"Its been a really fun experience to be a part of this club."
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Happy 2017 AP readers! After a much needed break over the holidays, driving an average of 300+ miles a day overa 5 day span through the heart of Texas, it's time to get back to regularly scheduled programming.
Before Christmas, I was also to connect with Joe Webb, who's team, Colorado Rush, are one of the founding members of the United Premier Soccer League's new Colorado Conference. Right up front I want to warn you: this interview is long and winding. So be prepared to read quite a bit of rambling discussion about soccer in Colorado, growing the UPSL, securing sponsors, and growing the game in the Great Plains states. Check it out.
Let's start off simple. Who you are, where you're from, and what your role is with the Colorado Rush.
My name is Joe Webb, and I am a native of Colorado. I grew up here in a suburb called Arvada and attended Wheat Ridge High School. I am actually really proud to say that I have been a part of the Colorado Rush in some form since its inception and the club has always been a big part of my life as well. I was a player for one of the founding clubs (Club Columbine) that merged to form what we know today as the Colorado Rush.
In my time as a youth player I was very fortunate to have played on a very good youth team. We had a really awesome group of players and great coaches. We won 5 state cups, 2 Regional Championships and 1 National Championship. I then went on to play 2 years at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. When I came back to the Denver area I started playing with various semi pro and amateur teams, and I was team captain of a Denver Kickers team that won a USASA U-23 National Championship. I continued to play with the Rush 1 adult team and during that time I finished up my BS in Marketing at Colorado State University. I also started coaching at the youth and high school levels during this time period. Last year was I was given the role of Head Coach for our Rush 1 Men’s team, and this year the club asked me if I would I step into the Role of Director of Coaching-Adults. I was honored to accept this new role and the challenge, this really just seems to be the natural progression of things for me at this time. There are some very awesome things happening all over our club right now, but I'm especially excited for the things we are doing on the adult side of things and the value I can add there for the players.
You've practically grown up with the club then, haven't you?
Yes, you can really say that again. This club really has always meant so much to me. As a kid I was a very talented natural athlete, I was fast and strong but I was not the most technically gifted soccer player there ever was. So I was very lucky that at around the age of 13 there were two very dynamic coaches that entered into my life, Tim Schulz and Dave Dingerink, when I joined the club they seemed to take me under their wings and they developed me and taught me so much about more about the game of soccer than any other coaches really ever had before and I’m talking about the technical, tactical, and gamesmanship aspects, that's what really made this game special for me and took it to another level. I can really credit the club with many of the things I have achieved in life as a player and a person and for that I am truly grateful to the Rush. And its been a really fun experience to be a part of this club. Some of these guys I have played soccer with for over 25 years, really since I was a kid. So now being able to turn around and be part of giving back to the developing players in the club and being able pass along maybe some of the things or lessons I have picked up through the game over the years is a great privilege to me. The Rush truly is unlike any other club I have ever encountered and the club philosophy is an example of what makes it so great.
It's neat to see what can of an impact a soccer club can have on one's person life. Now, what exactly is the story behind the creation of the Colorado Rush? You've touched on it a little already, but how did the club come to be?
Well the growth and success of Rush is a great story. Back in the 90's there were two very strong Soccer Clubs in town, Club Columbine and Lakewood, and in what I feel was an unprecedented move at the time in 1997 the two powerhouse clubs merged with the idea to provide every player the opportunity to play the game no matter what level they were at. This is about the time that the “Rush Philosophy” and “Core Values” were created, too. Having found quite a bit of success on the National scene after the original merger it was time for the Rush to really grow these principles nationally, so in 2002 the Rush did that and began partnering with other powerhouse clubs around the US and then in 2009 there was another really unprecedented move. Rush moved onto the International scene when it began a partnership with a small village in South Africa called Nkomazi. And then Rush started partnering with clubs all over the world, in order to really grow the game and provide opportunity to players in places and regions that one may have never even heard or thought of. Since then, Rush has formed partnerships with clubs in Africa, South America, Europe, Asia, along with North and Central America and the islands of the Caribbean.
