Courtesy of Seattle United Soccer League
Dennis Weymouth has been very busy with soccer in recent months. He's working to get the new Seattle United Soccer League off the ground and kicking.
'Our mission is to give back to the community spiritually, financially and socially. We express ourselves through the diversity we have on and off the field. To each equal individual player, fan, or contributor we are one wholly United League.'
A HISTORY OF SOCCER
'I have been in soccer myself since I was 6,' says Dennis Weymouth, one of the people behind the new Seattle United Soccer League. 'I grew up playing in junior high and high school. Then I became a soccer referee and was refereeing college athletes when I was still in high school. There was something about it that I loved. I loved the excitement of a great match with lots of fans in the stadium and roaring crowds. I liked making good money for doing something I enjoy. At that age, it was pretty good fortune. I love the game itself. Watching a play develop and watching the intent of a player when a foul is made is spectacular sometimes. Soccer is an emotional game and there is a passion that people have when they are involved, whether it is a Seattle Sounders fan or a parent watching their child develop in a club program at an early age.'
It's one thing to love the sport. It's quite another to undertake the dramas of founding a new league in a region that already has several of them for adults. 'The reason we established this league is because we have been involved in soccer most of our lives,' offers Weymouth. 'I wanted to organize a fun and exciting league that has a spirit of competition. There are a few leagues around that offer to referee 10 matches for you and collect a paycheck. I just want to do something better and make it more social, and tie it in with the community.'
The Seattle United Soccer League is being born out of the Gay community, though it has an open door policy for all players. 'This is an adult league and we used the term 'United' as an icon which recognizes everyone. All orientations, any gender, and there will be a mixture of age levels,' Weymouth clarifies. 'There will be some over-30 and over-40 players playing with some younger more youthful athletes just out of college. But teams will be equally divided based on skill level. Most players in recreational soccer are either novice, intermediate, or they have played premier and college soccer, which makes them advanced. Each team will be randomly formed through the lottery, creating the same number of premier players as it does novice and intermediate on each team. Teams will be equally balanced so no one team is stacked. This dynamic makes games more exciting, and allows for those who are new to be mentored by more advanced teammates when games are competitive. The spirit of the game is essential. It is a competition so teams will challenge each other for the cup at the end of the season.'
THE JOURNEY BEGINS
So how did the Seattle United Soccer League movement begin?
'We began the journey nine months ago,' says Weymouth. 'I became familiar with a local club. They have been around a long time, and have been pretty set in their ways. They told me it takes a lot of time to accomplish anything. We worked on the league together and had plans to introduce it to the club. There were months of preliminary work to secure fields. I found this the most challenging task. It is very difficult to get fields in the City of Seattle. There are not enough recreational facilities for every activity during daylight hours, so it is competitive to be able to secure a complex for a whole league.'
'John Bates has been wonderful at Seattle Parks and Recreation and he was helpful in us securing a great venue,' Weymouth continues. 'Players will not have to travel to Shoreline on a Tuesday night at 9:30 and then down to Renton for a 6 p.m. game on another weeknight. With rush-hour traffic and late-night games during the week, it is difficult to fit sports into your schedule. So we have games scheduled every Saturday at Genesee Soccer Complex at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m., and 12:30 p.m. We hope in future seasons to have them a little bit longer.'
With the place to play set, the league continued to tackle other obstacles. 'After we secured fields, the other Lego pieces just started to connect. Sponsors felt this was a great idea. They took ownership and jumped behind it to support it. It is because of their help the league is very inexpensive for players. We are offering a service for a fraction of the cost of what the other leagues are offering.'
NOT SO FAST
Everything was going according to plan until the club helping the cause had second thoughts.
There was a political division within the club, and finally a few controlled the outcome for everybody else. 'The website development was going on for months,' Weymouth says, 'and at the zero hour, the club decided they weren't ready to be connected to a league.'
