Meaning, go well beyond being an organization that just houses soccer teams. Compliment that by offering a membership with real benefits.
Here’s some things to consider:
- Voting rights
- Club hosted parties and activities
- A gym
- Field access
- Multiple sports
- Real city / neighborhood connection / outreach / integration
- Real business partnerships and integration
- Real school connections and integration
We should have a culture formed around being a club member. It should mean something to be part of Barcelona-USA, or Real So Cal, or Weston FC, or Galaxy. Right now, it means absolutely nothing!
When someone says they’re from Compton or Beverly Hills, something comes to mind right?
Republican vs Democrat?
East Coast vs West Coast?
You don’t have to necessarily differentiate across the typical geographic, political, economic, ethnic, or religious lines. Or you can (see the USL’s Charlotte Eagles or PDL’s Seahorses).
Or consider what comes to mind with:
A Trader Joe’s employee vs a Walmart employee.
We need something similar happening at the club level.
Some thoughts on how …
Create regular activities / parties of various types for the membership to stimulate relationships across and between:
* the entire membership
* local government
* school officials and teachers
Let’s create tangible perks and benefits around being a club member. And open membership up (not just for parents with kids on a team).
I should be able to join (hence support) Acme Club with a monthly or yearly membership fee. In exchange, I might receive some use of their fields, discounts to all kinds of business partners, invitations to their parties, relationship opportunities with city and school officials, low-friction networking opportunities, voting rights, …
You get the idea.
All this can generate so many things! Here’s just five:
- Expansion and more money for the club.
- Development of club culture.
- Sense of – and real – ownership.
Imagine you’re a member of Real So Cal. You present your card to AAA, and you get 10% off your car insurance. Do the same at the Marriot or Olive Garden or Southwest Airlines. Is this outrageous? Am I thinking too big?
How about walking into your local supporting soccer shop and getting hooked up? Or getting a great deal at 24-hour fitness? How about free college, USL, NASL game admission? MLS game discout? Want to play some pick up games … maybe the club has some open field access available for members. How about discounted private math tutoring? So on and so forth. The possibilities are endless.
The details and business model up to the club.
Over time a niche culture that tightly bounds the membership can form. Different clubs can really come to be known for something. And real, not manufactured, rivalries can form.
Now being part of a club really means something! Can you see it?
That’s a money-generating, culture-enriching solution for the game in our country:
Love some of the ideas you are throwing out here. “Club” certainly is a misnomer in youth soccer today. I could see new leadership in an existing club taking just one or two of those ideas or other equally revolutionary ideas and implementing them as a start and then mapping out a multi-year plan to evolve into something that truly is worthy of the title “Club”.
I remain skeptical of the idea that, by giving people discounted car insurance and airline tickets, a ‘true’ soccer culture is born. Can you explain why people will become attached to a club when their motivating purpose is to get a 10% discount on their tire changes?
I’m all for grassroots initiatives – the growth of soccer/football in Japan is due in part to Japanese clubs’ communal outreach programs. It’s something that is missing in droves here, and it’s a huge part of the reason people have no real connection to their local clubs. But when you start attaching consumer goods to membership, you attract consumers, not fans. And then the question is asked: how is that any different from what MLS already is?
You are right, a few discounts are not going to move the needle. If your selling point is “join my club and get discsounts” you might as well sell coupon books as a fund raiser. Looks at what Gary suggests as the FIRST steps:
Create regular activities / parties of various types for the membership to stimulate
relationships across and between:
* the entire membership
* local government
* school officials and teachers
The Perks come SECOND only after a strong community and identity has been created. And when it comes to perks I would focus on benefits and discounts that will be meaningful to my main objective of developing soccer players and then negotiate those perks to be available to the entire membership. Providing low cost tutors for players and then extending that perk to members is a great example. .
I’d suggest that the identity can’t be ‘created,’ it already has to exist. Whether it’s ethnic, religious, political in nature, or just a bunch of people who want to watch/play good soccer, the underlying motif of the club has to exist as a connection even before a club is formed, not after.
Next question is how do you change the mindset we as Americans have in terms of using identity in a sporting context? Theoretically, our sports teams are supposed to represent the cities/communities we live in, but (mainly for good branding purposes) any association between American sports teams and any ethnic, religious, political or sexual entity has been actively suppressed – all are welcome at American sporting events, and generally, the American public, including soccer fans, like this. They don’t want to participate in the racism that is rife in Eastern Europe or the hooliganism in Argentina. If the social club mentality makes its identity about its ethnicity or religion or political leanings, how does it get support from the public without those fears remaining prominent (i.e. “You’ll only exacerbate racial tensions if you have Latinos playing against Whites.”)? Or do we have to go through a trial and error period and hope that the inate character of American sports fans means we can have sports teams with identities, but can remain civil in the process?
Just looking to spark debate, I don’t know the answers to these either. Comment on!
Gary Kleiban says
Seems like you’re flinching too easily Brad.
