by Andrew Garda

The Montclair United Soccer Club has shifted its policy on scheduling practices and other events on holidays, no longer avoiding any particular holidays, and instead working with members and parents to try and work around conflicts.

“We don’t want to be in the religious adjudication business,” Peter Daddabbo said in a phone interview. The organization president said that while MUSC wants to be respectful of players and families who observe holidays such as Good Friday and Yom Kippur, other religions had not been taken into consideration.

The problem was that the club followed the Montclair School District calendar, which observes Christian and Jewish holidays but not important days from other religions. Which, Daddabbo said, felt a lot like raising up some religions while ignoring others.

If a family or player has a conflict due to a religious holiday, they won’t be obligated to attend, or penalized if they don’t. However, Daddabbo pointed out that in most cases it is merely one or two players who cannot attend, while the rest of the team — which sometimes has a roster of 20 — is available. If that’s the case, it seemed to the organization that there was no reason the rest of the team couldn’t practice.

While practices are one thing, games presented MUSC with a slightly thornier issue.

Montclair United fields both recreation-level teams and travel teams. For recreation teams, games are scheduled within the organization and are played with whomever is there. If a team is short players, they merely borrow players from the other team.

This isn’t possible in travel soccer, though, which involves playing different organizations from various towns around northern New Jersey. MUSC is involved in two leagues — Northern Counties Soccer Association and EDP Soccer — and while Montclair United has some influence in scheduling of games, the leagues themselves have the final say.

Those leagues have to balance the concerns of multiple other teams, says Daddabbo, and while they work with their member organizations, they also have to find time to fit all the games in a small window that is impacted by weather, large tournaments for club teams and, of course, holidays. While games are sometimes moved, they have to be played some time and there are only so many weekends to work with, especially in the fall.

That has caused some overall conflicts, Daddabbo said, in particular around the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur, part of which falls on a Saturday. In this case, he said, there was no makeup option for the games on that day. Either they got played that Saturday or not at all.

“We decided to allow everyone who wants to play a chance to play.”

One point of contention has been the decision to cancel practices on Halloween. While it might seem strange on first glance, Daddabbo said it was a practical decision.

Halloween, Oct. 31, is on a weekday this year, and kids will be spending the day in school. Some of them, such as those attending Renaissance Middle School, don’t get out of class until 4 p.m.

Daddabo noted that the organization felt it was unfair to prevent the players from trick-or-treating.

The reality is, according to Daddabbo, is that no kid was going to go to practice that night.

Daddabbo did say that when Halloween falls on a weekend, nothing is canceled.

“Most of the time, practice or a game would be done by 4 p.m. or so,” he said. “Kids could play, go home and get on a costume to go out and trick or treat.”

In a year like this, though, when the holiday drops on a weekday, the league can’t have it both ways.

Daddabbo said he knows the solutions MUSC has come up with won’t please everyone. But he stresses that the organization felt this was the best direction to go in and wants to work with parents who have needs that conflict with what the league is choosing to do.