Three years ago, US Club Soccer began its ambitious journey to fundamentally change the club soccer experience for players and parents. The Players First philosophy of holistic development – supported by the pillars of Club Development, Coaching Development, Player Development, Parent Engagement & Education and Player Health & Safety – immediately became a guide in youth soccer.
Along the way, US Club Soccer also welcomed numerous best-in-class resources and partners that share its commitment. These resources continue to be used by forward-thinking clubs, coaches, parents and players around the country.
And now, with less than a week until the highly anticipated launch of Players First licensing, US Club Soccer prepares to take the next step in rewarding clubs that have successfully established a Players First culture. On Oct. 15, clubs will be invited to complete an application, providing details about their club that demonstrate commitment to the five pillars. Approved clubs receive the benefits of Players First licensing, including immediate recognition – both nationally and locally – as a club that is creating the best possible environment for players and their families.
Kevin Payne, CEO and Executive Director of US Club Soccer, formed the idea for Players First. As the next landmark for the platform approaches, Payne reflected on Players First’s foundational years and what this licensing means to youth soccer.
Question: Why should clubs aspire to be Players First licensed?
Payne: The point of Players First is to help parents make better decisions about the best soccer environment for their children by understanding there are better metrics to guide them than just wins and losses. We will be actively promoting to parents those clubs which have demonstrated their commitment to a holistic approach, designed to support every player in the program, by attaining the Players First license.
Question: For the parents of Players First licensed clubs, what would you tell them about what Players First means to them and their children?
Payne: Not every young player is going to become a National Team player – in fact, incredibly few of them will achieve that level. But every girl and boy should have the opportunity to go as far as they want to go – and Players First clubs will provide the support for them to achieve that. Their children will, quite simply, enjoy their soccer experience more at a Players First club, because that club will understand the importance of providing a great experience for kids of every level.
Question: What will make Players First licensing a success?
Payne: Ultimately, if we are able to change the culture of youth soccer, through Players First, to help clubs provide a better experience for players of all levels, and to help parents better understand and appreciate that their kids will get more enjoyment out of their soccer experience if they own it, then we will consider the program a success. In the near term, helping parents make more informed decisions about where their kids should play, especially as they begin their soccer journey, is our objective.
Question: Can Players First licensing be considered the “climax” of Players First? What else is in the platform’s future?
Payne: We expect Players First, and the platform of resources that supports it, to become a cornerstone of US Club Soccer. We believe that our member clubs will continue to benefit from the programs we offer, whether it be the LaLiga Formation Methodology courses, or Sideline Sports Doc, or ScoutingZone, or any of the other resources we make available. We foresee an annual gathering of progressive clubs and service providers to discuss best practices, better communication to players and parents, and ways in which we can further enrich the soccer club experience, in order to accelerate our progress as a soccer nation. Players First will be the most important thing we do.
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.