Have you spent the time to think what kind of mechanisms can be introduced to achieve a desired result? What to include, not include? Details?
Clubs can take any route they desire. This is an entrepreneurial venture.
As such, it’s an iterative process full of failures and successes.
If a club chooses to be super comercial, with soccer just being an arm of their business, so be it! Maybe that club will be known as the whore of the soccer landscape. Perhaps another club forms incredible ties to their local schools. Tutoring for all the kids! Free summer session classes! Maybe that becomes the hard-core education club everyone wants to be a part of. Still a third club focusses all it’s membership revenues to open up a player representation agency. A fourth club might open up its own USL franchise with it’s huge membership, or drop it’s nonprofit structure and land some venture capital. Others may go completely out of business or are absorbed by successful neighbors.
Who cares! The point is the landscape of potential is boundless. Not black and white as you posit.
The degree of success or failure will fall on the leadership and the size of the market they go after.
US Soccer is virgin territory!
But one thing is certain, when someone flinches you end up doing nothing. Therein lies zero chance of growth.
Start small, but start.
I understand what you’re getting at. I think the entry itself just listed too many brand names and consumer products and that got my head spinning – “Does he think discount cards and candy bar sales are going to help grow American soccer?” I think you gave a better explanation in the comments, but that’s just me.
Gary, as I’m sure you probably already know, you are proposing a model very close to what most European and South American countries sports programs operate under. Soccer and just about every other sport in most European countries is accessed through a local sports club. In fact most professional soccer teams orginally were formed out of club members before the game became highly professionalized.
The problem in the U.S. club soccer is that the system has screwed up incentives. How do clubs attract parents and thus survive and thrive? By having winning teams. It creates a terrible incentive that emphasizes winning, most of the time at the expense of long term development of players. Thus the overemphasis on older/larger/faster earlier developing players in most US soccer clubs these days (and ODP). Pro clubs complain but they are a big part of the problem. What professional teams in the U.S. have to start doing (and they are not now that I know of) is what Barcelona does: Barcelona pays a youth soccer club significant money for any player that Barcelona signs for its program from the club. There is an initial payment for the player just being selected for La Masia and follow up payments if the player makes it to the first team, makes so many appearances, starts. This gives the clubs incentive to prioritize the development of players. A club’s stature is governed more by how many players it has developed that have turned pro than how many U-12 tropies it has won. Barcelona also gives access to its youth development coaching program to these clubs as a way to further give incentives to work with Barcelona and to better the outside club’s programs.
By the way, Gary, was your club paid by Barcelona FC for selecting your player for La Masia? If so, would you mind saying how much?
I definitely think a model like this could work in the U.S.
First, you have to have a CLEAR vision of what the club (and vision of play) is all about. This has to be the cornerstone of how everything is done at the club and has to fully understood and accepted by every parent and player.
You should start small and young. Start with only the youngest teams, get them (and their parents) doing things right from the start, instead of trying to reteach older players. As the teams get older younger teams are brought in underneath them. As players get older (15-16 years old) they start to help a trainer train the younger teams (passing forward- learning and labor) . It will take about 10 years but you will have a full spectrum of teams. all playing and being coached by a single system. You could have your version of La Masia. It looks like you are already on this track, Gary.
The only thing I would add is that it is important to have a good rec program based on neighborhood teams (so players have other players close by for pickup games) as a local feeder program. This rec program still needs to have quality coaching (eventually those >15 year old comp players are the trainers for these teams).
have been doing a lot of thinking along these lines and have written up a rather detailed proposal that has just languished with my local club. And I like your multi-sport approach, which is what I proposed also.
@Hincha – I think your approach is dead nuts on. Start with a vision. And then begin with a single team first.
Now, here is the rub – try to get the coach to kid ratio: 1 coach to three kids. And, break the mold that the parent coach is the best thing for our children. This should be the exception not the rule. Four top coaches and people mentors need to be at the core.
We are trying to instill a culture and a consistent training philosophy for the coaches going forward. And make sure that the parents LEARN what the coaches are doing so that they can continue to work with their kids when not at practice.
To be specific, when the small groups are created (1 coach to 3 kids), the parent needs to be involved (and coached) on what ‘right looks like’. Imagine 9 months of this intense hand holding with the players and just importantly the parents.
The kids will be receiving a very consistent message at practice; on the field; and at home. If the parents are not interested… that suggests maybe they are not the seeds needed for the future culture. This approach should be fully disclosed up front. to the parents.
And if the parents are not integrated in building this club culture, the children will be torn. Ultimately the club performance and culture will be impacted.
Fast forward to year two or year three, two of the four coaches pick up the next age group, plus the two original coaches educate two new coaches on the year 1 team. Same discipline and same philosophy.
Integrate this with a coaching license and just importantly a ‘Club License’ and you start to build a brand. (A weak analogy is the pursuit of an Executive MBA – people can say that they graduated with an MBA from ‘Pro-Dunk U’ or from Wharton. There is a lot more credibility given to the Wharton grad.) Getting a ‘Premier Club’ coaching license coupled with a coaching license will drive the top coaches (and parents) to come to the club.
