Remember those “growing pains” so often mentioned when the prospect of moving boys soccer from fall to winter was first floated, then approved?
They are no longer theoretical and teams have the bruises to prove it.
Ache No. 1: “And you are?”
Coaches are only just now getting to know their full complement of players.
Because winter is soccer’s official season of sport, according to CIF, players can’t play games for both club and high school teams at the same time. The vast majority of the top players on high school squads are also spending the better part of their year with club crews, which means that while they were practicing with their high school teams, they could not suit up for games or for scrimmages.
And because there was a key showcase tournament over Thanksgiving that marked the end to the fall club season, high school coaches have been calling up junior varsity players to fill out starting lineups until these guys come back. That’s a tough assignment for a coach, not knowing what exactly you’ve got to work with.
An example: The season officially began Nov. 9 but Montgomery played with its full lineup for the first time only last week.
It’s only preseason, you might argue. You might contend that games now are just tune-ups for league so losses now don’t have much meaning. But coaches are quick to point out that postseason seeding committees look at a team’s full schedule when they choose rankings to determine who plays whom and where in the North Coast Section tournament.
And tougher postseason competition was cited as the A-Number-One reason for moving from fall to winter. That NCS tourney is pretty important stuff.
To be fair, players from the Marin County Athletic league are in the same boat as far as playing for two masters and missing high school games in the meantime.
Of course, soccer isn’t entirely alone in this. Think of Tom Bonfigli, head coach of the Cardinal Newman boys basketball team. He’s been running practices and waiting patiently for the football season to end so he can see the likes of Connor Rubattino, Damian Wallace and Jordon Brookshire. Of course, the first two on that list are pretty well banged up with gridiron injuries.
But the fact is, sports face overlap. We are just used to them being overlap from high school sport to high school sport. Just because the NCS says a season can start does not necessarily mean every player, every squad is at full tilt immediately.
So on to ache No. 2: “We have how many games in the first two weeks of January?”
The slow start is balanced out by a tidal wave of games that comes crashing in the first two weeks of league play.
The Ukiah Wildcats, for one, will get a heck of a jolt. They are a team that could not schedule a single preseason game because of long travel times and no guarantee the squad could return the favor with a long drive south next preseason. But come Jan. 4, it’s on. They play five league games between opening day and Jan. 13.