Why kick up such a ruckus about merger?

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By Brad Spencer

Sports Editor

Our comment board at oakpark.com last week lit up after the announcement that the OPRF Strikers and River Forest Rapids youth soccer clubs were merging to form Chicago Edge SC. As of writing this on Monday afternoon, the posts had reached 133.

Good news: I did a little research and found that this new entity will not bring about the downfall of human existence as we know it.

According to Collette Heaphy, the OP-RF Strikers executive administrator, 85-90 percent of participants are local Oak Park or River Forest residents.

“It’s not our objective to recruit kids from other areas,” she said. “The goal is to have one club where players have an opportunity to develop their soccer skills. It’s funny because we have several families that play in both the Strikers and the Rapids organizations.”

Great. It’s mainly for local kids, and run by local people. A gap has been bridged. Harlem is safe to cross — well, maybe not literally.

I also discovered that the merger will benefit the local high schools — OPRF, Fenwick and Trinity. How? These kids will have the opportunity to play together on one team, and therefore chemistry is created at an early stage.

Perfect. Cohesiveness is a good thing. Soccer is a sport where chemistry is vital to a team’s success.

OK, but what about Johnny? He tried out for Chicago Edge and didn’t make the cut. Most of his friends did. He’s discouraged, but there is still park district soccer and AYSO. There are also other club teams outside the area that don’t require a tryout. Johnny will join those teams, gain more friends, and keep playing the sport he loves. Yes, the club players play more and the club competition will likely aid in the development of a player’s potential quicker but don’t underestimate programs like AYSO.

“I think AYSO is great,” said Paul Wright, head coach of the OPRF High School boys program. “I played it for years. I have had several players in my program come out of that league as well. AYSO also does great things for our program.” 

Wonderful. The more options the better. Daniel Jordan, an Oak Parker who is the regional commissioner for AYSO seems to agree. 

“Oak Park AYSO has had very good relationships with both Strikers and Rapids for the last several years,” he said. “We have invited both clubs to distribute information about their programs at our registration events, and we have had many players who have played both AYSO and Strikers or Rapids during the same seasons.”

What about the local fields Chicago Edge will play on? Soccer space is scarce in this area, always has been. Heck, open space of any kind is scarce in this area.

Well, the clubs have always paid to use the fields. Chicago Edge will continue to and, again, the majority of the participants are local, so they’re basically playing on their own fields anyway.

Fantastic. Local kids practicing on local fields, and isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?

I like to think of myself as a purist, but specialized club sports appear to be here to stay. The Windmills (club softball), the Longhorns (club baseball) and AAU (club basketball) are just a few in our area that have taken off. Whether it’s a house league or a club team, my kids will hopefully dabble in both.

And maybe the world won’t end because of it.   

Contact: bspencer@oakpark.com

Twitter: @oakparksports

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Reader Comments

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Sonia Bychkov Green from River Forest, Illinois  

Posted: January 11th, 2012 3:09 PM

I shared many of the concerns that Ron from RF expressed on both comments boards, but I attended the meeting where the merger was announced to team managers, and left that meeting feeling quite assured that Chicago Edge would still be a regional club. My sense from the presidents of both Rapids and Strikers is that they want to improve the level of soccer *for local kids* by better placements of all kids. The top players can now be combined to be a very strong team (hopefully, again, without need to recruit top players from outside this area). The top players of the second-tier teams can also be combined to form stronger B teams, which should make for a better level of play for all involved. Because the new club promises to field as many teams as Rapids/Strikers combined (so perhaps as many as 4 for an age level) the kids who are not the strongest players but still want travel soccer experience, can be on C or D teams, playing with kids at their level (which is better and safer for everyone) and placing into NISL against similar teams, which again, will make for better play. As a (current Rapids) mom shelling out crazy bucks to have four kids do this next year, I'm planning to have my kids try out for Chicago Edge, and hope that the best case scenario - what the clubs really want - does, in fact occur: that all kids place according to their abilities, that there is space for all local players, that in fact, it stays local, both in composition and in location of practices, and that this means a better soccer experience for all. We do RF Youth Soccer as well, and are huge fans of that, but think that there's a place for both in this community. (And those of you who knock soccer: please don't. Kids who play get a great workout and gain strength and confidence. They believe in the sport. Why mock that?)

