Local Cumberland County Soccer Club Partners with State Association to Address Youth Soccer Referee Shortage Following Covid 19 Pandemic
Contact: Andrew Otterson
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Mechanicsburg, Pa. (August 14, 2021) – As youth soccer strives to make a full comeback in our local area, not all aspects of the sport are returning at full capacity. A recent communication from Chris Branscome, CEO of Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Association (EPYSA) noted, “For a variety of Covid related reasons, there is a significant shortage of referees throughout the country. Eastern Pennsylvania was nearly 800 referees short this past season. Leagues and tournaments experienced difficulties this past year, and we need to reverse this trend. All players deserve a trained, US Soccer licensed referee at their games.”
Based on a unique proposal to help address the referee shortage, Eagle F.C. was recently awarded a Grow the Game grant from EPYSA. The grant will support this innovative program with the objective to certify referees, while also providing these new referees the opportunity to develop in a low pressure environment within the Eagle F.C. Futures Program and Recreation Program. The new Eagle F.C. Referee Development Program will target all members of the community, but specifically, local male and female players ages 14 to 18. The new referees will complete the certification course at no cost and then referee games within a controlled atmosphere under the guidance of a certified Eagle F.C. referee mentor. The ultimate goal, is to see these referees progress to higher level games with confidence and experience. This program will provide benefits to all involved and will become a sustainable and annually recurring program within the club.
According to Andrew Otterson, Director of the Eagle F.C. Futures Program, “This is an outstanding opportunity for us to not only develop young players and coaches within our Futures program, but we can also help develop referees, which will hopefully ease the shortage that is currently being experienced. Everyone benefits in this scenario and our young players gain exposure to a referee which adds a level of professionalism to our program.” Launched in August 2020, the Eagle F.C. Futures Program has quickly become one of the top development programs in Central PA. “For the Fall 2021 season, we are expecting nearly 350 players from U6 to U9”, Otterson noted.
In addition to the growth of the Futures program, Eagle F.C. is seeing numbers rebound within the U10-U19 Recreation program following a drop during the Covid 19 pandemic. The Eagle F.C. Recreation program offers low cost, local soccer to the community, a long time tradition within the club.
At the end of June, Eagle F.C. was proud to have two teams representing Central PA at the United States Youth Soccer (USYS) 2021 Eastern Regional Championships. Both the U15 Boys and U17 Girls attended the competition after qualifying via top tier USYS conference play. The Eagle F.C. U17 Girls, coached by Mike O’Brien, lost to Penn FC, a local rival, in the Regional Final following an outstanding performance in group play and the knockout stages. Eagle F.C and Penn FC were the only clubs in Central PA to each send two teams to this prestigious and long-running competition. The Penn FC U17 Girls went on to Bradenton, FL and won the USYS National title, which is a major accomplishment.
Following the Eastern Regionals, both the Eagle F.C. U15 boys and U17 Girls were accepted to be a part of the USYS National League P.R.O for the 2021-22 season. The National League P.R.O. is an elite designation given to only the top USYS teams with only 48 teams in the country selected. The Eagle F.C. teams will be traveling to Florida and/or Arizona to face the top USYS teams in the United States.
As the club’s Director of Coaching, Brian Redding, said, “We are a hard working, humble club. We are not the largest club in the area, but we have a group of highly experienced coaches, several of whom have coached at the collegiate level or played at the professional level. We want to provide a quality experience for the kids in our club to match our history and tradition of success.”
“We are excited to receive the Grow the Game grant from EPYSA to help address the referee shortage in our area. Ultimately, a high quality soccer environment requires experienced referees. This is a great opportunity to help EPYSA address the challenge”, said Redding. “We look forward to developing players, coaches and referees under the Eagle F.C. banner.”