Frequently Asked Questions
- Who can join Downtown Soccer Toronto (DST)?
DST is a co-ed, queer recreational summer soccer league. Anyone who is queer or queer-positive and is 19 years or older is eligible to become a member.
- When/Where can I register for soccer?
Current members will be notified via email when and where they can register for the next season. If you are interested in joining the league as a new member, there is a link on our website to join our Waiting List or Information List. When the next registration dates and locations are known, they will be emailed to everyone on these lists. The registration events for new members will also be posted as a news item on this website.
- How does the Waiting List work?
Players are placed on the Waiting List in the order that they join. When a spot in the league becomes available, the person at the top of the list is emailed immediately and is invited to take the open spot. If the invitation is declined, or we do not receive a response within 48 hours, then we move on to the next person on the list.
- Why do you let returning members register first?
Having continuity in our membership allows for us to maintain a strong sense of community. Approximately 75% of our members return every year, so we are able to strike a balance of retruning and new members.
- Why do you hold separate registration days for women, trans and genderqueer folk?
At DST we believe that everyone should feel welcome and included in our league. Historically, women, trans and genderqueer folk have been less represented in the membership, so we work extra hard to ensure that we aren't adding barriers further limiting participation in the league from these groups.
As part of our commitment to maintaining and increasing the participation from women, trans and genderqueer folks in our league, we have a priority (for women, trans, and genderqueer folk) registration day ahead of an open (i.e. open to all genders) registration day. Within this priority registration, we reserve up to 25% of new membership spots (spots not taken by returning members) for these identified groups at the beginning of each season.
Our methods of inclusion have evolved over the years, and we expect they will continue to do so as needed.
- Can I request that a friend and I play on the same team?
Yes, you can. There is a spot on the registration form for "Player Bond". For this to work, you BOTH need to write each other's name in this space when you register. In addition, both players need to secure their spot as members. If one player ends up on the waiting list, then the player bond can not be honoured. The same process applies for a Player Bond consisting of one returning member and one new member, even though you cannot register at the same time.
- How are teams decided?
Teams are decided on draft night. The draft is mostly random, although it is designed to equally distribute league members by gender and skill level across teams so that the teams are as balanced as best as possible. More details are found in the Draft section below, and the full details can be found in the Draft Policy under the Governance section of this website.
- What are the fees and what do they pay for?
Every year the DST executive has to pass a budget which takes into account the cost of field permits, referees, jerseys, equipment, the end-of-season banquet, and so forth. We are committed to keeping fees as low as possible to ensure that the league is accessible to all. Fees will be announced at registration, last year it was $150. For info on payment plans or general questions about the fees, please contact the Director of Finance at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If I join mid-way in the season, is the registration fee discounted?
Yes. If a new member is pulled off the waitlist half-way through the season their membership fee will be discounted. The exact amount at which it will be discounted depends on the registration fee for that year, and will be communicated prior to joining.
- What is a non-playing member? If I join as a non-playing member, what
is the fee?
A non-playing member is assigned to a team just like regular players. Instead of playing, non-playing members contribute to their teams by filling roles like coach, manager, team statistician or just being a member-at-large. You are entitled to the same rights and benefits as playing members, without the pesky after-game laundry. This includes priority registration for the following season. The fee for non-playing members is $100.
- Do I have to be assessed?
Prior to the beginning of the season, all players that joined after the beginning of the previous season must be assessed. This is an essential part of creating balanced teams at the draft. Other returning members who want to be re-assessed are encouraged to do so - they should contact email@example.com.
- What do I need to bring to the assessment?
You will need to bring your cleats (no metal spikes) and shinguards, along with shorts and two comfortable t-shirts – one light-coloured and one dark-coloured. Bring water and sunscreen.
- The skills assessment sounds intimidating. What is involved?
These are not tryouts. Think of it as a pre-season warm-up, a chance to get on the field and practice ball control, dribbling, passing, and shooting. You'll get to scrimmage and you'll get to meet some of the other league members. By the end of the afternoon, we'll have a good sense of your skill level, which is critical for ensuring that we create balanced teams during the draft.
