Archive for the ‘Club Philosophy’ Category

Player Evaluation   Leave a comment

In 2010, we wrote a document on scouting which laid out how we evaluate players and the criteria we use.  With us continuing to watch new college players as well as those who have been part of MUSC in past seasons, that document is outdated.  A more numeric, less-subjective system became necessary to adequately measure players against each other and against a simple scale.  Thus, we determined that players needed to be graded on skill (physical, technical, and mental), “heart” (the less-measurable aspects of the game), and intangibles (leadership ability, positional flexibility, value on the field), with the categories weighted 55%/30%/15%.  The scale runs from 1-10 in increments of half-points (e.g. 7, 7.5, 8, etc.).  For our 2014 Women’s Premier League team, the 19 players we are considering for our two 2015 teams scored in a range from 7.2 to 9.85, with the majority of players between 7.9 and 8.5.  We have set benchmarks for experience (two years of college play), skill (7.5), heart (8), and average score (7.500) that a player must meet or exceed in order to be eligible to play for our “core” team, with those not part of the core who meet the standards eligible to be “called-up” on an as-needed basis but who would play for our “pool” team.  Below are brief synopses of four players we scouted in past years (two from 2012, two from 2013; all names, schools, and other identifiable information have been redacted).

Player A:  Second-year player at forward.  Overall score in grey area (between 7.5 and 8), minimum score on skill, above the bar in heart.  Works better with dynamic players alongside her (right/left midfield, forward partner) but has excellent speed and ability to draw away defenders.  Right now, would be slotted for “pool” but could get opportunities with the “core” due to absences/injury.

Player B:  Experienced center midfielder.  Above the bar in all areas, capable of playing more attacking or more defensive role, either alongside a partner or ahead/behind other center midfielder.  Possession-oriented, doesn’t commit turnovers or try to make more out of a play than is there.  Would make “core” and be in the mix for first XI selection.

Player C:  First-year player used at forward, outside midfielder, and center midfielder (attacking role in a diamond).  Meets the minimums in all scored areas, though heart score is just at the bar.  Moves around well to find the ball and make things happen with it.  Would play for “pool” team, but with proper development in summer would be able to move up to “core” next year.

Player D:  First-year player at forward.  Minimums in component areas, just over the minimum in overall score.  Good height, uses it to provide for outlet when up top.  Moves away from the center to open up space for others and to commit defenders elsewhere.  “Pool” for this summer and a bit of a project to develop into a player that makes the “core” in the future.

With six weeks (or so) left in the college soccer regular season, there will be more evaluations and constant grading of players as we work to find the right 41-43 women for our 2015 teams and start the course for bringing a WPL title to Milwaukee United Soccer Club.

 

Posted September 23, 2014 by Scott in Club Philosophy

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Player Recruitment   Leave a comment

With all but a handful of players on our watch list finished for the 2013 college season, player recruitment takes on nearly all of our attention over the next two-three weeks.  A Tweet posted by the boss about some of the snags in the process evoked a response from one of the college coaches that follows his account, asking for further clarification.  Since there is no way to succinctly answer the question in 140 characters, we’ll lay out our philosophy here.

Our recruitment efforts begin in August with online research of area players on NCAA and NAIA rosters.  From there, we define our watch list for the purposes of in-person and online scouting.  In some years, it will be just Milwaukee County, in others it might include players in neighboring communities like Brookfield, Menomonee Falls, and New Berlin, specific players that have a connection of some sort to the club, and/or under-served and isolated soccer communities in the metro area outside of Milwaukee County.  We determine who is being scouted for possible inclusion on our summer teams, and we do that based on our own initial criteria of residency, school attended, high school play, and college play.  We also are quite clear about that criteria both on the website and in conversations we have with interested players.  Therefore, having outside soccer interests promote players to us who clearly are outside of our demographic focus (and thus not on our watch list) is something we do not look kindly upon.

Once college seasons wind down in early November, we attempt to make contact with as many players as possible from our watch list via social media or through players on their college teams who have played for us in the past.  Technology has improved so much in the last several years that we are able to go straight to the player with our invitations rather than attempt to make that contact through an intermediary (e.g., their college coach).  This direct approach also eliminates us dealing with gatekeeping from these intermediaries.  Our view is that these players are adults and can research our website for more information on who we are/what we believe and discuss their questions or concerns with us one-on-one.  We provide as much information to them as we have available given that there are always uncertainties with crafting a league schedule and securing training/match facilities several months ahead of the season and we attempt to maintain an open means of dialogue with prospects.