Alvin David Zuffant  

Posted: January 10th, 2012 12:15 PM

Zuppke Rules ! Never saw a flea flicker in soccer.

Red Grange  

Posted: January 10th, 2012 12:02 PM

Zup, you are a great gentleman and American. You should run for office and show the thumb sucking, Euro wannabes around here a thing or two.

the Ghost of Zuppke Future  

Posted: January 10th, 2012 11:03 AM

This is the Ghost of Zuppke Future: American Football and Rugby rock! There are no fake injuries, falling down pretending that you are so hurt that you can't go on...then a red card and you jump up like nothing happened, if I want a show I will go to the movies.

Ron from RF  

Posted: January 10th, 2012 7:24 AM

Bridget-From FAQ found here-http://www.rfrapids.org/images/images/1/0/cesc_faqs.pdf #3: "The name and logo for Chicago Edge alludes to the fact that we are geographically located on the edge of the city of Chicago, which allows us to draw kids and families from the city and the near western suburbs." It also states they do not want to discourage "players from outside the Oak Park River Forest community" by using OPRF in name. This is a regional club idea. Merge is great idea if 100% OP/RF kids.

OPRF Achievement  

Posted: January 10th, 2012 7:20 AM

@Spencer is still not got it. The only fields the strikers ever paid for are the OPRF fields. The OP PD does not charge the strikers to use PD fields. I pretty sure it is the same in RF. He also obviously has not read the documents that are posted at the Website - saying they are NOT a local club but a regional one. Come on Brad - if you are going to be in the new business, report the news, - NOT your near sided opinions, or those of people you merely call on the phone.

Jim B  

Posted: January 10th, 2012 12:38 AM

Bridgett. Found in FAQ #3. (I meant mission statement and FAQ, not by-laws)

Ghost of Zuppke from Oak Park  

Posted: January 9th, 2012 8:14 PM

...Oh, never mind!

David from Oak Park  

Posted: January 9th, 2012 6:31 PM

As a former parent-coach, I celebrate this long over-due union. For five years I watched both clubs struggle, unable to advance into the top tiers of Illinois soccer due to shallow rosters. No matter what the club is called, it will create better soccer. Rest assured, there will be opportunities for all players. This is just what soccer needs in the near western suburbs. Support this and you may see our kids playing at levels you never thought possible.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: January 9th, 2012 5:26 PM

Jim B, Will you provide a link to the new by-laws? I haven't read them, and so I wanna read where the new club "obviously seeks to be a regional premier club." I read the FAQs and I'm not finding, in context of the whole FAQ, this conclusion. Thanks.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: January 9th, 2012 5:18 PM

Ron from RF, I don't think those statements are at odds with one another. There is a difference between not discouraging, and encouraging. In other words, they want folks from outside RF and OP to feel welcomed, but they will not be actively promoting to those outside RF and OP.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: January 9th, 2012 5:10 PM

Most of those comments from the other story had nothing to do with the merger, and was more about one guy dissing AYSO and all folks involved in it, others calling him on it and demanding an apology while attempting to give the 20-something some character guidance, and him not feeling the need to issue such apology and being satisfied with his character. Hopefully this story's comments will be more on point.

Jim B  

Posted: January 9th, 2012 2:05 PM

If Edge commits in writing to keep the new club make-up to 85-90% Oak Park and River Forest kids that would be awesome. Unfortunately, new club obviously seeks to be a regional premier club based on its new by-laws and FAQ. New club is designed for "city and near west suburbs" regional approach. A big change from 85-90% Op and RF kid based. Oak Park Park District and River Forest Park District need to get the 85-90% in writing.

Ron from RF  

Posted: January 9th, 2012 1:55 PM

Brad, you failed to mention this from new clubs FAQ: "We seriously considered continuing to use the name OPRF One, but some players from outside the OP/RF community could perceive that OPRF One is just a feeder program for the high school. We don't want to discourage players from surrounding areas who want to play competitive soccer." That is in direct conflict with""It's not our objective to recruit kids from other areas." So which is it?

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