CHARLESTON, S.C. (Oct. 22, 2015) - During the preparation of the Players First launch event at Nike World Headquarters in early August, an important adjective emerged.
The idea of Players First was always ambitious. With US Club Soccer CEO Kevin Payne steering the ship, though, why wouldn’t it be?
Payne, who held founding roles with both D.C. United and Major League Soccer, has made a career out of being proactive. So, eight months after taking charge of US Club Soccer, Payne took the stage in front of an impressive audience of club leaders at Nike World Headquarters and acknowledged the new adjective for Players First: ambitious.
“We’re on a mission to change the sport,” Payne said. “In order to achieve our mission, we need a vision, courage, enthusiasm, resilience and a plan. The reason we should be attempting to embrace a Players First philosophy is not because it will be easy, but because it will be hard. I believe with a shared mission, we can accomplish this.”
The Players First initiative is ambitious. It’s a holistic approach to improving every player’s experience on and off the field. And the public is noticing.
Nike opened its doors for the exclusive launch event, Aug. 8-9. And LaLiga, arguably the world’s best professional soccer league, signed a long-term technical partnership with US Club Soccer focused on Players First.
The resources haven’t stopped there. To date, a multitude of companies have offered their support in alignment with Players First: Beast Mode Soccer, Fit for 90, KYCK Registration, Positive Coaching Alliance, Sideline Sports Doc, SoccerPrep, SportSessionPlanner, TopYa! and World Football Academy. And more partnerships are coming.
But, how will Players First truly make an impact? US Club Soccer’s mission statement is to “foster the growth and development of soccer clubs…” The clubs are among the most important drivers and implementers of Players First.
Stanley Holmes, president of the Puget Sound Premier League, called Players First a “huge first step at reshaping the dialogue and trying to bring some order to the disorder.” Holmes was particularly drawn to the name itself.
“When you think about that term, it changes everything in your mind. It’s so clear. There’s no wiggle room,” Holmes said. “What US Club has done has offered the first clear definition of what I think most well-intentioned soccer coaches and trainers want to do anyway – and that’s put the player first… I don’t think anyone can disagree about how important those two words are.
“As I heard Kevin and Christian (Lavers) lay out the vision from the US Club’s point of view, I got very excited, because it was the first time a large organization is grappling with the issue,” Holmes added. “How do we develop standards that go beyond the simplistic wins and losses? How do parents know what a great club is versus a mediocre club? Players First has taken all of the arguments that are out there and collected it under a US Club vision, which I think is an enormously positive first step. It’s igniting the debate, which needs to happen in the open.”
Hassan Nazari, executive director of Dallas Texans SC, also considered Players First as a “huge step to change the landscape of soccer.”
“What impresses me the most about Player First is that it not only benefits the very elite players but also includes the developmental players to reach their potential,” Nazari said. “The partnership with LaLiga is a very exciting proposition. They are a proven entity that has produced players that have become European and world champions. This will greatly help our soccer players of both genders in the country… We (Dallas Texans SC) will be implementing the Player First program to benefit our young athletes.”
Blake Decker, boys DOC for St. Louis Scott Gallagher (Ill.), called Players First “sorely needed” in order to elevate the beautiful game in our country.
“By working together and using economies of scale, US Club Soccer can now provide its member clubs access to valuable resources that would otherwise be financially prohibitive to its member clubs acting as individual organizations,” Decker said. “Moving forward, clubs who embrace the Players First philosophy will set themselves apart from others, not because of branding or marketing, but because of the resources, programming and standards they are able to offer their players that will far surpass those who do not.”
ABOUT US CLUB SOCCER:
A National Association member of the U.S. Soccer Federation, US Club Soccer is an organization committed to the development and support of soccer clubs in the United States.
US Club Soccer offers youth and adult registration, league- and cup-based competition platforms at the recreational and competitive levels, as well as a variety of other programming, including the Olympic Development Program-sanctioned id2 Program and Player Development Programs.
Through US Club Soccer, all of a club’s programs – recreational, competitive and adult – are able to be united under one organizational umbrella, creating a “members for life” culture within each club. US Club Soccer is sponsored by Nike.