Club soccer players struggle with conflicting game schedules

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Noe Chock

Abbey Cook (‘23), in VWS practice gear, and Ella Garcia (‘24), in her club jersey, get ready for practice on Faculty Field. The cool weather and newly lined grass excite the soccer players into conversing about the upcoming season. The two club players prepare to leave the field right after practice to drive to their club practices. “I can never help put stuff away because I always have to leave Webb as soon as possible to get to my club practice,” Ella said.

As Abbey Cook (‘23) stood on Faculty Field after almost two years, she happily engaged in her first Webb soccer practice of the 2021-2022 season. She feels that this season has the perfect combination of players to help bring the school to CIF playoffs and even to the finals. Although she devotes her time and effort to Webb’s soccer program, she immediately has to attend practice for her club team to prepare for upcoming games, showcases, and tournaments right after afternoon activities end. On top of going to double practices, Abbey cannot play any games for the school until her club games end, leaving her to wonder what the struggle is for.

The winter season for sports has begun and Webb students practice hard to score big wins during their first games. Although all athletes participate in afternoon practices, many club soccer players like Abbey run into conflicts between their club season and high school season.

The high school season kicks off in mid-November, yet many players will not be able to play until December due to CIF rules. With high anticipation for all Webb winter athletes to perform well in their leagues, club soccer players wonder how this overlap in schedules will affect their season.

Unlike other winter sports, club soccer players are the only Webb students affected by this dilemma.

“Technically, club [basketball] season starts after high school, but no club is playing during the winter unless the person isn’t playing in high school,” Marie Blake (‘22) said. “Therefore, the two shouldn’t conflict.”

Since most soccer leagues continue until after Thanksgiving break, the main problem with the overlapping schedules is the consequences CIF has laid out in their official rules for high school club athletes.

If a player is found playing a game for club while also playing games for high school, the player will cause the school to forfeit every game of the season. To avoid this, club players will not be returning to play games until the beginning of December.

“We have lots of club players in [different] club sports, and soccer is the only [schedule] that doesn’t get out of the way for high school,” said Steve Wishek, Director of Athletics & Afternoon Activities.

Apart from the main problem that comes with overlapping schedules, students and coaches alike have expressed other concerns.

“It’s not an ideal situation, particularly because more than half of our team is comprised of club players,” said Malick Mbengue, head VWS soccer coach. “We are going to struggle fielding a team for those two first games.”

Students worry about how the physical workload from having double practices will affect their playing style, especially with academic work on top of their busy schedules.

“Webb practice ends at 5:00 [p.m.] and my club practice starts at 5:30 [p.m.],” Abbey said. “Four days a week, I’m having two practices for two hours each, so it’s just a lot.”

Apart from Webb students, many other club players from other schools are not happy with the overlapping schedules. With a season lost from COVID-19, seniors are the ones getting the short end of the stick.

“I feel that club on its own is important, especially since I want to play in college,” Jasper Bagley (‘22) said. “I know a lot of people who [the overlapping schedules] might bother because it’s their last year, them being seniors and all.”

Nonetheless, both Vivian Webb School and the Webb School of California have many players that are allowed to play the upcoming November games and coaches are not too worried about the teams’ overall records for the season. Rather, some are worried about the preparedness of the team.

“Since most players are more committed to their club teams [as] they’ve been playing club longer, it can make those students not commit as hard, which can affect the team overall,” Nick Grobler (‘24) said.

For a successful season, students must push past these complications during this first month of dual practices. Anyone involved in organizing both club and high school soccer seasons should understand student athlete concerns so that overlapping schedules never have to be a problem for student athletes.