Southern Illinois Adult Soccer League
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SIASL History - How it all began


By Jeff Doyle
Founder and Original League President

To understand why an adult soccer league was started in Southern Illinois, you need to understand my background. I played soccer for the first time in 9th grade in Fairfax, Virginia which was only the 2nd season soccer was in existence in our area. I had a blast and even though my skills were very poor I wanted to keep on playing. But we moved to El Paso, Texas and they did not have a school soccer team or rec soccer teams available. Then we moved back to Virginia right before my senior year of high school and I played on the varsity soccer team the year as a defender. Again my skills were not very developed but I was fast and aggressive and that allowed me to be a decent defender. Then I went to college and was not even close to having the skills to play on our college soccer team, so I pretty much gave up the idea of ever playing soccer again at the age of 21. But after leaving the military years later and settling in the Dallas-Ft.Worth area, I found out from a neighbor about the adult soccer league in the area. It was (and still is) a huge league with many different age groups and skill levels. So I joined a team and played in this league for 11 seasons over 5˝ years. I thoroughly enjoyed playing soccer in this league and the company of others who enjoyed playing the game. Then I started a series of moves which took my family to Indiana, Tennessee and then southern Illinois. In many of these locations, I helped coach my daughters in soccer as they were growing up and that always reminded me how much I loved and missed the game. I often thought about starting a league, but I never followed through because of the amount of time this would require. Then I attended a leadership course through the Maytag Corporation and at the end we listed one goal in each of four categories: family, self, work, and spiritual. I listed "starting an adult soccer league" under my "self" category and thought about this heavily on my return flight. By the time I arrived back in Marion, IL, I had finally decided to take the plunge and actually try to start up an adult soccer league. This was a very scary thought for me because at the time I had only lived in southern Illinois for a year, did not know many adults, had no idea how to start a league, and had no idea if there were even enough adults in the area who wanted to play soccer.

Anyway, not knowing any better I approached the local rec soccer league, Marion Soccer Inc (MSI), in January of 2001 and asked their Board that I be allowed to form an adult division affiliated with their league. The MSI President was very supportive of this idea and eventually the Board gave me their permission to start up the division for the spring season. I did just that and surprisingly had 70 adults sign up to play in the league from all around southern Illinois. To be honest, the format I used for this league left a lot to be desired: essentially we all just showed up each week and I arbitrarily used something like birth months or SSN’s to break everyone up into even teams for that day. So every week we had new teams which allowed everyone to play with many other players in the league. Unfortunately, this also meant there was no team cohesion and by the middle of the season only about half the league was showing up each week. But the players that did show up had lots of fun because this was the only place they could play any adult soccer in Southern Illinois. I was going to try a different format the next season, but MSI informed me that summer that their insurance carrier said they would not insure the adult members anymore, so our division was disbanded. What a big letdown for me!

For the next two soccer seasons, Fall 2001 and Spring 2002, I coordinated some simple pick-up soccer games for anyone who wanted to play. We alternated playing each week in Marion and Carbondale. During this time, I worked with the Illinois State Soccer Association (ISSA), which is the governing body for adult soccer in the state of Illinois, to figure out how to start a soccer league. Judith McLean at the ISSA was my main point of contact and she greatly helped me to determine the documents and financial resources I would need to start up a league. This included copies of constitutions, league rules, board meetings, insurance, ISSA fees, uniforms, fields, liability insurance for any field we wanted to play on, and many more tasks so numerous that it was initially mind-boggling. After I finally knew everything that I would need to do, I had to choose when to start the league. I purposely waited to start forming this league until the summer of 2002 for two reasons: 1) The 2002 Men’s World Cup occurred that summer, and I hoped to have more interest due to this huge world event; and 2) Since all the annual fees to the state are paid in the fall, I wanted the league start to match the ISSA fiscal calendar. So I put an advertisement in the local newspaper and called for an organizational meeting for this new league on July 2002. I had great hopes for this league based on the many comments I had received from most of the adults playing in pick-up games during the last two seasons, so you can understand my disappointment when only 5 adults showed up! To be honest, I initially thought there was no chance for a league based on this turnout. But the 5 adults who did show all agreed to be a member of the original Board:

President: Jeff Doyle
Vice President: John Timmermann
Recorder: Colin Robinson
Treasurer: Rob Anderson
Registration: Denise Fann
Marketing: Donna Astiani