It will obviously take a couple years before the ‘year one’ team will actually win a bunch of games because of the focus on the individual skills and not just ‘run and gun’ that is so prevalent in the early years. Winning every game at this point is not the most important thing in building the culture. Sticking to the vision and playing philosophy of the club is the most important thing.
Do these small things right up front and you will build the type of culture needed. You will have the appropriate support systems in place for the long tern. Kid centered – parent supported – and, led by technically competent player (and parent) coaches.
This approach does not happen over night… but great things rarely do.
> If the parents are not interested… that suggests maybe they are not the seeds needed for >the future culture. This approach should be fully disclosed up front. to the parents.
What if the parents work 2 jobs each and dont have the time?
What is the parents dont have money?
The great players of every generation come from poor backgrounds whose mommy and daddy couldnt be at every practice-game.
Seems to be a continuation of the same suburban mentality of ‘you can play if you can afford it’.
yeah, it WOULD be nice to involve parents but the financial realities of our country are different.
@Ned – thank you for the enlightenment. I have to honestly say that I never thought of it that way. I guess that I felt all parents should be involved with the club in some way. Just figured finding time to practice with their kid was the easiest.
I still think that it is real tough for the club (and child) to create the culture if there is not support from the family.
@Gary – great ideas. Is your club doing these things? If not, why not? Discuss.
@Hincha – whether Barcelona Spain paid Gary’s team or not is outside my following comment – pro clubs paying non-pro club is a huge huge issue. Here’s why. Non-pro clubs are pay-to-play. So who “pays”? The parents. So my question is if Barcelona Spain were to sign a youngster from a non-pro club and make a payment shouldn’t that fee go to the parents who paid the non-pro club for the benefit of their son being there? My stance is … yes! But here’s the biggest problem with pro clubs paying non-pro clubs or parents….pro clubs will stop signing youngsters who are attached to non-pro pay-to-play clubs to avoid paying these fees. They’ll only sign kids at age 6 or 7 and leave it at that.
Anyway, great topic Gary – I hope to hear what it is your club is providing to the players and parents, and if it’s none of the suggestions you made please address why not.
Many youth clubs in Spain are pay to play. Even in pay to play, a player joins the club understanding that if he is lucky enough to sign with a pro-club, the club he comes from will get a reward for developing him. This is separate from any deal worked out with the parents. The fees will go to lessen the cost for everyone to send their players to the club and/or pay for better facilities/training etc. so all players benefit from this arrangement.
Barcelona LIKES to pay clubs for their players, because its an incentive to the clubs to develop players that fit Barcelona’s pre-requisites, so your fears of clubs shying away from it would be totally unfounded.
Can you provide documentation to support this Hincha?? I’ve looked and never found info to support any pro club paying a pay-to-play youth club.
If this is in fact the case then I’d suggest Gary and his club will be seeking some funds!
From Senda de Campeones- De La Masia al Camp Nou by Marti Perarnau (my translation):
“Barcelona also counts on an advantage. They know that there are lots of youth clubs that produce a lot of good players in Catalunya. From these 30 clubs they can pick the best. With a lot of them Barca maintain a structural relationship, as Alexanko explains. “These are clubs that collaborate with us. They receive economic compensation from the club and also they receive training through conference and talks from our coaches, for which our club gets preferential treatment to sign their players.” Their coaches can also attend training sessions at Barca. The protocol establishes a system of payments for every player they take for the Barca Academy, explains Zubizarreta. “We have established agreements that give establish different amounts of payments in which a player was originally developed based on the level he achieves. For instance in the case of Andreu Fontas, Barca paid 6000 euros (that was split between the two youth clubs that developed him). At the time he signed a professional contract (at age 16 or after) the clubs received another payment and when he starts playing with the first team, Barca may pay them up to 40,000 euros depending how many games he ends up playing in. ”
“These progressive payments based on how far a player progesses is extended equally to clubs outside Catalunya where there are no formal agreements. In the instance of Pedro, his youth club originally received 24,000 euros with the promise to receive another 276,000 euros if he played in a certain number of first team matches. Six years later, San Isidro Youth Football Club received 300,000 euros.”
“The agreements with clubs also allow Barca to loan players out to clubs when necessary…”
Hincha – thanks! There was a big discussion about pro clubs paying pay-to-play clubs (most specifically USSDA clubs and if MLS teams should pay them, as well as should other clubs pay MLS clubs if a youth player moves) and if it should happen and if the parents should get money.
But I wonder – a club like Barca can afford it b/c of their massive income. But a club like….Cartagena (to pick a small Spanish club) surely can’t….??
The discussion came up b/c some MLS youth player moved to another pro clubs’ youth club and it was never reported if the MLS team received any compensation (as you see in Europe when a youth under 24 switches pro clubs). Anyway…
Good ideas Gary, but I’m eager to see if your club is doing these things you propose?
