Industry Insights

The Winning Formula In Youth Soccer

By LeagueApps
June 25, 2019
5 min

There is a talent infusion taking place in youth soccer, and we’re not just talking about the players and coaches on the pitch.

Organizations around the country are investing in senior leadership to help move their clubs and the game of soccer forward. In an effort to fully understand the soccer landscape, we’ve assembled a Soccer Advisory Council.

Council members will provide our audience with a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to run an elite soccer organization. Our first installment in the series features the Executive Director of Bethesda Soccer Club, Lisa Frates.

Mario Ortega, the BSC Board President, conducted a nationwide search in 2018, which included hundreds of qualified candidates, before landing on Frates. Prior to joining BSC, she served as the Program Manager of the Salt Lake City Corporation, with duties including managing the 200-acre Regional Sports Complex. Under her leadership, the venue hosted the World Rugby League, the WCLA and MCLA Lacrosse Championships, and the U.S. Youth Soccer’s Region IV President’s Cup. Her exemplary work was recognized by Connect Sports who honored her with their prestigious Game Changer award in 2016.

Since Frates took over the day-to-day reins of BSC in August of 2018, the club has quickly established itself as a leader in the youth soccer space. In addition to today’s Q&A with Frates, we’ll be featuring BSC in an onsite video later this summer. Now for our conversation with the brains behind BSC.

An increasingly popular phrase in the youth sports community is the “holistic approach,” as it relates to player development. How does Bethesda approach this?

At Bethesda, we’re not just playing a role in the development of the athlete, we’re also playing a role in the development of the person. We want them to be equipped to succeed on and off the field, and out in the community. And as a result, we’re asking ourselves, “how can we set our players up for success?”

It’s my belief that sports can play a tremendous role in the development of a person’s character. It has the potential to teach kids a lot of life lessons that will serve them well in college and serve them well in their professional lives.

Case in point, every year, we have a senior banquet where we highlight everyone within our program, not just our top athletes. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the kids who are going off to college, to military service or those who are taking a gap year to do charitable work in their community. In the end, soccer is often a springboard to something great. For some of our alumni, it even opened the door to a top tier school. We’re proud to play a part in that. That’s why we’re trying to develop the whole person.

If player/personal development is the top priority for your organization, what comes next in the hierarchy?

Without a doubt, it’s communication with parents. It is so important that we’re in constant communication with our parents, every step of the way. And it’s more complicated than most would think, because parents have their preferred form of communication.

Some want to look at the website, and are reliably reachable via e-mail. Then there’s the next generation of parents, who are more tech-savvy and willing to rely on apps or text messages in addition to the traditional resources. And before you even begin considering the players who are living on Instagram and Snapchat, you have a lot to balance.

One of the first steps necessary is having consistent branding across all of your apps and sites. Over the last year we rebranded, so we want to make sure, down to the color, that everything aligns. It may seem like such a small thing if one shade of blue is navy or cobalt. But the truth is that it shows you’re paying attention to those details and tying it all together.

Then there’s the actual execution of your communications and messaging. We’re blessed to have a staff of seven in our office. We have a dedicated marketing/communications staffer that deals with social media and our website. This really frees up our coaches, who are very successful in teaching the tactical elements of the game but may not be as invested in the comms/social media side.

I’m happy to go to a parent meeting with a coach, and the same applies to our directors of coaching or a member of our marketing team. When the coaches feel supported it gives them the confidence to deliver information to our players and parents. Because at the end of the day they have the most interaction with the players and parents, so we want to give them resources and support to succeed.

Technology has had a noticeable impact on youth sports in the last few years. Advanced analytics, wearable tech, and streaming video are just a few forms of technology that were once only available to the professional ranks and are now popping up at the youth level more and more. How much of a role do you think technology will play in the growth of BSC?

I’m always actively pursuing technology that can improve our organization. What will make our jobs easier, more efficient, faster, and allow us to stay in constant communication with our players and parents; that’s how I’m thinking about technology. We currently utilize a film analysis system, and increased competition in the market has made technology like that affordable. And reasonable price points don’t force us to pass that cost down to the parents, because we want to keep things affordable.

We have a partnership with SportsRecruits to do our college recruiting. We absolutely love this platform because it expedites the process for players and coaches. Our coaches can see which colleges their players are contacting, who has viewed their profile, what messages the players are receiving, and how often they’re sending messages. On the flip side, I can see how often my coaches are logging in, which is a great tool as a director.

Another great element of working with these technology providers, and LeagueApps is included in this, is that it’s a relationship. We have a list of features and functionality that would help us run our business better, and we share that with you guys and almost view you as an extension of our staff. We get individualized attention, which is really appreciated. When you put it all together, SportsRecruits, LeagueApps, and others, I really feel like we’re all a part of the same vision while working together.

You’ll be headed overseas to learn from FC Barcelona this summer. What are you hoping to take from that experience?

FC Barcelona will be hosting their first innovation hub this summer. For so long their tactics and techniques were under lock and key, and now they’re going to share how they develop their youth program. Understanding how they view the game from a big picture perspective is very exciting. We’ll go beyond skill development, into sports injury prevention and sports psychology. It’s a very exciting opportunity.

When Lisa returns from Spain next month, we’ll be producing content around her experience, so stay tuned!