The Endurance Run
By Rob Kehoe, NSCAA College Programs Director
March 16, 2017
As US colleges and universities recess for the always eagerly-awaited “spring break," the business of college soccer continues with teams preparing for the fall competition, and for the NSCAA office, working to support and promote the college game.
In last month’s column, I outlined priorities for each division, and since then, focus has been directed to advancing plans associated with the stated priorities, as well as has been given to additional matters that have surfaced, as happens each month.
Regarding priorities, and each division seeking ways to expand their season, revise the national tournament structure and address playing rules, all in the interest of improving the college game and enhancing the student-athlete experience, conversations continue to seek desired changes. However, in the world of intercollegiate athletics where sports are a second tier priority behind academics, and all sports are vying for similar attention and allocation of resources, producing change for “most” sports is an arduous task, and this certainly includes soccer. For coaches who have served on committees such as the Divisional Soccer or Playing Rules Committees, this is clearly understood as they have been at the tables where matters are discussed, and many factors are weighed in decision-making. And sometimes, or perhaps I should say, most of the time, getting favorable decisions on changes being sought is an endurance run.
For soccer, one aspect of the endurance run has been the request of coaches to seek change in the governance of playing rules, which presently states, that the rules are the same for all three NCAA divisions, and are applied by the NAIA, and Junior Colleges, and for both genders. With this request, I have met with the Playing Rules Committee for the last nine years, and in the past couple years, with the NCAA liaison to the Playing Rules Oversight Panel, and have stated that precedent is set, at least for gender playing rules separation, with examples being basketball, lacrosse and ice hockey. This has been responded to with the statement that each of these is regarded as a different sport, to which I asked the question, why them, and not soccer? And that is a question that will be asked continually, and is a significant part of the reason that the soccer playing rules survey is being conducted this spring, as we want to present a national opinion from the coaching community with a view of continuing to push for desired change. This is one example of the endurance run that we’re deeply immersed in presently.
So whether it is dealing with playing rules, trying to expand seasons, improving tournament formats, addressing TV coverage of College Cups, or attending to complaints about the Wilson soccer ball, all of which are projects in progress, it is all part of the endurance run with the goal of improving the conditions of the game on behalf of those most deeply invested in it, and that being the coaches and student-athletes of college soccer. With that I suggest that we keep our eyes on the prize and energy focused on the process.