I'm obligated by contract to submit to this blog periodically so I asked Twitter what that wanted me to write about. One suggestion was about my/our 5 year and 10 year vision for the club. Interesting topic and a loaded one at that. Have I pondered DKCU's future? Of course. Do we have objectives for the long term? Yes we do.
I'll share some of my personal goals and those of our staff in sort of our short to long term plans.
1. Regroup for post-COVID.
Our staff has taken the last several months to shift gears after losing the 2020 campaign. How do I as a club leader keep our passionate volunteers engaged? How do we continue to work for free for a soccer club that doesn't play soccer? It's been easier than I thought to be fair. Our group chats and messages have been a bit more off-topic but we continue to "hang out" and connect virtually. We also have rallied together to find ways to be impactful in our community even without the stage of a home match. We ran a DKCU vs COVID match and raised over $1200 for local businesses. Currently we've got a virtual "5K for DK" open for signups. We've partnered with Voluntary Action Center on this event as their organization provides a ton of services to our community. More info can be found here > dkcunited.com/5k-for-dk
2. Prepare for 2021
At this point we have no idea what 2021 will look like. Will we be able to have large crowds next spring? If we can't have crowds and sell tickets and bring people together then how do we adjust our mission and our business model to survive that? This is ongoing discussion but could ultimately be an even bigger test than 2020. Existence can not be taken for granted so we need to always be prepared to sacrifice short term to be here long term.
3. Grow leadership.
For 3 and a half years I've been sort of front and center, which has been great. I've learned a lot about a lot of things and I've met some incredible people. Most of all I've felt pride when we've seen the smiles on the kids faces after games and the celebrations after our wins. But one thing I know is that there are a lot of things I don't know. While our Board of Directors and Advisory Board has brought a lot of fresh ideas to the forefront, we're going to need to step it up even further. Community clubs need influential people in the community to believe in the club, to support the club and to promote the club. And while some people have served the club for many years, there will be a time soon when Board positions become available and we would like to have those connected people in DeKalb County join us, to challenge us and to push us to the next level of where this club can go.
1. Home venue
It's no surprise to hear that we'd love to have our own home venue. Not just a field, but a place we can bring people together (masks if needed) and build that community stadium that all kinds of sports clubs and organizations can use. We've been very happy at NIU and we will continue to work with their soccer programs and promote the game in our "shared" home ground. But we're still just a renter. With our own facility we could host adult and youth tournaments, camps, play more games, expand our schedule, and control usage in such a way to make our club stronger and even more ingrained in the culture here. We've looked at property but we're just not in a place yet with financial support/investors to make that investment a reality. In the next 3-5 years I hope we're in a position to firm up those plans.
Our club currently has a men's first team, men's u23 and women's u23. With around 100 players now, we've grown a lot from our debut in 2018. Our coaching staff is great and we've got the right people NOW to make us very strong in the next 3-5 years. They are passionate and relentless in promoting the club and where we may be able to help our players succeed. But our network needs to grow. We need to create more contacts within the game and we need to broaden our outreach to coaches and programs within an hour or so. I firmly believe our club provides tremendous opportunities for young adults willing to work. Our coaches are extremely organized with training sessions and knowledge. Most importantly we need to do a better job of helping DeKalb County based players to be ready for our first team by their early 20's so that they can represent their home town with pride. We've had a handful of players leave the club for pro opportunities so there are relationships there to harvest as well to help our players move on to bigger better things.
In the next phase of our club I think we'll have a largely new group of leaders within the Board of Directors. Many of us are more the "worker type" and we'd be happy to do the day to day under the guidance of others who can provide more support. As those individuals are identified or reach out, our growth potential will be expanded.
10 plus years
1. League relationships
One of my most intriguing projects was being involved with the creation of the Midwest Premier League. www.midwestpl.com With like minded clubs within a few hours of us, we stepped away from the glamour of the national league and created something that we feel will put us in a better position to provide off-field support to each other and help our clubs grow. Before the world of soccer in the US can think about pro-rel, at the amateur level at least, we need to create saturated areas with many clubs. Few of us can afford to travel and having teams within an hour will create awesome rivalries too! Maybe by then the soccer landscape has changed and their is more interaction between regional leagues, national leagues, etc. I highly doubt DKCU will go pro at any point unless someone with some real interest in growth knocks on our door with a vision that aligns with ours and a checkbook. For now the plan is grass roots and slow/steady growth. Is there a reason to move to a different/bigger league? Only if it makes sense to our mission...which I think some people forget sometimes. :)
2. Coach Gecan will be a legend having won 3 of the first 4 MWPL championships. One former player will be the head coach. I'll be retired from DKCU and will be a super fan with Local 815, watching the games with my kids and complaining about "that player subbing off in the 70th"
That's about as far as we can go with dreams. One eye on today and one eye on next year. It's a hard road and a lot of things jump out that you have to deal with but we believe in what we're doing and what we will someday mean to the entire community. So we press on. United Through Soccer.