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Kick, Run, Ref!

By Matt Larson

West County’s local soccer league offers programs for kids and adults alike...

If you’re looking to find a program to keep your child active and healthy, look no further than the West Contra Costa Youth Soccer League. For more than 35 years now this organization has been run completely by volunteers. Many of them are former players in the league, or have children on one of the teams.

WCCYSL coordinates about 600 players between the ages of 4 and 17, competing in about 45 separate teams countywide. Players come from Pinole, Hercules, El Sobrante, Richmond—all throughout West County.

Kids have two options to choose from when joining the league: the Recreational Program, and the FCA (Football Club Alliance) Competitive Program. The rec program is less expensive and is only a one-season commitment; the comp program is for an entire year.

“Anyone can play in the recreational program; nobody’s turned away,” said WCCYSL President Tyler Darke. “All you have to do is register and you get placed on a team.”

For rec program players, they play for fun and they’re all guaranteed playing time. “They usually train once or twice a week, and are coached by parent volunteers,” Tyler explained. “To coach in the FCA program, you need to have prior experience playing and/or coaching soccer.”

There is a third program offered by WCCYSL, but it’s not for kids.

“We put a lot of work into our referee program, and have an entire mentor program for our referees,” Tyler said. “We have a lot of referees who’ve been with us for 10 or more years.”

Some of those refs become mentors, who are paid to go and watch other, less experienced, referees. They provide feedback, and complete a report that gets turned in to a referee director who then tracks all the referees’ performances season to season.

“If there’s a referee who’s starting at a very low level and doing a great job, that allows us to make sure we’re aware of that to then push them up to the next level,” Tyler said. “Some refs get up to the state level, get flown out to some of the bigger games; and they get paid.”

Food for thought for anyone considering the life of a referee. Nobody’s gone on to the World Cup level from WCCYSL’s program … yet. You could be the first!

While it’s not an easy job, Tyler’s done it many times and recommends it if you’re up for the challenge.

“I think it’s fun!” he said. “It’s kind of a team sport in its own when you ref with a referee crew; it’s a coordinated effort, so I like that aspect. It really makes you an expert on the laws of the game. Plus, you need a ref to play soccer! So you’re definitely doing a service to the people who wouldn’t be there without you.”

Competitive league tryouts are open to anyone in every age bracket for boys, but only girls under the age of 13 can try out for comp, simply because there’s not enough membership for teams older than that.

Registration for the spring rec league will have been closed by the time you read this, but in May it opens up again for the Fall season.

“Our goal is to make soccer accessible to the highest number of people,” Tyler boasts. “Our comp program charges about a quarter of what a lot of other local competitive leagues charge, and we do that by using volunteer coaches and keeping our costs down.”

Even field maintenance is done by volunteers. Tyler adds, “With our fees being some of the lowest you can find in the Bay Area, we still offer financial assistance to families.”

For more information on tryouts, the referee program, or just to see the schedule to come and support the games, head to

They’ve had a number of players go on to play in college, and a handful have gotten scholarships. So in addition to the fun they’ll be having, it could be beneficial later in life in a multitude of ways. If your child isn’t getting outside enough, or could benefit from a positive, enthusiastic environment, take them to WCCYSL.

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