Archive for October 2012

Play For Us   Leave a comment

NOTE:  This entry is written with our scouting pool as the audience, hence the second-person references.

The 2012 college soccer regular season came to a close this past weekend.  Despite a number of local players participating in conference tournaments this week (and hopefully their division’s NCAA tournaments following them), the bulk of our work now shifts to recruiting players for our 2013 team from the pool we have scouted this past season.   We have stated in past entries who we are, what we want to do, and what it takes to be selected to play for us.  With that, I am going to lay out WHY you should want to play for Milwaukee United Soccer Club.

1)  We will be competitive.

With the frame that we are placing around the team (locally-raised college soccer players), most people in the soccer community believe that we will not be able to hold our own against teams that recruit far-and-wide to bring together top-loaded rosters from (in their opinion) more prestigious programs.  That is simply not true.  With more than 80 goals and 200 points scored amongst them in 2012 (33 players contributing at least one point to that total), the players I have seen this year have the requisite skill and ability to play toe-to-toe with any team placed in front of us.  The top three goalkeepers in the pool combined for 36 wins and 21 shutouts, and all three backstop teams that advanced to conference tournament play.  Find another team’s talent base that can argue the same.

2)  We will help you get better for next season.

Because we have spent a full season watching players, we are familiar with current strengths and weaknesses in their games.  As mentioned in our entry titled A Full Year Approach, we view college and summer soccer as two complementary building blocks, where each can help a player get better for the other.  A player may have been a striker in youth and prep play, but has been shifted to another position when she started college play.  We will work with the player in training and matches to develop her skills in both her “natural” position and her “college” position so that she is able to return to campus in the fall a better player and able to make a significant contribution to her college team.

3)  You will be amongst friends (and perhaps rivals).

As I go over the playing/educational backgrounds of players in the pool, I notice that there are very few cases where a player doesn’t share some common thread with at least one other player on the list.  This is important because joining a new club/team can be awkward or unnerving, just like going away to school or moving.  Since the entire team will come from within the borders of Milwaukee County, there is a common language of cultural references the team will have (even if it is spoken in different dialects reflective of the 19 communities which make up the county).  To quote just a few of these common Milwaukee references:  Summerfest; Bradford Beach; Kopp’s; Mayfair; The Domes; bubbler.  People outside of Milwaukee might not know what you mean, but anyone from here will know and have some memory/experience of them.  Our goal is to turn a group of players that come in as individuals first into a chain (i.e. I know you, who knows her, who knows her, etc.) and then into a cohesive unit/circle where everyone is bonded into a common purpose and fights together as one, for each other and for their hometown.

If those reasons don’t encourage you to join us, take this one:  YOU HAVE BEEN CHOSEN!  As you may notice, I mention nothing about combines or scheduled try-outs.  That’s because all of the information we need to make roster decisions has been garnered by watching you this past season (or seasons in the case of older players).  We know what positions you play (in general), the relative amount of playing time you get, your stats from the season, and have determined that we want you representing us on the field, all without you having to prove it in a one-day, two-hour block of time against others who are fighting with you for limited roster spots and to whom you may feel no loyalty to help show their best.  It’s this cutthroat approach to the game that we are wanting to reduce or eliminate.  Sure, you will be competing with one another for space on the match day roster or in the first team, but not for a place within the organization (unlike some clubs in the area you or I may know), and you will have a place here unless you choose to no longer play (and even then, opportunities exist to participate off-the-field with the club).

Excited?  We are.  Contact us at milwaukeeunitedsc@gmail.com with any questions, to request more information, or to receive our player questionnaire.

Posted October 30, 2012 by Scott in Club Philosophy

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A Grab Bag of Topics   Leave a comment

As the college soccer season comes to a close and we begin actual recruitment of players for our 2013 squad, several thoughts have crossed my mind over the past couple of weeks.  Rather than let them pass, or write short posts on each, I’ve decided to address them all in one entry.