That's a much bigger footprint then I would have anticipated. Do the Colorado Rush have a field to call their own then?
Yes, the Rush footprint is large indeed. As far as a home field goes that’s a great question and really one of the exciting things to talk about happening at our flagship club in Colorado right now. Many of our youth clubs own various huge soccer complexes around the country or may have partnerships with cities and districts, etc. but the Rush is in the process of working on a project called the Titan Complex. This will eventually be the home of the Rush with all the facilities you would expect out of a club this size. Right now it serves as the home of our Rush Residency program and I’ve heard there is some exciting news coming up regarding the progress at the Titan Complex and the construction efforts going on there. But like I said the club has no shortage of great facilities to use as it is, and just recently we were part of building an enormous, beautiful soccer complex down in Colorado Springs for the Pikes Peak Rush.
(Since this interview was conducted, the Colorado Rush announced that they will be playing at Shea Stadium in Denver)
That's a positive step forward for your club. I'm really curious though about what inspired you to join the UPSL. Until this last month or so, the UPSL had no teams in Colorado, know it has five and I'm sure will be adding more. Let’s get into this, and start at the beginning. How did the process of joining the UPSL start, and what convinced you to take the next step and join the league?
So that’s a great question and a its really good story to tell I think. I have to give a lot of credit to all four groups for making this shift happen here and they have all been great to work with.
We had a great group of four clubs, owners and managers that recognized that there was a need and a gap in Colorado for the players at this level. We also noticed how many previous teams had come and gone in Colorado on the National scene before, and we saw some of the challenges they had faced. We felt a major one was the burden the cost of lengthy traveling had put on these teams and we felt it would be better if we organized ourselves more in a regional conference and that this was something that had not been previously tried. At that point we also decided that we would shop around all the existing national leagues and present ourselves to them as a group and see what opportunity and leagues were best suited for our goals as a group.
We found that many of these leagues that trumpet ‘grassroots movements’ actually create a culture of overspending for clubs right from the start. We felt they were charging teams exuberant fees and with a group of 4 members, these large fees could be better used on the players and programs we were developing. One has to believe these high fees out the gate have no doubt contributed to the high number of teams we see fail at this level.
This is where UPSL model we felt was the right fit. The fee for entry is low, and starting in 2017 in the CA conference there will be promotion and relegation, eventually happening in all the conferences. The cost of entry will remain low, giving teams a chance to succeed but you must start at the bottom, which is an ideal way for teams to start out the process to meet the higher standards of the top division anyhow. The other reason the UPSL seemed like the perfect national league for our group is because of the length of the seasons. The UPSL runs two seasons over 9 to 10 months of the year where as some of the other leagues are only run seasonally, based on the college schedules. The UPSL clubs are yearlong operations and service many different players including those in the NCAA. Teams can play a lot more meaningful and competitive games together this way.
I really like how this came about by you working together with other teams. Seems like your boldness has really paid off already, too, with the announcement of a sixth team in Colorado. Do you expect that, because of these teams taking the first step, the floodgates are going to open, so to speak, for teams in Colorado looking for a larger stage to compete on?
We are anticipating a few more before the season starts and I want to welcome both of the new teams to the conference, they should be a great fit to the league. Really the big reason we made this move is because we felt it was something the players in this region were really missing and the local talent was either traveling the country to find competitive leagues in other locations or they were being pigeonholed into playing in, for lack of a better phrase, “Pub Leagues” . As a group we know we are doing the right thing for soccer players in Colorado so I think that gives us confidence to take a few risks in this venture. We wanted to welcome other teams that would be interested in joining us, as we feel teams here should have this opportunity to provide more for their top teams and players. We knew we needed to be bold in our approach since the timing was right for the UPSL in Colorado and we wanted all of the information to be out there right away in a very clear way so that the teams who wanted to join would have that opportunity.
Since your conference is already at six teams with a few months to go before the season starts, how many clubs are you expecting to have? Seems like having ten in the first season isn't outside the realm of possibility.
