Cut grass and happy kids belied a hidden danger in Rohnert Park’s public fields: uncertain footing born from a quagmire of gopher holes and muddy pits, which caused the Rohnert Park Soccer Club no end of injuries as they closed out their summer academy at Magnolia Park Tuesday, July 10.
Uneven sod created perfect gaps to trap the player’s feet as they ran up and down the field. Sprained ankles were common and Magnolia Park wasn’t the only area in desperate need of attention.
“The fields are pathetic,” said coach, Kurt Williams. “It’s amazing the lack of quality that we have to play on. I’m surprised there’s not more lawsuits, frankly.”
The struggle of providing a safe environment for players wasn’t a new foe for Rohnert Park Soccer Club board member and coach, Nicholas Rogers. It’s a problem he’s wrestled with for years now.
“I’ve had two people injured because of the grass; one-person last year. And that’s just my team,” Rogers said. “The game is much different when it’s played on a surface like this.” Despite the difficulties, a few of the coaches seemed perfectly content to make do with what they had, focusing instead on the parts of their player’s experience that they could affect.
“It’s definitely a struggle,” said coach, Daniel Theobald. “We may not have the best fields, but we can have the best training environment. That’s the only thing we can do, because if we practice on a bad field then once we play at a high level one it’s 10 times easier.”
A good training environment is important and one the Rohnert Park Soccer Club has committed to cultivating. The summer academy is a bit of a new experiment for them. They’ve combined all of their teams and coaches into one training group to maximize the inter-club dialogue. The experiment looked to be a success, at least according to coach, Sergio Zepeda
“I’m loving every bit of what we’re doing right now. I think the future is bright for the club,” Zepeda said. “In the past we tended to lose the better players to groups outside of Rohnert Park because we didn’t have the structure we have now. I don’t want to see the talent go somewhere else.”
There is hope on the horizon for the club. The Rohnert Park city budget listed building an all-weather soccer field at Sunrise Park as one of their major goals for the 2018-2019 fiscal year. If the plan goes through, it could provide the club with a much-needed stability when the fall and winter rains arrive.
The Rohnert Park Soccer Club is determined to push through to the new season.
“We make the best with what we have. That’s kind of the Rohnert Park mentality,” Rogers said with a shrug.