Gary Kleiban says
In the article I named Barca-USA:
“It should mean something to be part of Barcelona-USA, or Real So Cal, or Weston FC, or Galaxy. Right now, it means absolutely nothing!”
So no. The concepts I’ve given a flavor for, are not there. Hincha is on the mark with the European/South American concept of “sports club” above. Our club? Non-existant.
I’ll go a touch further. As I depict a “real club” above … truth is I shouldn’t even talk about Barca-USA as being “our” club. The club houses the teams that Brian oversees and coaches. ‘Our’ club? Nah.
On the plus side, there is something I’ve never really seen before happening at the ‘academy’ level of Barca-USA. Parents of the u8, u9, u10, u11 seem to be coming together. Many go to each other’s games to watch, support, and socialize. They’re all on top of what’s happening through the age groups. With the U11s the role model for all. The 8’s, 9’s, and 10’s implementing same philosophy with Brian’s guidance.
Cool, but a far cry from what I’m proposing a club should be. Not even close!
Why not? And are things being done?
Gonna get some lunch … and offer a response after.
Love it. Any chance the club could sponsor pick up soccer at various fields around their locales? A place that emphasizes touches, creativity and fun? During the summer, they could have pick-up soccer everyday, quick games up to 5 and then change sides. Low coaching, no fees and open to even non-club members? This way kids who cannot afford the club can come and mix it up.
i live in LA but I have no connection to LA Galaxy. As far as I’m concerned they are just a team that MLS plopped down in my city about 18 years ago. There is nothing organic about them. They aren’t even a club. They are a franchise.
Maybe spending time as a youth in Scotland spoiled me when it comes to clubs. As demoralizing as Scottish football can be, one thing that is strong is the club culture.
We have different challenges here because of the size of our country but is there anything more demoralizing that coming to the realization that your local soccer team is a frickin franchise?
This is great, A friend of mine has done something like this with his Karate schools, lots of social activities and activities beyond Karate. He says the key is keeping the teens involved who aren’t stars. And you have to have social activities Integration with other local sports and general athletic development as well. That’s only the first steps for your model but it can be done. Fields are in issue. Clubs really need their own fields where they can put in infrastructure. I wonder if indoor/futsal fields could be the infrastructure base for the majority of clubs that aren’t going to own their own fields in So Cal.
The other thing that would help form identity is if recruiting was mainly from a local area. The local towns around already have an identity. Recruiting from across LA prevents clubs from tapping into that identity.
R10 fan says
I would love futsal courts. Maybe MLS can conquer grade schools?
Fernando Gago says
Great Idea man! Can’t wait !
R10 fan says
Gary, every sports team here in the US is a franchise. There are no sports clubs that really interact with the community. So it’s a pipe dream unless you convince city franchises to morph into one big super club to provide services like FC Barcelona and CR Flamengo.
It’s not just a soccer issue here. It’s a sports issue in the US regarding clubs and franchisees. The teams were founded by millionaires not fans.
except early NFL,MLB,NBA teams were not founded as franchises nor by millionaires.The franchise model is a form of McDonaldization that is used to create an environment of calcuability and control. It works ok in these sports because they are not global sports. In the NFL there is one league. No one is crying foul about the franchise model in these sports because none of these leagues have competing leagues.
Many many people in this country cry foul about the franchise model for soccer in this country. The reason? Soccer is a global game and the franchise model of calculability and control does not apply when you have multiple competing leagues around the world. Not only are these leagues competing on the global market for players but they are competing for viewers.
also, soccer around the globe is based on meritocracy with the system of promotion/relegation. You cannot have this with the franchise model.
Now I don’t think anything I’ve just said is going to convince you. Judging from your posts you clearly see soccer through an American-centric viewpoint. To you soccer is just one more American sport that should be structured like every other American sport.
R10 fan says
I don’t see through an American-centric view. But I’m just trying to be realistic here. Can soccer here seriously pull this off while the other sports stay the same? And will the non-soccer fans here like it?
NOVA Mike says
Hmm …. The club I’m involved in is a fairly typical non-profit youth sports club. We do many of those things:
Voting rights – yes, by law non-profits have “members” – which can have voting rights directly, or indirectly (as by voting for the board of directors and/or club officers …
Club hosted parties and activities – Yes. A couple of times a year, both individual sports and the club as a whole. Local business people and politicians come and mix it up.
A gym – No, but local government gives us 1st pick and deeply discounted rates on all the school gyms
Field access – the same. We monopolize the athletic fields in the area. All other users only get to pick the left-overs.
Multiple sports – Yes, but this is a huge problem as I see it. At European or SA sports clubs, they have many other sports offered, but there is no question where the lion’s share of resources and attention go. Not so for us. Soccer can’t get gym space in the winter b/c priority is given to basketball, and the rest of the year we compete for field space w/ football, lacrosse, rugby, field hockey, etc…. Soccer is still the most popular and (by virtue of 3 annual tournaments) by far the most lucrative sport for the club, so that helps. It also helps that the person in charge of field allocation is partial to soccer, as is the club president, but they still have a balancing act to perform and need to be fair to all sports. It would still be better IMO if we (soccer) were a separate club w/ our own dedicated facilities.