Great point and this was a good discussion that was had on our weekly league conference call this week. With the league starting in early March we felt that we needed to set a deadline on new teams entering for the upcoming season, so as far as I understand we are only accepting application for a few more weeks now. If there are other teams interested they need to get in touch with the league now. We also do have a few pending applications that we are looking at, and the league has been part of that vetting process.
We decided the target total for our first season is going to be 8 teams. That will be a very competitive number for the first season and each team in the conference will play one another twice, a home and away series. The top finishing teams in the conference will be in the playoffs, and the winning team will advance to the UPSL playoffs every season. Another interesting competition aspect to look at here as well is that 4 more teams locally will now have the opportunity to enter into qualifying for the US Open Cup that did not get to compete this year
So you're hoping for eight teams to start but could potentially have even more. That's phenomenal growth for your conference, and that increase in chances for teams to make it the USOC will be a big bonus. This question is a little off the wall, but you know the Colorado soccer scene far better than me. Are there any teams currently playing in the state that, if you could wave a wand and make it happen, be in the conference for next season?
You know the clubs that we have involved so far are all quality management groups and they have the resources to be successful, with some great youth clubs and academies involved, and they all have very great people involved with them so I am pretty proud of the clubs we have put together here now. I feel like we already went to the wishing well and that wish was granted. These teams are going to be competitive next season and with this strong of a core group it’s going to be fun. The other individual clubs and teams that have not joined have the info sitting in their laps, it’s out there as we speak, the people in charge will look at it and have to make the decisions they feel best suits their goals and organizations. The players will have that opportunity and those options as well now that they didn’t have before, and that's something exciting. Some teams will take the sit back and wait approach, too, and that's fine as well.
I like that thinking. This is a two part question. First, when do you expect to see promotion and relegation start in your conference and second, how, if it at all, will that change how the conference grows and accepts teams?
I love that questions and it’s a great topic. Part of the reason I love the UPSL model is Promotion and Relegation. I think we could see it as early as our second season but I anticipate it will happen starting in 2018 for the Colorado Conference. They are starting it in CA this year and will hopefully work out some of the kinks for us, but I anticipate the teams that are looking to join starting in 2018 will be joining the Championship, i.e., the second division. This is really a great opportunity for those teams that are wanting to make the jump but may not have the structure or sponsors or resources quite yet but want to jump in and get that assistance from the league and learn how to grow things to become a Pro Premier club. That is really the beauty of the UPSL model. The low cost doesn’t exclude any clubs from participating but you must work your way up the divisions. I guess that may be a bonus of early membership.
And that 2018 start probably hinges quite a bit on how much interest there is from teams in joining the conference, doesn't it? How do you anticipate promotion and relegation not only changing how teams approach the season, but how teams approach joining the league?
Your completely right, the future of promotion and relegation in our league hinges on the growth of our conference over the next 6 months to a year. All I can do at this point is speculate on this topic, but I do think that once all the teams see the level of professionalism and competition that the UPSL brings it will be something that all the teams will want to be a part of, and will be willing to fight it out to get to the top division. I think that every game is a must win game for teams now so there will not be any teams taking it easy in preparations and every game will be hard fought
As you see the UPSL grow, do you anticipate promotion and relegation spreading beyond the state level to create a regional league?
I do. I eventually see the top teams, after having the time to put together a solid foundation, possibly doing this to create a top tier. I think with Pro/Rel the possibilities are endless, and that's also where I talk about my if ‘I had a dream’ idea. It would be for all the USASA Elite Leagues to consolidate into one national group that has separately run conferences just like the NCAA has but one central body. Each conference can run how it needs to in order to survive. It’s actually a pretty good model in place that recognizes each region of this giant country may have to operate a little differently to be successful, especially considering the different population densities and demographics and it gives that freedom to the groups to have Promotion and Relegation and then maybe the top teams can run a Champions league type of format every year, where having a good finish in your region qualifies you to play in a super league. That's the dream.
