Success in Football – The Ukiah Daily Journal

On a rainy Saturday, the Mendocino County Soccer Academy (MCSA) Developmental Soccer League (DSL) paused its third season with a postseason tournament. The event brought together 24 teams and hundreds of players from the MCSA, Coast Youth Soccer League, Ukiah Valley Youth Soccer League and Willits Youth Soccer for a fun, memorable day in the rain!

From August through the end of the first week of November, DSL teams train twice a week in their hometown, with games on Saturdays in Ukiah, Willits or Mendocino. The first practice of each week is led by a professional MCSA trainer, while the second practice and all games are led by volunteers.

Player development is at the heart of MCSA. Children aged three to fourteen are taught ball technique skills to become creative artists of football. Along the way, MCSA teams can lose games against bigger, faster, and stronger teams, but the goal is for kids to fall in love with the game, learn good habits, and grow into well-rounded soccer players and lifelong active people.

“What I appreciate most about Mendocino County Soccer Academy (MCSA) is the program’s focus on learning and player development versus winning games,” said MCSA mother Samanta Diaz. “This approach allows my daughter to enjoy the game while learning new skills without worrying about wins and losses.”

In 2013, MCSA started as a grassroots program with 40 children in Ukiah. Less than ten years later, the club has grown into three primary programs: Grassroots Academy, Select Teams, and the DSL, serving nearly 1,000 children across the county.

Grassroots Academy are 6-week introductory courses for beginners from the age of three. The DSL is a statewide fall league run by volunteer coaches for children ages eight through fourteen. Select teams are advanced players coached by professional coaches and compete in teams that travel throughout Northern California.

“The DSL is the bridge between Grassroots Academy and select teams,” said club president Shane Huff. “We added the DSL in 2019 to complete our player development path. Now we have a way for families to engage with our player development philosophy without the greater commitment that comes with our select teams.”

The DSL is ideal for children to learn the game, develop skills, make friends and exercise. It’s also an opportunity for those kids who are thriving and looking for a bigger challenge to advance to our Select Team program, which over 40 kids participated in last year.

Huff says, “Our volunteer DSL coaches are key to making this all possible. Our professional staff provides weekly practice schedules and support to create a positive learning environment. However, our volunteers deserve credit for working directly with children, helping them learn and have fun.”

Volunteer coach Miguel Reyes said: “I KNOW that kids are competitive, they want to score and they don’t want to lose. What I LEARNED is how to better coach them so they have the courage to use new techniques without worrying about what happens if we lose.”

MCSA Coach and Administrative Director Ian Fitzpatrick says, “The logistics involved in organizing a league in a large geographic, diverse county presents many challenges. We share many fields from across the county with school teams and other leagues, so coordinating training and game schedules is an ever-moving goal. However, by working together, we can create opportunities for children that might otherwise not be possible.”

“But on days like Saturday it’s all worth it,” comments Fitzpatrick. “Football has a unique ability to bring people together and we’re excited to have the other leagues join us in celebrating all the Mendo kids!”

This year, MCSA added the DSL Select program, an all-star program that gives children who have been successful during the season the opportunity to extend the season by two weeks. DSL Select includes a full weekend of training with professional coaches, and on November 19th and 20th, teams compete in a Bay Area football tournament called the California Cup.

Thank you to all of our volunteer coaches, players, families, sponsors and supporters for making this year a success. We look forward to making improvements over the next year and continuing to see the game grow and our kids thrive!

Stay tuned for information on our winter futsal program in Ukiah, Willits and Mendocino. Search for MCSA on Facebook and Instagram or at

Questions? Contact Coach Fitzpatrick by email at [email protected]


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