The city presented the proposed brokering plan at a meeting last night at Lucy Stern Community Center. It was a lightly attended meeting and no new information was disclosed. The new information that could have been disclosed, the mock brokering that occurred on Friday, was not presented, nor discussed.
Pretty well everyone in the room expressed support for the new brokering plan. The goal of the plan being to provide equal and fair access to fields by Palo Alto residents. I can't see how anybody would object to that goal, certainly I do not. I think it quite laudable.
But, without paying attention to the details, we are going to move further away from those goals than where we are now with our field allocation system, and we will harm ourselves in the process; our soccer community.
Thank you to the many AYSO parents that pushed to get a mock brokering done to illustrate details and force recognition of some of the faults in this proposal. The key results of the mock brokering are presented below in one of the paragraphs.
It is disconcerting that this policy proposal fails to provide for Palo Alto residents who choose to play for an organization that fails the 51% test. As a community we need to support our resident's ability for choice and access to our fields. If a resident wants to play with an organization that has, say, 15% or 20% Palo Alto residents, why are they being frozen out of Palo Alto brokering. Why aren't they being afforded fair access to our community fields? Why are residents that play in SSC and PASC so favored over other organizations? Why is the arbitrary choice of "majority" Palo Alto residents in an organization so magical, that we actively prevent other Palo Alto residents from having fair access to their (our) fields?
What this policy fails to recognize and deal with about AYSO, is that AYSO is so different from clubs that the same brokering scheme can not be readily applied. In almost every aspect, as the rules are attempted to be reduced to practice, something breaks because the goals and structure of AYSO are so very different from the goals and structure of clubs.
A simple example of this is brokering non-residents. AYSO has no interest in having the policy broker for non-residents, it impedes enjoyment of our fields by residents. According to Stanford Soccer Club, Palo Alto Soccer Club and the commission, if non-residents are not brokered, clubs will not be able to function. Yet, no other city brokers non-residents, and the clubs in those cities are doing quite well. By brokering non-residents, we diverge from the regional norm, breaking the stated intent of city staff and commission, of developing regional solutions.
Another example of difference between AYSO and the other brokering parties is, Everyone Plays. A key aspect of Everyone Plays, is that Palo Alto AYSO plays all members for at least 3/4 of every game. This is of high value to our membership and community. But, to play everyone 3/4 of every game requires that team sizes must be kept to a minimum, otherwise there are simply too many players on the roster to play that much time on the field for each one of them. Clubs have a different set of motivations for how they set their roster size, and typically their teams are much larger. This breaks the brokering system based on player count, since field slots are used by teams, not individuals. As was illustrated in the mock brokering performed on Friday, it was demonstrated that the system left AYSO short of slots, and AYSO would have had to disband perhaps a quarter of its teams, for lack of fields.
Although almost everyone in the room last night supported the new scheme, did they know that the new scheme, as produced in the mock brokering last Friday, would cause AYSO to have to reduce its team count by up to 25% each season after season, tending toward zero?
An immediate fix was proposed; use AYSO as the standard for factoring slots based on players. That will give enough slots to AYSO. But it would also uplift the number of slots given to club by perhaps 30%. This would mean that during brokering, clubs would have more brokering power than AYSO, even though AYSO had the greater number of residents. The clubs would stay at the table taking many more fields that AYSO would like to have had, many more fields than the clubs should actually have a right to.
Let's illustrate the problem.
Say we have 2 organizations, A and B, both with 100 resident players. Organization A has 5 players on a team. Organization B has 10 players on a team. For these organizations, normally they would get 2 practice slots per team and 1 game slot per two teams. If we broker by number of players, and we choose to give a slot for every 10 players, then each organization will get 20 practice slots and 5 game slots.
Organization B has the correct number of slots for its teams, but organization A will have only half the practice slots and half the game slots it needs for its teams. And, if any number above 5 is chosen as the factor, then organization A will not have enough slots for its teams. Let's try to fix the situation by making 5 the norm for brokering, as was suggested by club at the conclusion of the brokering meeting. Now each organization will have 40 practice slots and 10 game slots. This is the correct number of slots for organization A to be able to field its teams. But organization B now has so many practice slots and game slots, that it could not possibly use them all. In fact, it has double the number of slots that it should have for the team count. During brokering, organization B will have an ability to take an inordinate amount of quality and number of slots, leaving organization A struggling for reasonable slots.
Another aspect of the new policy that is falsely trying to treat AYSO and the clubs equivalently, is the community value of all-volunteer. During the meeting last night it was pointed out that lots of parents in club volunteer, a lot. Just as in AYSO, most of the club administrative function is performed by parents. But that does not get to the essence of ALL-volunteer, and the key aspect of community development, which is to invest hugely in training parent coaches and referees, and developing inter-generational connectedness on the field. In a sense, volunteers like myself are part of the spectator fishbowl, when it comes to actual children-parent interaction on the field. ALL-volunteer, which sets AYSO is apart, is that parents and grand-parents are in the game with their kids. The old policy recognized this difference, the proposed policy does not.
We can keep on tinkering with the rules. For example, we could introduce a rule that would set the residents/slot factor differently for each organization, reflecting the actual team size of that organization. But even with all this tinkering, where we will end up is lose-lose, compared to the current system.
Clubs will lose prime fields, because they are motivating, even pushing, AYSO to take prime fields, which AYSO has not done in the past. AYSO will lose predictability and flexibility, because it won't have primacy in brokering that guarantees the ability to repeat the previous year's field allocation, and AYSO will lose the 15% temporary overage on practice slots to offer volunteer coaches more flexibility.
From AYSO's point of view, the old system traded off best fields in exchange for predictability and flexibility.
I would like to believe the commission and the clubs will not throw AYSO under the bus, and will ensure, no matter the method of brokering, that AYSO will get sufficient slots, somehow. I continue to believe this even though current pleas for an additional U10 slot to meet our schedule needs has gone unheeded.
But, the only aspect of the proposed policy that passes muster, is the goal statement, to provide fair access to all Palo Alto residents. We should not support the proposed policy in its current instantiation. The proposed policy does not achieve the goals we all desire, and if implemented outright, the operational details will harm AYSO, and our community.
The fact that AYSO parents have demonstrated a willingness to take action has not been lost on the city and the commission. The city is now paying attention to the nuances of this proposal and how it does not achieve the goals, and is trying to work through the details. Thank you to all the AYSO parents who stepped forward to force the proposal back onto the stage for further examination.
Palo Alto AYSO