"There is a great connection when you come out and support local football."
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Hello again and welcome back to American Pyramid! Apologies for the near silence on Twitter and Facebook, I've started working with a new client, and that always requires a lot of time to learn the ropes and get used to what they need from you.
Anyway, this interview has actually been done for awhile, but since winter is a great time for doing interviews, I wound up with a lot of interviews been done and completed at the same time. Jake took some time to talk with me about his club, what JASA means, and how he hopes to use his club to unite a fragmented soccer scene. Check it out.
Tell readers a little about yourself. Who you are, where you're from, and what your role is with JASA RWC?
My name is Jake Morrison and along with Will Stambaugh, we run JASA RWC. I grew up in Green Bay, WI, learning and loving the game in what I could comfortably say is primarily Packers territory (Go Pack Go!). I know the game has grown a lot since I left, especially in the the amateur ranks, so its exciting to see a local team in Team Miller Lite moving up and is going to be apart of the UPSL in the Spring. Would be great to run across their path at some point and enjoy a cold Miller. I moved out to California after I bounced around a bit after high school and really got immersed in all of the gloriousness of being able to play outside year around. Me and Will currently share the roles of the JASA which include: first and second team coaches, managers, game day opps, kit men, promoters, water boys, paper pushers and a few other misc. things. Thankfully we don't have to mow the grass but I think we would be pretty awesome at that as well.
How did you come to be a fan of soccer, and what got you interested in starting a team?
I got lucky and had an early start to playing. When my older brother first got signed up to play, i essentially tagged along and was signed up to play too. I really enjoyed playing and grew an appreciation for the game mostly because of my exposure to watching my brother play and the excitement of the high level. As for being a fan I would say that was when I saw my first Champions League game on ESPN. It was when ESPN first started broadcasting the games and I got lucky and was home early from school and I got hooked on watching as a fan. I believe it was Man U and I couldn't get enough of the game and I am not sure if people will remember but there was a website where you answered a few questions and it would generate the player that you were most like and I got Paul Scholes, a legend who I loved watching and emulating. Ever since then I follow, watch and keep up on the happenings of the game domestically and around the globe.
JASA RWC is really a community project and came together because of the people within the community who want there to be something more for the diversity of the population that we have in the program. And that is really something that I am on board with and want to continue to perpetuate. We all have an idea of what a proper club could/should look like and for us its a model that is built around the community and service, and playing the game in a certain way. Everyday is like starting this team anew as we continue to grow and offer more for the players and are involved more in the community. That is what is truly exciting is that we are no where close to where we ultimately envision taking the program.
What's the origin story beyond JASA RWC? How has this whole thing come about, and what's the story behind the name?
JASA started as an evolution a few amateur programs that I had been involved in for the past decade. It all started out when i was a player first and was part of DV8 Soccer Club run by Tono Aspinall and we had a great run in the qualifying tournament to qualified into the Open Cup and played in the first round. My role soon shifted to player-coach and eventually the playing part was just to hard to balance and I took more of the lead. After a short hiatus I returned and there was a merger with another local Redwood City team and we began to regrow and eventually rebrand to JASA under the managerial direction of Tom Gaa. Those two guys deserve a lot the credit as the forefathers of the program who propped it up for years with their dedication and commitment. That's really the short version as there is like I said about ten years of layers. Throughout that time we have served Redwood City and we hope that we continue to enrich the community with our work on and off the pitch. We have a lot of guys where JASA mean's a lot of different things but ultimately what we what do on the pitch is what JASA means: good football.
What does JASA stand for?
I don't want you to think I am dodging this question but at the moment JASA just means JASA. Guys joke around that it mean's Jake's Adult Soccer Academy and I think perhaps Juvenile to Adult Soccer Academy has a nice ring to it in the long term. And perhaps one day it will mean either of those things or something else or both. We are toying with the idea if we reach 1,000 twitter followers we'll open it up for an online vote with a few options. Until then JASA just means good football.