(A complete description of how the team draft is performed can be found in the Draft Policy in the Governance section of this website. Some quick answers can be found below.)
- How are the teams chosen?
The draft has two main goals: 1) to distribute players evenly by gender; and 2) to distribute players evenly by skill; additionally, the draft is used to place one captain and an executive member (where possible) on each team. Prior to the draft, all players that joined after the beginning of the previous season are assessed for skill at one of the skills assessment clinics run by the Operations Coordinator. The Operations Coordinator also reviews the skills rating of all other returning members. The skills spread is worked out prior to the draft, meaning that every team will receive a group of players whose skill "points" add up to an approximately equal amount. As well as evenly distributing skills across teams, DST is committed to an even gender spread.
The DST draft night is one of the most exciting and popular events of the year. The teams are unveiled in front of our membership, and is an opportunity to meet your team and find out who the sponsors are. As well, in what has become a trademark nail-biter "reveal", the team jerseys are shown.
- Balancing the teams by skill makes sense, but why do you try to balance
the teams by gender?
Being a queer league and one based in one of the most diverse cities in the world, representing and fostering diversity is incredibly important to us at DST. In order to reflect the true diversity of our community we make every effort to balance the teams in terms of soccer skill as well as gender identity.
- I know someone who works for one of the sponsors.
If the draft is random, how did they end up on that sponsor’s team?
The draft is a random draw, however, there are some special circumstances that require intervention. For example, as condition of our sponsorship, some of our sponsors have requested that their employees be drafted to the sponsor's team. These exceptions are publicized in the Draft Policy (posted on the website) to ensure transparency and are usually related to sponsorship.
- How is the draft order decided? Why is that the order that is used?
First, the player placement process needs to be explained. Each team has a certain number of slots available for each skill level. As players are picked randomly, we cycle through the teams to place them. Sometimes we encounter a team that has no empty slots of that player's skill level, so we have to skip that team and continue until we find a suitable team.
If our only goal is to distribute players evenly by skill, this process would be very easy. However, we also ensure that players are evenly distributed by gender, that each team gets a captain, that the executive members get spread across teams, that sponsorship commitments are met, and that player bonds are preserved. As the draft proceeds, slots get filled up and it might be impossible to satisfy all of these constraints. This is why we pick from certain groups of players as early in the draft as possible so that there are still lots of empty slots available in which to place them. We have essentially used the same draft strategy successfully since 2006.
- Do you include goalies as a separate category in the draft?
We do assign goalies to the teams. At the time of registration we ask our members if they would like to be a full time or half time goalie. After confirming these selections, we draft either one full time or two or more half time goalies to every team. This allows everyone to play their preferred positions.
- I can't attend the draft. How will I know when I play? Who is on my team?
During the draft, team email lists are compiled, and the members can expect to receive an email with all their information either the night of or the day after the draft. The rosters are also uploaded to the members-only area of the website and members can check the website for the schedule. Attendance at the draft is not mandatory - but it sure is a good time!
- How do I know who my captains are?
Each team has two co-captains. As part of the draft, each team is assigned one co-captain chosen by the League Executive. If you are unable to attend draft night and meet your captain, they will email the team prior to the first game identifying themselves and what you need to know. You and your team elect a second co-captain within the first few weeks of play.
- How does the League Executive pick co-captains?
Co-captains are a really important part of ensuring that the season goes smoothly. Over the years, the Executive has experimented with different models for selecting and electing captains. At present, teams have one Executive-selected co-captain and one Team-elected co-captain per team. In choosing co-captains, the Executive considers only people who indicate ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’ to being a captain on their registration form, as well as people who indicated ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’ to being a captain on our annual survey (and gave us permission to the use this information). The criteria used for selecting co-captains include: leadership, community building, sportsmanship, support for the League goals and directives (which include building our membership and raising the level of women’s participation), and – of course – knowledge of soccer.
- Is this a competitive league, or can someone like myself who has never played
before still join?
All skill levels are welcome at DST.
- What do I need to play soccer?
