That statement is more than ironic. For the volunteers that run DeKalb County United, "goals" are all we talk about.
We're in the heart of our long off-season so while we dream of April and the forthcoming celebrations when Lukasz and Beto "bulge the ol' onion bag," now is a time to think big picture.
Where are we heading as a club?
What have we learned through our first two seasons?
What short term goals can be set and achieved?
What long term objectives do we need to start planning for NOW?
My role within the club is more broad-brush with a focus on the business and organizational side. So you won't find me talking tactics much. You won't hear me discussing playing positions or have concerns about the starting lineup. Not my job. But what I do think about, talk about and act on are finding ways to meet the big objectives we've set forth.
So what are they?
Long term sustainability.
I'll repeat this as objective number one until it's not anymore. We can't accomplish anything else on this list unless we exist, and unfortunately it takes revenue to keep this club moving (even with volunteer management). Finding partnerships with individuals and businesses that understand our mission is critical. We've been fortunate so far, but those relationships must be cultivated over time. The sponsorship income gives us a baseline for operational expenses to be covered, while ticket sales, merchandise, camps, tournaments and other fundraising opportunities have proven, to this point, to be enough to get us over the line each year.
Increase our fan base and increase our community influence.
This is kind of hard to explain and very simple at the same time. We want as many people in the community to experience and take part in what we're building here. Does the additional income from ticket and merch sales help? Absolutely. (See above paragraph.) We are committed to building an organization that has something for everyone. We want to provide an environment that is family friendly, social, entertaining, inexpensive, and inspiring. But it takes a village, so we're going to keep identifying ways to connect with the whole community.
Provide a path to professional for our players.
What opportunities can we create for our players to test themselves at the next level? Can we become a developmental destination for future professional players? These are some of the questions we talk about with the coaching staff. We know that players can find options to play soccer anywhere. "Sunday leagues" exist in every town and guys can go kick around and live their dream. There's not a darn thing wrong with that either. But for some who are lucky enough to be young, energetic and passionate, there is still hope of finding a professional club to play for. We have discussed partnerships with other clubs and when the right situation that provides tangible benefits comes along we'll act. But we have to find other ways to help our guys. Maybe it's writing reference letters. Maybe it's keeping them informed of open tryouts for these bigger clubs. Rest assured we want to have players have success with DKCU and be rewarded. We've had a few already (Leo and Martin) but we're going to have more in the future if we put forth the effort to help them.
Ownership of our own ground.
Yeah this is a bit longer term but someday we would like to own and operate our own home field(s). The idea would be to create a special place for the community to call their own and gather to forget our petty differences and cheer for OUR club. It would be a place that we could truly be UNITED. Having our own facility for training and matches would also provide a great place for our youth partners to use, host tournaments (and bring the economic boost that comes with that for hotels and restaurants.) By having access to a facility throughout the year, it only strengthens the impact we can have, and it also could allow us to play an extended season. Whether having our own home venue happens privately or through partnerships with a park district, school district, or similar remains up in the air. However, it is a goal that we've already had meetings on and we've got our ear to the ground for opportunities.
I'll be the first to admit that we're still figuring out what makes our club tick. We don't have all the answers after just two years. But we do know that if we stick to our mission of uniting our community through soccer and chasing big dreams then we can leave a legacy for the next hundred years in DeKalb County.