Alive and kicking

In its 13th year, the Capital City Soccer League remains one of Juneau's more popular recreational activities

Posted: Sunday, June 24, 2007

Over the last few weeks, pick-up soccer games sparked the anticipation of one of the town's foremost adult sport seasons.

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On Tuesday evening, dozens of players and spectators will be heading to Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park as the Capital City Soccer League kicks off its summer campaign. Now in its 13th season, the Capital City Soccer League continues to provide the community a full line-up of competitive squads and challenging contests.

This year, more than 200 participants will comprise the league's four men's teams, five women's teams and a Masters Co-ed pick-up league for players over 30. Each team is comprised of 20 or 21 players from various soccer backgrounds and skill levels. There are also two women's teams competing in a separate "Classic" division, which is formed by players who are either new to the game, at least 30 or do not wish to compete in the more intense and competitive games.

CCSL coordinators Alison Cooney and Kris Coffee feel very positive about the friendly, non-competitive qualities the women's Classic division brings to Juneau.

"The word is getting out around town," Cooney said. "Even for people who have never played who want to play, it is a great chance (for women) to get out and exercise and have fun. There's no better exercise then getting out there and running."

Mike Bahn, a soccer player who's lived in Juneau for three years, also looks forward to the opportunity to get plenty of exercise, but finds other aspects of the CCSL appealing. After participating in several of the pick-up games, Bahn said, "I like the good sportsmanship that everyone has and there's a lot of talent in town too."

Each year, many of Juneau's players return from colleges and universities to participate in the summer league.

The talented young adults give the CCSL hope that the future of summer soccer will continue to remain strong.

Capital City Soccer League

13 seasons of soccer(all games at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park until late July)

Men's league: Four men's teams will play Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sunday afternoons.

Women's league: The women play on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sunday afternoons. The women's Classic league plays on Monday evenings and occasionally Thursday.

"High school participation is down in the CCSL due to the soccer camps available," longtime Juneau resident and veteran soccer player Aaron Brakel said. "It is great to see the way youth soccer is developing, but it means that fewer youth can commit to the full summer season (in the adult league). We used to field two complete high school aged teams and that just can't happen these days."

Although more prevalent in pick-up games, the league also enjoys a summer influx of international players.

"It is great to have fresh blood in the mix," player Kyle Hebert said. "I think it is great to see five or six new faces here who I have never seen play. They are very talented, and it improves the quality of the game."

For the league's first 11 seasons, Kurt West had the busy job of running the league all by himself. He helped organize adult soccer in Juneau for 17 years in all.

West stepped down as head of the CCSL in 2006.

"It was just my time," West said. "By the end there, my heart wasn't in (the work) anymore because besides being the president of CCSL, I also work a full time job."

West said he's in full support of Coffee and Cooney's new leadership.

"We were basically looking for some younger support who were willing to do a good job keeping the program alive for years to come," he said. "They were real interested in doing it and one had experience running an even bigger program down south. They are two of the league's best players and do an excellent job book-keeping ... better then I could ever be."

Coffee and Cooney decided they could run the CCSL together in 2006 by splitting up the duties in hopes it would ease the workload.

Coffee takes care of the difficult tasks of finding certified referees and scheduling field times, while Cooney maintains the books, a player database and helps find local sponsorship for this nonprofit organization to keep player registration fees at a minimum.

Together, the two women tackle the tasks of publicity, drafting the men's teams and managers and coordinating August tournaments.

Publicizing the league's schedule can be difficult. Although the CCSL advertises, sends e-mails and has posters, players said most of the publicity comes via word of mouth, person to person.

Cooney also said finding managers for the men's teams is also a challenge.

The managers in the women's divisions are more stable. For instance, Myiia Whistler has managed a team since 1998.

The craziest part of running the CCSL might be creating the men's squads by a grab-bag draft, a method employed for the last three years.

For the past two weeks, Coffee and Cooney worked hard to make each of the teams as equal in ability as possible in order to make the league competitive.

On the registration form, each player ranks his skills from one to five. Managers draw out of a lot of equally apt players on down through the lists. Then the managers draw a team out of the pool and perform the duties of contacting roster members about game schedules.

The steps are implemented to ensure fairness for everyone in the league.

The draft eliminated the old method of choosing teams in which squads recruited players to try and build the strongest team possible.

While having new teams each season makes the league more competitive, playing with veteran teammates had its own special allure.

Hebert started playing with the Douglas Truckers in the early 1990's by invitation - the old style of team recruitment.

"I don't mind the draft so much ... it's okay," Hebert said. "The talent is probably a bit more evenly distributed, but you don't have as much team feeling. Some of the team cohesiveness and unity of the team is lost. It was a unique feeling to come back to the same team and play with the same guys over the years, but I still like it because it is still very competitive and I like to play hard."

Games will be played at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park until late July when high school football will push league games to Dimond Park, Savikko Park and Melvin Park.

The turf field next to Juneau-Douglas High School is too small for adult soccer. However, with the future implementation of a turf field at Thunder Mountain High School the league hopes to play exclusively on the synthetic fields in years to come.

The men's league will play games on Tuesday, Wednesday, and on Sunday afternoons. The women come together on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday afternoons and the women's Classic League plays on Monday evenings and occasionally Thursday nights as well.

The Master's Co-ed League is a pick-up league played between the indoor and outdoor seasons

Players can still sign-up if they want to participate. Women's registration is still open, while men may potentially get on a team too. Players who sign up late will be put on a list by league coordinators and then contacted by managers when they are needed.

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