In my spare time, I am an avid soccer player, fan, and mainly at this point, coach. My experience includes working with teams at the Youth, High School, and College levels, all of which ultimately operate as a business at the end of the day.
Recently, I had the opportunity to interview a thought leader in the industry, currently in the role of a Regional Manager within a massive soccer organization spanning across state and country lines. The club has a strong connection with a professional club in Europe, even to the extent of even wearing the same uniforms. He is responsible for the execution of a handful of “premier” youth teams, often with the preconceived notion that playing for this club will eventually get them a try-out overseas. The practice sessions and “playing style” are pulled directly from the European club and standard across the United States. With a poor “soccer culture” in the United States, this club has attempted to adopt existing methods which may seem like an intelligent theory, but contrary, in many ways it creates a poor, inauthentic experience for customers.
To begin with the process, from hiring and on-boarding, through the daily activities on the field or in the office, it is often forced. Coaches are required to follow a strict regiment, covering a rigid list of topics over a season with little room for flexibility or improvisation. This is especially apparent when observing the consistent formation across all teams, meanwhile each team is unique and may not have the personnel for this to be effective. In addition, each coach has their own style, background, and level of education which can conflict or compete with the techniques being drilled down. This is a common challenge for global organizations where materials and processes are developed within the “Ivory Tower”, whether by a “Head Quarters” organization or from a one-sided country perspective, and adoption is simply expected, though may be vast differences from location to location.
As for experience, my interviewee is also responsible for areas of marketing and promotion across the region, including the website, social channels, monthly newsletters, etc. This has also been observed as inconsistent between states, regions, and countries, which often makes it very challenging for customers to access the necessary information. For example, as a college coach potentially recruiting a youth player from this club, if I was to reach out to one team in New Jersey versus Florida under this same brand umbrella, it would more than likely be two entirely separate experiences, though the product is being promoted as identical.
Ultimately, the current state needs adaptation, which is becoming readily apparent as customers are leaving for competing clubs as it is an incredibly dense market. Each company has their own system of beliefs, often tying back to teams in Europe or professional players, and yet, the product is consistently subpar because it truly must be engrained, and flexible enough to adjust in order to ensure success regardless of the situation. Evidently, a new leader could quickly arise if able to capitalize on an experience unique to the United States, building an authentic product for the current wants and needs of customers, and overcoming the perception that because Europe has the historical success that it would automatically apply.
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