Real city / neighborhood connection / outreach / integration — Yes, we do that to. Lots of kids today are marching in the city 4th of July parade for example. Our 3xweek open pick-up sessions also serve as a form of community outreach and recruitment.
Real business partnerships and integration — a little. The local soccer shop does give 10% off to club members, and many businesses participate in team fundraising activities.
Real school connections and integration – some, depending on the school.
Most of the clubs in this area are like that. There are a few who are “travel only” clubs which are a lot more insulated – basically just marketing themselves to parents w/ the promise of “player development”. Some deliver, some not so much.
IMO a single sport entity works better given the US sports landscape, but what is really missing is the adult 1st team at the end of the pipeline. A team for everyone to get behind, to come together and go to games to support them, generating shared experiences of joy and misery over the years … these are the things that bind a membership together. It also creates a dream for the kids to someday play for them. If the style of play and training philosophy is integrated, even better. Even if it is just a “feeder club”, if there are stories of kids making the 1st team and then signing for bigger pro clubs. 2 things that keep coming up in multiple threads that stand in the way of all that: (1) lack of a promotion / relegation system (which makes the 1st team’s results actually mean something); and (2) lack of a “solidarity contribution” or some other mechanism to reward youth clubs for developing players.
We need to keep pushing and complaining …. MLS and the US Soccer hierarchy can only stand in the way for so long.
Also, kind of still on topic, again I want to recommend this book for anyone interested in this subject of club formation and the development of soccer culture, etc… “Morbo: The Story of Spanish Football” by Phil Ball. He goes to each city in Spain and looks at the history and cultural idiocyncrasies of all of the clubs there. A fascinating and entertaining read.
Let me add some things that I think are very important for my vision of a club:
1) Non-profit. The end game HAS to be for the good of children and soccer, not lining someones pockets. Maximizing Qualtiy/Minimizing Costs should be relentlessly pursued. Little things matter, like there is no reason a parent should have to pay $135 for a uniform every two years (reuse uniforms). Find creative ways to cut costs without harming quality.
2) Transparency. Decisions/board meetings/elections are above board and open for all to see and encouraging wide participation to get creative ideas for maximizing quality/minimizing costs.
3) Inclusion. Financial situation should NEVER be a barrier to participation for a child. A major way to keep costs down is to rely on participation/ volunteerism. This means anyone who belongs to the club is required to help in some capacity with the club (sort of like community service hours), be it on the admin side (fund raising, bookkeeping), operations side (coaching), or logistics side (setting up fields, equipment, cleaning up fields). Players also are expected to pitch in in some capacity (fund raising, helping coach younger kids, cleaning/repairing equipment). This fosters a sense of inclusiveness,community and responsibiltiy from all players/parents. It also harness the unique skills, connections and attributes that parents possess which many clubs don’t exploit (connections and skills from their jobs etc) The Snowbird Educational Foundation (who trains young skiiers in Utah) has a requirement like this. This also encourages a sense of shared vision and community that can bond members across ethnic/financial divisions. Like the U.S. as a whole, the club should stand for, “Our multi-culturalism is our strength not a weakness”.
4) The glue that holds this all together is a clear vision, a clear sense of principles that are rigorously adhered to and relentessly pursued. The pursuit of excellence. Everything (from practices to procurement to fund raising) is continuously looked at with a creative critical eye to see how it can be improved.
5) Start only as big as what will allow your vision and standard of quality to be maintained. Only grow when you are assured that those will be maintained. And I agree, it would be great to have agreements with school Phys Ed programs for integration, other clubs for other sports who buy into the same vision/program, local parks/rec programs, local colleges/universities (student/athletes a great source of coaches other volunteers) and other non-profits to build coalitions.
6) If you lead with extraordinary quality, a clear vision, with openness and transparency, bright eyes and good heart with pure motives, people will follow. People want to belong to something special. In fact, I would say that in our society people are longing for purpose and are only waiting to be asked. Those that don’t have interest wouldn’t fit in your vision anyways.
A great resource for developing a club like you seem to be proposing is Canadian Sport for Life CS4L.
Here are a couple of links to useful articles:
You can spend hours with the different resources at this great Sports for Life Website: http://www.canadiansportforlife.ca/
It can form the basis of your club’s philosophy and it can be used to educate coaches, parents and athletes.
And remember: Kaizen. And everything that adherence to that word entails.
Maybe this is the first step…
This was/is a great facility, I hope the Galaxy doesn’t mess up what’s been working very well.