I am very excited about this, and also wanted to announce that starting this season we will have a Colorado Rush 1 Women’s team. This team will compete in local competitions and some other tournaments in 2017. In 2018, there is talk happening right now about the possibility of a UPSL women’s league. I will be pushing this topic at our AGM in January so keep your eyes peeled for that possibility, but in the meantime, we are going to be organizing and starting our top level women’s amateur team at Colorado Rush.
That's a pretty big announcement. Adding women will open doors for more playing time for women, and might even convince some clubs that do men and women but aren't in the UPSL to get on board.
Hopefully, and that would be great. What I can say for us is that we have some really great and talented women in the pool for Rush hanging around in the club right now that deserve these opportunities every bit as much as the men do and they are knocking down my door asking me to do this and we are answering that call this spring and you heard it here first, really.
Fighting for the opportunity to stay up can only be a good thing. How prepared do you feel you at Colorado Rush for this upcoming season?
You know I am actually feeling like our team is super prepared for this upcoming season and is as ready as we ever will be. We are still in the qualifying rounds for the Open Cup so this has kept the guys together and pretty focused for that task. We have great equipment partners at Adidas and Soccer.com, we are getting all new gear for our team and the managers. With all the support we have been given from the club I actually feel like the season could start tomorrow and my side would be ready to go. And really this is great cause it has given me the opportunity to be available to help out some of the newer clubs getting started as well.
That's got to be a big bonus to the new teams, to get some expertise right off the bat. What are three of the most common things you find teams should be prepared to deal with when they make a move like this?
I appreciate you saying that but I wouldn’t call it expertise exactly. I do have a fair bit of experience I've been able to share, and I can say we all realize that for the league to be successful we really all need to work together to make it happen and it has been pretty refreshing to have that going for us.
Obviously the challenges the teams face all become a little bigger as you grow and its mostly on the business side of things. I would say the key areas I notice teams struggle with is Budgeting and sponsorships. Be realistic in your budgets and not overly ambitious. Too many people seem to get ideas of grandeur and think they will be able to fill stadiums right out the gate, while some teams have done really well for themselves at the start. Let’s be realistic in your starting goals for attendance and your gate figures and don’t rely on just this or you will be in a heap of trouble. Also I have seen so many groups just put together numbers and a budget without having an actual plan. For example I have seen teams budget to sell what I think is an incredibly high number of season tickets and game day ticket sales but have no budgets to have sales people, so just having realistic budgets is important.
Secondly teams seem to have a hard time with sponsorships in general and I would say that is an all-encompassing thing. Most new teams don't know how to ask for sponsorships, who to ask for sponsorships, and how to set up a sponsorship plan. This is the great part about being in a professional league, as the teams that need this type of assistance just have to ask and the UPSL has been there to help them every step of the way. And on that note one of our new clubs just made a pretty good sponsorship deal last week that I am sure we will hear about in the upcoming weeks. The last big challenge for teams is always finding a venue. There are so many variables that come into play here and such a limit on options some teams have a really hard time here.
You mentioned sponsorship's in your previous answer. I've heard more on this from teams I've interviewed than probably anything else. What do you find works when it comes to approaching companies about being a sponsor, and what kind of advice would you have for teams struggling in this area?
Well here is some advice I might give to those teams. First of all, be selective about the companies you choose. Make sure that they align themselves with you clubs goals and missions and that it’s a brand that will represent you well, so this means you may need to do research on the companies you are approaching. Second, make sure you have some sort of sponsorship program put together. Don’t just approach potential sponsors empty handed, they want to know what they can get and at what price levels, sort of like a menu, something that details very clearly what the sponsor can expect in the relationship and make sure you are getting that info in the decision makers hands. Lastly, and I feel this is one of the most important things, make sure to provide value to your sponsors. The goals is to be constantly working with your sponsor so you can continue to bring more value to the sponsorship and more investment into your club. Don't just take the sponsors money and run, so to speak, which I have seen happen a lot, but have good communication with your sponsors at all times
Are there certain types of companies that you've found work out better as sponsors then others? I've often wondered if particular industries are better than others, or even if teams should call companies they see supporting little league sports.
