For Love of the Game

Rancho Santa Fe Youth Soccer began in the mid-1970s when a small group of RSF residents came together to introduce the game of soccer to their community. Today the league provides a way for local kids to get active, learn a new sport, make friends, and build character through new challenges. A volunteer-based organization, RSF Youth Soccer takes pride in their connection to their community, and strives to continue growing a love for the game of soccer throughout Rancho Santa Fe. Read along as RSF Youth Soccer Director of League Operations Marilee Pacelli tells us more.

Q&A with RSF Youth Soccer Director of League Operations, Marilee Pacelli

cv_rsfsoccer1What is the history behind Rancho Santa Fe Attack Soccer?
Rancho Santa Fe Youth Soccer’s roots go back more than 40 years to the middle of the 1970s when a small group of Rancho Santa Fe residents, individuals filled with a passion for a game of a rather foreign nature, brought together 27 boys at the RSF Community Center to teach the game of soccer. These founders understood that, more than any other sport, soccer could at once bring together a small community and immerse that community in the richest spectrum of the world’s cultures. In the early years teams were loosely formed among those who showed up to play. Although most were currently living in Rancho Santa Fe, they originally came from different parts of the country, and in many cases, from other countries; they spoke with different accents, had different faiths, and represented different generations. But, as they gathered each week, they shared one common denominator: Soccer! The old and young players would gather to watch the game, talk about the game, and play the game, and with that the Rancho Santa Fe community was changed forever.

What is your role in the organization? Tell us about some of your duties/responsibilities.
I am the director of league operations. I take care of all the administrative functions required to run the soccer league.


What is the most rewarding part of your position? The most challenging?
The most rewarding part of my position is knowing that I work for an organization that helps provide a safe and healthy environment for children from all backgrounds and beliefs. As our mission statement says, soccer is a game of passion and that passion is recognized around the world. Our goal is to help the players in our league be able to develop a passion for the game and hold on to the passion for the rest of their lives! The most challenging part of this job is finding a way so that all that want to play can play. Some of these players do not always have the money to be able to afford to play, so ensuring that we can find a way to get them on the field either through fundraising or the generous donations of our members.

At-A-Glance | Director of League Operations

Name: Marilee Pacelli
Profession: Director of League Operations
Hobbies & Interests: Soccer
Favorite Spots in RSF: RSF Sports Field


What is the timeline for the recreational season and where and when are the games played?
The recreational soccer program run by RSF Soccer is a community-based program and starts up in the spring with player registration. The league registers players throughout the summer, but by early July we have typically determined the number of teams and we continue to register players until the teams are full. Practices will usually start the week that school starts and the fall season starts the first Saturday after Labor Day. The season runs until the weekend before Thanksgiving, giving the players 10 to 11 weeks of practices and games. In order to give the players a wider variety of gaming options, the Rancho program has come together with the Cardiff, Solana Beach, and Encinitas communities to offer competition on a larger scale. These four programs together offer playing opportunities for players from age 4 to age 19. The leagues have a committee with representatives that determine the rules of play and provide scheduling for the games. This group effort enables the smaller clubs to be able to offer the same opportunities for our players as some of the larger communities. RSF Soccer also offers an All-Star program for those players who are more serious and would like to continue to play. These All-Star teams compete in tournaments designed for rec teams and typically our RSF teams compete very well!


How are teams formed to ensure that they are balanced appropriately?
The RSF Soccer program is small enough that we can take requests from players to play for a particular coach or with a particular friend. Many of the larger programs are not able to do this, so they must rely on some type of ranking system to ensure that the teams are as even as possible. Since we have a smaller program, it is easier to know the players, and since we allow them to request a coach or friends, we don’t usually have issues around balanced teams. We look at things like where they go to school and whether there are other players on their team from the same school.

At-A-Glance | RSF Attack Soccer

Name of Organization: Rancho Santa Fe Youth Soccer a.k.a. Attack Soccer
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1373, Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067
Phone: 760-479-1500
Mission Statement: Rancho Santa Fe Youth Soccer’s mission is to develop a passion for the game of soccer throughout the community and have fun, build character, and develop an appreciation for the rich spectrum of the world’s cultures.


What should soccer players in the league expect to get out of the season?
When I first became involved with soccer some 20 years ago it was unusual to find a volunteer coach who knew much about the sport. Now more and more of our coaches have played themselves, so the level of coaching has greatly improved. As a result, our players can expect to learn how to play the game from someone who has played themselves, often in college. In addition to coaching, we also offer our rec players the opportunity to attend a once-a-week skills clinic directed by our Director of Recreational Programming Charlie O’Neil. This year we are also offering once-a-week clinics for our goalies to help them improve. Rec soccer is supposed to be fun and we work very hard to make it that way for our players by allowing them to request to be with their friends or a particular coach. But, it should also be a learning experience so that players can decide if they are interested in continuing to play rec or take their game to the next level by playing competitive soccer.

How does RSF Attack Soccer ensure that its players are progressing in skill level and growing as athletes?
There are a number of things that the league offers that provide our players with the ability to progress in their skills and as athletes. Every coach is required to have a minimum license level in order to be able to coach. The licensing is done by the US Soccer Federation through online courses and video training. Our director of recreational programming offers coaching clinics throughout the season to instruct the coaches on how to run successful practices and go over any changes that may have been instituted over the past year. Just in the last two years, a series of Player Development Initiatives have been introduced that are structured to improve player skills through more touches on the ball and fewer players on the field. The introduction of these initiatives and a focus on teaching them is helping to improve the player’s skills. The league also offers camps in the summer and over the holidays as another way of helping to improve the players skill levels. These camps are run by professional soccer coaches, many of whom have played at the professional level in both Europe and the U.S.


What is the biggest challenge that the program faces?
The biggest challenge the league faces is the issue of field space for practices and games. Field availability is an issue that almost every youth sport organization faces, especially in Southern California where real estate is so precious and therefore expensive. We continue to look for land that could be purchased and used for soccer fields and other open space activities. Of course, land in the Rancho Santa Fe area is not cheap, so finding affordable space is another issue. My goal since I started with the league seven years ago has been to find property that could be turned into soccer fields and allow the league to continue to grow and offer the great programs it continues to develop.

Does RSF Attack hold any fundraisers throughout the year? Do you have any upcoming events you’d like our readers to be aware of?
Our largest fundraising event is a soccer tournament called the Attack Summer Classic that is held every year in August and attracts close to 300 teams to the area for a weekend competition. We also have a team sponsorship program that allows a company or individual to sponsor a rec team. The sponsorship includes having the company or individual’s name on the back of the jersey, a link to the company’s website on our sponsor page, a listing on the sponsor board, a plaque from the team, and a tax deduction!


Does the organization have a need for volunteers? If so, how does one get involved?
Like any volunteer-oriented organization, we are always in need of volunteers to help out with our events. We have several events throughout the year where volunteers are needed and welcome. If anyone is interested, they need only call the office and we can put you to work. The office number is 760-479-1500.

Do you hold a spring recreational season? If so, when are the registration dates?
Our spring program runs for six weeks and starts up at the end of February. It is an outdoor program and is organized by age groups. The focus is on small-sided games, so the players have a short warm-up where they are introduced to new skills and then divided into teams and allowed to scrimmage. The program has been around for several years and the participation continues to grow. Registration for that program will start after the first of the year. If you are interested you will find the information and online registration on the website at


Is there anything else you’d like to add that we didn’t ask about?
Attack also has a competitive program for players who would like to take the game to the next level. The tryouts for these teams are in the spring and all the information can be found on the website at These teams are focused on player development and coached by professional coaches who have been coaching for many years.