I think it’s an idea who’s time is coming in the U.S. In Germany and elsewhere, being part of the local athletic club is part of the social fabric (from what I’ve been told). Here, however, Boston Athletic Club is just a gym in Southie, as far as I can tell. Likewise, LA Sports Club. Sure, it has a strong brand and squash and basketball courts, but what of them? It does not foster community in areas where they have a franchise, and it doesn’t supply rosters for any sports leagues. Ironically, the closest “club” to the model described is a country (read: golf) club, which have historically been very insular and exclusionary, but do have members-only events, foster network-building, and do train golfers and house professional golfers.
David Williams says
In England we can have 4 different clubs in a town of 30,000. Facilities are shocking, expensive and always booked by large adult 5 aside leagues. The only country that I know of that has it right is Holland.
I saw on the website you have a Barcelona USA affiliate system with partner clubs in AZ, NY and a few other places. How does the B-USA affiliate system work? What are the conditions and costs of entry into the B-USA system. What do the affiliates get in return?
I would like to see a club establish itself or reinvent itself based on a playing philosophy and then have the discipline to select players who can best see that vision through. Surround them with coaches and admin who are like-minded.
But what I see are clubs and coaches more concerned about making a stack of benjamins from tournaments, putting 18 kids on a U11 team to maximize profitability, stacking clubs with coaches who have as different coaching and playing philosophy as three are duck droppings by my neighborhood lake.
No one has a vision of the means or the ends. Just fat, dumb and cash flowing.
Soap box aside — there are good coaches who get it. I honestly think my son’s coach is one of those. But the problem is 95% or more are clueless. Vestiages of English long-ball, coaches who grew up watching gridiron football and think they know soccer, DoCs who ar ein a 1960s time-warp, and clueless coaches collecting a paycheck. I know, I’ve experienced them.
I understand there is the reality of a business model to pay coahces and have fields to play on, but I can’t believe a sustainable club model can’t be put into place that has some sort of vision. Sure it may be limiting in trems of size of club, but the balance of cash flow and player development with a purpose has to be a viable model. If not, we will never move to a higher plane. Stuck with normal as we discuss in a differnt topic on this forum.
Interesting how the more philosophical discussions (such as playing or coaching style) garner most comments. This most has a mere 36 comments, yet it’s impact can be enormous and actually building a serious club is something youth soccer has yet to achieve. This one thing alone can change youth soccer just the way La Masia did. This one thing can encompass and transform most if of the coaching, culture, and playing style discussions we love to blog about.
Building A Serious Club is as fundamental to future of our nation’s soccer success as knowing how to receive, pass, possess is for player development. These are as basic to soccer as Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs or Coerver Player Development Pyramid. I’d say most youth soccer clubs are at the bottom 1 – 3 levels of the yet undefined “Club Development Pyramid” as I’ll call it. Only clubs like Barce operate at the 5th (highest) level. Our youth clubs (including USDA) are far away from Self Actualization (top of Maslow’s pyramid). I’m not sure what the top of Club Pyramid is, but I’m sure I’ll give it some thought.
Maybe it’s something like “optimizing”, which is at top of the software development maturity model. Or in soccer terms — optimizing staff and player development with focus on continuous improvement as an inherent process throughout the organization.
I know it sounds hokey, but if you do research on top clubs, they incorporate this sort of business intelligence. For example, Jose Mourinho has stated in many interviews how he learns from corporate giants. They have to in order to be at top of soccer mountain. No different than a player trying to continuously improve, building soccer DNA or run the risk of being bypassed by someone hungrier.
We need youth clubs with this inherent, burning passion to be the best – not just cookie cutter clubs making a paycheck. Think of your local club. Are they passionate? Do they constantly push the bar? Are they introspective and open to change if something isn’t working? Or are they status quo, cookie cutter, same ole same ole?
Like successful businesses, leading clubs don’t get there just because.
Dr Loco says
Think of your local club.
Are they passionate? NO
Do they constantly push the bar? NO
Are they introspective and open to change if something isn’t working? NO
Or are they status quo, cookie cutter, same ole same ole? YES, 30+ years tradition!!!!!!!!
Currently trying to tear up a local club in my area but it’s easier for me to fail. Hopefully US Club will help me out.
Joe Kalina says
All of you are way over thinking this… READY for some simple reality?
I’m an old footballer from Chicago with deep European heritage. My family is from Blatnice pod Svatym Antoninkem, Moravia (CZ) and I played football for our local club back in the late 70’s through the mid 80’s. When my family came here in the early 20th century, they planted their roots, and then created a social club for themselves and other Moravians in Chicago. It was two storefronts wide, had a bar and kitchen on one side and on the other, a long dance hall with a stage. Czech bands came to play and club members came to dance and celebrate every occasion, from weddings to hard fought football and hockey victories. There was a club membership dues, and at the beginning, everyone pitched in for barrels of beer, wine, and food. The bar and kitchen was open to the public during the week to generate a source of income for rent, utilities, etc… They had a board of officers and had member voting on any big changes. As a young child, I remember many weekends sliding around on a sawdust sprinkled dance floor with the other kids at night while our parents danced and drank after coming back from a match. I always looked forward to getting together and seeing my friends who were there every weekend too.