Let's talk about Redwood City really quick. Where is it in California, and how would you describe it to an outsider, like myself? What makes it special and unique, and what is the local soccer scene like?
Redwood City is right smack in the middle between San Francisco and San Jose. Location wise it is the perfect place just close enough to the big cities and far enough away to enjoy the virtues of a smaller city. There has been incredible development in the city though as part of a revitalization which has sparked growth and has brought some good things and some things that worry some people about how folks will survive. What makes this Bay Area great is how eclectic it is, there is culture, amazing diversity, incredible food and on top of a tech revolution. We are unfortunately have to live in this bubble with high rental prices and home sales that boarder on insanity. Just got a brochure in the mail for a 500 sq ft studios that sold for over $500,000!!! It's mental around here, people are buying $1.25 million dollar homes and tearing them down to start from scratch. Enough of me on my soapbox; to be honest and frank the soccer around here is great but very fragmented from the youth level to the adults. There is so much talent but often its is misguided and misdirected.and I feel like we have let a lot of the kids down. Just like the diversity within the city there is so much spice and passion surrounding the game here and we at JASA RWC hope to be true to who our members are and something the city can be proud of.
How are you hoping to pull together the disparate parts of soccer in Redwood City with JASA?
For us this is just the beginning. We have a clear vision on where we want to go and eventually what we like to be but it is important for us to have a good foundation before we explore plans of expanding. At the moment the best we can do is just be the best that at who we currently are. Our program is at the tail of a long term development model and our hope would be to create a cradle to grave soccer and social option within our community. With the hope that other clubs would follow suit and we could really begin to grow the game and the opportunities for local players. But at the moment the best we can do is showcase what it is we do and with the youth coaches we have playing with in our ranks continue to have conversations about questioning the current landscape of youth and amateur football locally and nationally.
Last fall was your first season in the USPL. What went into the decision to join a higher league? What convinced you that now is the time to aim higher, and the UPSL is the league to do that in?
We have a diverse player pool from seventeen year olds to guys pushing 40 and we have stayed true to where we started from and have provided an opportunity for players to develop, to compete, as well as a platform to showcase before moving on to the next level. With that in mind we were in search for a league that could push our player pool not just against the competition but also internally as players who play with JASA Dos (the second team) in the local leagues are now challenging for spots within the first group. It just seemed like the right time to make the jump as we have spent years building a sustainable model and now when the UPSL expanded into NorCal it was a no brainer for us. It really checks all the boxes primarily offering a year around playing model. And ultimately it lets us craft an image of our program on our terms and stay true to who we are. As I am sure you and everyone has seen the UPSL has expanded and absorbed leagues at a rapid pace and they are building something that we strongly believe in and are excited to be a part of.
In five years, where do you hope to see JASA RWC?
Our five year plan is paired with the shift in the landscape of American soccer. I am advocating for an open ecosystem compared to the current setup which I would consider a franchise based and closed model of competition. I hope that within 5 years things have changed and that as our program grows we will have access to the opportunity to compete within a competitive structure that supports promotion and relegation across the tiers of the game.
You're conference in NorCal has grown rapidly, and seemed quite competitive. What stood out to you the most from the first season of play, and do are there any teams going into the spring season that you feel you can look at and say, 'that's our rival?'
The great thing about our first season of play was the exposure to what we want to do better. Through our failures and things that we let fall to the back burner in that first season will be things we will target for the spring. The biggest thing is that we want to create a quality environment not just for the opponents the fans. We feel like we can deliver a good product on the field, now its about adding some of the frills that will make it even more enjoyable for the spectators as well as adding layers that will separate us from the competition. I think teams like East Bay Stompers Jrs and Real San Jose are teams that have the closest definition of a rivalry. They are teams that we have played in the past and they are programs that have really have pushed us to define who we are and challenged us to make our mark. Both programs have been able to sustain themselves through the trials and tribulations of amateur and semi-pro football and we couldn't think of a better set up competitors to edge out on game days.
