Since the outset of football in England clubs and teams were formed based on community and in the early days even differing religious beliefs. As the game spread, it became even more a component of the game across Europe and South America. Families were split on who they supported but that loyalty to “their club’ was resilient. Here in America that support for a team in baseball, football, basketball is alive, but as soccer is new, forming a fan base and support for a specific team is almost nonexistent with an exception of our women’s National team.
Applying that to youth soccer has meant that players and parents will move around not based on ethics of a club or even more importantly who do they represent, but price point, Brand or winning at any age, becomes the focus. We have seen kids switch uniforms from a pro club from California to the next year a club from England.
We then moved into the Corporate mode with a high percentage of teams all playing for the same organization. Standardization in the organizational sense, is good and attracts uniform sponsors etc. but becomes a challenge to really define a culture, playing style, community representation and yes – identity. Business decisions over football decisions, have created a numbers game, where players are an item on a spread sheet. Somebody described it to me as the “puppy farm” mentality where the biggest dog with the loudest bark gets a better cage.
We are continually asked why do we take teams to Salford ? When you go there, you really get the sense of pride and community spirit, and we like to get our kids exposed to that. Why did the class of 92 (Giggs, Scholes, Butt, Neville brothers, Beckham) go to Salford to invest. Why when asked did Roy Keane state that Manchester United were slipping because they did not have enough players in the team from Salford anymore. Salford is a blue color town with a steely mentality and very proud of even their smallest of accomplishments. In simple terms they represent their community, yes they may like Man United or Man City but their hearts are with Salford.
All this will be brushed off as sentimental, out of date, old school, but it is tradition and cannot be questioned as to its longevity. We have a great sign at Mission Viejo HS Stadium “tradition never graduates” and it is our intent to be around a long time. The individual who may have been very successful in the business world has undoubtedly been the downfall of many clubs. We have seen clubs fail and falter never reaching their full potential, because non soccer people making decisions. Organizations that can identify their “product” and know how to produce it will survive. We have identified our product, it is players with the knowledge and ability to play football and realize they have chosen a sport with a rich tradition.