In the parlance of soccer, Terry Swanson got a red card last Thursday.
Swanson, fresh off a state title victory as coach of the U-17 South Whidbey Reign soccer team, was banned from the South Whidbey Parks & Recreation District fields, an unusual penalty, for a period of one year. He will plead his case to the Parks board of commissioners at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 6, in hopes of having the ban lifted.
Doug Coutts, executive director of the parks district, said Swanson was using one of the fields at the Sports Complex this past Thursday. Recent rain and snow softened the turf to a point that led the district staff to temporarily suspend activities on one of the fields, which Swanson was using informally with high school soccer players before the boys soccer season started March 3. Coutts said parks staff asked Swanson to relocate, but he did not cooperate.
“He did not follow staff direction as to where to play, so he was asked not to return,” Coutts said. “He refused multiple directions from staff.”
Swanson admitted he did not follow staff direction, but said his decision to work with the players on the field in spite of Parks staff direction was a “case of civil disobedience.”
After communicating by email with Coutts ahead of the training session, Swanson said he arrived to find a small field set up with quarter-size goals — “kid” goals, as he called them. For the 17 boys who showed up to train, Swanson said, the field was too small. So he moved to the open field in the southwest corner, behind the restroom area. It was not marked as a closed field, said Swanson, so he moved his players to the full-size turf.
“He’s got closed signs on every other field,” Swanson said. “The entire complex is closed.”
“We need to be able to use our fields,” he later added.
The Island County Sheriff’s Office was called, which issued Swanson a trespassing citation. Swanson said the deputy arrived and waited until the practice was done before citing Swanson for trespassing — an infraction that does not necessarily come with a monetary fee — and asking him to leave the property.
Disputes over field usage have a long history for the parks district and the soccer community on South Whidbey, Swanson said. Several years ago, the problem of field closure came to a head when Swanson, then the South Whidbey Youth Soccer Association president, worked with former parks director Terri Arnold to ensure that at least one full field would be open all year.
“We’ve had field peace for six years,” Swanson said.
He planned to argue for a resolution with the commissioners to guarantee year-round access to at least one field. Swanson also said in an interview that he would like to see a rotation schedule to avoid one field seeing too much use during rain-soaked fall and winter months.
The hearing process requires Swanson to convince the commissioners as to why the ban should to suspended or mitigated.