We supply the jerseys, shorts, and socks. You will need shinguards and cleats. We require OUTDOOR cleats but metal spikes are not allowed. They can be pin- or blade-style, but must be plastic/rubber. You may not wear a hat (unless you are the keeper) or sunglasses while playing.
- Where/When are the games played?
Our games are played at Withrow Park, 1 block south of Danforth Ave., between Logan and Carlaw. Playoff games might be played at a different location.
Games are usually played on Sunday. The games start promptly at 10AM, 11:45AM, 1:30PM, 3:15PM, and 5PM, each consisting of two 45-minute halves with a half-time break. You are advised to arrive thirty minutes in advance of your game to get dressed and warm-up.
There are no regular season games on long weekends. If there is a mini-tournament or another event scheduled for a long weekend throughout the season, that will be communicated to the membership prior to the weekend in question.
- Can I invite my friends or family members to my game?
Yes! All games are open to the public and free to watch.
- What are the start and end dates of the summer season?
This varies from year to year, depending on permits, holidays, and other scheduling issues, but in general the season opens mid-May and runs until the end of September.
- Will there be practices and do I have to go?
Thursday evenings are designated league-wide practices. As well, some teams may wish to have their own practices. Members are not required to attend but they are definitely encouraged to do so. Skills development in the form of skills clinics and practices is one of the many benefits to membership.
- How do I declare an absence?
Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, and, in the subject line, put the date of the game that you will be missing. You need to send one date per e-mail. For example, if you plan to be away on June 1, send an e-mail with subject line "June 1" (without the quotes). You must send the e-mail from the account that we have on file, that is, the address that you registered with (and where you receive our league newsletters). Your absence declaration must be received by 11:59pm on the Friday before the game you will be missing.
- Why do you ask which pronouns people use during team icebreakers?
We do this for three reasons: awareness, inclusion, and space.
Some folks don't conform to the gender they present as, and some folks don't present their gender in a way that conforms to the male-female binary our society insists on. THIS IS OK!
Queer, gender nonconforming, and female-identified folks have been historically shut out from participation in sport. As a queer league it's important that we all do what we can to understand the lived experience of those in our queer community, which might be vastly different from your own.
By inviting players to share their pronouns, we aim to create a sense of awareness of these lived experiences, hold space for each player's own gender identity (even if and especially if it doesn't conform to the male-female binary), and follow each player's lead in using those pronouns. Essentially we're saying `we see you, and we want to play with you'.
- What if I prefer not to change in a gendered washroom?
We've got you covered(literally)! DST has pop-up change tents for anyone who doesn't want to change in the gendered washrooms. These tents are set up at the beginning of every game day and are stored in the league lock box when not in use.
- Why do you hold separate events for female, trans, or genderqueer folks in our league?
At DST we believe that everyone should feel welcome and included in our league. Historically, women, trans and genderqueer folk have been less represented in the membership of DST and historically excluded from participation in sport in general, and so we work to make sure that we aren't putting up barriers to participation for these groups.
We realize that many queer men have also experienced similar exclusion when it comes to participation in sport, which is why we're proud to exist as a place you can come to experience the value and joy of playing a team sport. Since the majority of our league and wait lists are queer men, we put extra effort into making sure the league is welcoming to other queer-identified folks, in addition to our regular recruitment efforts.
Having events specifically for female, trans, or genderqueer folks in the league provides an opportunity to meet one another in addition to game days and league wide events.
- Why are games cancelled?
The primary reason for cancelling a game is safety. When we arrive at the field, the first person consulted is the referee who is not only there to apply the rules of play but to ensure the safety of all players. Withrow Park is pot-hole ridden. When you cover pot-holes with puddles you have a recipe for twisted ankles and, potentially broken legs or feet.
A secondary concern is not to worsen the state of the fields. When we run on wet grass, the grass tears up and ground becomes muddy. A muddy wet field becomes a dry, sandy field. This would make future games all the more unbearable.
- How will members be notified that games are cancelled?
As soon as the decision is made to cancel games, an e-mail will be sent to all members. Further messages may be posted to the league website and social media accounts, but email is primary.
- I didn't receive notice of the closure until after I went to the field.
Why isn't the communications system set up for quicker notifications?
