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GOALS

STEVE DANBUSKY

Executive Director, Beach FC

If experience is the best teacher, then Steve Danbusky has earned his doctorate in the game – and the business – of soccer.

Just days before this interview, Steve was on a Zoom call with his former Williams College teammates, coaches and managers to celebrate the 25th anniversary (to the day) of their National Championship. Since those glory days, he’s played in the A-League, got called up to the MLS, coached youth players, directed youth coaches, and is now a bonafide club leader at Beach FC.

Nobody can ever accuse Steve of not walking the walk. Experience like his breeds something special in a person; perspective. So when he uses terms like “big picture” and “empathy” and “self-awareness” more than a few times in our conversation, it’s worth paying attention to.

In this interview, Steve makes a case for collaboration being the key to solving any puzzle, gives a retrospective on staying with the same club for almost twenty years, and defines the true big picture behind all the effort that goes into providing the best experience possible for youth soccer players and their families.

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The first result when you Google “Steve Danbusky” is your Wikipedia page.

SD:  I don’t even know how that happened. It definitely shows my lack of technical know-how.

It’s clear that you know a thing or two about this game of soccer. You played on the 1995 NCAA Division III National Championship team in college and were named a first-team All-American.

SD: It’s funny because a big part of what we do now is preparing our higher level players for those opportunities, and I remember being in that stage as a player. Wrestling with the tournaments was a little bit different back then. Recruiting was a lot different. There were fewer showcases. Getting the letters in the mail, the weekly phone calls from coaches, and trying to figure out a Division I school. I was a pretty good student and I knew that I was going to find a good school. And I wanted soccer to be a big part of that without knowing that it was going to be my future. I wanted to keep all my options open so I was leaning towards a few Ivy League and Division I schools. In my senior year of high school, my team played in the Capital Cup in Washington, D.C. The coach from Williams College, a small Division III school, called me right after the event. I applied immediately after my first visit.

What appealed to you about a smaller school like Williams College?

SD: I had already done recruiting visits to five Division I schools and thought I’d just go check it out. As you know, in Division III, they can’t pay for your travel or anything. It was about a three-hour drive into the country and I thought, “I’m going to hate this. Why am I even coming here?” My mom came with me, and we drove through the campus thinking we passed it. It’s a really small school, about two thousand people in total. I was meeting with the coach while my mom checked into a bed and breakfast thinking she’ll pick me up in the morning and we’ll go home to keep the search going.

I ended up meeting with the coach for hours. I met the players, toured the facilities, went to a class. I got in the car and told my mom, “This is where I’m going.” It was such a positive experience, and all of a sudden Division I and all the other stuff kind of melted away. I found a really good fit.

What made the choice so obvious?

SD: Williams College is an outstanding school academically so I knew it checked that box. But compared to some Division I schools that I had opportunities at, it just felt like there my coach was really invested. And then when I spent time with the players, it was a different feeling. It felt more like a family.

We run college admissions and guidance programs at Beach FC. And to this day, as an executive director and as a previous coach and director of coaching, I tell that story as much as I can. If I didn’t take that visit, I never would have considered going to Williams College and I may have found myself in an environment that wasn’t as good of a fit for me. You have to visit schools and talk to the coaches. Don’t just look at the sticker price, the tuition, what division or conference they’re in, or where they’re located. If you think you’re interested and you have the opportunity to research it, go ahead and do it, because otherwise, I would have taken a completely different path and who knows where I’d be.

Academics were really important to you. Not knowing where soccer would take you, did you have a major declared or a career plan?

SD: Not really. Professional soccer was never on my radar, and it wasn’t for a lot of people because the MLS had just started in 1995. There was the USL, the A-League, with some really good players which helped propel what MLS is today. But it was still very much in its infancy. I figured that I was going to have four more years of playing at a decent level. And because I didn’t know what I wanted, liberal arts appealed to me. It wasn’t like I wanted to be a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. I wanted to be exposed to as many things as possible and navigate that minefield as it comes.

Speaking of four more years at “a decent level,” you started those four years winning a national championship.

GB: The timing of this interview is pretty interesting because we just had our 25th anniversary of winning the national championship game. We were supposed to have a reunion on campus during the season, but obviously, it was canceled due to COVID. Instead, we had a Zoom reunion. I think everybody on the roster was on it including the head coach, the equipment manager, the trainer, and the director of sports information at the time. It was surreal.

Take us back to that game. What do you remember?

