Editor’s Note: On Dec. 18, US Club Soccer announced the first-ever class of Players First-licensed clubs, which featured 46 clubs from 19 states. In the weeks to follow, those clubs will be highlighted with Q&As from their directors.
Question: Why did Western New York Flash apply for Players First licensing?
Rob Ferguson, Director of Coaching of Western New York Flash: We are in the process of changing the landscape in WNY for youth soccer players, and the Players First initiative is very much in line with our philosophy, so applying was a very simple decision. What is more relevant to building the right environment for youth players to develop, than to approach things from a Players First perspective? We believe in what we are doing; players first is a progressive step, helping us improve, be accountable, and continually learn, to benefit our players.
Question: What does it mean for Western New York Flash to now be an official Players First-licensed club?
Ferguson: It is nice to receive national recognition for what our staff are doing behind the scenes, and for the infrastructure and philosophy we have built to serve generations of young players in the future. We are constantly aware of our responsibility to serve players to the very best of our ability day in day out, while also evolving and improving constantly towards the future. So many things in WNY soccer have been set in their ways for too long. We want to collaborate with anyone who cares about developing players and putting their players first. Hopefully being an official Players First-licensed club will encourage others to collaborate with us. Together, soccer leaders can do much more for player development and for U.S. Soccer in general. Standards and collaboration are key.
Question: What makes Players First licensing different from other initiatives or programs your club has participated in?
Ferguson: It is all in the name. Putting players first is key, and is undoubtedly (and perhaps unfortunately) unique. We understand the importance of club, and of team and these things will remain important in a team sport like soccer, especially if your mission includes serving an entire region of elite players. However, this importance must be parleyed with a players first development mindset day in to day out on the field.
As we got knee-deep in the application process, it became very clear that this wasn’t just a case of checking boxes. We had to deliver detailed and high-level philosophical information and strategic plans, along with day-to-day examples (and proof) of player, coach and club development geared towards improving the development environment for our players. We were being held accountable and compared to the top clubs in the country. We were prepared to fail in the process, if it meant we could improve what we do for our players as a part of the process. Ultimately, we are delighted and proud to be an official Players First-licensed club, and we will strive to improve everyday for our players.
Question: What would you like the parents of Western New York Flash to know about what this means to them?
Ferguson: Being a parent of a young soccer player can be challenging at times, so hopefully being a parent of a child in a Players First-licensed club, selected from the top clubs in the country based on our player-centered approach, should give parents of WNY soccer players confidence in our long-term pathway. We talk constantly about the training environment being key for our players, and nothing will ever be more important to us than what happens on the training field. However, we hope our families know we are constantly engaged with creating a better environment for their kids, on every level, every single day.
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.