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The STATE of Soccer in WASHINGTON

RATS: The beginning of the end of Rec Soccer

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by Zoe Birkbeck

ratsSEATTLE, Wash.—Adult recreational soccer can be pretty hit and miss in Seattle. Some teams are nice, some are mean, and some magically have a different roster every week. Or, even better, you’ll come across a team that are pretty good, but then somehow come across another that looks like they would have trouble beating your old middle school team. Bad connotations have grasped a hold on recreational soccer. Whether it is youth or adult, it’s not known for being very great. The question one must ponder though, is why?

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Feature Video: RATS in Seattle

Well, to start off with, you’re lucky if your team shows up to games. You rarely ever find a recreational team with more than one or two subs, let alone one or two subs that are actually registered for the team! Most of the time, it ends up being four or five people that come regularly, and then whoever they can scrounge up in the remaining two hours before the game. There will be matches you come across, where the level of play between the two teams is an oceans-width apart, and it just isn’t fun for anybody.

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Recreational soccer wasn’t always this way, and a lot of the infections it has now are due to the lack of attention that the various leagues have received. A group of players realized this, and planned a way to change what was happening. Setting out to revolutionize the game; they created R.A.T.S., or what everyone will soon come to know as “Recreational Adult Team Soccer.”  A non-profit adult recreational soccer league, RATS was formed in 2012 by current rec soccer players and fans. Starting off with only fifteen teams, it’s blossomed exponentially, growing to an expected sixty teams by the spring of 2013. With a belief that leagues should be focused on the happiness of the teams, they planned their actions and moved forward, hoping to fix how people looked at rec soccer.

R.A.T.S. was created to promote recreational team soccer using three main focuses. Firstly, the center of attention is the team centered approach to league management. The league is about respecting the teams and referees involved, meaning teams come first! After all, it’s the players and volunteer managers that keep the league running. Secondly, the league offers professional referees, who are FIFA certified, and know the difference between ‘hand ball’, and ‘deliberate hand ball’. Not all the players will know the rules, so having wonderful officials who can call a good game adds to the authenticity of the league. And thirdly, the big picture is its recreational soccer after all; HAVE FUN! R.A.T.S. looks to help teams strengthen themselves and grow through new friendships made, and suggested get-togethers after the games.

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Not only does R.A.T.S. look to promote these focuses, the club also understands the importance of giving back to the surrounding community. All the coaches are skilled and respectable volunteers, and the teams are expected to do their part to help stay ‘friends of the athletic fields’.

It’s important to understand and remember that through all this, recreational soccer is a place to have fun. Teams and people like to win, but destroying teams, or being destroyed yourself, isn’t any fun for either team. Luckily, R.A.T.S. has already thought of this, and has created a solution: guest games. A guest game allows teams to sample the league and R.A.T.S. itself to measure their level and see if they would be a good fit. This helps remove the possibilities of being destroyed, AND, when a current team hosts a guest team, and the team ends up joining, they get $100 off their season fees. It’s a great way to help make the league better, and get your team a little reward for doing so.

As someone who has experienced the ups and the downs of recreational soccer, all I can say is LOOK OUT. R.A.T.S. not only brings back ideas that have been missing from rec for a while, but it also introduces new and innovative ways for soccer to be even more fun than it already is. From their guest games, to their team centered approach, joining R.A.T.S. would be a ‘new and improved’ way to meet new people, and enjoy the game of soccer, all without the normal issues. Don’t take your eyes off this new and improved league, because next thing you know, they’ll be all that is left.

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Zoë Birkbeck writes for goalWA.net as part of our new internship program that connects us with young writers, photographers and videographers to give them experience covering soccer online in the state of Washington. Zoe is highly active in the sport. The Roosevelt High School (Seattle) senior is a player (goalkeeper), coach and assistant referee. To learn more about our intern program please email us at goalWA@gmail.com.

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5 comments on “RATS: The beginning of the end of Rec Soccer

  1. Bill
    March 1, 2013

    I appreciate the perspective here – even though the author technically may not be old enough to play in many of the adult leagues – but my experience of adult rec soccer (men’s & co-ed, open & over-30 divisions) is far from the portrayal in the article. While the leagues are not without issues, I’ve found it rare to encounter teams who barely show up or field a team of random pick-ups. Most of the people I play with and against take pride in their play and enjoy the game – regardless of skill level. That being said, it’s good to see that there’s still room in this city for more soccer!

    • goalWA.net
      March 2, 2013

      Thanks for the feedback, Bill. Good to hear that you are having good soccer experiences, and certainly they could well happen more often than we think! :)

  2. clewis
    March 5, 2013

    I’m a founding member of the RATS league and appreciated the article and the perspective of a younger player. They are our future players in recreational soccer, though I hope Zoe and other players her age have a long and enjoyable career in competitive, college, and perhaps even professional soccer.

    The ‘ocean widths apart’ type games or seasons it what most don’t want at any level. So we do put a lot of effort into defining our divisions, respecting teams division preferences, and even creating teams to create more competition for outerlying teams (the very skilled or the enthusiatic beginners). Teams have been very flexible in terms of scheduling and allow us to schedule interdivision games, just to help us create that definition and make sure teams are playing where they should be. It’s generally a welcome challenge for the lower division team (though I have unwittingly scheduled the lowest ranked team in a lower divison against the highest ranked team in the upper division, but it’s one game and after post game beers, all is forgotten).

    In fact, in spring, Sunday women’s division 3 will truly be for beginners. It’s taken a year to get to that and newer teams have had to play established, reasonably skilled teams. The women in Sunday divison 2 have really helpful in adjusting their game and being supportive of these newer teams, so that soccer is open to all.

    It’s great that our teams have the interest and take the effort to help us all grow!

  3. Pingback: Stranger reports: Battle for Seattle’s public soccer fields | goalWA.net

  4. Travis
    April 4, 2013

    Great article! However, I have to admit that the title is confusing. The beginning of the end? Makes it sound like RATS is a bad thing for rec soccer (which is clearly the opposite of what you’re suggesting).

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This entry was posted on February 26, 2013 by in Adult Leagues and tagged , , , , .

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