A NOT-SO-FUNNY thing seems likely to happen to, count 'em, at least 14 soccer teams for men and women in Howard County this spring. That's about 225 people, or to look at it from a county government perspective, about $9,520 in lost revenue.
Those folks want to play, and the cutoff for signing up with the Department of Recreation and Parks to get space in a league was supposed to be Friday. Except that all available spaces were claimed, with $680 cash per team plunked down, more than two weeks ago.
That has left 14 co-rec teams -- meaning teams with both men and women -- without a league or place to play and Nicola Morgal, the rec department's sports supervisor for women's and co-rec soccer, puzzling over what to do next.
"It's amazing. Co-rec leagues are getting to be a really big thing," said Morgal, "but we really weren't expecting that much demand. A lot of the teams we've had to put on a waiting list are teams that played last fall, so a lot of people are upset they can't get in.
"But we're maxed out on the number of games we can schedule for our lighted fields. It really boils down to this: We need more fields."
Lighted fields are pretty much essential for the county's adult leagues, given that most grownups work during the day, and demand for the same fields on weekends is heavy in spring for youth lacrosse and soccer players, who can't play at night.
In case you're wondering, there is an upside to this. Morgal has commitments to play from 48 teams. Those co-rec clubs play in Tuesday and Thursday night leagues.
Morgal said she is trying to find alternative places to play but is not sure she will be able to satisfy everyone on the waiting list.
She also has started a waiting list for the men's league; by the middle of last week, that list had four teams in waiting, Morgal said, and she was expecting at least a few more.
Janell Coffman, who oversees the women's leagues for the department, said she was experiencing scheduling pressures, as well.
The rec department, if you didn't notice, gave something of fair notice about registering early in its spring-summer catalog, which came out several weeks ago. "Space is limited due to field renovations," the copy read for adult soccer leagues.
But Coffman said renovations have proven less a problem than the number of teams wanting to play.
One other note, in case you adult soccer players did not read that catalog carefully: The department also puts its fall rates and a signup deadline into the spring/summer book.
So read and heed: Fall teams need to register by July 25. Except you probably ought to commit earlier, eh?
MEET THE SUPERVISOR: Morgal, who lives in Columbia, was promoted to supervisor of the two adult soccer leagues last fall. But they are only part of her county job these days. Morgal (you may know her as Nicola Driver; she married about a year ago) is no stranger to the department, having essentially set up its fitness and aerobics programs after being hired about six years ago, and she is still directing those activities.
At 29, she has some soccer genes, incidentally, that might not be immediately apparent if you know her primarily for her fitness work. She is English by birth, having grown up in Yorkshire in northern England, and despite England's lagging the United States in boosting women's soccer, co-rec ball has been popular there for some time, she said.
"We played all the time in high school, but we played other sports, too," she said. "It wasn't as concentrated as it is here. A lot of it's played indoors."
English indoor football, incidentally, means playing with a real ball in a gym, with the walls in play, Morgal said. Futsal, the deadened-ball version of indoor soccer played on a basketball court with walls not a factor, is less common in the part of England she is from, Morgal said.
She deserves some courage points, too, by the way. Having finished college in England with a degree in recreation, she decided to try living in the United States.
"I packed up and came over," she said. "I only knew two people here, but I was able to get a work permit, and here I am."
For those of you deep into soccer, Morgal can be quickly engaged in conversation with mere mention of Leeds United, her favorite Premier League team.
We'd love to hear your suggestions about what might make interesting reading involving people, teams or other aspects of amateur athletics in Howard County. Call the writer at 410-332-6525, or send e-mail to lowell.sunder firstname.lastname@example.org.