“Brandi Mitchell saw a gap in women’s soccer and stepped up to fill it. The California soccerista got her start playing soccer in high school, and, even though she wouldn’t play again until adulthood, her love for the game never faded. In the early 2000s, Mitchell noticed that recreational women’s soccer leagues primarily used word-of-mouth, rather than online resources, to find players. This limited access to both younger and older populations.
The San Diego soccer community players, league reps, senior sports organizations and local university teams are rallying around Mitchell’s website. San Diego Soccer Women creates strong funnel to pull players into women’s soccer as they age out of the college and more competitive programs. By creating an online community and resource hub for recreational soccer, Mitchell is helping bring a spotlight to women’s soccer and allowing them to play the game they love for a lifetime.
Check out our conversation with Mitchell about San Diego Soccer Women.
Girls Soccer Network: How did San Diego Soccer Women get started?
Mitchell: San Diego Soccer Women started as a website for a non-profit, recreational women’s soccer league in Poway, California (near San Diego). This league formed in 1976 and recruitment grew quickly through word-of-mouth and newspaper classified ads. I joined as a player in 2005 at the age of 29. I had not played soccer since I was a teenager. In the last 12 years, I’ve increased my involvement in women’s soccer as my kids have grown older. I now play in several women’s leagues in San Diego, as well as in tournaments in Orange County, Las Vegas and the San Diego region.
I launched the San Diego Soccer Women website in 2009 as a hub for just one league. In 2017, I decided to relaunch the website as the single source for all recreational women’s soccer in San Diego County. It has become a top search result for women’s recreational soccer teams in San Diego. This means I am able to help direct players to leagues throughout the county, whether they are new to the sport or new to the area.
GSN: What was the process for growing the website?
Mitchell: The first step in growing the website was building the database containing information about each league: indoor or outdoor, minimum age, season dates, divisions, field location(s) and social media links and so on. I have been thrilled to discover both casual and competitive leagues for women of all levels that had been invisible to me in the past because they do not have an online presence.
I’ve been advertising the website and raising funds for its development by selling t-shirts and sport tanks with my San Diego Soccer Women PLAY logo. My efforts to bring awareness to recreational soccer for women has also increased with active an active online presence. Women’s recreational soccer teams in areas of Western and Eastern Europe and South America are followers with regular interaction with the pages!
GSN: What leagues do San Diego Soccer participants compete in?
Mitchell: There are approximately 20 leagues in San Diego County, indoor and outdoor, for women’s league soccer. Several are non-profit leagues dedicated to women’s soccer, with some co-ed teams included in the divisions, namely the Peninsula Women’s Soccer League, Prime of Life Women’s Soccer, Scripps Ranch Women’s Soccer and Oceanside Women’s Soccer League. These tend to play with FIFA regulations on outdoor artificial turf or grass fields. Others are affiliated with local city and county parks and recreation departments, YMCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs, and regional youth soccer clubs, such as Cal-South.
Indoor arena soccer facilities tend to offer youth and adult team options with divisions for women (often by age groupings). There are local also “sport and social” clubs such as VAVi and ClubWaka and specialized teams for footvolley and futsal, which generally offer co-ed soccer options with a wider range of age options.
I’m always on the lookout for places for San Diego Soccer Women to play!
GSN: What is the process for joining a team?
My website serves to refer players to the different leagues. Interested participants usually email or submit a question on my social media. From there, the individual leagues require player registration online or in-person. Teams have age requirements (usually a minimum age of 25 years old) and larger leagues have age divisions, such as 30+, 40+ and 50+. There is not a requirement for try-outs, but the leagues with competition-level divisions do ask for information about prior experience before placing a player on a team. There are also leagues that operate more as a casual meet up, with teams being organized on-the-spot based on attendance that evening.
GSN: Do San Diego Soccer Women participants have to come from a soccer background?
Mitchell: Luckily, San Diego offers recreational soccer teams for woman at every level and every age! We welcome women who only became interested in soccer because their kids play and they want to try it out. In contrast, there are women on our fields who have played for professional teams across the U.S. and around the world.
Most women started playing in their youth, participated in college sports (such as track and field, basketball and soccer),and then took a 10-year break before looking for a women’s team. Ages?! This is the really great part; we have women players in their 70s! Our age 30+ leagues are active, but the 40+ and 50+ age brackets have so many options for both local and tournament play.
GSN: How is the mission behind San Diego Soccer Women unique?
As the hub of information about recreational women’s soccer in San Diego, the website and mission is completely unique! While leagues have created websites to register players and communicate about their programs, San Diego Soccer Women provides a larger view of the options. I’m excited to be the first to provide a collaborative space for everyone who is making an effort to give women the opportunity to play the sport they love throughout their lifetime!
GSN: What are some unique rituals for San Diego Soccer teams?
Mitchell: Game day rituals are unique to the teams, but I’d say the one thing you’ll find to be noticeable about women’s league soccer matches is that the players from opposing teams will be greeting each other, chatting and shaking hands before and after the game. The majority of athletes play in multiple leagues and play over the course of 10 to 20 years. They establish friendships that transcend the color of the jersey or name of the team.
GSN: What impact do you hope San Diego Soccer Women has on women?
Mitchell: San Diego Soccer Women, as a collective of players, league, sponsors, tournament organizers, supporters and fans, aims to increase the visibility of women’s soccer throughout the region. Each player and teammate benefits from this movement by feeling the pride of being an adult athlete. The recognition and respect for female soccer players falls short worldwide! If we can start with the Southern California women’s soccer scene and move in the direction of building awareness globally, then we are making an impact that will be realized for generations.
GSN: Any immediate goals and/or long term plans for San Diego Soccer Women?
Mitchell: Looking forward, San Diego Soccer Women plans to launch the website with league information and player resources, such a training, equipment and gear, by January 1, 2018. I will look to create relationships with senior sports organizations, such as the San Diego Senior Games, National Senior Games and World Senior Games, university women’s teams, as well as local and national groups that highlight women in sports. In addition, I’m hoping to partner with youth leagues to give girls the chance to see that soccer is a lifelong sport!”