The American Youth Soccer Club

By Tom Goodman, M.Ed.

Introduction
Youth soccer clubs are a relatively new phenomenon in America. Adult amateur, semi-professional and professional soccer clubs certainly have a longer history in the United States. As recently as 30 years ago, most American youth soccer was organized in city, town or church leagues. Some of these leagues slightly resembled clubs with their multiple age-group playing structure, but a true club environment, with multiple levels of play within an age group and multiple types of programming within an organization, was non-existent.

The growth of youth soccer over the past 30 years has been tremendous, thus in many cases requiring a structure different from that of the league format. Because of this growth, multiple levels of competition within an age group have evolved. These different layers of competition are also a result of America's need for quality players at the national level as we pursue our place as an international soccer power.

American youth soccer clubs have evolved into small-business structures out of necessity. As the youth soccer leagues grew, due to the increase in player participation, volunteer league administrators and leaders could not handle the tremendous amount of additional work necessary to maintain an organized, competitive, player development environment, without some form of condensed, structured, business format. Thus, the club was born, fashioned after the small-business model.

Youth soccer clubs in America have increased in number, size and type. Some youth soccer clubs are non-profit organizations, while others are for-profit organizations. Some youth soccer clubs have hundreds of players involved in recreation play only, while others have thousands of players involved in a variety of playing levels (recreation, travel, academy, select and premier).

Today, there are many club models that you can research if you are interested in starting a club or in modifying an existing club. It is imperative that your reason (purpose/mission) for wanting to start a club is clear and something in which you strongly believe. The proper development of youth soccer players should be at the heart of your mission.

Please understand that there are many models of successful youth soccer clubs. The following information includes bits and pieces of successful club model structures that seem to be consistent and may help you if you plan to start a club or modify an existing club.

Mission Statement
Every soccer club must have a mission statement. A mission statement is a short statement of purpose. The answer to one of the following questions will help you to formulate your club's mission statement:

  • Why does the club exist?
  • What is the club's purpose?
  • How does the club justify its existence?

Possible answers to these questions:

  • To win state cup championships, regional championships and national championships
  • To develop players so that they can play at a more advanced level
  • To provide a place for young people to play soccer in a recreational environment

Philosophy Once a mission statement is created, a club philosophy is determined. This is a frame of reference by which all of the staff (employees) can measure their efforts. The answer to one of the following questions will help you to formulate your club's philosophy:

  • How do we achieve our mission?
  • How do we do justice to our mission?

Answers to these questions can become a bit more involved. For instance, to achieve the mission, "to win state cup championships, regional championships and national championships," the club philosophy might have multiple components and look like this:

  • By consistently hiring the best youth soccer coaches, as determined by their coaching credentials, game records and recruiting practices
  • By instituting a recruiting program that consistently and aggressively pursues the best players in the state
  • By conducting a training program that continuously and aggressively challenges the players technically, tactically, physically and mentally

Club Structure

Board of Directors
Successful Soccer Clubs are structured like businesses, since they have to deal with assets such as money (registration fees, sponsorships, donations), property (facilities), equipment (goals, uniforms), etc. Soccer clubs will have to deal with expenses such as salaries, field rental, indoor rental, equipment, referees, etc.

At the top of this structure is the Board of Directors (BOD). The BODs are the employers for the soccer club. They are responsible for the management of the assets and affairs of the soccer club. The BOD represents the Conscience and Common Sense of the soccer club. This is truly an awesome and challenging responsibility, especially as the size of a club increases.

The BOD is normally composed of the following personnel:

President
This person is the chairman of the BOD. He/she facilitates BOD meetings and makes final decisions when issues become stalemated (votes when there is a tie). The President is responsible for looking into the future, always crafting a plan, in the best interest of the club, to help the club develop successfully.

Vice President
This person is second in command on the BOD. The VP will take on the President's responsibilities in his/her absence. The VP is a voting member of the BOD.