1) #yourhometeam

We have taken on this Twitter hashtag and slogan to describe what we aim to be.  Unlike the Brewers, the Bucks, and other Milwaukee teams of that ilk, where players come from all over the country (and world) to suit up, our players will truly be from Milwaukee.  Maybe you will have gone to school with one, or to church, or been in the same Girl Scout troop, or your parents will have worked with theirs, or lived on the same block/in the same neighborhood.  We believe that there is enough talent available within the county to do this, and we also believe in the civic pride and camaraderie that can come from this common background.  However, there will be some degree of diversity, as players from the Milwaukee public school system team up with those from the suburbs and from private school backgrounds, and those who play their college soccer close to home combined with teammates who come home from places as far away as Louisiana and Tennessee and from schools as renowned as Washington University-St. Louis, a member of the University Athletic Association (Division III’s Ivy League).  When we say that we are your home team, we mean it.

2)  The cutthroat nature of the game and our response

Going off of this notion of being your home team, because we are not on the level of a Bucks or Brewers, we do not need to be as cutthroat when it comes to procuring and developing talent.  As a result of that, we choose to consider our potential players’ entire background and experience in the application, scouting, and interview process (some of which will not be tied directly to their soccer accomplishments).  As has been mentioned in previous posts, we will not recruit or bring into our club those players who we feel have taken a selfish approach to advancing their playing careers by opting out of high school play.  We also will not seek out players who have chosen to take a “stab” at college play with no recognizable or verifiable background prior to that or who come back to the game after a significant amount of time away from it.  In our most recent post about the full year approach to soccer development, we mentioned that playing time at the college level matters to us.  Potential players who do not participate significantly in their team’s matches once they are in the second half of their college careers (junior and senior years) will not be considered over those who do or those who are still on the college game learning curve.  It makes little or no sense for a player between her junior and senior seasons to play reserves for us, and it also wouldn’t make sense to carry that player on the first team roster.  Because we choose not to do “scouting combines” and therefore treat the entire college season as akin to a try-out rather than using a one-day event for that purpose, numbers, statistics, and the eyeball test in the player’s natural playing environment carry a lot of weight in determining if a player will be offered a spot with us and whether it will be on the first team or reserves.  This is quite different than what most clubs would do, but because we have a luxury of talent available to us numerically (60+ players in the county for a two-team roster which would expand at most to 45) we can afford to be a little bit picky.

3)  The three parts of the pool

Our view of the player pool we are scouting is that there are three branches to which we can appeal in our approach to the game.  The first is those players who have never been given the opportunity to play at this level of the game due to finances, logistics, and/or the culling nature of elite-level talent evaluation.  A prime example of this are players from MPS.  The second branch is those who might have come up in a traditional club system but for whom opportunities after a certain age at that club are limited or non-existent.  A number of local clubs have teams which might participate in the state women’s league but do not provide anything beyond that (or even provide a squad at that level).  The third portion of the pool is those who have been run off by their clubs, either being dropped entirely or replaced as they advance in age by players from outside the system.  There are a few within the 60-plus players in our scouting pool who have come through a particular club system yet do not feature on the club’s team at this age level.  It will be in combining these three sections into one unit, in showing appreciation for their talent and providing the means to showing it on a broader scale, where we will prove our path can be successful on and off the field.

Posted October 23, 2012 by Scott in Club Philosophy

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The Kansas City Shock: Daring to Be Different and Shocking the World   Leave a comment

Shawn Daugherty, owner of the Kansas City Shock (a 2013 expansion entry in the WPSL), and our managing director are part of a new breed of women’s soccer leaders.  They believe that the game as it is currently structured leaves too many players on the outside looking in, with the cost and logistics associated with top-level competition being the major barriers to greater inclusion.  As these two programs (the Shock and Milwaukee United) are a little different but cut by and large from the same cloth, we felt it would be a good idea to share with you what they are doing to “be the change” in their part of the country.

Scott Viar (managing director of MUSC):  How did you originally come up with founding the Shock?

