In hockey-crazed Canada, Darlington SC preserves and promotes soccer’s role in its community
In hockey-crazed Canada, Darlington SC partners with Sport Ngin to preserve and promote soccer’s role in a community’s past, present, and future.
Darlington SC | Clarington, Ontario | Est. 1880
We’ve completely modernized our club’s administrative practices through the services of Sport Ngin.”
- Kyle Elliott, Club Administrator, Darlington SC
Founded in 1880, Darlington SC traces its roots back to the Darlington Soccer League and a time when soccer wasn’t just becoming a popular form of recreation in a rural Ontario town, it was becoming a focal point for a population reeling from the Panic of 1873 – aka The Great Depression before The Great Depression.
Living in a community left to fend for itself during a time of economic crisis, in a country that wasn’t exactly a soccer hotbed, the residents of Darlington cultivated their passion for the sport (believed to have been introduced by English settlers to the area) apart from any broader societal influence.
"Soccer became a kind of salvation," notes Seneca College Professor Will Humber in his essay Countryside Culture in a Time of Crisis: The Darlington Soccer Experience, 1863-2000.
More than a diversion, the new game gave "lives renewed meaning and moments of transcendence in which […] something beautiful might emerge," wrote area historian John Squair in 1927, ascribing an almost religious quality to the experience.
Considering it didn't take long for area churches to start leveraging soccer's growing popularity to boost attendance, Squair's spiritual take seems appropriate.
Every age group from child to adult was expected to attend Sunday School, and a soccer match was part of the day.
With the most important institution of the day on board, soccer's influence on the community had been cemented.
Today, Darlington SC serves the municipality of Clarington (pop. 85,000), a collection of small to mid-sized towns located on the eastern edge of Greater Toronto. Its current boundaries took shape in the 1970s when the Town of Bowmanville merged with the townships of Clarke and Darlington to create the Town of Newscastle (renamed Clarington in 1994, a combination of Clarke and Darlington).
[PHOTO GALLERY] Darlington/Clarington Area Soccer Through the Years via itsportsnet.com & Darlington Soccer Club
Club Administrator Kyle Elliott grew up in Hampton, a small rural community within the limits of Clarington.
“I think the only famous thing about Hampton was the movie John Q,” says Elliott. “The scene where Denzel Washington was dropping his son off at school was my old primary school.”
Fueled by the excitement of the 2002 World Cup (“it was such a cool tournament to follow”) and a dad who brought club allegiances over from England (“we would always keep an eye on Derby County and Nottingham Forest”), soccer played a large part in Elliot’s childhood in the small, easy-going agricultural community.
“I always found soccer to be a much more engaging sport than anything else,” says Elliott.
And in many respects, that’s exactly what Darlington SC aims to accomplish: give the game back to the kids, and give them a reason to fall in love with it.
At Darlington SC, youngsters start with smaller sides and a shorter pitch.
Following the Long Term Development Program put forth by the Ontario Soccer Association (Darlington's provincial governing body), the club puts the focus on fun, maximum touches of the ball, and skill development in an environment where kids feel free to make mistakes without getting an earful from the sidelines.
Coaches are trained to teach the game in a way that’s appropriate for the age and developmental stage of the players. For the young athletes, that includes a smaller ball, shorter pitch, and fewer players per side, starting with 3v3.
“Fewer players on a smaller pitch results in more touches, more decision-making opportunities and overall more engagement for players,” explains Elliott. “If you’re five years old and the ball is only a few paces away, and you have a real chance to play with the ball, you’re not likely going to start picking dandelions in the middle of play.”
“There’s so much evidence from a sports science perspective that we were convinced this was not only the best path to develop soccer players, but part of the process in making them lifelong athletes.”
Elliott’s somewhat understated “club administrator” title at Darlington SC belies the actual scope of his role.
Darlington SC Club Administrator Kyle Elliott
Basically, if it has to do with running a well-functioning soccer organization, the lifelong David Beckham fan has a hand in it: scheduling, booking fields and practice time, recruiting volunteers, ordering uniforms, managing the club website, soliciting sponsors… and that’s just a small sample.
But he's quick to point out he doesn't do it all by himself. "I don't want to overstate my role because it's a total team effort. There are other administrators, a technical director, a receptionist, a bookkeeper, head coaches, and plenty of others working hard to make this happen."
So when the Ontario Soccer Association (OSA) announced it would be partnering with Sport Ngin and bringing its entire suite of youth sports technology to OSA's districts, clubs, leagues, academies, tournaments, and 450,000 members, Elliott welcomed the news.
When I came aboard, we were still doing our schedules on software nearly as old as me,” recalls the 26-year-old Elliott. “It was a simple program that spit out schedules into a text document and was backed up on a floppy disk.
“Becoming early adopters of Sport Ngin was kind of a no brainer for us. We’ve completely modernized our club’s administrative practices through [their] services.”
Thanks to the efforts of folks like Kyle and all the dedicated volunteers of Darlington SC, the state of soccer is stronger than ever in Clarington.
Here's how Sport Ngin technology is helping those folks continue the legacy of building community through the Beautiful Game.
…transferring registration info straight into the [member management] database has saved us a month's worth of manual labor. Plus, by going completely paperless, we'll be able to move two full-sized cabinets out of our office."
Sport Ngin has saved our organization money with better credit card processing fees, while eliminating the hours spent counting cash, tracking down bad checks and wading through stacks of registration forms to follow up on unpaid registrants."
I'm happy to have the tools that make the league work. The mass entry option for updating scores has been great."
The website is our main method of communicating to members, and I think now we have one of the best websites in the region, if not the entire province."
So after all is said and done, what does Elliott hope to accomplish at Darlington SC?
"More than anything I just hope the kids take away some friendships into their lives, develop good values and maybe later help pay it forward like many of their coaches and managers are currently doing," he says.
"Hopefully, they develop a sense of community and make where they live a better place in their own way. If they develop a love of sport and physical activity and they take it into their adult lives, that too is a bonus."
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