Editor’s Note: Every quarter, US Club Soccer announces the most recent class of Players First-licensed clubs. In the weeks to follow, the newest clubs will be highlighted with Q&As from their directors.
Q: Why did Association Football Club apply for Players First licensing?
Andy Hulbert, Director of Coaching: At AFC our core values are Excellence, Leadership, Education, Visionary, Accountability and Teamwork. We are strong believers in always trying to ELEVATE the game of soccer both on and off the field at all levels, and our focus is always long-term soccer development over short term successes on the field. First, we liked and support the fact that there are very few clubs that hold a Players First license. We felt that achieving Players First status would really set us aside from other Bay Area clubs and show our players, parents and coaches that we are continually striving to achieve industry recognized protocols and procedures, and that this approach is supported by and in accordance with US Club Soccer.
Second, we really liked the variety and detail the application went into. It felt like US Club Soccer really wanted to know the inner workings of our club and supported our belief that we are following a positive and holistic approach with regards to player development and were excited that our hard work could be nationally and globally recognized. We also embraced that as a new club, it was not our results on the field that were looked at when it came to being part of this elite group.
Finally, we were interested to receive feedback from US Club Soccer on what changes or directions we could follow to continue to improve our club, and wider soccer involvement. While achieving the license is a great honor, the hard work begins now as we strive to not only implement, adhere to, and maintain these standards, but to continue to ELEVATE the club and soccer community around us.
Q: What does it mean for Association Football Club to now be an official Players First-licensed club?
Hulbert: As a relatively new club, it’s a great achievement for our community and something that we are very proud of. It reassures and highlights to our staff, BOD, players and families that we are placing long term development of the club over short term, quick success goals and that this is supported with every decision that we make. Soccer players aside, the key to developing strong minded, hardworking, kind and thoughtful young men and women feeds into the AFC mindset and thought process, helping them to become better soccer players and young adults.
AFC is a fairly new formed club and a few years ago it was just an idea. Our coaching staff works in three local youth clubs (Castro Valley, Montclair and Piedmont) and we felt that we would be able to do a better job developing soccer in our local area by working together. It took some time, but we managed to restructure the three clubs and form AFC. Castro Valley, Montclair and Piedmont house our U8-U12 players and then at U13 all of the players come together and become part of AFC.
We see AFC as the pathway for all of the players and the place where players should want to strive to get to. We have multiple teams at each age group within AFC so there is a place for every player to play.
Now that AFC is a Players First-licensed club and has the support of US Club Soccer, we are excited about how the club can continue to grow and how we can continue to better ourselves and everyone around us.
Q: What makes Players First licensing different from other initiatives or programs your club has participated in?
Hulbert: Many of the club leaders have attended multiple licenses and courses and often used these as tools to look to improve different areas of our club. These have all been very useful and allowed us to continue evolving.
The thing I really like about the Players First initiative is the great depth that it goes into when analyzing our club. It allowed us to reflect in detail about all aspects of our club and I feel the benefit to our future growth and development from this will be huge.
Although we of course have never attended the Players First Summit, we feel that this is a great opportunity and we cannot wait to learn from this and also communicate with the other like-minded clubs in attendance.
Q: What would you like the parents of Association Football Club to know about what this means to them?
Hulbert: We hope that they are as excited about this achievement as we are.
We would hope that this reassures our parents that we are putting their child first with every decision we make and that we are not just trying to make them better soccer players, but also better human beings.
We also want our parents to know that at AFC we are striving to create a great soccer experience for players, parents, coaches, referees and our community.
A National Association member of the U.S. Soccer Federation, US Club Soccer fosters the growth and development of soccer clubs in order to create the best possible environment for players of all ages.
Anchored by Players First and its five pillars of Club Development, Coaching Development, Player Development, Parent Engagement & Education and Player Health & Safety, US Club Soccer offers registration, league- and cup-based competition platforms, player identification and a variety of other programming, resources and services.
US Club Soccer is sponsored by Nike and supported by LaLiga through a technical partnership.