SD: I broke my wrist in the fifth game of the season so I was out for a big chunk to rehab. I finally got approved to play, but they were winning so I was not getting back in the starting lineup immediately. I think the National Semifinal was the first time we were trailing in a game all season. I got subbed in. We go into double overtime, a shootout, we win. The next day was the National Championship. I was prepared for whatever role I needed to play on the team, not thinking that I’d play the whole game. I ended up starting and playing 90 minutes. Williams College doesn’t have a big stadium or floodlights, but everybody in town and the entire student body was there. It was an unbelievable atmosphere.

…I got into coaching as a result of living in the most expensive place on the planet in New York and getting paid peanuts to play.

How did you go from college to playing in the A-League?

SD: I got an invitation to what used to be called the Umbro Senior Select All-Star game. It was basically the MLS combine where they brought the college senior all-stars and A-League professionals together and put them on four teams to play a round-robin. I got drafted in the A-League by Connecticut and ended up signing in Long Island, which was my hometown team.

It’s minor league professional soccer, so it didn’t pay a lot, but the travel, the camaraderie, the teammates, made it an amazing experience. It’s funny because I got into coaching as a result of living in the most expensive place on the planet in New York and getting paid peanuts to play. I started coaching to make a few extra bucks but realized that I liked it, was fulfilled by it, and was pretty good at it so I wanted to progress in that field.

What was the biggest shift you experienced moving into a professional environment in Long Island?

SD: It’s a massive jump, right? At that point, the MLS was still pretty small. There were only a fraction of the teams that exist now. The A-League was full of really good players. When you’re coming from a Division III program, which is a high level don’t get me wrong, the speed of play, the physicality, the expectations, and also the length of the season is so different. College is such a truncated season. But in A-League you’re in the preseason for a few weeks starting in March and then you’re playing until September or October. It’s a grind. You’re doing bus trips through the night, and find out quickly whether you’re cut out for it or not. Some good players decided they didn’t need to be sleeping on a bus for 10 hours and playing two games in two different cities in 24 hours and get paid what we got paid. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

From Long Island, you then went to play at Connecticut. How did you end up at Beach FC in Virginia?

SD: Long Island was dropping down a division. So I ended up going to the Connecticut Wolves for a year and similar things started happening there. They were city-owned, budget cuts were coming and I think they were getting rid of the team. That’s what eventually brought me down to Virginia Beach after four years of playing in the Northeast and New England.

You were also once called up on loan by the New England Revolution, an MLS team. What’s that experience like?

SD: Back then the MLS and A-League had an affiliation and my team was affiliated with the Revolution. They had some injuries so I was called up on loan and hopped a flight up to Providence, spent a week training with those guys, and traveled to a game. It was a huge deal for me but it was what those guys dealt with daily. Guys coming in and out of the locker room. It was terrifying to walk into a locker room with guys who played in World Cups. They don’t care who you are. They’re just like, “don’t give the ball away, don’t make mistakes and I won’t get mad at you.” That prepares you. You don’t realize it at that moment, but when you go through future job interviews and things like that, you can draw on those experiences that put you so out of your comfort zone that things become easier to deal with. Being in the position that I’m in now and as a coach and a director, we want to get kids out of their comfort zone.

How do you teach that to young athletes?

SD: That’s the million-dollar question. I’m fortunate to have some decent experience in the game as a player, as a coach and now as a club leader, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. People point to José Mourinho who never played the game at the highest level, but became the hottest coach for a short amount of time in the world. In the youth game, we focus a lot on trying to develop and provide opportunities for kids within the sport. But the big picture is trying to grow the game that has given so much to us. You want to be a steward of the game to make sure that the next generation is coming through, and that includes recreation programming all the way up to your elite players. And so I think going through those experiences that we just talked about, gives you a little bit of empathy. When you’re a coach or a director and you see a kid who is working hard, but maybe on the verge of being cut, how can you take an extra second and think about them not just being a number in your head? How can you help that player to progress? Because the game still has a lot to give to that boy or girl.

We’ve had some players who have gone on, played in college, and signed professional contracts. And that’s all wonderful stuff. But it’s just as exciting as when somebody moves back into town after college, starts working, has kids, and then becomes a coach because they had a positive enough soccer experience that they want their kids to experience the same thing. They become coaches, volunteers, and referees. I think that is the big picture. When you lump all of your own experiences in as a player, yea, getting cut is getting cut and not being good enough for a level is not being good enough for a level. But you have that moment of is it still important? Do I love the game? Do I want to progress in the game? And that’s the same if you’re 11, 12, 13 years old as it is if you’re a minor league professional.

