Arlington, VA

Arlington County is asking residents how and when they use athletic fields.

The County’s Public Spaces Master Plan, adopted in April 2019, calls for a public survey every five years to garner feedback to determine how and when Arlingtonians use the available athletic fields.

The collected data will be used to update the permit process, availability of fields, and who has access when.

“We have a finite amount of park spaces,” Jerry Solomon, Community Engagement Manager for the Department of Parks and Recreation, writes to ARLnow in an email. “Our goal is to ensure we are using them as efficiently and effectively as possible. We need to determine if we are offering field spaces at times that people can best access them.”

Fields for adult soccer leagues, for example, are most needed outside of typical working hours. Baseball diamonds for Little League should be accessible when the players are, like on weekends or after school.

This survey will help make sure this is the case, plus provide additional data that may not be as self-explanatory.

The survey specifically asks about activity start and end times for different age groups as well, like if kids 9 and youngers should end their field use prior sundown on weekdays and who should have access to lighted fields.

In total, Arlington has 96 athletic fields — a mix of rectangular fields (35), diamond fields (42), and a combination of the two (19). That can be further broken down into lighted (37) and not lighted fields (59) as well as natural grass (80) and synthetic turf fields (16).

It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that the fields that have the most use on an individual basis are the lighted, synthetic turf fields. On average, each one of those fields gets more than 2,100 hours of play per year. This is compared to an average of 700 hours per non-lighted, natural grass field.

For years, which fields got lights has been a source of community contention.

Athletic field use in Arlington is often not a free-for-all or on a first-come, first-serve basis. Nearly all of the fields are either only accessible to permit holders or priority is given to permit holders.

Only six of the 96 athletic fields in Arlington are available as drop-in fields, or “community fields.” Even those, though, can be reserved for scheduled programs or practices.

That has drawn the ire of some residents, like those who live near Pentagon City and want to see one or both of the softball diamonds at Virginia Highlands Park opened up for community use.

There’s even a tiered priority system for the allocation of permits, which was first recommended in 2016 due to an “inequity” that existed in how fields were allocated.

Arlington Public Schools are given first priority, then county-organized non-profit youth sport leagues, then adult leagues, then for-profit sports leagues, and, finally, individual rentals or other organizations.

Some fields also have agreements with local universities for their use.

All of this, plus Arlington’s growing population, is resulting in heavy use and demand for athletic fields. According to the PSMP, the county could need an additional 11 rectangular and 2 diamond fields by 2035 to maintain the current levels of use and access.

The hope is that the survey and public feedback will allow for better, more efficient, and more fair use of the limited field space.

This survey will be open until the end of the month, says Solomon, at which point DPR will review and report findings to the Public Spaces Master Plan Implementation Committee in the spring.

There could be more opportunities to provide feedback come the spring and summer, Solomon noted.

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One of Arlington’s biggest annual events has been cancelled and its biggest sports league suspended, as a result of coronavirus concerns.

Ballston Quarterfest made the announcement shortly after 3 p.m.

“The health and well-being of our community is the top priority at the Ballston BID,” said a PR rep for the business improvement district. “It is for this most important reason that we have made the difficult decision to cancel Quarterfest this year, which was scheduled for Saturday, May 16.”

“At this time, we plan to move forward with other, smaller events and will continue to follow Arlington County-recommended procedures for events, which may include canceling or postponing some additional or perhaps all public programs and events taking place in the near future,” the rep said.

The Arlington Soccer Association, meanwhile, has announced that it is suspending operations, practices and games until at least the end of the month.

“In light of the actions taken today by US Youth Soccer and the US Soccer Federation to suspend operations, Arlington Soccer is suspending all club-related practices, games and other activities effective immediately through March 30, 2020,” the league said. “At that time, we will reevaluate the situation and provide families with an update on next steps. While we are disappointed to have to make this decision, we believe it is in the best interest of our players, their families and our employees”

The pair of Thursday afternoon announcements will nix a street festival in Ballston attended by tens of thousands of people each year, to the benefit of local restaurants, and at least temporarily pause a league with 9,000 players. The actions are in line with health authorities’ recommendation to avoid large gatherings and social contact, to help head off the rapid spread of the disease.