Shawn Daugherty:  I was writing on behalf of Our Game Magazine when the USA/Canada match took place last September at Livestrong Stadium. Make no mistake, Kansas City is a soccer city, but I was curious on how many would show up for women’s game. Not only was it sold out, it was sold out with a completely different dynamic versus the fan base for Sporting Kansas City matches. At that point, staring out at over 17,000 screaming fans I started to ponder the concept of women’s soccer at the next level in the one area that women’s soccer has barely scratched the surface; the Great Plains. Following that, utilizing my blog at Women’s Soccer United, I started to just brainstorm ideas and dreams. I placed them openly on Twitter, and before I knew it, Bryan McBeth [the club’s now-general manager] had contacted me, Ed Blythe and Jamie Wiley followed promptly. At that point, the four of us saw the future; loosely, and through social media saw that the support was already there. We just had no idea how large it was from the beginning.

SV:  What is the main focus of the club/organization (e.g. adult play, youth play, pipeline from youth to open play)?

SD:  Ask anyone around me and they’ll say that on my darker days I’m an egotistical maniac. Common concept of the Shock is this; be the best of the best. My massive, final dream: take our squad, take on the USA Women’s National Team, and win. I want to show the people of the Great Plains how great they are. I want to take their star-studded sisters and daughters, and transform them into a high caliber program that would make the likes of the Northwest Cascadia region blush. We don’t do much with youth because we’re not an academy designed program. There are already enough academies in Kansas City, we have the vision of being the goal that those kids in those academies, clubs, and high schools dream of one day playing for.

SV:  Where do you plan to draw players from, and how is that in line/not in line with the club’s mission and focus? Can you give me a couple of examples of players that are on your radar, and how will you go about bringing them into the fold (be it scouting/recruiting, combine, tryouts, etc.)?

SD:   Our players, similar to the cheesy reference to corn and soybeans around here, are home grown. We take pride in telling the rest of the United States that top tier caliber players don’t have to come from the coasts, but they exist in the Heartland just as much. It goes back to being a club by the people for the people. None of the founders are in the 1% of the American population, we’re common workers inside our local economy with a simple dream; bring women’s soccer to Kansas City. Players we’re looking at…that’s still under the radar at the moment. Tryouts however are on their way to being announced. Part of what we’ve done to make sure that we reach everyone is by surpassing just the idea of speaking to the local clubs/academies. We’ve made contact with each high school women’s program in Missouri and Kansas [over 300 programs], every collegiate program from NAIA, NCAA [DI, DII, and DIII]. Also, when we get an inquiry about our program and tryouts, we address it promptly and anticipate that they spread the word. We started talks with the vice-preside of the United States Women’s Deaf Soccer program, learned that one player was in college in this area, made contact. We’re now speaking to four or five players from just that program. We have no limitations, why should we? We anticipate, expect, and hope that our tryout procedure is going to take several days because so many people show up.

SV:  How did you raise the initial capital to get off the ground?

SD:  Initially we needed $2,500 as a ‘buy-in’ fee for the WPSL. Technically, though not necessarily easy, I could have paid the $2,500 myself. However, it was then that we started to think that it’d be fun to do things that separate us from other programs. That’s when we discovered the lifetime ticket approach. We’d sell 20 tickets at $125 a piece; that’d equal our admission fee to the league. The question was, “Will people pay money to something that they cannot see?” So, we sweetened the pot. I believed that if people are going out on faith for something that isn’t necessarily real; that they should be compensated for their loyal demonstration. Because of this, we stated that each of those twenty tickets would get you into a game at the Kansas City Shock in 2013, 2016, and 2024, and anytime between then. It was outlandish, a bit weird, but within the weekend we’d sold sixteen of the twenty, and by a weeks length; they were all gone and the WPSL had a check.

SV:  How were you able to bring a staff together around your ideas, and where did you recruit them from for the organization?

SD: I didn’t have to do a thing; literally. They just manifested and came to be. Again, all shared the same desire; to grow the women’s game in Kansas City. We’ve had Founders that are engineers, in the military, landscapers, or even myself that works with Subway on my downtime from the Shock. Our support staff has Starbucks barista’s, physical therapy Master’s students, etc…we’re just a unique group. That’s perfect in my book. We are the common person, we are not of the ‘correct FIFA oriented pedigree’. We’re business people, we’re innovators, and I firmly believe; we’re the future of what this sport could be.