Being in the position that I’m in now and as a coach and a director, we want to get kids out of their comfort zone.

What are some other traits required in a youth soccer coach to develop athletes but also support that empathy and inspire in those moments?

SD: You could be a really good player and be a horrible coach, and you could be a below-average player and be an excellent coach. As much as the playing background helps with coaching, it’s not necessarily a prerequisite. I think a little bit of self-awareness is a huge quality to be a coach. We have some coaches who have just OK playing backgrounds, maybe not a high-level license, but they connect well with kids of a certain age. And that might be worth way more than an A-License, ten years of professional playing experience, or tactical acumen. It’s putting it in that mixing bowl and looking at the age, skill level, and trying to find the right fit.

Most soccer coaches I know, both within our club and outside, say it’s a love of the game. It’s more of a calling. They’ve been impacted in such a positive way by the game that they want to give back. It takes empathy, work ethic, and self-awareness, but also the drive and determination to improve. That’s what our role has to be as club leaders. You could probably stay where you are and be comfortable and players kind of churn through and you give them a good program. But are you keeping up with the trends of the game? The way the game was played when I was playing is 180 degrees different from how it’s played now. Coaching education has changed, speed of play, sports science, and technology have all changed. So for me, how do I make sure to stay connected with that next generation? I have to grow and evolve and challenge our club to stay current.

How do you stay current?

SD: Surround yourself with good people who will continue to challenge you on a daily basis. That’s where the coaching education, getting out of your comfort zone, doing some strategic planning, and other things that force you to grow in self-awareness comes in. And that’s from the board of directors to the volunteers, making sure that your vision is aligned with what your membership’s expectations are. 

How many people do you have on staff at Beach FC?

SD: We have eight full-time folks whose main focus is Beach FC, a couple of those are administrators, and then we have six other directors who are more than just part-time coaches for us. They’re like a hybrid. And then we have between 50 and 60 paid part-time coaches, and hundreds of volunteers.

And how many kids across all programs?

SD: There are around 3,500 kids across five main programs. We have Travel, which is our version of Select, and Recreation, which is in-house. We have Advanced Recreation, that plays other clubs, but it’s still a recreational program. Junior Academy is a 6-to 8-year old developmental program. And then we have our newest program, Travel Lite. Travel Lite is a hybrid of our Advanced Recreation and our Travel. We created it because there was an avenue that was missing where kids who might be outgrowing the recreation leagues and want to play travel soccer, might not be able to make a full commitment to going to all of the tournaments and everything that’s wrapped into travel fees. So we created this hybrid where they can stay with their Advanced Recreation team, but they can play in a lower division of a Travel league.

You also have a robust futsal program at Beach FC. How did that come about?

SD: We’re fortunate in Virginia Beach that we can do a lot of outdoor stuff year-round, but we do get the cold snap and snow now and again. Add in less daylight and you have to find more indoor options. Futsal is an indoor game so we started to implement futsal training and started a small league years ago. Futsal uses a heavier, smaller ball. It teaches technical development, decision making, etc. This was a very deliberate technical development tool to supplement our main focus of outdoor soccer. A couple of years later, US Soccer and other organizations came out and endorsed futsal as a way to develop the game of soccer. Suddenly everybody’s implementing futsal. Fortunately, we had a head start in our area. We recognized futsal could be a differentiator for us.

We quickly ran out of access to indoor facilities. School gyms were full of school programs, and so we would have to rent weird times on Sundays. We sat down as a leadership group, our board, our staff, and created a strategic plan of how we could construct our own futsal facility. After five years of planning, budgeting, and implementing, adjoining the office I’m sitting in right now is about a 20,000 square foot futsal center. It’s a clear span building with a pad and pour urethane, a hard surface that’s padded underneath, so it’s true futsal. No columns. Good length and width. We wanted to build something that would help us not only grow the sport of soccer but allow us to implement some futsal programming moving forward.

Talk about getting out of your comfort zone. I was going to city planning and zoning meetings. Anybody who has been involved in any type of construction or design with local politics and municipalities and the red tape and the minutia understands. I don’t think any of us really knew what we were getting ourselves into. It was an eye-opening, rewarding, challenging, sometimes frustrating experience, but one that I think defines who we are as an organization.

What other differentiators have you seen across the industry that have led to a more professional youth soccer experience?

