San Francisco Parks Dept. votes in favor or unstructured play over soccer field permits
Back in August there was a conflict over use of a small sided soccer field at the Mission Playground in San Francisco. It was not unlike what probably happens all over the country these days as soccer has become more popular than ever with youth and adults.
That issue? Adults had a paid permit to use the field from 7-9 pm, but kids who play all the time showed up and tried to play too. The permit holders stood their ground (presumably with too many people or too much ego to just decide to play WITH the teenagers) with their permit and no one ended up getting play for long.
That would have been the end of it. A standard conflict ended with a piece of paper and no violence. But then one of the witnesses to the event who had caught the argument on video posted it on YouTube. The video went viral and then everyone came out of the woodwork, mostly in favor of the kids who “got kicked off” their local playground.
Several news reports followed, as the incident became an exemplification of the gentrification struggle going on with technology company employees moving into well established neighborhoods. There is also a vote coming up soon on developing additional synthetic turf fields in the area with both sides of the build or don’t build camps using the Mission Park incident as examples supporting their causes.
Then the kids, some of their parents, and plenty of political activists ended up at city hall complaining that their kids deserve to use their own neighborhood playground.
And the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department eventually agreed, with news coming out Thursday that they had ended the use of permits from the 7-9 pm Tuesday/Thursday time slot.
For youth soccer player development proponents of free play, it’s a big win. The odds of one of those kids ending up in MLS are certainly much higher than the odds of a 30-something Dropbox employee right?
We need more free play everyone – inner cities AND suburban neighborhoods – if we’re ever going to produce a Messi or Neymar in this country. It’s a shame political activists co-oped this incident for personal agendas, but the fact that any television station or newspaper covered it at all is still a sign that soccer is finally embedding in the American culture.
Now we just need to start converting unused tennis courts in the suburbs to futsal and we’ll really be on to something!