As we got older, being part of the club had many things to offer us kids. We learned how to Czech dance, learned gymnastics, and many of us boys made the clubs’ football and hockey youth team, which back then started at U14. At 10 years old, I remember training with the older players but never hit the pitch for longer than a few minutes until I was 12. There was NO extra fee to play/train if you were Czech and only minimal fees if you weren’t. Fees were covered by membership dues if your kids participated or not. It was all part of creating entertainment for the members. The dancing lessons, football and hockey teams, etc… We were all trained by former men’s team veterans and they taught us how to play the European way. We all EARNED our spots whether on the pitch or the ice and our way of learning was watching the men’s team on Sat/Sun, training or just messing around in open play at the picnic grove.
After games, team members and fans went back to the club, where on the walls were pictures of the successful players from the past, and a trophy case filled with tournament and league victories that was never far from sight. <<>> When we got back, the kitchen was open, everyone paid for their food and drink and then sat at one of the many long tables in the clubhouse’s hall. We got to hear stories from the guys on the men’s team, who loved to boast about how good they were. They all told us if we worked hard enough, we could be sitting at the best table in the club, their table. The old timers, they were the best, every weekend we heard exactly the same story, like they were telling us for the first time.
What I just described is the true meaning of a CLUB, not the horseshit attempt to claim SC, FC, AC, RC, status. A true athletic club is not just having 2-3 training sessions a week, a match on the weekend, and then going home for the cost of $2000.00 per child. It’s not a narcissistic D.O.C. playing GOD. It’s about being a part of something special. It’s about having a meeting place for people who share the same passions, a place to go watch matches, a place to return to after a win or a loss, to have some good food, drink and dance. A place to hang your clubs’ heroes photos on the wall, and to display your medals and trophies. To hear stories from the old timers of things that happened on the pitch or life in general. It’s about having a board of officers voted in by all the club’s members every 2 years. All members would have a voice on all the club’s decisions. That’s a TRUE CLUB!
A VFW, American Legion, type hall would be a perfect start and rent pitch time from your local city. Then as the club takes off and becomes larger, purchase land, have your true home location for training and matches. Hope this gave some of you another view into what a true club really is like.
Gary Kleiban says
Joe this is precisely the vision! You exposed how short I fell in my post.
Every 2 years when I was a kid through to my mid teens, my dad, mom, bro, and I would visit our relatives in Argentina. My uncle’s family were all members of Newell’s Old Boys, and we would go to club functions as his guests. The picture you painted transported me to those experiences!
How awesome that would be to have here!
Thank you, Joe! Wonderful to read, and couldn’t agree more.
But, tell me Gary since you agree with Joe, how does this fall in line with your “recruitment is necessary” post? Don’t they contradict each other?
ps-I do agree with recruitment so long as it doesn’t raise the bar so high that financial reality sets in and eliminates kids from participating who should be there – bringing us right back to a major core issue in north American soccer.
Ken sweda says
Perfectly said, Joe.
ThiKu I think the idea is that anyone who “gets” the idea of the kind of club that Joe describes is welcome there. Clubs like that used to be started on a purely ethnic basis, as a means to entry into the new country from the “Old Country”. This type of thing is rare in America these days. There are only a few left here in Chicago.
The idea of recruiting into that type of club isn’t contradictory at all, imo. It isn’t just about choosing a player that will excel for your team, it’s about finding someone that will fit the philosophy, the “tone”, the “values” of the team and the greater family around it. Since these days this would be something you’d have to create from the ground up, it makes perfect sense that you’d have to “recruit” to start it up, add to the ranks, and keep it moving forward.
It’s like any other club: you want people of a similar mindset, who want that communal experience. Once it’s established and reaches a certain critical mass (for lack of a better term) it would largely be self-sustaining. Even then, however, outsiders who fit the goals and the attitude of the club can always be invited. Joe even talks about how “non-Czechs” would be invited into the club, but it’s not just for the football. Even the real Barca offers other sports: basketball in particular, even up to the pro level. And all their young players do multiple sports (martial arts, gymnastics, similar things) if I recall correctly. Not only to support their main sport, but as another way of building communal experiences and a well-rounded childhood.
I’m sure there are “requirements” to be a member of Gary and Brian’s Barca, and being a good player isn’t the only one. There’s got to be a commitment to the vision, the style, the purpose, the work, the celebration, all of it, and that includes the families.
I think what Joe describes simply codifies what Barca SoCal has the potential to become.
I know Keph Fuller in DC (who frequents this board) is trying to instill that familial feeling in his Joga SC, and has done pretty well with it.
It can be done, and I’d love to see more of it.
Dr Loco says
Good stuff! I have been tinkering with the idea of creating a small private/exclusive soccer club. It would be only for players/families that believe in excellence and share common values. It would not be your open to the public regular, generic neighborhood club.
