The STATE of Soccer in WASHINGTON
ISSAQUAH, Wash.- You can plan for a new team, a new season, a new adventure, but you can’t always plan for the unexpected. Issaquah Soccer Club’s debut season in the WPSL (Women’s Premier Soccer League) began with careful planning but then took an unexpected turn about a month before the season.
“My coaching appointment for the Issaquah Soccer Club WPSL team reminded me of when I got the phone call saying I had been hired to coach the first women’s soccer team at Northwest University,” reveals head coach Erin Redwine. “I was involved with a lot of the ground work planning for establishing the first team at NU for about two years, so getting that phone call was a dream come true. I was given the green light in November of 2005, giving me only 8 months to plan, recruit, plan road trips, order uniforms, etc. for our inaugural season in 2006.”
The Issaquah job was a quick challenge after the people originally hired to get the team built and playing moved across the freeway to Emerald City FC. Redwine was brought in and had to scramble to “start over” with her roster. “The suddenness of the ISC job felt similar and put me in that familiar rapid fire work mode. I felt such a genuine anticipation in forming the team of top notch players to represent ISC, the Issaquah community and women’s soccer. My competitive nature and passion for coaching was firing at full capacity for sure.”
All the more amazing then that not only did Issaquah Soccer Club compete well in their first season, but they ended up representing the Northwest Division in the 2012 WPSL playoffs with a trip to San Diego. More on that later.
The spring and summer of 2012 saw a quiet revolution in women’s soccer in the state of Washington. The state had three teams in the WPSL (Spokane Shine, Issaquah SC, Emerald City FC), opening up over 60 roster spots for players to keep playing and developing. This type of experience used to be the exclusive realm of men, in such leagues as the PDL. “I remember coming home for the summer during my early college years of playing for the University of Montana and wishing there was a team I could continue to train and play with,” Redwine recalls. “I dreaded doing those summer workouts by myself. Having three competitive summer teams for college players to be a part of is exciting and will no doubt increase the level of play across the board. It’s my goal to send college players off into their preseasons healthy, fit, encouraged and motivated to break through to their next level.”
Two of the three WPSL clubs in Washington are supported directly by youth clubs. Issaquah SC president Bret Knutson says his club knew what they were getting behind. “Providing good role models was one of the primary goals for the program. Having the older players interact with our younger teams helped create bonds and build a fan base for the home games. We will be expanding upon that idea for this next season. Jimmy (Ball, Director of Football), Erin and I have discussed an “adopt a player” program which pairs one of our younger teams with one of the WPSL players. We want the youth players to have a personal connection with the team and this is one way we think that it can happen.”
“The WPSL team also serves as a link to multiple colleges,” Knutson continues.”Establishing relationships with the schools is important for ISC’s College Education Program which Coach Redwine is spearheading. Her first education session for the parents will be in October at Northwest University. She has set up some training sessions for our older players to attend and has also involved the men’s head coach as well as representatives from the schools administration. The objective is to inform both players and parents about the realities of scholarships and what it is like playing soccer in college.”
The Issaquah roster served to bring players of varying backgrounds and styles together, Knutson says. “The composition of the team was made up of local players, out of state players and some international players (England, Italy and Trinidad and Tobago). This was done intentionally to create a diversified team so the youth players could get a wider perspective on how the game is played. Coach Redwine has already received inquiries about the team from players both here in the US and overseas. She will be working with the coaching staff to put together the right mix of local, national and international players for the upcoming season.”
For the kids to aspire to
There were those on local soccer forums who wondered about youth clubs sending resources (money) to adult players. Issaquah SC Director of Football Jimmy Ball says the move has merit. “The biggest thing for me growing up was being able to watch my heroes and other professional players in the flesh. It helped me see what I needed to do and how good I needed to get if I wanted to fulfill my dreams of being a professional player. I feel that for boys now in America MLS gives them that target to aim for, but for the girls there was nothing to look at and say “I could do that” I hope that our WPSL team gives the girls in our community that carrot and helps motivate them to emulate and even surpass the players they are watching. The players are such great role models too, they attended club functions and spent loads of time talking to the young girls who wanted to ask them questions. We also had the WPSL team train at the same time on the same fields as our young players, this was great for the young girls to see how hard the WPSL players worked and hopefully passed on the understanding that if you want something you need to work hard to achieve it.”
Next door neighbors
Issaquah SC had a built-in rivalry with Emerald City FC, who came to life out of the initial plans for ISC. Issaquah had planned to field a U-23 type of team as well, but that team became the new rival at a second youth club. While the eventual division champion Spokane Shine chugged along east of the mountains, the “Seattle City Derby” between ISC and ECFC bloomed. The clubs knocked each other around a couple of times with the matches eventually deciding the division title. The rivals played to back-to-back 1:1 draws.
“Any time you have first class, competitive players competing against each other crosstown, they will “get into it” for sure!” Erin Redwine says of the new derby. “We had a lot of pride and the team came together fast. I thought my greatest challenge was going to be getting girls who are enemies for most of the year, competing against each other in the same conference (i.e. SPU vs. WWU or SU vs. UW) to come together as teammates for the summer. The team bonded so fast and battled for each other. We worked to keep the focus off of individual players and instead, expand our focus and vision to our team and our community – but there is no doubt we want to be the best team in Washington and I’m sure ECFC feels the same way so we just have to keep working hard to be the best. Our fans, facilities and coaching staff are outstanding, so now it’s up to me to make sure I put the best team on the field – that is just the bar that has been set here and I love it.”
ISC represented the Northwest Division in the playoffs after the champion Spokane Shine decided not to make the trip to San Diego. Issquah had finished second during the season with a 5-1-4 record. Redwine enjoyed the playoff trip. “Getting the chance to compete in the WPSL playoffs after our first year was a great opportunity. We went into it a bit beat up, injuries were at an all time high for the summer. Though we didn’t get the result we were hoping for against the San Diego Sea Lions, we had a great experience together. Now we know what to expect and fight for next year.”
President Knutson and company are already looking ahead to 2013. “We expect to build upon the success of the inaugural year. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to San Diego and represent the NW Division in the Regional playoffs. One of the primary drivers for deciding to attend was to see how we compared to the other teams in our region. Although we came up a goal short from moving on, we learned that our team is a solid competitor for advancement into Regional competitions and beyond.
“We jumped into the program with the intent of creating a local team for our youth players to rally around. Since the WPSL season is on the heels of youth tryouts in the spring, the home games acted as unifying events for all of the newly formed youth teams. The games were well attended and a great deal of fun for the families. We are very much looking forward to the upcoming season as we continue to strengthen this program for youth in the community.”
Redwine says there is a really good foundation to build on moving forward. “Families enjoyed coming out together and watching us play. My greatest joy was seeing the youth, especially young girls, run up to the players asking for autographs after games with huge smiles on their faces! Providing role models and “big sisters” for the next generation is the heartbeat of our team’s mission. In the blink of an eye, that U9 ISC Gunner will be wearing an ISC WPSL jersey with pride.”