SD: My father was my recreation coach and my first travel team coach. Back then, parents were not only the ones on the boards but also handling all operational aspects. They were the ones lining the fields. They were the ones putting up the nets, and putting schedules together. I am probably part of the first generation of that transition from the all volunteer-run organization to the professionalization of youth sports.

Last I checked, youth sports is a 17 billion dollar industry. And that’s not just soccer, obviously, but if you look at it through the lens of an executive director of an organization, you see the pros and cons with that statistic. Volunteerism is down. People are way busier in their lives with work and family. It’s hard to provide the same level of service that used to be provided by volunteers because there are just not as many of them and there are more requirements asked of them. When you look at concussion testing and SafeSport training, you have to go through a million touchpoints of technology. Some people just don’t have the time and or willingness to do that so you have to replace that service with paid professionals. Hiring positions like mine and full-time technical staff members and administrators, you’re providing some level of continuity for an organization. Whereas if I’m a volunteer and I’m doing it because my kids love it, when my kids exit out through age or other interests, my interest may wane and there might not be that person to hand the baton to. And then an organization that could have taken many steps forward overnight could take many steps back.

When you’re paying someone it’s easier to hold some accountability. The challenge with that is the more you add paid staff, the more you have to figure out ways to support them. Player fees could go up. You have to secure sponsorships. It costs money to renovate fields, grow grass, put down turf or lights, go to tournaments, and administer youth soccer.

You need to balance the right number of full-time employees and the roles you need. Again, you have to have good self-awareness. What can you absorb? What can you pass on? What donations can you solicit from the community at large? All of these things are wrapped into the daily world of club management.

…the big picture is trying to grow the game that has given so much to us. You want to be a steward of the game to make sure that the next generation is coming through, and that includes recreation programming all the way up to your elite players.

When you’re balancing the need to hire staff, are you more critical of the skill sets you evaluate?

SD: 100 percent. I was just talking with one of our directors about coaching licenses before technology. They were always challenging, but all of a sudden technology comes in and you can have a coach who has unbelievable tactical acumen, X’s and O’s, but now the requirement is you have to be able to use session planning software. You have to be able to communicate via these new channels.

Did you ever think your role and the roles you hire would be about more than just developing soccer players?

SD: I never thought that I wanted to come off of the field as a player or coach, but then I got married, my first child was born, and life became more difficult. When I was a youth sports director, I was working every evening and weekend and it became difficult to balance everything with my wife’s work schedule and our new child. I was fortunate enough that there was an opportunity within Beach FC, and organization that I believed in, to matriculate out of the coaching world and into a leadership role. I was worried at first because I wasn’t sure it was going to fulfill me. I came through as a player, a coach, then as a director around a team, the players, and the camaraderie. How do I replace those things that engaged me now that I’m sitting in an office?

People would always ask me how different it was being off the field. I have different challenges here. I have to put a budget together. I run board meetings. I have to put out mass communications. It fulfills me because it’s a challenge.

I loved coaching. I loved being on the sideline. I loved working with coaches and players. And all of a sudden I’m away from that world or only mildly connected to it. That was an interesting transition. Your impact is at a different level and you have to remember that you’re still in it for the same reasons. Now you can use the tools at your disposal to hopefully make some positive impacts on the bigger picture.

As part of that transitional generation in the game, what do you tell people now who think they’re just going to coach and stay on the sidelines?

SD: First and foremost, don’t pigeonhole yourself into being one dimensional. Even if you’re a part-time volunteer coach, you still need to be agile in the use of technology and being able to communicate. Coaching in and of itself also provides a diverse skill set that needs to be worked on and mastered. The skillset translates into any number of personal and professional opportunities. So keep going down that road but don’t think that other opportunities may not open up as a result of it.

How do you make sure the Beach FC brand stands out when the market offers more choices for parents?

SD: Beach FC started in 1982 so I can’t be flippant with, hey, I think we’re going to change our brand. I want to make sure that if we move in a certain direction, that my predecessors who started this organization and lived in this community would be proud of how we evolve. And that might be something as simple as changing the BFC lettering or developing a new crest.

About a year ago we were able to do a staff retreat, and we brought in a consultant to help us navigate re-evaluating our mission, vision, and core values. A lot of the people who work on my team have been here for many years. We all had ownership in this strategic planning. We can’t get so comfortable that we don’t evolve. The game evolves. Technology evolves. We as a club have to evolve. It’s worth pulling yourself away from the daily grind to do that now and again to attain some good self-awareness as an organization.

What are some of those core tenents or values that you believe can make or break a club?

