For the last several weeks, my attention has been laser-focused on launching Raiders Soccer Club in Miami. I’m thoroughly enjoying the challenge of translating the club’s plans from paper into a real-life program that players of all ages can enjoy. Regardless of the program’s location, I thought it would be helpful to share my thought process behind the club. My hope is that coaches, families, and players can begin a dialog about what youth soccer might look like if we rethink the pay-to-play model and focus on what we’re all ultimately trying to achieve: high-quality soccer development in a fun, healthy environment that prepares kids for college and beyond.
Here’s a portion of the note I sent to families in South Florida earlier this month to explain the Raiders SC program and its philosophy.
With the imminent launch of Raiders Soccer Club's boys' and girls' programs, I would like to share some practical information as well as my vision for the program with you. Whether you plan to participate in the club or not, I'd like to make you aware of what we're planning as I believe this club has the potential to change the youth sports experience for Gulliver students. The addition of a Gulliver-focused soccer club will provide an elite training environment on par with premier clubs across the country. The club will provide student-athletes with a support staff of specialized goalkeeper coaches, athletic trainers and a sport psychologist. Student-athletes who choose to be part of Raiders SC will receive high-quality training from full-time, licensed coaches with years of experience in some of the country's top youth soccer programs.
The aim of Raiders SC is to develop Gulliver's student-athletes into high-quality college recruits who have the ability to play in all conferences. To support this goal, we've created competitive environments for each age group that will foster technical and tactical mastery, and teach positive decision-making. Participating in the club is also a terrific way to strengthen bonds between Gulliver students as they will enjoy the shared experience of learning and competing alongside one another on their team.
We've created a training curriculum that's focused on developing well-rounded soccer players with a strong grasp of both the fundamentals and advanced topics. The spring curriculum will be designed to build on the successes of the fall/winter season. Another exciting feature of the club is having the older age groups compete against college teams. This is a critical experience that will help prepare our athletes for the rigors of collegiate competition.
While Raiders SC will provide a wonderful soccer experience, it's also vital for student-athletes to cross-train in other sports. Recent research supports the benefits of young athletes participating in multiple sports rather than specializing too early in their athletic careers. As a result, we've built multiple cross-training modules into the curriculum for all age groups, and have structured the seasons and training times to allow players to take part in other sports throughout the year.
I'm currently interviewing coaches for the club, and have so far been impressed with the caliber, integrity and quality of the applicants. While credentials are important, I'm also looking for coaches whose personalities are fun, open and approachable to ensure that our student-athletes also enjoy their experience with the club.
Since sending this note, we’ve held a parent information meeting, hosted initial tryouts, and selected a preliminary roster for the U17-U19 squad. More tryout dates are pending and the momentum seems to be growing within the community. A parent council has also been convened to seek corporate sponsorship that will make the club more affordable.
While a program like this isn’t the right fit for every family, my hope is that the club provides value for those who agree with its philosophy and approach. Of course, this club is far from the only way to make an impact on youth soccer. I’d love to hear your ideas for creating supportive, inclusive development environments for young athletes.
Chris Bart-Williams is the founder and owner of CBW Soccer Elite. After an extensive career in the English Premier League, Chris now uses his vast soccer knowledge to assist families throughout the college recruiting process and prepare players for the mental and physical challenges of collegiate soccer. You can reach Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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