Last week, members asked, “how do I start my own local recreational league?” Our WIS Experts were on hand to offer a variety of insights on how to run a successful rec league. Read below to get advice from league founders Hannah Kelley (Queer Soccer League), Tarek Pertew (NYC Footy) and Brandi Mitchell (San Diego Soccer Women).


Hannah Kelley, the founder of Queer Soccer League laid out this advice for the squad:

Start with outreach.

First up, I sourced my initial players by hitting up all the queer dating apps & group chats to collect 80 emails upfront. We all wanted to create a zero-pressure, safe space for all queers of all skill levels after a long pandemic winter. Later, I created a larger marketing plan, designed a logo and purchased a website to reach more players.

Run great games. 

Every week, I run really fun games. I think consistency, kind community and comprehensive organizing is what keeps people coming back. I’m also diligent about collecting player feedback after every game to inform QSL’s growth.

Build structure.

Next, I established a sustainable structure. After running two games per week for six months, I polled players on switching to a paid model. A few players wanted me to work for free forever, but I can’t afford that so I was firm in sticking to a paid model and grateful there was enough interest to keep the team alive. 

Roll with the punches.

QSL is thriving! Which is amazing, but that means there are new challenges popping up every week. It’s important to be a quick problem solver when permits fall through, players get injured and more players want in on the games.”

Starting a rec league is a lot of work. Any league founder should feel proud of their team. Just remember to ask for help when you need it and run the league only as long as it serves you.”

Hannah Kelley, Queer Soccer League


Tarek Pertew, the founder of NYC Footy offered these nuggets:

“1. Engage a community. If you have a community, that’s a great start to get them excited to play some footy. 

2. Get a permit. Find your ideal field to get started and secure space (note, in NYC, this is HARD)

3. Use Google Docs to get started sorting teams, building a schedule, etc. You can create a simple website and embed these onto your site so everyone can view 

4. Secure necessary equipment (goals if your field doesn’t have any, balls, cones, jerseys for teams)

5. Get a referee (or do it yourself to start).

6. Play in your own league to ensure quality control!”

Tarek Pertew, NYC Footy


Brandi Mitchell, the founder of San Diego Soccer Women and the WIS award winner of LOCAL LEAGUE OF THE YEAR OF 2021 and THE WIS “TREBLE” AWARD, had all this wisdom to share: 

“Recreational women’s soccer leagues were formed across the U.S. in the 1970s after Title IX gave girls access to school sports programs. Youth soccer games became a regular part of women’s weekend plans, whether to cheer on their own daughters or their nieces and granddaughters. Women became “team moms,” coaches and referees, then laced up their own cleats to play. Today, with a solid 40+ years of experience, these leagues (mostly non-profit, volunteer-run) continue to provide great options for women to continue or get back into, soccer as adults.

If you’ve found that a women’s league does not exist in your area, for your age group, or your skill level, here are a few tips to get one started!

  1. Contact the director of adult sports programs through your city (usually the Parks and Rec department), school district (community/adult education department) or a YMCA facility to ask them to add women’s soccer to their catalogue. Ask the state or city soccer associations to add women to their priorities.
  2. Consider starting with “training sessions” to bring together women who have been away from soccer and aren’t sure of their fitness level for league play. 
  3. Reach out to the youth, co-ed and men’s leagues to ask for their partnership in sharing field space and goal posts, hiring referees and field lining staff, and letting their communities know about women’s recreational soccer.
  4. Use digital outreach! Post on social media, Meetup, Eventbrite, NextDoor, Endalgo, Bench App to spread the word. Connect with the national community of recreational players in the Facebook group Women’s Adult Soccer for support. Share your plans on the Women in Soccer Slack channel!
  5. Use in-person outreach! Make fliers and post at community centers, libraries, coffee shops, gyms, sports stores, grocery stores and community colleges.

We are tremendously grateful for the women (and men) who have created women’s recreational soccer opportunities over the past four decades. The fact that more girls than ever before have played soccer at some point in their lives means that demand for female-focused leagues, training, tournaments and travel for all skill levels and ages will only continue to grow!”

– Brandi Mitchell, San Diego Soccer Women

What other questions do you have for our WIS experts? Submit your questions anonymously and get expert advice from industry leaders. Think of us as your local columnists with advice on overcoming challenges faced working in soccer. We SEE YOU! Women and marginalized people in the game may face challenges working in this space but you don’t need to do it alone.