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John Mingus, an Arlington youth soccer coach, was named National Volunteer of the Year by US Youth Soccer on Saturday.

Mingus began coaching soccer when his first daughter began playing in the spring of 2001. He coached both of his daughters until they began high school. He continued to coach kindergarten boys, first grade and high school girls even after he stopped coaching his daughters’ teams.

He is currently the club manager of the Northwest Lions, the largest club in the Arlington Soccer Association. As club manager, Mingus places new players in separate teams, he recruits the coaches for each team, and sets policies and procedures for the program.

“I love volunteering because I believe strongly in [Arlington Soccer]’s mission,” Mingus said. “I believe Arlington rec soccer is an incredible program that offers kids of all ages to play soccer. It is important to have a program that provides regardless of their ability.”

Mingus began playing soccer mostly as a neighborhood pick-up player growing up, and later played intramural soccer in college and grad school.

With the prize, Mingus received a pass to get free Chipotle burritos for one year.

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Morning Notes

Tow Truck Chase Ends in Arlington — “A suspect involved in a domestic dispute in Prince George’s County lead officers on a chase through D.C. and into Arlington, Virginia, Tuesday night… police believed the suspect was armed and had kidnapped a young child, but the child was safe in Maryland.” [NBC 4, Twitter]

New D.C. United Player Dines at El Pollo Rico — “Great to see legendary #ArlingtonVA business, El Pollo Rico in @dcunited’s video introducing their new #10, Peruvian Edison Flores.” [Twitter]

Rave Review for New Rosslyn Restaurant — “Sfoglina exceeds the preview offered by the sfogline in the window. The fare is comforting to the core and will leave you wanting more of Trabocchi’s cooking. You’re in luck, he’s considering opening more restaurants in Northern Virginia.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

ACFD Helps Retrieve Wayward Pentagon Flag — “When the flags came loose earlier this month at the #Pentagon, Truck 105 from Crystal City was called in for a rescue. Good work everyone!” [Twitter]

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Dorothy Hamm Middle School has been open for less than a year, but the girls soccer team is already Arlington County champions, thanks to a group of enthusiastic players and Arlington County Police Department’s Detective Tiffanie Heggerty.

Heggerty has worked as a School Resource Officer in the county for four years, currently serving both Hamm and Taylor Elementary School.

This year, Heggerty decided to pursue a new after-school activity — coaching soccer at Hamm.

“I thought it would be another great way to connect with students,” Heggerty said.

For the 2019-20 school year, Hamm students were pulled from nearby Williamsburg Middle School and Swanson Middle School. The team’s first season meant organizing a group of brand new teammates and practicing at a school still under construction.

“Finding places to practice took some creative effort,” Heggerty said. “Ms. Dabney, our Activities Coordinator, helped us get practice space at other schools, and we used the baseball field at the school when possible.”

Despite some setbacks, the team worked its way to an undefeated season (7-0-1).

“New team, new school, new coach, and we all had so much fun doing it,” said Heggerty. “Having a team that all got along, and played so well together is more than I could have hoped for, so winning on top of that is the icing on the cake.”

Now, Heggerty is coaching the boys soccer team at the middle school, and is hoping she’ll have similar success.

“The best part of being the School Resource Officer and coach is that I get to see my players throughout the day, and they bring their friends along to talk to me,” she said.

“This has helped me connect with more and more kids. Now adding the boys season beginning this week, when I walk the halls, I hear, ‘Hey Coach,’ and I know that they see me and not just my uniform.”

Across the county, many SROs volunteer their time as coaches of sports teams.

“ACPD is proud of the work the SROs do in their roles as officers, as well as through their work as coaches, mentors and advisors to students in Arlington outside the school day,” said ACPD spokeswoman Kirby Clark.