Posted October 11, 2012 by Scott in Uncategorized

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A Full Year Approach   3 comments

Yesterday, the mother of one of the players we are scouting came across our post on the increase in Milwaukee Public Schools graduates playing college soccer.  Her daughter is a very solid center midfielder who is being played out-of-position by her college coach, both due to a surplus of center midfield options on the roster and the coach’s inflexibility in creating a system of play that would use all three of them in the middle of the park.  I saw another instance of this problem at a game on Saturday, where a player recruited as a defensive midfielder was being utilized at outside back.  In both of these cases, the first-year players have enough talent to crack their schools’ line-ups, but are looking at a loss in these new positions.  For me, it brings up the idea that what we do in the summer from a developmental standpoint (and yes, development need not stop with youth soccer) should both build upon where players are following their most recent college campaign and prepare them to fight for and gain greater playing time in the ensuing college season.

As part of our mission is to see more local players ply their trade at the college level and then shine while there, we are interested in how they are utilized by their college coaches and then building on what already exists.  Nothing is more frustrating for us and for players than to see them being used out of position and then deemed “not up to snuff”, leading to either a player giving up or a coach dropping them from the roster (more on that another time).  In reference to these two players, since we have no control over what the college bosses do/don’t do, we would be looking to work with the players to develop the requisite skills to make a more comfortable transition to these “new” positions, both during training and in matches.  I still scout players with respect to their natural positions in terms of where they fall for first team or reserves, but sending them back to their college teams without a means of making a better go of it on the field that fall would be a failure on our part, as we view college and summer soccer as part of a full year approach to the game, with each element building upon the last so that by the time a player returns to campus for their third season, she either makes the jump to significant playing time or ends up off our radar (goalkeepers are different, because only one can play at a time, but are judged a little harsher in terms of PT and results than field players).  This approach explains why we scout so diligently during the college season, why a one-day combine cannot give us enough or the proper information to make roster decisions (and thus why we choose not to do them), and why building relationships with all relevant stakeholders is critical when it comes to finding and honing talent.

Coming soon, a profile of the Kansas City Shock, one of our fellow organizations working to grow the game and break away from the status quo that exists in women’s soccer.  Meanwhile, remember that our fundraising campaign is still on-going (we’re nearing its halfway point) and we would love to have you partner with us to expand opportunities for local players.

Posted October 9, 2012 by Scott in Club Philosophy

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Soccer, We Have A Problem   Leave a comment

This is a re-post from Two Touch Pass.  It is the blueprint for Milwaukee United Soccer Club, explaining why it needs to exist, how players would come into the system and progress through it, and what we need in terms of community involvement.  Though I had offered a link to it in this blog’s introductory post, I feel I need to place it here in its entirety.

Soccer is known worldwide as “the people’s game” and for a time this was true in the United States, with immigrant populations bringing the sport to their new communities. This is no longer the case, with soccer over the past 25-30 years becoming the domain of the well-to-do and fairly well-to-do. Whereas there are still stories now and again of a boy rising out of urban circumstances as a result of involvement in soccer, this has not been the case for girls. The rare instances of it happening usually have been the result of individual beneficence bestowed on a specific player by another family or group of families.

This separation of the game from its most organic arena (the local community/neighborhood) has never been more evident than in the mere fact that so few urban female soccer players play the game at the college level. I came to realize this when building a summer-league team in Buffalo, NY. After searching a wide range of college rosters and finding a talent pool of 45 players, the truth was that not a single player rostered for the 2007 season had graduated from a Buffalo public high school. This was most disappointing and I was sure not just a fluke of location. Having coached at a successful urban high school in Milwaukee and having seen players on my roster go on to play in college (at schools such as Valparaiso, William and Mary, and Marquette), I also felt that there had to be a way to open that door for more players.

