A little over 28 years ago, in Howard County Maryland, I took on a responsibility that really changed the course of my life.
I had just gotten divorced and I was looking for some activity in a new area where I could get some exercise and possibly meet some new people. I do not even recall how came upon the Howard County Soccer league but I did sign up and was placed on a “free agent” team. At our first game there was a plea to have someone step up to run the team. I put my hand up.
Back in 1995, I had played organized softball but never considered playing soccer and I was about 32 years old with 4 year old twins, a traveling job and a sense of need to to find a purpose. Especially after getting divorced.
There were at that time only 12 adult soccer league teams in Howard County. I had on my team a guy who would become one of my most prized players. He hailed from Long Island NY and he too was newly transplanted into Howard County and he was starting a brand new teaching job and coaching at one of the powerhouse soccer high schools in the county. He was also very talented and his skills put us as one of the top teams in this league.
Me on the other hand, hadn’t played since college. Hadn’t even touched a ball since I had coached a teenage boys team when I was at Gainesville. I was rusty. I did not even try to get in shape, I went in and just started playing with no ideal how I my body was going to react. I was also very sketchy if I was going to remember anything, like rules.
I was so excited to go out and purchase my first pair of cleats in years. At the time, Dick’s Sporting goods. Any pair would do. Add on socks, purchase shorts and shin guards which were required.
Our first game, I am tentative but I survived and I believe we won. I remember the feeling of accomplishment. However the next morning, my ankles and legs did not reciprocate that feeling. I had swollen sore feet. I could barely walk and I had to go to work. When I got to work, my co workers were watching me hobble to my desk. Thankfully no one asked me what happened.
I did start to take regular aspirin, not acetaminophen or ibuprofen, but simple aspirin and I could tell that the swelling started to subside and in just a few days I was able to walk without limping.
Then our second game. We won again, and the next morning swollen but not as much as the first week.
After this first season, my body finally adjusted and I started not to feel as much. I also started to play more pick up games with men so to help with improving my skills and agility. I found that I quickly adapted and my skills seemed to return. I found myself “slide tackling” safely and it seemed to be a natural action from me. I was starting to impress myself.
This was my first team that I started to manage. I became very good friends with several of the players and many of these players would eventually become prominent and consistent influences for many, many years.
We started to play tournaments. The Howard County adult soccer league started to grow and add men’s , women’s etc. Eventually even turfing the not so well groomed grass fields thus improving the playing conditions. I also started to register my teams at the one indoor facility that was located downtown Baltimore called DuBurns Arena part of the Baltimore City Recreation & Parks (BCRP). I was having my A-plus talented players driving up to the city to bring the competition. We did. We were winning everything and this in turn started to attract more teams in every league we played in.
Then I was able to persuade sponsors to give us shirts, drink specials etc so that after games my players, and a good amount of the time the other teams would also come into the local bar and have a few beers and food after the games. This became the model of how I would attract very good players, keep them and maintain a winning record for both league play and tournaments.
I would put together traveling tournament teams to represent Baltimore City and play in various locations like Vegas, Virginia Beach, Charleston and Orlando. We were bringing back tons of trophies for the city.
I became very well known for not only managing teams but winning teams. I was able to attract the best of the best including former professional players and college level players. It was fun!
Eventually I caught the eye of the Director of BCRP and he offered me the chance to also run and develop the BCRP adult soccer leagues. At the same time, I was also offered the opportunity to take over as an owner, the Baltimore Adult Soccer league (BASL)which was a private entity. With permission from BCRP, I simultaneously ran and used the BASL league to seed, grow and maintain the BCRP adult soccer leagues of which we played 7 days of the week. I had access to both turf fields and all of the indoor arenas in the BCRP footprint. My BCRP leagues played 5 seasons of the year indoor and outdoor. I had created a well oiled machine and players were coming to play from other counties.
This journey had become an over 20 year odyssey where I was involved in basically growing adult soccer in the state of Maryland, attracting players back to the game, bringing in sponsors, producing branded tournaments and even becoming involved with recognizing the heroes and major contributors of the game of soccer in Maryland by being on the board of the Maryland Soccer Legends.
My entire journey started with my my hand going up to volunteer to manage an adult soccer team and it turned into a life long adventure and a career.
For some of you thinking about it. The rewards of taking on the management of an adult soccer team far out weigh the challenges. And yes, there are many challenges. Without a team captain, new teams can often flounder and could disintegrate after the first season. A good captain can build a great team with just following a few guidelines.
I will share with you what I have learned about being a team captain in order to make the decision easier.
- Communicate!! Just a few seconds to inform your players. Weekly about games etc.
- Communicate! Another few seconds to make sure that you also communicate with your league admin
- Make it easy! You are not the only one that has a life outside of soccer, but I always maintained the attitude of just show up and play, and I will remove obstacles that will get in the way. Most of this is usually registration fees. If you can swing it, I highly suggest that you pay the fees upfront, pass on the savings on and collect from them. The majority of your players will be appreciative.
- Keeping track of fees and rosters. This is one of the biggest pains but once a roster is created, simply look into your account and check on payments. Friendly reminders about payments welcomed. And Remember you can control whether they will be on the final roster based on payments. Reminding them of this is important. Once you have a base of players.. this team will most likely stay together, play together and often grow when happy team mates start to recruit.
- Uniforms. A team with a matching set of shirts is a beautiful thing. Your players will be very amenable to wearing their shirts especially if they are new.
- Always remember that no one plays to lose, and winning is fun. But you can always be a good sport. Always be on the lookout for players that improve your team’s ability. Stay away from ball hogs, ego maniacs etc.. They will bring a team down very quickly.
- Learn to confront your hotheads, “individuals”, etc.. they will also bring down your team’s morale.
- Find 1-2 highly skilled players who are good team members and who do not mind playing with players of lesser skills. These players will actually improve your other players engagement and enjoyment of the game. And you will notice that they will incentivize the other players to step it up. Everyone likes a good flow of the game that includes passing and ultimately scoring
- Find a good goalie. A reliable goalie that will stick around is a good thing. No one really likes to be put in the goal if they are not a goalie. Having a second person who has some skills is even better.
- Patience. Very much needed
- After game beers and hang out! Get to know your players off the field and it will build even more trust between players on the field. Have some fun and social time!!
So fast forward. I am now here at Movedon Sports as a new National League Director to facilitate league growth not only in the Denver Metro area but across the US. I just newly establish summer adult soccer leagues in South Florida area scheduled for June 4th. As we grow, we also attract new players also called “free agents” and we can place them on an existing team who needs players or we can also start up a new free agent team and we will be asking for a volunteer to take on the rewarding experience of becoming a team captain. We will gladly provide on going support and guidance for any player who takes on the challenge. If you are thinking about stepping up to be a team captain, please raise your hand.
You never know where it will lead you.