In my opinion that doesn't hurt, but I’d really say this. Most big companies and many smaller companies budget for this in there marketing and social outreach programs but in many cases the budgeted funds will go unspent because no one knew the money was there or no one came and asked for it. I always tell people unless your name is Messi or Ronaldo these sponsors are not going to come looking for you. Do the research on the brands you select to target, put together a good program that gives sponsors value, and get your tail out and do the work and ask for the partnerships. And never stop looking for chances to add value
There is another thing teams struggle with: adding value. And I'll admit I have trouble wrapping my head around it since it seems to be such a buzzword type way to describe it. What are a few things you do for a sponsor to add value to their sponsorship dollars?
Sometimes to add value you really need to think outside the box and be more creative than the things you normally see. This can be hard for some and another reason it’s good to have collaboration with your sponsors. I think the biggest thing is to recognize the most effective way you can put your sponsors name out there in a positive way, or boost an existing program to make it better.
Here is an hypothetical walk through off the top of my head and an example of how something like that works and how you add value to sponsor programs. Let’s say you or someone on your team comes up with an idea that before or after games we could partner with a sponsor and have players give out product samples for the sponsor. Initially that’s a great idea and in itself is a good partnership idea. But let’s take it a step further. What are some easy ways to add value to that program? I’m sure you can or anyone can come up with many ways to make this a more valuable program without adding to much cost to the process. So here are a few things we would do to add value to that. We would print up player cards that the players can sign with our sponsors info on it, or the players do photographs with all of them holding up a sponsor product and we post those on Social media. So there are some off the cuff ideas of how you add value to an existing relationship and that's the kind of brainstorming that needs to happen. Don't just think any sponsor is happy and content, come up with creative and new ideas.
I like those ideas. A lot of people are going to find that very helpful. Now, where do you hope to see the Rush, and the Colorado conference, in five years?
Within the Rush model we have our own pyramid that is growing from the bottom up, with that top being for the Rush to eventually have a pro team. I'm hoping that Rush Soccer is able to use the Colorado Rush UPSL club and the structure we are creating as an example and that we can start using the same processes in implementing this type of program in our clubs around the country and worldwide. I would hope that in 5 years we have worked out a lot of the challenges and we are able to use the experience we have gained to help our other clubs do the same. I guess my dream at this point would be to see all of the USASA elite leagues come together under some sort of national umbrella but can still keep their own identity, sort of like the NCAA does. I'm hoping the USSF starts to clear up this mess because the lower tiers are highly fragmented right now and this would really help clear up the gray area for players.
When you say the Rush have their own pyramid, what does that look like? Do you start with kids, and then give them a pathway up to the adult team?
It’s really part of the Rush vision statement and one really nice thing for the players is it provides a clear pathway for them. The bottom of our pyramid starts with our young kids and our recreational programs that the club offers. Right now this level of the pyramid is servicing over 20,000 players and its only growing stronger. We believe in this player pool is where the next potential Messi could be playing right now.
The next level up then is the competitive level. Our competitive level allows a player, irrespective of their ability, the opportunity to take the game to the height of their potential, ranging from age 9-18 This pool currently sits at 12,000 players and the levels of commitment vary, but this system allows competitive players to play and compete against like-minded players.
Our next level is the Elite level players, these players are 12-18 and this player has the passion to excel and the purpose to achieve. These players play in our academies and overseas select programs. The higher the level the bigger the commitment the player must make. Our next level is the pro development level and that’s where the UPSL and Colorado Rush come together. Eventually at this level the Rush aims to have 6 to 12 pro development teams across the globe that act as a feeder into our top level of the pyramid. The Top level for the Rush to eventually have a professional team. This holds true on both the Men’s and Women’s sides as well. The Rush vision is to have a player pool that is unmatched in quality and quantity.