Joe Kalina says
Thanks guys, I just wanted to paint a picture of what my experiences of “club” life was all about. Believe me, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve mentioned the above and got the response, “That won’t work in modern America, especially in Suburbia, people are too busy to go to a clubhouse after a game.” I disagree, my daughter’s U10 team has been together for 2 years and after matches we go for lunch or dinner as a team. The girls have “team time”, where every family hosts the team each month and usually does some activities, soccer or non soccer, to increase team bonding. Parents go out as a team for parent bonding also. The kids are dropped off at one of the families homes and are watched by older siblings. The result is an obvious improvement in “team” play, its them against the world. There are over 500 children/teens in our travel program and we haven’t heard of any others doing this successfully. Our oldest daughter is U13 and we tried the same, team time, and most participated except a few families whos parents resisted change. Why? Their daughters rarely attended extra events and killed the whole bonding purpose. It showed on the pitch. The ones who stayed away showed individual play, with the me, me, me attitude. Funny, those that didn’t attend, are no longer playing for her team. It makes all the difference, the closest we can get to club right now…
Dr Loco says
All my youth teams fell apart do to lack of bonding. Parents and players didn’t like each other and didn’t like me. There was no strong bond to keep them together for a common purpose. All that work and development wasted. Hopefully someday I will get it right.
I agree doing things like you described help build club spirit. I see a lot of this in the club my son is in. BBQs, pool parties, soccer war stories, etc. In fact, I know AYSO teams who do this. And so do the Boy Scouts! But getting togehter and partying won’t build strong enduring clubs that make a splash and pump out talented players.
I totally agree team and club chemistry are important, but only part of the picture and not convinced that means players doing lots of extra curricular stuff. The more complicated philosophical stuff we like to blog about is where I think we fail.
Joe Kalina says
I think you misunderstood my point. Since there is nothing similar available like the way I was raised in a club environment, the closest thing we’ve done is tried to keep the team, a TEAM. When this doesn’t happen, it’s easy for parents to pack up and move to another travel organization that just took STATE CUP, the local league title, etc… because there is no connection or relationship built with the others. I see this happen so much that it makes me want to puke. Staying together and playing together, year after year creates the most beautiful football you can watch. I don’t know what your history is in our sport, Kana, a parent, a coach, or a player, but IMO, our total goal is to create well rounded human beings that excel (in our case) in football, not just lifeless football robots.
As to your comment regarding, “But getting togehter and partying won’t build strong enduring clubs that make a splash and pump out talented players.”, you couldn’t be more wrong. This is EXACTLY how “REAL” athletic clubs across the globe are, were, and always will be. The WHOLE reason for all of this is simply to be ENTERTAINED by the athletes our club creates. Whether our athletes never leave the states or go overseas to play at the highest level, they’re our athletes. I played for years at the highest level and did all through college and a number of our club members either went on to play for clubs overseas or played in the NASL in the late 70’s thru the mid 80’s. Getting together and partying was part of the overall experience. When you see that there is more to this sport than just kicking a football, a whole new culture of football will be waiting for you with arms wide open… I promise you!
Dr Loco says
I think the key to REAL culture is partying and dancing. You can’t have utlimate success without these.
Joe Kalina says
AMEN to that Dr. Loco!
Dr Loco says
Here is some culture. It’s everywhere except in our soccer.
Dr Loco says
If male dominance were determined by soccer dominance we would have a totally different culture in our societies.
Not sure I 100% agree with you, but respect your opinion.
There is fundamentally no reason why college teams cannot be a solution in this picture. Watching the Olympics, I have realized that the USA utterly dominates in almost everybody in any sport that you can find on a high school or college campus. The lone exception obviously is soccer. Every other sport produces world class athletes that no one but other USA athletes can beat.
So why cant college be a great training ground for a soccer player? We all know NCAA Div 1 coaches make sure their athletes are in tip top shape and are on the field everyday. The only problem I really see is tactical error(a few other things, but it can be argued that those fall into the tactical category).
Say every college team adopted to “tika-taka” as you call it? Would that not be a HUGE boost for overall player quality? From my knowledge of other non-soccer sports an athlete is still “moldable” coming fresh out of high school. Or is your argument that that age is too late to start at?
Do you think if every school had a Caleb Porter type as head coach we would start seeing world class US professional players?
Dr Loco says
“There is fundamentally no reason why college teams cannot be a solution in this picture.”
NCAA primary purpose is not to produce professional athletes, perhaps the exception is football. Their job is to generate money for academics. Top athletes are developed before college years. They just happen to mature in college but you don’t want to stay there for more than 1 year. Take girls gymnastics. Why does the sport exist in college if their professional career end in their teens?
Student-athletes are a flaw in the American system.
The way colleges are set up with the tiered system of competition, it would be a natural for them to run youth soccer. Professional academies for the top 1%, D1 for the next tier, D2, D3 and so on down to JC’s. Lots of student athletes to be qualified coaches, and most places in the country would have some School in their local area. Maybe it could make some money for schools as well. There is lots of school spirit and fellowship in place.