SD: I think it’s always going to boil down to some of the positive character traits that we all want out of our kids. Honesty and integrity are words that can be thrown around on people’s websites very easily, but practicing it is something different.

It’s an alphabet soup of all these leagues, pathways, and extra training. We need to be clear about our guiding principles. Do we want to win at all costs and win state cups and national events? Are we ok with not winning some of those but developing a broader range of student-athletes? How do we say that we’re the community-based club, but also have people believe that we’re ambitious and desire to be the best in the area at the highest possible level? The two seem like they’re mutually exclusive, but they’re not. This is that self-awareness that helps you add layers to your organization. We want to be 100 percent value-based for our Recreational league. We want to build the base of our pyramid. But we also want to be very competitive and push our top players to the next level. And that’s difficult for any club.

When you have so many kids of different age groups and skill levels, how do you approach developing players who are on a college pathway?

SD: Beach FC is a pretty well-established club, but we’re off the beaten path in the cul de sac of Virginia. In some ways that works very much in favor of stability, facilities, and player retention. We’re not in a major metropolitan market with dozens of clubs to compete with. The downside to where we’re at is we don’t typically have the same access points that others do. We work with a lot of our colleagues in Northern Virginia or if you look at Charlotte or Raleigh or any bigger city, there tends to be greater access to pathways. So whether it’s national leagues or showcases, we recognize that we have to travel a little bit more.

We need to look at it from the player perspective and the team perspective. Are we prepared to take our teams all over the country to satisfy the needs and wants of a handful of players? And as these leagues and pathways evolve, that’s a conversation we have constantly because we need to make sure that we’re providing the best opportunities, not just for the base of the pyramid, but also the tip of the pyramid and right in between. It’s not an easy balance to strike from a commitment, cost, or time standpoint. Because even if we decide not to change anything, everything around us will change as youth soccer continues to grow.

We’ve had some players who have gone on, played in college, and signed professional contracts. And that’s all wonderful stuff. But it’s just as exciting as when somebody moves back into town after college, starts working, has their own kids, and then becomes a coach because they had a positive enough soccer experience that they want their kids to experience the same thing.

How do you manage the player and parent expectations that go along with that equal opportunity training?

SD: Expectations have changed, but not in a bad way, I think. As clubs have charged more to cover greater staffing, nicer facilities, expanded seasons, more tournaments, and new technology and software, expectations should elevate. It’s our job to make sure that we clearly communicate that, while we offer opportunity, it doesn’t guarantee that you are going to get a Division I scholarship. There are millions of variables and we are going to walk you through the process and help you control and navigate as many of those variables as possible. 

The other thing that I would say is just as the youth soccer market is collaborative, it’s also very fractured. Almost disappointingly so. It’s very hard if you’re the consumer. Many parents are spending thousands of dollars a year on club fees, traveling, and personal expenses. It’s a very confusing marketplace and we want to be their first touchpoint. Every time they get an email from the next elite platform or college showcase or new equipment or whatever, we want them to come to us and let us help guide them on what they need to know. That means we have to become experts on all of these items and have trust and credibility with our members. So as far as all these leagues and national bodies are evolving and growing, it brings a lot of confusion to the marketplace. One of the necessary evils of the job is you’re trying to stay on top of understanding all the moving parts, but also be in positions wherever possible to impact the direction of some of those things whether that means state associations, national governing bodies, league boards and so on.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a big or small club, it’s a puzzle that fits together but the puzzle pieces are constantly morphing. You’re trying to figure out where you fit in and even if you fit right now, something else may change around you. A club drops out of your league or a new league forms. And then that potentially affects your operations, your league, your club, and so on. So collaboration is hugely important because that’s really what’s going to move the game forward. I think, unfortunately, it’s too fractured and too confusing now and it’s the responsibility of clubs, leagues, governing bodies to work hard to correct that.

What recommendations do you have to help put the pieces together?

SD: When Covid hit, I think everybody went into self-preservation mode. And through that, it was a lot of asking other clubs how they were handling it. So it brought more collaboration, but also in the process, it’s still very much people worried about where their club fits into everything. And some of them are trying to be opportunistic and make quick decisions to take advantage of things that Covid might present. When the Development Academy run by US Soccer pulled the plug in the middle of Covid, that added more chaos. We are not a Development Academy member club, but we work with members in our leagues who are, and that created a massive ripple effect of panic and opportunities for other leagues to snatch up clubs and provide outlets and platforms. And so not only are you dealing with Covid, you’re dealing with this revolving door of decisions outside of our sphere of influence that are going to ripple into our operations. The leadership of all of these governing bodies has to create some greater dialogue because I don’t believe that it’s completely productive for the growth of the game in our country.

