Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sonoma County vs. Odessa, Texas.

I was thinking this morning about a Press Democrat article from February of this year, which discussed high school athletes who received scholarships from Sonoma County.  The striking element of the story was the number of female student-athletes receiving scholarships to play college soccer.  Fifteen (15) seniors signed letters of intent to play women's soccer at the college level.  By way of contrast, there was only one Division I football scholarship offered, and that was to attend an FCS school, UC Davis.

"High School Girls Soccer Reigns on National Signing Day"
 Howard Senzell, Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, February 1, 2012
Available at 
http://tinyurl.com/bx3vxwg 
In Sonoma County, the importance of women's soccer is almost a given for the County's 488,116 residents, so this outcome isn't considered too unusual.  However, if football and soccer scholarships were evenly distributed across the country, you'd expect Sonoma County to generate seven (7) D1 football scholarship players every year, but only 3-4 women's soccer scholarship players.

Sonoma County's lack of D1 football players isn't necessarily that surprising -- the county is relatively remote, and Northern California's football culture is more concentrated in Sacramento and the East Bay.  While there are good athletes here, this isn't a place like San Diego, with great athletes across the board.  Scouts thus come to the area infrequently, so a D1 player on the bubble is less likely to be noticed here, even when that caliber of athlete exists.

The reason the football data is interesting, though, is because it disproves the "San Diego" model.  Sonoma County isn't like Contra Costa County, where the success of Danville and San Ramon in soccer is complemented by the football prowess of De La Salle. If that rule were true, you'd expect almost no women's soccer scholarship athletes to come out of Sonoma County.

Expected County Population1 D1 Football Scholarship.
Instead, of course, the truth is the opposite.  There is something quite unusual about Sonoma County and women's soccer, statistically speaking.  I suspect this is the most uneven distribution in this direction between the two sports in the United States.  To put the distribution in perspective: 
  • A normal county that produces only a single D1 football player is about 117,124 people, or somewhere between the size of Humboldt County (134,623) and Mendocino County (87,553), the 35th and 38th largest counties in California.
  • However, a normal city that produces 15 women's soccer scholarships is about 2,017,830 people, or somewhere between the size of Houston (2,145,146) and Philadelphia (1,536,471), the fourth and fifth largest cities in the U.S.
Of course, you'd kind of expect there to be a women's soccer magnet somewhere.  You know, the equivalent of, say, Monongahela, Pennsylvania. Or, perhaps, Odessa, Texas.

If there is, it looks like it might very well be Sonoma County, California.

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