Being that our profile is unique in this area (female-only, competitive, high school and college/post-college players), it is possible that some may not have heard of us when their frame of reference is the well-known, U6-U99 clubs that compete prominently in the Wisconsin State League for men and in youth soccer.  We can forgive that, but we aren’t so nice when it comes to outsiders passing judgement on our methods or structure or attempting to intervene in how we pursue our goals and objectives.  We may fail at times, we may struggle on occasion to advance our mission as quickly or completely as we would hope, but we will not rest until women’s club soccer in Wisconsin is given the same respect that men’s soccer has enjoyed.

Posted November 17, 2013 by Scott in Club Philosophy

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Play for Us (2013 version)   Leave a comment

This is a repost of our player pitch from last year, with some edits to bring it up-to-date.

The 2013 college soccer regular season is coming to a close, with just a handful of matches left for all teams.  Despite a number of local players expected to participate in conference tournaments (and hopefully their division’s NCAA tournaments) once the calendar turns to November, the bulk of our scouting work for the season is completed and our focus turns to planning who to invite to our two players’ events over the semester break in December.   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 our mission being to provide increased playing opportunities for local soccer players and those from underserved soccer communities, most people might 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.  Last summer, we were able to shutout three of our six opponents despite having only two traditional defenders on the roster and finished in the middle of the pack in the South division of Wisconsin’s Women’s Premier League.  This year’s watch list has eclipsed 250 points thus far and is closing in on 100 goals for the campaign, with 38 of 66 field players picking up at least one point.  The players we are looking at come from programs as diverse as the University of Central Florida, which has been ranked in the Division I polls this season, to Alverno College (an all-women’s school in Milwaukee) and Michigan Tech (located in the northernmost portion of the Upper Peninsula), and we feel these players are capable of coming together to form a pair of solid teams for the 2014 WPL season.

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

Because we have spent considerable time 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 teams will come by and large 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 the Milwaukee area 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 into a cohesive sisterhood 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 tryouts.  That’s because all of the information we need to make roster decisions has been garnered by watching you this season (or in past 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, make-or-break event 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 XI, 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?  Interested?  Fill out the form below to receive our player questionnaire and let’s get the ball rolling on having you participate in one of our play dates over the semester break.

Posted October 14, 2013 by Scott in Club Philosophy

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A Shot Across the Bow   2 comments

Yesterday, I received a note from a player who was recruited by us last fall and who had committed at that time to playing for us this summer.  She had fallen out of contact and it was believed that she was no longer interested in playing.  Imagine the shock when she told me that she hadn’t stayed in contact and chose not to play because she couldn’t afford it.

The cornerstone of Milwaukee United Soccer Club has been and continues to be that cost should never keep someone who wants to play from being able to do so, in direct opposition to the vast majority of soccer organizations in the area.  Regardless of what else we might accomplish as an organization (be it our philanthropic and community service endeavors, the advancement of players onto college careers and educations, the development of new leaders in soccer business, or the creation of a women’s soccer juggernaut in Milwaukee), our foundation is built upon the notion that we exist to  expand playing opportunities for those who have been shut out due to cost or off-field logistics (e.g., the lack of transportation and therefore access to suburban or exurban clubs; the necessity of work or home-based duties to assist one’s family or to provide for one’s self; the prioritization of one’s education or school-based activities).  Hearing a player say that makes me realize that perhaps we haven’t been as forthright and clear about it, that it might be a core belief of the organization but one which hasn’t been discussed enough so that prospective participants can be confident about being welcomed to the table regardless of their situation.  That needs to change, and it will.

There is a reason why we are seeking 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status as a non-profit, and it is not really about the benefit it will provide us or our donors relative to the IRS.  It is to in essence take the profit motive out of running Milwaukee United, to make it a community asset where all interested parties can find their soccer needs met.  Maybe yesterday was the wake-up call I needed to be more forceful in stating our mission and the commitments we’re willing to make as a result of it.

Posted June 19, 2013 by Scott in Club Philosophy

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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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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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