The San Diego Soccer Forum featured panelists Joe Tutino (L) and Diane Scavuzzo and moderator Steve Schell.
Soccer News: San Diego Soccer Forum Discusses How to Grow the Game
A passionate group of San Diego soccer lovers gathered at the San Diego Hall of Champions on Sunday, April 15, for the first #GrowTheGame San Diego Soccer Forum.
The gathering was a cross-section of local soccer, including panelists Joe Tutino of the San Diego Sockers and the radio voice of LA Galaxy and Diane Scavuzzo, Editor in Chief of SoccerNation.
Warren Barton, head coach of San Diego Flash was originally scheduled to join the forum but was unable to take part in the panel because of late-running commitments with Fox Soccer where he is a commentator.
The forum was organized by Ryan Ginard of Soccer Support and #GrowTheGame, a grass roots soccer community and movement, and hosted by the San Diego Sports Commission. Steve Schell of the Sports Commission acted as moderator for the afternoon. Among those in the audience were Bob Turner and Rick La Salle of Presidio Soccer, SD Flash CEO Clent Alexander, San Diego Boca FC CEO Yan Skwara and Quest Soccer Club Marketing Director Will Rells.
The goal of the forum was to begin a dialogue in the soccer community that will help to grow the game in San Diego. The possiblity of a Major League Soccer team joining America's finest city was discussed along with revewing the many exisiting Semi-Pro, Amateur and youth soccer leagues which are so vibrant in San Diego.
The forum opened with Tutino and Scavuzzo discussing their thoughts the current state of soccer in San Diego and what possible directions could be taken to grow the World's Most Popular sport here at home.
Members of the audience were welcome to ask questions and add their thoughts to the conversation. Meanwhile a separate online discussion took place under the SoccerSupport feed.
In his opening remarks, Tutino pointed out that we are now actually on our third generation of kids growing up and playing soccer in San Diego, and that leaders need to take advantage of this fact. He also made an interesting statement that in San Diego we seem to feel that we are a high-level city and so sports teams have to come in as winners from day one. This puts an undue burden on franchises, as seen in the two NBA franchises that have come and gone.
In soccer, San Diego is great at producing top players, as evidenced by Eric Wynalda, Frankie Hejduk, Steve Cherundolo, Kraig Chiles and others. The problem is that the region does not do an equally good job “fertilizing the grounds,” as Tutino put it, to support upper-division and professional teams.
San Diego Boca’s Skwara, pointed out that there is a huge difference between the pro-youth relationship in the United States and in Europe. He suggested that the grass roots approach to developing these relationships will be very important. In his opinion the upper division clubs have a duty to reach out and work with the youth players.
Scavuzzo agreed that San Diego needs to do a better job building the soccer fan base. She suggested that the professional and semi-pro/amateur adult teams need to become more involved in the community. Teams need to have players out and interacting with the youth players on the field in order to help grow the excitement and enthusiasm. Scavuzzo and other pointed out that in San Diego the personal connection is critical to the success of growing soccer.
Another topic that came up was whether San Diego needs a soccer field specific facility similar to what they have in several other top cities. It was pointed out that such a facility – and there is currently The Field of Dreams being built in Oceanside – could help not only grow the popularity of the game but provide a site for major tournaments such as the Cal South State Cup. One concern
After the forum several participants and audience members talked about the event. that was voiced was who would run such a facility – whether it would be the city or a particular soccer club.
|Panelists Joe Tutino of the San Diego Sockers and Diane Scavuzzo of SoccerNation with Steve Schell
“I think it’s the start of something that could be quite successful," said organizer Ginard. “It’s about getting everyone under one roof and speaking about the issues of the game. Everyone wants the game to be bigger. They may have their own thinking and ways to reach that goal, but to have that conversation and be open and honest about it – not be judged on your approach to growing soccer, but rather celebrating it – is a good step forward.”
“I was very excited about some of the interaction that we had with the group,” said the Sports Commission’s Schell. “I think that there were a couple of ideas that hit home for me to improve the growth of soccer in San Diego."
Tutino encouraged everyone to keep moving forward. “You have to beat the drum; there has to be another forum, and there has to be another one after that. Hopefully there will be more people here the next time, and don’t get discouraged. Keep on making this happen to the point that people finally understand that there is a place where soccer people in this community get together and try to put their heads together on trying to make the sport better in this county and this community.”
“It’s all about familiarity,” said Flash’s Alexander. “Once people get familiar with what the concept is about, and that it’s not about any one person’s agenda to promote any one club or team, then you’ll probably see more people out here coming to give input and give suggestions. It’s about growing the sport of soccer, which I think we are all trying to accomplish.”
“I thought it was a great forum,” said Quest Soccer Club’s Rells. “I think it’s the start of something really good. It’s something that needs to happen in San Diego, to kind of break down those barriers. People need to start talking and working together, and this was a great start to that. It’s a big rock and we all have to chip away at it. It’s going to take some time and energy. I think there’s some energy out there, and if we can all focus that energy only good things can come from that.”
Scavuzzo said, "The San Diego Sports Commission's Steve Schell did an amazing job of launching this forum. It is critical to the success of soccer that all of us involved in the game can meet each other and exchange ideas and create a common, shared vision for growth. It is amazing to me that some of the top leaders in the world of soccer in San Diego hadn't met each other before today. Thank you Ryan Ginard for your vision to create this. I can't wait until the next Forum."
Related Article: Soccer Support Hosts Forum at Hall of Champions