“One of our goals as a school division is to make sure that every student has at least one trusted adult that they can talk to,” said APS spokesman Frank Bellavia, pointing to the recent 2017 collaboration program between APS and ACPD, ACPD & APS Cares.

“Because our SROs interact with our students on a daily basis, they can be that one trusted adult that students can talk with.”

Photo via ACPD

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(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) One of Arlington’s youth soccer teams is forfeiting games after members say a player was wrongfully removed from the team.

The Division 1 recreational soccer team LAFC has already forfeited two games, and members say they may forfeit a third this weekend if fellow player Tania Mendez can’t join them on the field. Her coaches and teammates are protesting a decision by the organization that oversees the league, the Arlington Soccer Association (ASA), which said she was too old to play.

The issue came to a head when an ASA official showed up at a game on Saturday, September 21, and told the team their forward was no longer allowed on the field — something coaches said was a change in policy.

Coach Deanna Herrity told ARLnow it was the players who then made a decision: “I asked my team if they wanted to play the second half without Tania. And they said ‘no.’ And I said alright ‘we leave.’ And we left.”

‘Playing makes me feel at peace’

Tania Mendez immigrated to the U.S. when she was 14 after growing up in El Salvador. She’s lived in Arlington for the last five years.

After arriving in the U.S., learning English meant repeating grades 8 and 11. Now she’s 19 and starting her her senior year at Wakefield High School. But no matter where she’s lived, she’d played soccer, and even dreamed of going pro when she was younger.

“All my life has been spent playing soccer and I think that there’s no other sport that makes me feel as happy as soccer does,” Mendez told ARLnow in an interview in Spanish. “Every time I’m on the field I forget everything else, playing makes me feel at peace.”

But after playing two games with the team this season, ASA’s Recreational Soccer Commissioner David Gould informed the team midway through their game on Saturday, September 21 that Mendez was ineligible to play due to her age. Several teammates and her the team’s coaches told ARLnow it was a confusing confrontation, with Mendez telling ARLnow that she was speechless at the time.

“It was a very diminishing moment,” said one of her teammates, Valentina, 17, a senior at Washington-Liberty High School. “She just doesn’t deserve the treatment she’s been receiving from the ASA.”

Coach Herrity said the ASA has helped make the league welcoming for all kinds of players in the past, including by offering scholarships to cover registration fees. However, she said she fears this action represents a new policy that could harm other players like Tania who also need their help.

“It’s going to disproportionately affect immigrants,” she said in an interview with ARLnow. “Oftentimes you’ll have friends who are immigrants who are not the typical age of the peers of the grade.”

It’s a concern she said she worries about in the larger picture of youth soccer participation falling, and becoming a sport for wealthier, whiter children.

Policies and Older Players

Coaches Andrea Leeson and Herrity had registered Mendez with the ASA, but that on the Friday before their second game, the organization emailed them that Mendez had been removed from the roster “effective immediately” because of her age. After not receiving a reply to their follow-up emails, the coaches put Mendez in the game the next day, which led Gould to arrive and ask her to be removed.

Leeson and Herrity said they were surprised by the ASA’s actions because it had been a long-standing policy at ASA to approve older players who had stayed behind to catch up on English.

In the ASA’s handbook, it notes that the recreational soccer leagues are sorted by grade level groups, “with the exception of players who are out of sync with other students their age (i.e.: due to repeating or skipping a year or more of school).”

The organization is governed by the Virginia Youth Soccer Association, which states in its bylaws that players must be under 19 years of age. However, the organization also notes that the rules of the national U.S. Youth Soccer Association supersede its own. Within the national organization’s policy and players rules document, players 19 years and under are included in the “youth” league category.

ASA approved a 19-year-old player on the team earlier this year, according to emails reviewed by ARLnow. Emails showed how written requests from the coaches for an exception led ASA staff to manually override the age limit in the online registration system.

In the February emails, Gould wrote that helping with the registration was “not a problem” and added that “she’s back there now!” in reference to the player signing up. That lenience, however, has seemingly changed.