The Executive and the referees know that our members want nothing more than to play! Executive members go to the field and consult with the attending referees to determine whether the fields can be used. As a result, games are only cancelled as a last resort.
- Why can't we play on an alternate field on rain days?
The short answer is that from both a logistical and financial standpoint, an alternate field is not feasible with our present structure. The application process for public fields is long and complicated and starts in November of the preceding year. Allotment of field-time by the city is based on past needs/usage and on number of members. As it is, DST already has an allotment that surpasses our needs (in their opinion). This would require DST to go to private fields, which are also booked well in advance by other leagues and organizations. Also, a private field can run anywhere upwards from $60-100+/hour to rent, where our public field costs in the range of $10-15/hour. In addition, the city does not refund us for field-time that is unused.
- They are calling for rain next weekend. Should I assume those games will
No! Cancelling games is the last thing the DST executive wants to do, and each case is assessed individually. We don’t cancel games unless the actual field conditions (as witnessed the morning of the games) merit it. It takes a LOT of rain for us to even consider cancelling.
The best bet is to establish an alert system with your captain. For those playing the 10am games, the field is assessed at 9-9:30 so you should already be at the field and we will advise you as quickly as possible. It may also be a good idea to have a friend at the field to call you in case of cancellation if you anticipate being en-route.
- Will we be able to make up the missed game days?
This will vary depending on the schedule and how many game days are missed.
- Why is the field quality so poor? Can't we get better fields or ask the city to improve our fields?
The field conditions across the board in the Toronto core are less than desirable. The fields are categorized as “A”, “B” or “C” from best to worst (and from most expensive to least expensive). Since its creation, DST has moved from playing on a “C” level field to a “B” level field without drastically increasing fees. It’s important to know that the cost of moving from one level to the next doubles the rate per hour. When planning for fields for DST, we take into consideration the location (making it easily accessible to our community), cost, field condition and, most importantly, availability. During the permit process, approximately 12 fields are listed in our request. We are then allotted time based on what’s available.
In the Fall of 2011, our league spearheaded a campaign that led to significant work being done to improve the quality of Withrow. While those improvements aren't immediately recognizable today, it is important to us to ensure that the quality of the field does not deteriorate further.
- I would rather have better fields than (a banquet/socks and shorts/other
events). Can't we trade one for the other?
Absolutely. Your chance to make structural and organizational changes comes each year with the Executive elections. While the past and current Executive members try to make decisions with everyone’s best interest in mind, they may not be aligned with what you want.
Banquet and Awards
- If the banquet fee is included in my membership fee, why do I have to
give a deposit?
We ask for a deposit so we can work closely with the banquet facility to confirm the exact number of attendees which they need to provide the appropriate amount of food, seating, etc. The deposit is refundable which means you have a little extra cash in your pocket to buy that cute guy/girl a drink or take a taxi home at the end of the evening.
- I am not attending the banquet; can I give my banquet ticket away / get
No. While the banquet is included in your membership fee, it is not transferable or refundable.
- Can I bring a friend/partner to the banquet?
Currently, our membership fee includes a ticket to the banquet for all league members. However, you are welcome to purchase an additional ticket to bring a friend/partner to the banquet. Watch DSTribution for announcements closer to the end of the season (usually during playoffs) for details about the banquet and ticket sales.
- Every year the same people are highlighted in the end-of-year slideshow
- this seems unfair.
Every year towards the end of the season, several calls for photo submissions go out to the membership. From these photos, we put together a retrospective. We can only work with what we have, so get out there this season and snap some photos!
- Why do you need to do a survey every year?
DST is committed to providing a high-quality recreational soccer experience and the most important part of that is YOU. We want to hear what you think about how we have done and how the Executive can change or improve the DST experience. In fact, these FAQs are a result of people responding to our survey.
- At the end of the survey there are questions about income, family
size, etc. These have nothing to do with soccer - why do you ask them?
These questions are not mandatory so if you feel uncomfortable, do not answer them. We ask them to help shape our sponsorship packages. Sponsors and granting agencies typically want an idea of who they are financing and these questions help us give them that information.