Let’s think about this bizarre soccer model we have in the State of Minnesota to serve over 75,000 soccer players.
We have community club soccer programs that offer Recreational and Travel soccer.
We have a variety of camps, clinics and supplemental coaching programs.
We have ODP, US CLUB Id2, and private schools that offer supplemental identification programs for talent.
We have several clubs that have over 65 teams between the ages of U9-U18.
We have about a hundred coaches that are USSF licensed above “D”.
We have enough domes, facilities, gyms and parks to have soccer fields and tournaments every weekend throughout the year.
We have several “centers of excellence,” including: Joy of the People, LeftFoot Coaching Academy and the Sanneh Foundation which each promote a culture of all day, every day soccer.
However, we don’t have as many National Team players or regional players in the state competing at the National level.
It sounds odd that we have all of these resources, but when we send players to Regional ODP programs we aren’t getting much in return of recognition.
My theory when I started LeftFoot addressed the problem of player development in Minnesota and the United States, as well as solutions to the problems of coaching that could lead a chorus of change.
Somehow I got lost along the way running a business, and I let the business run me.
So I fought back.
If we’re going to change and grow more players, we have to reduce and even remove the barriers of practice.
We have to fundamentally allow players to fail in a more cost effective manner.
Opportunity is expensive.
There’s no doubt that as we plan sessions, pay for an air conditioned facility and create the technology to schedule and reschedule sessions we have to pay for coaches, staff and taxes that go along with providing Access.
LeftFoot is one of the only programs in the State of Minnesota that pays its staff as employees. Most clubs and camps pay everyone as an independent contractor. Even your local club’s “director” is not truly an employee of the organization—he or she is an independent contractor each year.
But I wanted to pay my team as employees — to give them full time work as coaches and take care of their needs as individuals.
We have costs associated with all of that, but we’re a business and can have a social mission to change youth soccer for the better.
We can be different. We have to be different.
Not a Club. No Teams.
Our opportunities will never entertain forming a club that competes locally, but what I’ve seen over the years is that we kind of put ourselves out of business each year.
Our one-size-fits-all program doesn’t work for the premier athlete any longer.
As we promote a player from C2 to Premier, our packages don’t flex with their scheduling demands.
If we’re going to be a soccer home for players and coaches, then we have to keep the light on and open our doors to our members based on their rhythms.
We have enough data on our students’ attendance patterns that suggest we can offer hundreds of sessions more each month to create more opportunities for players to play, train and develop technique.
Once a Leftie, Always a Leftie.
As I walked through the stadium at the Women’s World Cup, it became a joke that I knew everyone. It seemed as if every five minutes a group of parents and kids were saying hi. I only began taking “selfies” after seeing ten players and thought I’d just capture the moment. It was great to see “Lefties” past and present go by.
But I was also moved to ask the deeper question, why were they no longer members? So I began asking more questions to members, parents and players.
It’s not that they didn’t want to continue at LeftFoot, it’s that they just didn’t want to “buy” a full year when they couldn’t predict that they’d be able to get in. The upfront investment wasn’t doable any longer. Their schedules changed. Their jobs changed. Their lives changed. But we didn’t.
So if Opportunity is fundamental to our mission and principles of coaching, then we need to create more Opportunities for our players to come to us.
Our doors have to be open all day, every day.
Because that’s what a home is—a place where you can always go.
So that’s what LeftFoot Six will do.
I’ll be introducing an offer soon to bring LeftFoot Six as a new operating system in the coming days and weeks. It’s built on a new understanding that we want you to always be a member and that we’re always open.
Because opportunity can’t be limited. It has to be accessible.