About City Soccer
City Soccer programs came from unusual circumstances. We were forced to think in a different way, design programs to work for everyone, and on very little resources.
At the heart is understanding people play for many reasons, and the reasons change over time—from year-to-year or even day-to-day. All the reasons people need the game can be met at local play-spaces.
Local sport has many stakeholders. There are players, families, coaches, and clubs, while communities, associations, businesses and governing bodies also lean on sport in different ways. All interests in the game can be satisfied, aligned through well-designed programming at local playing fields.
City Soccer is an ideal supplement to playing with a competitive club. Programs are designed to attend when it suits your schedule. Develop and advance at your own pace and time. The burden—of time, money, and miles—is reduced. Choice, convenience, and quality are improved.
The City Soccer model improves the way playing fields serve people and communities. The results are measurable, across a wide range of impact-areas.
City Soccer offers a model of programs for a lifetime of participation. Play, coach or get involved in other roles on or off the field…
City Soccer programs aim to be the destination players and coaches seek to play and develop, alongside participation in a local club.
Our foundation works with clubs, associations, and governing bodies to make better use of play-space and programming in a local area.
What Makes The City Soccer Programs & Model Unique?
This was realized on accident, and took a lot of time and miles to figure out.
The programs at home were going unexpectedly well. We assumed other organizations would be out there finding similar solutions. After years of attending conventions and visiting clubs to learn about what others were doing, a strange thing occurred: no one else seemed to be doing quite the same thing.
All over the country and in many places abroad, there simply seemed to be no operators doing the same things—or evening thinking in a similar way. But how? How were some of our most successful and popular programs not being realized by anyone else?
The reason should have been obvious, but we did not consider what was right there at home all along. It went back to that unusual circumstance from which we began. Our situation was different in some key ways:
- A major city that truly had to start over, there was no existing soccer or sport-infrastructure.
- There was a flood of people showing up who had no where else to play. We had to organize this in some way.
- No one could be turned away, so a wide range of needs and and interests had to be considered.
- A devastated economy and many people without work meant that sustainable programs had to be offered low-cost, or less.
It was an extremely unusual set of conditions and differences, proving some major disadvantages and advantages. A different set of questions and thinking was driving the development of the programs.
Starting new programs in the wake of a natural disaster, no one can be left out. When fields are not available, make use of non-traditional play-spaces. Get back to playing now; get to the fields later.
City Soccer programs have been shaped by the needs of people at a time of scare resources and space. Since, the programs have been shaped to fit the needs of clubs, associations, and governing bodies.
In the years immediately after the storm, infrastructure and economy struggled to return. Disaster relief efforts filled the city, as everything had to be rebuilt. Fleets of emergency vehicles and temporary structures had to be parked somewhere, and sport parks were seen as the solution. The parks and playing-fields were filled with trucks and trailers. This was a problem for the recovery of sport. We had to develop programs with what was available.
As word got out, people came flooding in. Some were experienced players, others had never played in their lives. Everyone needed an outlet. Our thinking was influenced by a different set of questions: If no one can be turned away, how can everyone play and be satisfied? How can can activities be shaped to provide? Where are lines drawn—that separate one program from another? The unusual circumstance created unusual questions, which created unusual answers. We did not know what to do. Just let people play, and pay attention.
Organizing programs so everyone wants to come back. It was a crash course in Program Design. The process taught how people can participate, and how can be different from person to person, need to need, interest to interest, level to level, and so on…
As people play and provide feedback, the design of different programs begins to take shape.
In 2015 and 2016, a study was conducted by Louisiana Soccer Association to quantify soccer-service rates across the state.
A quick way to get an idea of soccer-service rates is to compare the number of kids enrolled in grades K-12 to the number of kids enrolled in recreational soccer programming. This was done for every parish and zip-code across Louisiana. Results were interesting…
Soccer-service rates were found to fall between 2.5% to 11%, with some exceptions. A few rural parishes or zip-codes showed no soccer service, for populations being too small. A few other areas exceeded the high end of the range, with over 11% participation.
Most notable, however, were the soccer-service rates in the Greater New Orleans Metro Area. Despite having the largest total number of players and most competitively dominant clubs, the soccer-service rates for Orleans and Jefferson parishes were found to be .91% and .67%, respectively. In the two most densely populated parishes in the state, the total number of players could be tripled, and soccer-service rates would still be some of the worst performing in the state. Arguably, “could be tripled” is an understatement, as it is widely accepted that soccer is more popular among people in New Orleans than in other parts of the state.
We took it a step farther, trying to identify the “hot-spots” for the problem. Out of the five locations showing the worst soccer-service rates in the city, four locations were found to be at the points of the most popular club-soccer parks!
The number of people able to use a field determines a park’s capacity for service. At some level, the fields are considered full. Everyone else is now locked out of the park. How many people are able to use a field, before it is considered full, is one major aspect of program-design.
Another major aspect is the ability to attend activities, in terms of time. Schedules vary greatly from person to person. Beyond how the capacity of a play-space, as how many people can use a field or park at once, program-design should also improve the chances for more people to make it to activities appropriate for their needs. We would love to attend, but cannot make it on Thursdays at that time.
The key to program-design is in improved capacity and availability in ways which are easily manageable and at least as effective (for a range outcomes) as traditional approaches to soccer and sport programs.
With better program-design, we see an increase in the capacity of parks and the ability for people to attend. As a consequence, outcomes and impact of parks and programming also increase across the board.
A Much Needed Solution. While traveling to learn from others, we realized that common problems in the game were repeating all over the United States, and even abroad.
We saw common problems that we were not seeing within our programs. It seems like there was a need to share what we were doing.
This is why Unite The Game Foundation was established—to share our solutions to common problems, delivered to local playing fields.
How Much Of A Solution, And How Can It Be Certain? The Numbers Speak Volumes. Through research in and around our own programs, we have learned a lot about what works, what does not, why and how.
By working on projects with others, we have been able to develop useful tools that can help where problems in common need similar solutions. We share tools, insights, and resources through our Foundation. If you are interested, please reach out.
Quantifying the impact of programming at community play-spaces is a tall order. It requires help from others a lot bigger and smarter than us.
We worked together with 13 football associations across Europe and the UK, as well as 12 universities, in a project organized and funded by UEFA and WHO. The study aimed to measure the impact of participation in football across a nation, a region and then locally at one particular football club. The result of this work is a baseline model we can use determine impact of programming and prospective programming at community play-spaces. We can quantify and consider the logic of investment in play-spaces and programs at a location, the power of football!
The only way to tackle BIG problems is to work together.
Our focus as an operator of programs has been research and development, only working on a scale large to continue improving the way we do things. Beyond this, we aim to share our programs with others.
We share our programs and results with others.
Through our Foundation, we aim to help local clubs, associations, and governing bodies by sharing solutions that aid program or facility development.
More on the Foundation can be found at unitethegame.org
Since 2005. Unite The Game has been an initiative aimed to provide resources that aid and bring together soccer enthusiasts. The original effort was in the form of an online social platform that brought people to fields and provided some useful functionality to help operators organize the game. The platform eventually gave way to the popular NBC Sport Engine.