“Arlington Soccer Association has allowed 19 year old players up until now, but [recently has] chosen to interpret their policy such that this 19 year old girl cannot play,” Leeson said. “We have exhausted our options in discussing this with them, as they don’t respond to our emails or requests to discuss this in more detail.”

ASA Executive Director Adam Brick responded after publication, telling ARLnow that, “While I am unable to comment on any specific individual’s situation, I am happy to clarify the age-limit rule which comes under the auspices of the United States Soccer Federation (US Soccer), US Youth Soccer (USYS) and the Virginia Youth Soccer Association (VYSA).”

Brick emphasized that based on age-grouping charts posted here from the VYSA, a student who turns 20 years old in 2020 is not eligible for youth soccer programs.

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This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Northern Virginia that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry, Esq.

In April of 2016, we earlier wrote on the efforts of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team and their efforts to receive equal pay as compared to the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team.

Much has happened in the past three years to warrant an update. For one, the women’s team has won another World Cup, recently with a 2-0 victory over the Netherlands. For another, national sponsors of soccer (e.g., Procter and Gamble) have begun to join the fight for equal pay on the side of the women’s team. Lastly, the equal pay movement has become stronger over the past three years. Attached is a copy of the original equal pay complaint.

Equal Pay Cases Take a Long Time

It is an unfortunate fact that the EEOC has taken so long with this case. As mentioned earlier, the case started in early 2016 and originally involved the five team captains of the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, such as Hope Solo and Carli Lloyd, who filed a wage discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of all members of the women’s team against the U.S. Soccer Federation.

Since the 3-year delay at the EEOC, all 28 women’s team players have withdrawn their EEOC case and filed suit in the federal district court in Los Angeles, alleging that the U.S. Soccer Federation has engaged in several years of institutional gender discrimination. A copy of that complaint is linked.

Equal Pay Complaint

In the latest filing by plaintiffs Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and other women’s team members, they allege the serious pay discrepancies that continue to exist between the men’s and women’s teams.

Specifically, members of the women’s team can potentially earn a maximum of $99,000 a year, while members of the men’s team earn an average of $263,320 per year. Other disparities include the U.S. Soccer Federation only providing charter air flights to the men’s team in 2017, but requiring the women’s team to take commercial air flights.

The reason why this case is so newsworthy is the fact that the women’s team has been out performing the men’s team in rankings and World Cup wins for a long time. The women’s team has been ranked number one in the world for 10 of the past 11 years. Also, in more recent years, the women’s team has been outperforming the men’s team in revenue and profits as well, and in viewership. For instance, the 2019 Women’s Cup Final viewership was 22% higher than the 2018 Men’s Cup Final.

While the Soccer Federation has claimed market considerations as the reason for paying the men’s team more, the women’s team, according to the complaint, has started to outperform the men’s soccer team in revenue and profit in the most recent accounts. Additionally, according to the complaint, the women’s team had even proposed a revenue-sharing agreement where women’s player compensation would be less if their revenue decreased. It seems as if the U.S. Soccer Federation needs a reality check.

Conclusion

It is time that the U.S. Soccer Federation recognize and pay the women’s team at least the same as their male counterparts on the two national teams and provide them the same benefits. We represent employees in employment matters.

If you need assistance with a federal retirement or an employment issue, please contact our office at (703) 668-0070 or at www.berrylegal.com to schedule a consultation. Please also visit and like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BerryBerryPllc.

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Morning Notes

More Arlington Real Estate Optimism — “According to a report released Wednesday by the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors and the George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis, the median home price in Arlington County is on track to spike 17.2 percent by the end of 2019.” [Washingtonian]

‘Rock the Row’ Starts Tonight — The United States Navy Band Country Current will perform tonight at Pentagon Row for the shopping center’s annual Rock the Row outdoor concert series. Concerts will be held every Thursday from 7-9 p.m. at the Pentagon Row plaza, through Aug. 1. [Pentagon Row]

Yorktown Girls Cap Off Stellar Soccer Season — “The Yorktown Patriots completed an unbeaten girls soccer season on June 8 at Hermitage High School near Richmond by winning the Virginia High School League’s Class 6 state-tournament championship.” [InsideNova, InsideNova]

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Oliver Freeman’s goal is to have at least one Arlingtonian on a World Cup-winning team by 2030.