Most of us are well-intentioned in trying to provide that. We don’t want to spend our time pushing good people away because they don’t see a pathway out of the minutia. That’s something that we have to also caution ourselves on. We want to be part of the solution but in a lot of ways, we become part of the problem because if we don’t have an access point, we might want to create one. And that just adds more confusion in the market. When I go back to my playing days, it was a simpler time. There was one pathway into a state championship, one pathway into a national championship, one pathway into a Select team. And now there are a million pathways. Again, there are pros and cons involved with that, and we are on the front lines of helping families navigate the challenges.

How has the technology now available changed the way youth soccer clubs are managed?

SD: Technology in a youth soccer club isn’t a luxury anymore, it’s a necessity. It’s a requirement for uploading rosters to state databases. It’s a requirement to have people log in and pay their fees with credit cards. It’s a requirement to communicate with your membership. It’s a requirement to market to the larger population. And every time you add new tech, you have to learn it to the point where you can teach it to the people who need to use it. You have to be able to troubleshoot and work within the confines of a tool that you may only be mildly involved in.

One of the leagues that I’m a board member of is made up of soccer leaders similar to myself. We did an exercise where we had a whiteboard and had everyone write all of the tech platforms they used. Every type of app or platform for registration, tournaments, communication, you name it. We filled up the whiteboard in about two minutes.

It’s a minefield. There’s not a day that goes by that my inbox doesn’t have a push to some new technology. And as much as I want to delete and move on, I have to be mindful of could this help? Will this be painful?

What makes you not delete that message from your inbox?

SD: Youth soccer is a relatively collaborative enterprise. My focus is Beach FC, but I’m on boards for other leagues and facilities as are some of our directors. We’re all working collectively with people who are after the same thing. The open communication there helps us determine what works well. We’re providing that to some and receiving it from others.

It goes back to the efficiency of running the organization. If I was a volunteer and I get home from a long day of work, and open up my volunteer role as soccer administrator and see I have two hundred emails, I’m not going to have time to explore things that could make my life easier. A benefit of being a professionally run organization is having that layer to go to work within the marketplace, research technology, ask difficult questions, and sit through demos. And the other way we do it is through our community. Our population will probably let us know either through direct communication that they’re not happy or through retention. If they decide that somewhere else is more efficient, they might just choose to leave. We have to be at the front end of understanding and filtering out our priorities and our needs. We might like something, but it may not be a priority or we may not have the bandwidth to execute at that moment.

Technology in a youth soccer club isn’t a luxury anymore, it’s a necessity.

In your opinion, what technology has been the most disruptive?

SD: Some of the video technology that’s out there now whether you want to use it for recruiting, player development, coaching, or education. It checks all the boxes. I remember when we first purchased a Hi-Pod camera system many years ago. It was state of the art. It was basically a normal camcorder that would attach to this tripod and telescope up with all these wires connecting down. You had the screen at eye level which allowed you to control the elevated advantage point. And then you needed to upload the video to YouTube. All of that has evolved quickly. Now you have this amazing technology with sensors that you can attach to your cleat. There’s artificial intelligence that follows the ball. And that’s just the hardware. On the software side, you can highlight yourself as a player. You can pan out, zoom in, track your heat map, the amount of time that you’ve spent on the ball, and your percentage of completed passes. The danger is to make sure you avoid analysis paralysis. 

How do you get your team on board with new technology?

SD: It comes down to empowering the people around you. I’ve hopefully created an environment where my staff is not just task-oriented. I want them to have ownership. They can do the research and filter as well. They’ll bring me into a conversation because they think a tool can help us now. Sometimes I disagree and we don’t act on it, and sometimes we do a demo. It’s a two-way street.

I also make sure that when making a decision or exploring something a little further, I include my key people. If I’m on the balcony and they’re in the weeds, they’re going to provide valuable insight to me so I can make an informed decision on whether it’s something that could help us run more efficiently or move forward in our overall processes.

What excites you most about the future and where the game is headed?

SD: Obviously, I look forward to staying connected to the game and being in a position to make an impact. As my kids grow up, they’re all playing soccer for the club. I’m proud of that because hopefully, I’m able to pass that on without forcing it on them. As for the game in general, I’m no different than any other soccer fan in America. I want to see us have successful professional leagues, probably multiple tiers of professional leagues. I want to see us do well in world competitions for men and women. I want to see us progress the game.