So why do so few urban girls play the game beyond high school? This can be attributed to a number of factors. First, most if not all community-based soccer programs (either run through the local recreation/parks department or non-profit organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club) end during the middle school years, as numbers tail off for these organizations and the democratic field of high school soccer nears. Building on that, “city” high school teams are generally snubbed by college coaches in the recruiting process, based almost entirely on its perceived playing level and the general lack of players who participate in “club” soccer outside the prep season. The biggest factor, though, is that the cost and logistics of playing for a well-known and successful soccer club is prohibitive for these players, as transportation to suburban or exurban playing fields might not be available and more pressing needs on the home front price these girls out of the club soccer market.

Can we fix this, and if so how? Much as the United States Soccer Federation has acknowledged that there is a problem in the recruitment, scouting, and development of disadvantaged players on the boys’ side, there has begun to be a conversation about why the women’s game is so “white”, for lack of a better term. Title IX has opened many doors for women and girls to participate in athletics at the high school and college levels, but its main beneficiaries have been by and large middle and upper-class females who would have had opportunities to participate in sport outside the educational system. This is in no way a criticism of the law, as it has brought about numerous successes in the athletic and academic arenas. Instead, it is a realization that those who benefit in the early years after a major piece of legislation is enacted are individuals and groups that were just on the outside of inclusion prior to it.

In Milwaukee, this is a major problem and the numbers reflect it. In 2011, only five graduates of Milwaukee Public Schools were on college rosters, with all of them playing in the greater Milwaukee area and all but one at Division III private institutions (the fifth was playing at UW-Parkside, a Division II school). In 2010, it was five as well, with two of those not returning for 2011. The numbers are pretty similar for 2009, 2008, and 2007 (four or five, with only one or two of them playing beyond their first collegiate season). These “one-and-dones” are quite disturbing for me, as there doesn’t seem to be an answer as to why it is so prevalent amongst our area’s players. Lest you think it’s just “city” players that either drop out or are run off by college coaches, two graduates of Divine Savior Holy Angels (state champions in 2008 and 2009) were one-and-doned by their out-of-state Division I institutions (one after the 2008 season, the other after 2009). This is another troublesome area that needs further investigation and potential involvement.

Now that we have spelled out the problem, it is time to devise a solution. I propose that one way to remedy the gap between the haves and the have-nots is by the founding and development of a low-cost urban soccer club that would provide playing opportunities in the non-high school season (in Wisconsin, that is fall), offer academic and athletic advising to assist these players in both getting into college and playing soccer while there, and offer a playing outlet during the summer for current college soccer players.

This club would aim to offer players a means of using the game of soccer to further their academic and athletic goals. The structure of the club seeks to utilize programs already in place in the community and funnel their players into an organization that can advance the common interest and provide “something more” to our collective constituents. The following is a basic layout of the pathway for one of our players:

1) A girl begins playing soccer at age 8 through America Scores Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Recreation Department, the Boys and Girls Club, or another local organization.

2) Our club would actively recruit players from these organizations for the development of its U16 and U18 teams (explained more thoroughly later on).

3) A player would begin play on its U16 Green team in the fall of her freshman year, with subsequent passage to U16 Blue, U18 Green, and U18 Blue in future years. In spring, she would be expected to participate in her high school’s soccer program.

4) As a result of playing during the fall club season, said player would have access to high-quality play and exposure to college coaches and recruiters.

5) Following graduation, this player would go onto college and play for her school’s intercollegiate team. During summer breaks, she would be able to play for the club’s team in either the Wisconsin Women’s Premier League or the Women’s Premier Soccer League.

The flagship side for the club would be a team in the Women’s Premier Soccer League and made up of current and former college soccer players and playing a summer schedule. The reason I choose to focus heavily on this team is that it serves as the ultimate success story of the club’s work, that being those who have gone on to play collegiately. Being that Milwaukee Public Schools has produced only a handful of players that are on college rosters at any one time, the need for recruiting players from other city and county high schools will be necessary in the short-term.