Freeman’s soccer program, Love the Ball, is launching its first Arlington camp this summer in a partnership with the Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation.

The four-day camp is planned to run from July 22-26 at Kenmore Middle School (202 S. Carlin Springs Road).

“Most of the time, we are doing soccer, but one thing that really interests me when we came to this country is soccer is not number one,” said Freeman. “It’s not the most important sport. Looking outside, I don’t see kids playing that. Back home in England, that’s all kids do.”

Every day is themed around a different country and technique, like a Brazil-themed day focused on dribbling or a Germany-themed day focused on passing. Freeman said kids are encouraged to wear clothing or colors from that country on those days.

The camp is aimed at kids ages 4-12 and costs $250 for full-day classes.

According to the program’s website, Freeman coached with the famous Chelsea Football Club in the U.K., coaching players in community sessions, holiday camps and advanced centers.

The Love the Ball program started in Britain in 2012 and came to the U.S. in 2016. Freeman said over the last few years they’ve seen growth and currently have 10 coaches working in about 20 schools throughout the region, but this is the first year the program has operated in Arlington.

Freeman said being chosen as a partner by the parks department is a strenuous process, but he’s hoping if this year goes well the program can expand with more camps. The partnership promotes Love the Ball through Arlington’s summer camp catalog and gives them access to the Kenmore Middle School field.

“I really hope to instill a love for the game,” Freeman said. “It’s not just a camp. Hopefully, they go home and start kicking the ball around. They have to do stuff on their own time if they’re going to be good at it.”

For the most part, Freeman said he’s also yielded to the American terminology of “soccer” rather than “football.”

“You have to choose your battles,” said Freeman. “Unfortunately, kids get too confused. If you say football, they’ll start trying to grab the ball. Sometimes I have kids from South America or Europe, and I call it football to them and their parents.”

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Morning Notes

Arlington Youth Soccer Team Wins Nat’l Tourney — The Arlington Soccer Association’s U16 Boys team won the US Youth Soccer National Championship in Frisco, Texas over the weekend. The big win “is the first USYS Championship in the club’s history” and “caps off Arlington’s most successful year in its almost 50-year history with the U14 Girls team also advancing to the National Championships,” according to the association. [PDF, US Youth Soccer]

Officials Prep for Decal Decision — “If County Board members in September decide to kill off Arlington tax decals that have been a fixture on local windshields for a half-century, the two elected officials who will be tasked with implementing the decision say they can make it happen. The question that still hangs in the air, though, is whether eliminating the decal will make it more likely scofflaws will get away with cheating the tax man.” [InsideNova]

Arlington Theaters: A Tourist Attraction? — Arlington’s theater scene “is bigger and better than ever,” according to Arlington’s tourism promotion agency. [Stay Arlington]

Survey: Keep ANC Open to Burials As Long As Possible — “The vast majority of respondents to a Department of Defense survey favor keeping Arlington National Cemetery operational for as long as possible, even if it means tightening up on those who are deemed eligible for burial there.” [InsideNova]

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(Updated 7/2 at 12:05 pm) Aspiring Arlington soccer stars will soon have the opportunity to show off their dribbling, shooting, juggling and passing skills.

Next Saturday (July 7) from 4-8 p.m., the International Champions Cup Skills Challenge comes to Williamsburg Middle School.

The competition is divided into male and female divisions, which are each broken up by age (U12, U16 and open). Competitors receive a 45-minute time slot to navigate a dribbling course, score goals, juggle for as long as possible and quickly complete difficult passes.

The top entrant in each category will receive two free tickets to the Aug. 4 Juventus v. Real Madrid ICC match at FedEx Field and be recognized on the field during halftime.

Those interested can register online. Participation is free.

Photo via Facebook

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