I feel it’s really a different model than we are seeing in the current landscape and I think that it will work better in the long run and is more player focused. The Rush is focused on growing from the bottom up as opposed to the top down and with the focus being on the bottom of the pyramid the players are getting the individual development they really need and deserve as players.
You've mentioned wanting a pro team a couple of times now. Is that something you hope can happen within the structure of the UPSL? A lot of people are of the impression that having promotion and relegation will drive interest, involvement and investment, which means that teams in the UPSL should be going pro within a few years if this thinking proves true.
The Rush plans involve having a pro team of our own someday, yes, and right now there are many players from the Rush playing in professional leagues around the world that would happily play for a Rush pro team if that opportunity existed and will when it happens. The league and place for this is really only speculative at this point and it could be many years down the road before the club gets there.
As far as the UPSL model I really think it gives a new club the opportunity to grow its brand and its product. I could really see the UPSL being a stepping stone for many of the clubs that are wanting to make that step from amateur to pro, but in the current state of the USSF, I’m not really sure I see the UPSL being a professional league but more of that Pro development level. And this is a really important level to have and facilitate, and represents a huge number of players.
The goal of the UPSL is to consolidate the highly fractured amateur leagues across the country into one organized system, that has operating standards among the members. This really should be the role of USSF in my opinion but the federation chooses to do nothing and it’s like the Wild West out here, and in the mess of all that, again it’s the players that suffer and get jaded by an unclear path or structure. This is the area the UPSL aims to clean up and with Pro/Rel it gives any newcomers the chance to come into the process at the bottom.
It really is a mess right now, but it's good to see some people out there trying to clean it up and get things organized. Now that you've helped the UPSL get further east, how do you expect that to change the game for places like Western Kansas, Wyoming and Nebraska, that might have interest in and the desire to support a team, but just now have their first truly affordable league option?
It’s funny you ask this because I was just thinking about that myself, and those are some of the exact areas I was thinking of. I expect this to be an exciting time for those communities that don't have this level of soccer available yet and really I believe these are the perfect types of places that can provide the environment for a developing soccer player to grow. And with the wonderful experience I have had working with the folks in the Colorado Conference, I would absolutely open my doors and make myself available to those teams to assist them or help them come into the league in any way I could.
I thought of Garden City, Kansas and Cheyenne, Wyoming right away. Sporting KC has been talking about putting a PDL team in Garden City, but that's been talk for a couple of years now, and Garden City is closer to Denver than KC. And there is Cheyenne SC, who kind of remind me of the Rush. Largest youth program in Wyoming, and something higher level would be great for college age players. Not so sure about Western Nebraska, not a whole lot out there other than Sydney. But it does seem like the UPSL is a great fit for teams from places like this, and even from communities in Montana, now that Idaho is adding more teams.
I couldn’t agree more and my message to those groups or any other groups interested in the UPSL is this: give Yan, the commissioner, a call. He lists his cell phone number right on the league website. What other league commissioners make themselves that available to you? Reach out to some of the teams in the league and you can always reach out to me but let’s get the conversations started. I think those clubs will find the thing we liked most about the UPSL are these are all really great soccer people who are super invested in helping every team be successful and grow. They make themselves available to you 100 percent of the time, so if it’s a league that doesn’t charge you high fees to get in and supports you along the way that you are looking for, then the UPSL is the league for you.
I'm interested in hearing about some of your players. You've mentioned there are former Rush players overseas. Who are some of those guys, where are they playing now, and how can people keep track of them?
Well obviously the two biggest names in the game out there right now in the Rush Alumni group are Christian Pulisic, who is making headlines almost every day, and then on the Women’s side we have Lindsey Horan, playing for the Portland Thorns and the US Womens National side. But those are the easier ones to follow and I don’t want to start name dropping all of our former players who have gone professional or overseas cause there are way too many of them and I will feel bad about the ones I forgot to mention or left out, plus many of them will be here in town for Alumni week next week and I don’t want to make any of them mad before I get to play against them. I’ll wait till we get on the pitch for that part. But I will say we have a very awesome alumni program so there is a Rush Alumni social media and the Rush puts out a monthly newsletter as well that includes alumni updates so those are two great ways to keep track of all of our current Rush players in the pros.