The development of the U16 and U18 teams starts with the premise that no player should be denied the opportunity to strive for “something more” on the basis of income, outside obligations, or a perceived lack of elite-level talent. With that in mind, our teams will be NO-CUT. The basic framework calls for two teams at the U16 level and two teams at the U18 level, however we will field additional teams at one or both levels if the numbers warrant and dictate it. The teams and their progression will be as such:

• U16 Green – This team will be made up primarily of freshmen (U15) and will be the entry point for most players in the organization. Sophomores who might be behind the curve or late-bloomers can play on this squad, but we will not be recruiting players not yet in high school for it.

• U16 Blue – Our top team at the U16 level, its makeup will be comprised of mostly sophomores (U16) with some advanced-level freshmen.

• U18 Green – This team is where I perceive a bottleneck of players occurring. This squad will be made up of on-pace juniors and be therefore a U17 team in theory, but advanced sophomores and less-advanced seniors will also be part of the side.

• U18 Blue – The top youth team in our structure, this collection of talent will be the place where college-ready seniors will be able to showcase their playing abilities. Advanced juniors will be able to play on this team as well.

An additional team at the U16 level (if necessary) would be comprised of less-developed incoming players and would be “behind” the U16 Green in the development chart. Should a third U18 team be developed, its composition would be of seniors who have either chosen not to pursue college-playing opportunities or who would otherwise be on the U18 Green. Naturally, some shifting of players might occur in order to balance the rosters numerically. Also, there might be other factors besides skill that would cause a player to be moved away from where they might otherwise be placed.

Beyond what happens on the soccer field, the club would plan to offer both academic and athletic advising to its players, in the hopes that by taking an active interest in its players’ schooling, more (if not all) of them will see college as a worthwhile pursuit and be prepared to tackle its academic rigor once there. For many in our core constituency, going to college may not be on their radar. Perhaps no one in their family or circle of friends has ever graduated from a four-year institution, or even attended school beyond compulsory education. In this country, education is still the most reliable means of economic and social mobility, regardless of how others might like to say that being a professional athlete or a career in the music or entertainment industry are other options. With that in mind, this is how this facet of our programming will work:

1) Every incoming player to the club would meet with our club’s academic advisor. This meeting will consist of discussing the player’s academics and what future plans she might have for post-secondary education.

2) Over the course of the first two years, the player and academic advisor would work together to make sure that the player is on-track academically to achieve the aforementioned plans or revise them should interests and abilities change.

3) At the start of the junior year, preparation for the ACT/SAT would begin and college investigation will commence. The academic advisor would work with the player to help her determine a number of schools where she might be able to succeed academically and socially, as well as assist in the application and financial aid process.

4) In spring, all seniors would participate in a “college boot camp” that would deal with preparation for life in college.

From here, the club’s athletic advisor would work with the player to seek out the right playing opportunity given her schools of interest. This would involve contacting college coaches on the players’ behalf, taking teams to college matches in the area (as is feasible), and working in conjunction with the club’s academic advisor to give every player the right information regarding academics and college playing opportunities so that those who are able to take advantage of it will not be discouraged to do so. In the end, the purpose of the club’s college prep strategy is to level the playing field when it comes to information and advising, to give its players the same level of opportunity that the children of better-off and/or more educated parents already have.

What we have here is a blueprint for an organization. How do we in fact build from that blueprint and create the reality? There are several things needed to bring this to fruition:

• Coaches – We need coaches for each of the four youth teams as well as the WPL/WPSL sides. Each coach would stay with their team for two years (U16 Green => U16 Blue, U18 Green => U18 Blue), with one of the coaches at each level responsible for coordination and roster formation.

• Advisors – We need one person to oversee the academic side of the club and the college-prep program, with another in charge of college recruitment.

• Development Director – Naturally, in order to run a low-cost club, significant resources will need to be procured from the larger community.

• Board of Directors

• Registrar – Responsible for the registration of teams, players, and coaches with the state youth soccer association along with financials therein.

• Community Service Coordinator – A unique aspect of the club would be community service, with all players and staff actively involved.

Posted October 2, 2012 by Scott in Club Philosophy

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