our U16 team beat a Seacoast team twice to win their bracket. It was a good weekend for us to measure ourselves.”
Clubs work together
So the bevy of smaller local clubs scattered across Maine compete on the field, but off it work together to ratchet up the popularity and quality of soccer in the state. Happily, those clubs are having success at both endeavors. Rosevelt itself has seen its numbers steadily increase, and as a consequence, has been able to increase its offerings.
The Premier season runs, approximately, from early January to mid-June, so the recent tournaments served as 2016’s grand finale. Rosevelt, which features kids from a variety of cities across Southern Maine wasted no time after this past weekend getting the jump on 2017.
“One of our teams probably finished around four or five (o’clock) Sunday afternoon,” Morgan says, “and we had a board meeting last night to talk about rosters and coaching assignments for next season.”
“Last season (2015) was our first season,” says Morgan, “and we had three teams, a U13 team, a U16 team and a U18 team. This year we maintained our U13s – they became U14s – and our U16s and U18s. But we had enough interested from U9 and U10 players in Westbrook and Windham to put together two younger teams.”
“We are at 87 players this year,” says Morgan. “That is up from probably 60, the first year. And this spring, for player evaluations, I would say we had about 160 participate in our tryouts … Our player pools after evals are much deeper than they have been the past couple years.”
Girls’ teams in 2017
Rosevelt remains all-boys at the moment, but girls teams are on-deck for 2017. Next year, the Club looks to establish a U9-U10 girls team and a U11-12 girls team as well. Roughly 20 of the 160 players who came out for the club’s recent evals were girls.
Not only did roughly 160 kids try out for Rosevelt’s 2017 roster, but a rejiggering of the age bracketing is allowing Rosevelt to pull each team’s lineup from a bigger group of would-be players.
“We are combining birth years, because based on the number of kids we had come to evaluations this spring, we are projecting to be a U9-U18 club next year. So any kid between the ages of eight to 18, there should be a team they can try out for and have an opportunity to join,” Morgan says.
One upside to combining birth years is that teams get deeper.
“If you put together a U15 team and a U16 team, neither will be as deep with quality players as if you take the best U15 players and put them on the same team as the best U16 players.”
Rosevelt – and other small clubs – face several obstacles in expanding. Not only is there something of a coaching shortage in Maine, there’s also a shortage of playing space and time.
Combining birth years helps Rosevelt deal with both problems. “Normally, you’d need 10 teams to go U9 to U18,” says Morgan. “That means you need to find 20 quality coaches; you need to find enough turf time in the winter – which to be honest isn’t available in Maine.”
Even the bigger clubs are having trouble drafting enough talented coaches. Their approach to the problem, however, is somewhat different than, for instance, Rosevelt’s.
“The bigger clubs, they have the … philosophy where they’ll have one coach coaching anywhere from two to four teams,” Morgan says. “That leads to situations like, the coach for the U18 team we were supposed to play Friday night was coaching four teams that weekend. He put in an understandable request for a Friday game to reduce his schedule on Saturday, and that may have worked well for him, but it didn’t work well for his players, and only four kids showed up.”
Rosevelt, however, is committed to not stretching coaches too thin. “Philosophically, we have a policy, and it’s one of our selling points, of one team per coach,” Morgan says.
But playing fields and playing time are perhaps even harder to come by than coaches.
“I’m having conversation with the Gorham Sports Center by late May about how I need to book time for January, because their schedule is pretty much already full … so, six or seven months in advance.”
And the behind-the-scenes rumblings that some clubs, and especially the bigger clubs, bargain with locations for a degree of exclusive access to their facilities suggest another wrinkle in the process.
“To the best of my knowledge,” says Morgan, “I do not call Portland Sports Complex and say, ‘I’m with Rosevelt Soccer Club and I want to book 20 hours of turf time’ … So smaller clubs have to forget any time that might be available at Portland Sports Complex.”
Those obstacles mean that Morgan has to nurture Rosevelt thoughtfully.
“We’re trying to manage our growth, to be honest, for next year,” Morgan says. “Year One was all about getting uniforms on the field. Our goal this past year was to be seen as credible competitors.”
“We’re in the growth stage,” he says, “and looking at the lessons of the other, bigger clubs, who, for what their resources are, are spread too thin, and as a result, their programming is, in my opinion, suffering. We want to make sure we’re not spreading our even more limited resources even thinner.”
Most of the Club’s athletes and coaches from the past year are arrayed here.
The Rosevelt Soccer Club U14 Boys won this year’s Maine State Premier League title. The team features many Gorham and Windham players, as well as a smattering of kids from Scarborough.
Most of the Club’s players and coaches from this past year are arrayed here.
The Windham-heavy Rosevelt U10 Boys defeated Seacoast United 2-1 for the the Coastal Summer Challenge title on June 19 at Bowdoin.
Rosevelt’s Scarborough-heavy U16 team recently won both the Maine State Premier League title and the Coastal Challenge championship.
The Rosevelt U9 boys, Windham-heavy, topped the GPS Phoenix 3-0 to win the Coastal Summer Challenge recently.