As Art Brown’s time as CAYSA president comes to an end, CAYSA membership would do well to reflect on the changes that CAYSA has undergone, the challenges facing the organization, and how it can assure itself of continuing relevance in the soccer community. Art has shepherded CAYSA through a time of change. Now CAYSA must act on that change.
Twenty years ago, CAYSA was a dominant force in Western District and STYSA soccer. All Centex clubs registered all their players through CAYSA and represented the organization throughout the state and often into regional play. CAYSA tournaments were well attended, annual events sometimes drawing teams from Mexico. Every winter, the CAYSA convention offered clinics, workshops and help in the nuts and bolts of running a soccer organization. Everyone from the U6 crowd to the D1 only clubs with *gasp* paid coaching directors were united under the CAYSA banner. As the organization neared 20,000 players, land was acquired, fields were built and all seemed rosy for CAYSA’s future.
And then it all changed. As the levels of play proliferated, USYSA’s 100% rule fell to a challenge by AYSO and suddenly new players emerged. US Club Soccer offered ways to focus on select play with more flexibility and local control. SAY offered lower costs for very few services past insurance. Against this backdrop, YMCA and Parks and Rec programs began offering less expensive rec programs. Even in the USYSA family, WDDOA emerged as the entity controlling Division I play. Suddenly, the monolith of CAYSA was no more. CAYSA now had to compete with other entities for the heart and mind of the local clubs.
There are probably few people around who remember a CAYSA that was led by anyone other than Art Brown or Joe Payton. The next generation of leadership will have a chance to put its own mark on the organization. That leader will also face a decided choice: does CAYSA continue along as it has, as little more than a conduit for registration, or does it challenge itself to evolve into a value added organization that attracts membership by desire rather than necessity. What does such an organization look like?
- A focus on customer service. Every action of every employee and volunteer should be taken against a backdrop of remembering that the clubs are our customers. They join us voluntarily and have other options available. This does not mean that hard decisions shouldn’t be made, but that any action must be taken deliberately, equitably and communicated diplomatically. Prompt return of phone calls, better communication, up to date websites and the like are things that show the membership that they matter. Establishing regular calendars and competitions which occur under pre-published and equitably created rules should be a top priority.
- Providing Tangible Services to Members. CAYSA provides few services beyond organizing league play. The insurance and registration is through STYSA programs. CAYSA championships often seem like last minute affairs. CAYSA’s members are left to do all the detail work, including organizing referee clinics, coaching courses and the like. Even as STYSA demands coach licensing, scheduling STYSA courses is more and more difficult. The first thing CAYSA can and should do is hire a full time Director of Coaching who is approved to teach STYSA or NSCAA courses. That person should then spend most of the preseason time conducting clinics centrally and locally (depending on the size of the member club) so that getting a coaching license is not such a chore. During the season, club level clinics and player/program evaluation should be the focus. That person can also spearhead common player development programming for the Division IV level of play. A return to the CAYSA convention days, apart from providing a local showcase for soccer, could also provide centralized and convenient referee training, as well as a social outlet for CAYSA members. We need to come together more often in Central Texas and remind ourselves that other clubs and organizations are composed of real people.
- Recognize Organizations and People Doing Well. Innovation, best practices and exceptional service should be promoted and honored. If a club has a truly innovative program, honor it; share the details; spread the wealth! If somebody goes above and beyond in service to a CAYSA member, show appreciation at the CAYSA level. Let good news be known, not buried.
- Embrace the Outer Reaches. Much of CAYSA’s growth is going to come from the rural/extra-urban areas now seeing sprawl reach them. The Burnets, Lampasases, Salados, Giddings and Liberty Hills of the area are seeing growth in their programs. However, when old line members travel to play their teams, the reports of field conditions, officiating and style of play are often derogatory. Certainly there are challenges to bringing a small, house league program into a broader organization with interscheduling and traveling. Can CAYSA provide them with technical support to improve the coaching and officiating soccer end of their programs? Again this seems like another factor mitigating toward hiring a full time Coaching Director. Can they provide them with administrative support on issues like risk management, field development and registration?
- Sell or Use the Fields. When the CAYSA park was planned, local governments were turning a blind eye to the soccer community and field space was at a premium. However, since then WCRP, NEMP, East Metro, SEMP and many other complexes have opened. If there is not a need for the land, CAYSA needs to have a plan to use or sell it for the right price. That might mean relocating the office as well. Manor is not convenient for many, even if it is cheap. Planning how to use the land (or the proceeds from a sale) should be one of the first questions asked of the candidates for CAYSA president.
These topics touch only a few of the challenges facing the next CAYSA president. Finding a way to reduce the cost of entry level soccer should also be on the table, along with continued outreach to minority and urban soccer communities. The potential influence of the sizeable CAYSA membership has largely been lost over the past ten years as other organizations have cut into the CAYSA mission and drawn away many active volunteers. For CAYSA to remain relevant, that trend must be reversed. That reversal can only happen in the guise of a vibrant, customer oriented organization that adds value for its membership. That is the next evolution, and the time is now.