Secretary
This person is a voting member of the BOD. The secretary is responsible for keeping written record of all BOD meetings and distributing said record to all membership.

Treasurer
This person is a voting member of the BOD. The treasurer manages the Club's bank account (checkbook). It is helpful for the treasurer to have a financial background (accounting) so that proper financial procedures are followed and proper records are kept.

Other BOD Members
Selection of other BOD members is based on the type and size of the club.

BOD members should be added because they provide a specific strength or expertise to the business of running a club (and they are passionate about the development of the youth player). For example, an attorney for legal advice, a builder/developer for facility development, etc.

Sometimes, BOD members act as club committee chairpersons or commissioners. Examples include: recreation committee chair, select committee chair, premier committee chair, boys' programs chair, girls' programs chair, etc.

The club also consists of a number of staff. Staff normally include:

Technical Staff

Technical Director (TD) responsible for:

  • Reporting to the BOD
  • Working cooperatively with the Executive Director (ED) to pursue the club's mission
  • Selection and evaluation of Technical Program Directors and program coaching staff
  • Providing continuing education (staff development opportunities) for all coaching staff
  • Selection and evaluation of players
  • Chairing Programming Development Committee
  • Membership on Facilities Development Committee
  • Membership on Staff Search Committee

Technical Program Directors (TPD) responsible for:

  • Reporting to the TD
  • Selection and evaluation of program coaching staff
  • Providing continuing education for program coaching staff
  • Selection and evaluation of program players
  • Serving on committees as determined by the TD
  • Scheduling program competition in coordination with the TD

Coaches responsible for:

  • Reporting to the TPD
  • Selection and evaluation of team assistant coaches
  • Selection of team administrator (manager) in coordination with the ED
  • Selection and evaluation of team players
  • Team management (players, parents and administrators)
  • Conducting training sessions
  • Scheduling team competition in coordination with the TPD

Administrative Staff

Executive Director (ED) responsible for:

  • Reporting to the BOD
  • Working cooperatively with the TD to pursue the club's mission
  • Overall club administrative duties
  • Selection of team administrators (managers) in coordination with coaches
  • Club budget creation and oversight
  • Club risk management oversight in coordination with the TD
  • Membership on Programming Development Committee
  • Chairing the Facilities Development Committee
  • Membership on Staff Search Committee
  • Membership on Budget Committee

Team Administrator (TA) responsible for:

  • Reporting to the Coach and ED
  • Overall team administrative duties (player registration, collection of money, travel arrangements, etc.)
  • Team budget creation and oversight
  • Team risk management oversight in coordination with the coach

Lastly, is the type of programming (levels of play, education, competition, etc.) that the club wishes to offer:

Levels of Play

  • Recreation
  • Jr. Academy
  • Academy/Travel
  • Select
  • Premier
  • SYL
  • PDL
  • A-League
  • MLS

Education/Curriculum

  • Coaches
  • Players
  • Parents
  • Referees

Competition

  • League (state, regional, national)
  • Intramural (within club)
  • Intra-state (within state)
  • Inter-state (multiple states)
  • Tournaments

Social

  • Parties
  • Barbeques
  • Dances
  • Trips to college, semi-pro and pro games
  • Fund-raising

And of course, the types of facilites and equipment a club must provide to meet the programming needs determined above:

Outdoor

  • Age-appropriate fields
  • Specialty fields (goalkeeper, etc.)
  • Concessions

Indoor

  • Wall-less fields
  • Health and fitness area
  • Office space
  • Locker rooms (changing rooms)
  • Concessions

Equipment

  • Portable goals (various sizes)
  • Balls
  • Cones
  • Scrimmage vests
  • Flags
  • Weights
  • Exercise machines
  • First aid supplies

In conclusion, the structure of the American Model Soccer Club is determined by the mission of the organization and how one plans to achieve that mission. As stated previously, it is imperative that your reason (purpose/mission) for wanting to start a club is clear and something in which you believe strongly. The proper development of the youth soccer players in your organization should be at the heart of your mission.

Good Luck!