This Saturday, Sharks will swarm Carmel Valley soccer fields for the 43rd season of recreational soccer action.
This year the Del Mar/Carmel Valley Sharks kicks off the season with more than 2,000 recreational players, as well as about 550 in the competitive league. The rec. league also has a “rookie” in charge with new director Erin Misaki.
“We’re excited to have Erin at the helm and we’re excited to continue moving forward,” said Shannon MacMillan, director of club operations. “Both Erin and I strive to have the focus be on the development of the kids as soccer players, as well as people.”
While she may be a rookie to the league, Misaki is no rookie to the sport. She has played soccer since she was 4 years old and played for the University of Portland, leading them to their first national championship in any sport. Misaki went on to play professionally for the Women’s United Soccer Association’s (WUSA) Philadelphia Charge and for the Toyko Verdy in Japan.
Before moving to San Diego for the Sharks gig, she was coaching and doing private lessons in the Santa Clarita area and was the director of the girls’ side of Saddleback United Soccer Club.
“My goals this year are to have a successful fall season and to learn more about the community,” Misaki said. “I want to get to know all the players and families involved. It’s a huge program, over 200 volunteer coaches are involved, and I want to build relationships and get to know everyone.”
One example of that special volunteer element of the club is coach Beth Folkerth, who played for the fledgling Del Mar Soccer Club in the late 1970s — her mother, Lenora, was the chairman of the club that would become the Sharks.
MacMillan said it’s pretty special to see a player come full circle.
MacMillan is a fellow soccer alumni of the University of Portland, who has been with the Sharks for four years after being an assistant soccer coach at UCLA. MacMillan was part of the 1999 World Cup champion U.S. Women’s National Team and has won three Olympic soccer medals (two gold and one silver). She also played professionally for the WUSA’s San Diego Spirit.
“I’ve been very blessed with my soccer career,” said MacMillan. “I think soccer can teach you a lot of life lessons. It teaches kids about teamwork, it teaches about overcoming obstacles, leadership, problem solving and time management…Soccer helps gives kids the tools they need to be successful, keep healthy and out of trouble.”
In addition to her administrative duties, MacMillan also coaches an U-13 competitive girls team. Misaki will also fill in for player skills clinics and as a coach if needed.
The Sharks also run a TOPS (The Outreach Program for Soccer) special needs program for players ages 13 to 25. The TOPS program starts on Sept. 15 and is run by paid coach Becky Ricci, who is also a special education teacher. Teams practice one day a week and have scrimmages.
“It’s a lot of fun,” MacMillan said. “They just play for the true love and passion of the game. It’s pretty amazing.”