We met for the first time a week later and had the original league Constitution and Rules hammered out and approved by July 23, 2002. Then we all feverishly worked to get the word out about the league and start getting players registered for our first season. On August 28, 2002 we officially affiliated with the ISSA and our league was born! After that, there were still a thousand things to do in order to get this league up and running by early September, not the least of which was getting enough players. When the start of the season was only a week away, we still only had enough players to fill out 3 teams and I knew that having an odd number of teams would really hurt the league. So myself and the other Board members kept putting the word out we needed additional members for our league. Then Mike Mibb came to me with a request. He said that he had a full team's worth of players, but they would only join if they could play together. Being desperate I unwisely agreed to this request. It did allow the league to start its first season with 4 teams, but also hurt the league in a manner I'll explain later. Anyway, we started our first season with 68 players on 4 teams. 54 men and 14 women; 2/3 of our players were from 20-40 years old, but 19 players were over 40 years old and 2 players were over 50. We had true beginners all the way up to those who had played in college. 32 of the players were from Carbondale, 10 from Marion, 9 from Herrin and then small numbers from many other southern Illinois locations. Also our league started out with (and has maintained) a very international flavor with 10-15 players from other countries to include: Algeria, Brazil, England, Honduras, Italy, Jamaica, Mexico, Poland, Turkey, and Zimbabwe. The original team captains were: Team Red – Gustavo Leal, Team White – Leo Miller, Team Gold – Bert Fasnacht, Team Green – Mike Mibb.

We learned a lot the first season about how to run a league and mistakes to avoid in the future. We quickly realized we needed to recruit better referees and we had to enforce rules against any physical or verbal threats against the refs. We also found out some teams would bring on ringers if we did not dictate that only league members could play and they had to be fully registered and paid up to play. Third, we were in debt at the end of the first season by $500 so we realized we had to better manage our finances to keep the league afloat. Finally, the biggest lesson learned was to never again allow a group of players to come in as a team. Our Team 4 (Green) turned out to be a team full of very experienced players who destroyed all the other teams throughout the season. In fact, the games were so lopsided I was afraid this would drive off many of the other team players. Fortunately, most of the Team 4 players decided not to return the 2nd season and the Board began its continuous efforts from that time on to even out the teams in the league. This is a very difficult task with many different alternatives available. The original Board and future Boards tried different methods to even out the talent on the teams and some seasons we were more successful than other. This will always be a challenge for the league.

Because Green was so good the first season, we played an all-star team against Green for the final game. Starting in the 2nd season, though, we began to have a post-season tournament based on the regular season standings. This has worked very well, giving everyone several more games to play each season, and giving the teams a reason to show up each week and play to win. Definitely some of our best games all season have been in the play-offs.

The 2nd season started out just as scary as the first one and for awhile I was afraid the league was going to fold. With only one week left in registration, we still had not signed up enough returning players and new players to fill 4 teams. But as I found out the hard way, adults are much worse procrastinators than kids and the majority of the league normally waits until the last week to register. I almost got ulcers, but we did finally register enough players to maintain our 4 team league. This was truly the breakthrough season for our league because from that point forward, it was no longer a question as to whether the league would survive, but rather how many teams we would have each season.

We played with four teams until the fall of 2003 when we expanded to a fifth team. As I've said before, odd numbers of teams are difficult to schedule, so we continued to push hard to bring in new members and went up to 6 teams in the spring of 2004. While this is a good number of teams for the league, the current Board is making another push to expand the league to 8 teams in the near future. I wish them lots of luck in this endeavor to improve the competition and size of the league!

Finally I'd like to end this history with some discussion about the social aspects of the league. Our league has always promoted tailgating after each game and talking with your teammates and the members of the other teams. To me this is a very important aspect of our league because it brings all the members closer and allows each of us to talk about our great plays or laugh about our really ugly ones. Many times players have brought food and drinks and some of us stayed around talking for over an hour after the games. It really has created a feeling of one big family and also gave some of the league members a chance to informally make some suggestions for improvements to the league. I can honestly say I almost enjoyed the post-game activities as much as playing the games themselves. As long as our league has a great bunch of men and women who simply love to play the game of soccer, the SIASL will continue to exist long into future.

In August of 2006, I had to move to Marion, Ohio as I began a new job for the Whirlpool Corporation. Therefore, I finally had to hand over the Board President position after the Spring 2006 season and begin the transition of knowledge and experience to all the new Board members. This is a great group of individuals now running the SIASL Board and I fully expect they will continue to improve the league every season.

Good luck to all current and future members of this wonderful league!

Jeff Doyle
SIASL Founder
SIASL President, July 2002- June 2006
Big Red Team Player, Sept 2002 – June 2006


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