The snowfall Thursday night (3/3) into Friday morning proves once again that we need to rethink when the Spring Soccer Season should kickoff in New Jersey. With a host of tournaments this weekend, most notably the MAPS Spring Challenge and DTS Invitational Girls Tournaments, the start of the season is in question for a 3rd year in a row following wet weather that has created poor field conditions. The DTS invitational is on turf, so hypothetically they could clear the snow and play, but you run the risk of damaging the turf with equipment. Not to mention those Dutchmen are probably not getting paid for that work at 6:30AM tomorrow…
Yes, they are predicting near 70 degree temperatures on Wednesday (proving March is unpredictable), but with all the snow melt, fields will be left wet and soggy and the last thing clubs want to do is allow their teams to chew up the fields in March. There are specific clubs in NJ that won’t even open their fields until April 1st for these reasons! My club in West Windsor, which has 5 separate grass facilities, and 20 plus fields wouldn’t even run the risk of opening 1 or 2 of them due to the potential early season damage training could have, and I don’t blame them. The money associated with facilities and playing surfaces is on the rise (we put $10,000 in our grass fields last Fall), and with clubs paying trainers and DOCs these days, what is left in the budget?
Some leagues have got it together… Monmouth Ocean (MOSA) and Northern Counties (NCSA) have a start date of April 3rd, U10 and below in Mid-NJ (MNJYSA) begin on this date as well. However, the bulk of leagues including NPL, EDP, and JAGS have already begun or start next weekend 3/12 and 3/13. EDP has even sent an email to all participating clubs that they have “neutral space” available for clubs that don’t have a field available in March at $200 a pop. That sounds like we are forcing at this point, don’t you think?
Tournaments in early March have routinely been cancelled or postponed due to weather and field conditions. The updated status for tomorrow’s MAPS Spring Challenge in Pittsgrove, NJ is online. They have already cancelled games for Saturday March 5th due to poor field conditions. You can check their website by clicking here for latest information. My club has actually begun to weigh against entering teams into March tournaments for these reasons, also citing when tournaments are cancelled you lose a percentage of your entry fee no matter what. I get that these tournaments take a lot of planning and preparation specifically within the scheduling of games and referees and that comes at a cost. However, when a preseason tournament cost is nearly $1000 coaches and directors need to take precaution before entering their team recognizing that NJ weather in March could cost them half of that when no soccer is played.
Unpredictable March weather in New Jersey (and I didn’t even get into the wind down at the sod farm, ugggh!) is affecting the start of the Spring travel soccer season year after year. Tournaments, Leagues, and Clubs need to begin to look at this collectively and realize that a more reasonable start date is in April. Of course I understand the repercussions of a late start. Tryouts are held in mid-April, NJ and State Cup Finals are in early May, Regionals and Nationals in June/July, and then school lets out and many teams head for summer vacation. But we can’t mess with mother nature. A governing body such as US Youth or US Club needs to step in and help move EVERYTHING BACK. Otherwise it is going to be the same story year after year, March comes along, the weather stinks, and we need to cram 10-25 games in a 10-12 week time frame.