Something I'm curious about is why you chose to join the UPSL. You've got a lot of local and regional options, so something about the UPSL stuck out to you when you chose them. What was it?
What we wanted was to offer something for the range of players in our player pool. Currently we have two teams, JASA which plays in the UPSL and JASA Dos which plays regionally in the Peninsula Soccer League and in Liga NorCal. The model in which the UPSL represents is one that is different than what could potentially be on offer with the other leagues in the area. The SFSL has a great tradition of pro/rel and and storied history of high performing programs such as El Farolito (now in the NPSL), Olympic Club, Mezcala, and the list goes on. The only draw back is that we would have to play all our home games in SF, and for us that is something we found did not align with our vision of being able to build our brand locally. And the NPSL well besides the initial financial barrier its is such a truncated season and again there is some quality teams in this region but it is not the model we want to be a part of. The UPSL is something we feel as a competition and an entity that we can grow side by side with. As the league expands and there is more on tap we know we will have a solid partner in the game.
Are there two or three players we should be keeping an eye on at JASA in this upcoming season?
We got loads of solid returning veterans to the squad and some bright young prospects as well. Together it should be a very exciting spring season for us and a great opportunity to represent all that is great about the beautiful game. We got guys working their socks off in the preseason and once the season kicks off there will be a full squad of guys that will be showcasing all things JASA.
Describe your style of play to someone who hasn't seen your team on the field. Are you counterattacking, defensive, attacking minded?
I think we are very proactive with what we do in the game. Everything we do in training and everything we talk about during pre-match and during the game is about the ball. We want the ball, the ball is our friend. If we don't have the ball we will struggle so it's important for us to have the ball and to take care of it when we do. The game for us is predicated around the actions we take with and without the ball and assessing early often how we can use our possession with the ball to create opportunities to expose our opponents.
Describe your style of play to someone who hasn't seen your team on the field. Are you counterattacking, defensive, attacking minded?
That is an interesting question. I would say we currently are a blend of the players that represent the program. We got guys who are schooled within the structures like youth and college soccer and then we got guys who have just played. It provides a great balance to what we like to do and what needs to be done to be efficient and compete. I would love to mirror and mimic some of what makes some clubs in Liga MX special and what Barcelona special and great Those two regions are what I think best represent what we have a little currently and what we would like to do more off. Have the flair, have the style, as well as have the framework that supports local and homegrown and a marriage off community and club.
What's your favorite league and or team to watch for fun?
I like watching the Premier League and Liga MX.
Favorite soccer players, one past, one present.
Paul Scholes and Iniesta.
If you could meet one person from soccer history, who would it be?
Do you have any books or podcasts, soccer related or otherwise, that you would recommend to people reading this?
The guys at @3four3 (http://blog.3four3.com) do a great job at providing in-depth social commentary and relevant football know how about the beautiful game. And it dates back for years so there is plenty of old and new that is worth reading. I also like the Just Kickin It podcast (https://justkickinitpod.com/), they have a good range of soccer topics they cover (100+) through interviews with "experts" in the field.
Where can people find out more about you and the team online?
We are on all social media platforms Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and we are sharpening up our website www.jasarwc.com. But still has all the pertinent information.
What would you say to someone asking you why they should get out there and support their local non-league team, like JASA RWC?
There is a great connection when you come out and support local football. Non league football is your brother, it's your cousin your uncle your friends. You can feel it and touch it. We are built from the community and bring and showcase the passions of the game and some times half way decent football every weekend.
Jake, thanks again for taking the time to do this interview, I really appreciate it. Remember, if you are enjoying the content I'm putting out, please consider supporting us on Patreon by Clicking Here. Or you can click here to Follow me on Twitter, or here to Like the page on Facebook. Make sure to spread the word by sharing these interviews, telling friends about the blog, those kind of things. I can't accomplish my goal of maximum exposure for all levels of the American Soccer Pyramid without YOU. Until next time, Stay Loyal, Support Local.
Read last weeks interview: Lions of California: Bilge Coskun of Lionside FC