It has been a tough season for the Red Deer Renegades Alberta Major Soccer League women’s team, that much was expected.
What wasn’t expected is the seeming lack of support from the older age groups within the Red Deer City Soccer Association when it came to supplying players.
This weekend, they played in 30 degree heat on Saturday and Sunday with a short bench and no reserve players from Red Deer. They wrangled up two call-ups on Saturday from Calgary, but were unable to get any from Red Deer for either game. On Saturday with 13 players they won their first game of the season, 2-1 over the Calgary Alliance. On Sunday, with the minimum 11 players, they were thrashed 8-0 by the Calgary Callies.
Head coach Paul Morigeau, who is also the president of the association, unloaded Sunday night.
“For youth players — U18 even U16 — the best place for them to be is playing up with their best competition level,” he said. “You don’t want to wreck the team below, but the entire structure is supposed to be set up where if you need players, the team below gives you players, the team below gives them players, everyone is better off.”
Both the U-18 and U-16 teams were involved in tournaments on the weekend.
“I mean jeez, even one would have been nice. You can imagine how these girls are sitting there, giving up their weekend to represent Red Deer and the Renegades and they got nothing, they get no support, not even one player,” he said, adding that the U18 team has a roster of 17 players.
The U16 team, had 13 players for their games and had three players called up from the U14 team.
Morigeau says when he was the U18 girls coach two years ago, he had five players available as call ups, whether the U18s had a game or not.
On Monday, however, he said he did receive a palatable explanation as to why they received no reinforcements, but still said in an email “maybe more communication and emphasis needs to be put on guiding players to play AMSL, as was done in the past, so that 10 or 11 players don’t have to carry the whole weight of soccer in Red Deer.”
Ado Sarcevic, the head of soccer operations for RDCSA, said that it was up to the players and their parents if they wanted to play for the major league team. Players cannot be forced to play for the major league team. They chose to play for their own teams on the weekend. The U18 have a young roster this year filled out mostly with first year players.
He also says this situation should not be a surprise to organizers and managers this year, everyone was well aware this season was going to be a challenge for the struggling club.
“We share in his frustration, but I don’t see this as a situation,” said Sarcevic. “We all knew it was going to be an ongoing issue this year because the numbers when we had the tryouts when we made those teams — we just didn’t have enough interest and bodies.”
He does give Morigeau full credit for keeping the team going this year in trying conditions from the outset, but he says for the team to be successful major changes will need to be made.
One of the big issues the club has is numbers of competitive players to pull from. Centres like Edmonton and Calgary have a population base of about a million people, 10 times the size of Red Deer. In the 18 and up age group, players often drop the sport to pursue jobs and other ventures.
Morigeau did announce one big change on Monday in an effort to better build the major league program. The Renegades will enter an AMSL team in the Calgary indoor league for the first time.
“In this way the team and the players will be preparing themselves all winter and hit the ground running in the spring rather then starting from scratch and ending up in the spot we found ourselves this year,” Morigeau said in an email.
But the underlying theme is better co-operaton by all parties needs to take place to make the Renegades a successful franchise.
“We need to work together, the Renegades, AMSL, and even Red Deer College,” said Sarcevic. “We need to be on the same page and everyone working together towards the major league and obviously the college — all of the players that play major league in the north and south, they continue playing for the colleges or universities. And here that is not the case.”