Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tournament review: The Mike Fults Memorial Beach Bash

The Mike Fults youth soccer tournament in Huntington Beach, California, is a popular competition in a nice location, but it tries to pack too many games into too little space and time, and its online operation needs a lot of improvement.

Scores of teams and hundreds of players descended upon Huntington Beach Sports Park in May 2013 for this American Youth Soccer Organization tournament.  This is a nice park, but it's not a soccer-only park. So to fit 12 fields in some compromises had to be made.
The 2013 Mike Fults Memorial tournament

The first thing I noticed when I arrived was that many of the fields were small.  And the second thing I noticed was that one of the fields was really small.
On these fields, goalie punts could easily reach the other end, and a normally hit corner kick would sail all the way across the pitch. Sometimes, it look like all the players were crowded onto a basketball court.

Playing on smaller fields distorts the game and isn't fair to teams. It's almost like playing a different game. (Puzzlingly, at least a couple of the fields had extra room on the perimeter and could have been longer or wider.)

Also, some fields had strange topography one had such a distinct slope that players going one direction had to literally play uphill.

I also didn't like that all games were shortened.  U10 games were 40 minutes instead of 50, U12 games were 50 minutes instead of 60 and U14 games were 50 minutes instead of 70.

I know this is not the only tournament that does this, but I always feel cheated by it. Players have traveled far (and their parents have paid a fair amount of money) to play a soccer game not 70% or 80% of a game.

Of course, by shortening games and squeezing fields, the tournament can register more teams and collect more entry fees. "Quantity over quality" might not be the best slogan for a tournament, but sometimes it's accurate.

I did like that the tournament posted the schedules nearly two weeks ahead of time so parents can plan. But beyond that the online operation was poor.

No results or standings were posted online. None. Looking at schedules required an odd three-step process of looking up a division, finding a team's number, and entering that number on separate page. There was no way online to look at a full schedule, or to look at the schedule for one division. The championship game/consolation game format was murky and unclear.

There were other issues. The organizers didn't provide enough tournament t-shirts for all the players on our team, and when the coach complained he was told nothing could be done.

Parking cost a reasonable $1 a day, but some of the pay machines were out of order, creating a long line at one that was working.

One thing I did like was that, at least in our grouping, the games were competitive and close.  I'm not sure if that was true in other divisions because, well, no scores were posted online.


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