'After hearing the news, the next step was to decide what to do. Do we just throw our arms up and quit? Do we hunker down and regroup like we are down 2-0 at halftime of the match, and then come back in the 78th minute and tie the match with a chance to win? I went back to the sponsors and advised them of the recent developments, and most were loyal to us and said keep going. Way too much had gone into this, and to stop would damage future opportunities to do this again. Here we are with two minutes left, and we need a shot on goal.'
Weymouth takes a deep breath as he remembers the tense situation. 'So here we go,' exhales Weymouth.
'Two weeks to go before the draft and kickoff party, and the Legos are still falling right into place. We just secured our venue for the draft night on March 25. The 88 Keys Dueling Piano Bar, which is across the street from Qwest stadium, is rolling out the carpet to make this a great event for everyone. Fields at Genesee Soccer Complex are being prepped for the Jamboree the following day on March 26.'
'Membership is growing, and that is the only thing that will determine the success of the league. The sponsors have already stamped victory on the league. Now the players just need to come and play. Because we are not doing the league for the club, that makes us independent, and we need to develop our own pool of players. We hope to ramp that up quickly. We are over halfway there. We need to spread the word through every network we can. We have to be diversified. This is going to be fun to create and get people involved in the organization. There are many passionate people that love soccer.'
Weymouth approached those who belong to the original local club and felt comfortable with going outside the barriers. 'I am a huge advocate of the club - I love watching Stonewall, Hydro, Halo, Riot, Empros, and Thundercats play. The club has really grown rapidly over the last few years, and there has been an influx of players in our community. I wanted to have a place for players to play until they had found a team, so we established the new league.'
'We organize the teams to keep the teams equally balanced. The teams are not playing against other teams that are much more skilled,' he continues. 'I see the social aspect as being one of the main factors. Rather than going to play against lots of people you don't know, people would like to compete against (and with) their friends and meet new people as the league grows.'
Weymouth has hopes that soccer will become an even greater part of Seattle culture through the SUSL, and encourages new players to get involved. 'This league will also benefit new players into the program that do not have a team to play on. The league will support and help newer members and retain them.'
'If you have ever tried to manage a team, you know how difficult it is to organize 18 people and make sure they are enough suited up to play each week. Then the biggest concern is getting everyone to pay, or as a manager, you are covering a $1,500 check to the league. We help with the management aspect. Our website is real-time. We will have results immediately and will broadcast captured memories instantly from the field. Only a few teams from the GLBT clubs have been able to successfully contend with the straight organizations. Many don't see a value or enjoy those expensive options so they have joined our league.'
Weymouth doesn't want labels, because the league he envisions is open and welcoming of everybody. 'This is not a Gay league,' he states. 'This is more a community organization that embraces all fans of the sport. The concept from the beginning was that the league was to be supplemental. Players could play both in the recreational clubs and in the club's league. The league would be a funnel for new players and would help retain those who cannot play during the week because their scheduled game will get them home at 11:30 on a weeknight, or they work 'til 7 p.m. and cannot make games before 8:30 p.m.'
'I have many friends in the club still and I hope I get to watch them play every week,' Weymouth says. 'But some work weekends, and it doesn't work for them. There are spectacular players in RCSC like Brandon Rust, Jared Aukland, Tommy Abrams, Evan Luckey, and Sammy - they are as good as they get. I would love to watch Seattle host an international competition and championships here for the International Gay and Lesbian Football Association and watch these guys play in Qwest Stadium. '
PHILOSOPHY OF DIVERSITY
'Our mission is to give back to the community spiritually, financially and socially,' says Weymouth. 'We express ourselves through the diversity we have on and off the field. Some players are more intense on the field than they are off. Others? Well, let's just say they are gentlemanly on the pitch.'
'To each equal individual player, fan, or contributor, the Seattle United Soccer League is open to fun, friendly fans of the game. We want them to play in this league because when they step on the field, they know we are all equal, we are all just soccer players, and the only person who can make sure that things stay equal is the referee.'
'So,' says Weymouth, 'as a referee, I cannot blow this call.'
For more information and to register for the spring league, visit www.seattleunitedsl.com. League lottery and draft March 25; Jamboree March 26.
Share on Facebook
Share on Delicious
Share on StumbleUpon!