That's a great way for people to keep tabs on that kind of stuff. What's the easiest way for someone to sign up for the newsletter, and also to follow the actual team?
Well the great part this last year in a partnership with soccer.com the newsletter has gone digital so it’s now an e-newsletter. The sign up for that is accessible through our main website Rushsoccer.com. To follow our UPSL team and support us in the upcoming season you can go to our social media pages @RushProDev on Facebook and @CORushProDev on Twitter. You can also get all the info on our website RushProdevelopment.com
Awesome. What kind of play should people be expecting from the Rush once the season kicks off?
People can expect our UPSL team to play Rush soccer and we consider that our own brand of soccer in of itself that we find to be very exciting. The best I could describe Rush Soccer is in this way. Our players are attacking minded and work hard to not give up possession of the ball, and it’s a highly technical brand of soccer. You can also expect to see a focused group of coaches and players.
Sounds kind of like Jurgen Klopp's Gegenpressing. Would that be a fair statement?
A bit maybe. We like to think that if there is any style of play in the world that similar to ours it is more of what we see at FC Barcelona, maybe.
Well that gives me a solid idea of what to expect. This question might be a little complex, but it's something I'm curious about. As you said, Christian Pulisic played for the Rush. What does the process look like for a player like him, from being discovered by the Rush to becoming a pro? I guess I'm curious about what the life of a player, from developing talent to moving onto the pros, really looks like.
Well your right that is a very complex question and I am going to do my best to answer it in a simple way. The way the Rush is designed for players that have the aspirations to take it to the next level is that they are always being prepared to take those steps. The players in the Rush will be put in an environment to play against players who are competitive mentally and technically, so basically these Rush players are always in a professional and competitive type of environment and surrounded by likeminded players. Being a part of a club like the Rush makes it really a seamless transition for him. The players at Rush are always expected to be highly accountable for themselves and carry themselves in a highly professional manner. The Rush Core values go a long way in teaching the players these expectations, and then when players do go professional, abroad or domestically, the game and the preparations do not change for them. It’s really a culture in the Rush that everyone takes pride in.
What are some of the Rush Core Values?
The Rush Core values are the 11 core values we feel that the soccer players in our club should try to achieve both on and off the field. The players are asked to memorize these and represent the club positively in everything they do. The Rush recognizes we are not only responsible for the role we play developing good soccer players but people with good character as well. We know no one is perfect but striving to achieve and be more is the idea here. It’s hard for me not to list them all cause they are equally important. Respect, Unity, Safety, Humility, Leadership, Empathy, Accountability, Passion, Tenacity, Enjoyment and Advice.
We could all use a little more of those in our life. Ever thought about taking those values, putting them down in a book, and becoming a motivational speaker? Probably pays more.
I'm sure anything really pays more than this and if people are looking to get into this for money they might want to really reconsider that, but for me it’s really more about doing something I truly love and giving back to my club and this amazing game. “Passion with a Purpose,” that is motto at Rush, and I can tell you the folks who work in the club really live by that motto. The people, coaches, and staff and admins that work in the club are the hardest working individuals I have ever seen and they care so much about developing kids. They are excited about the programs they run and the club gives them the freedom and support to be successful. I can take zero credit for those ideas though, that all comes down from the club CEO and many years of really great people working together to get things to where the club is now.
A lot of people think somehow they're going to get rich off of soccer. You might one day, but it'll be a long, hard road up to that point. You ready for some more rapid fire questions to start wrapping this up?
Yeah sounds good, let’s go for it.
What's your favorite league and/or team to watch for fun?
I’m an EPL guy. English Premier League.
Who are your favorite players? One past, one present.
Well I’m going to cheat and give you two past and two present. Two past are Viera and Berkamp.
Two present are Gareth Bale and Harry Kane.
Nice. Every time I see Bale, I see his goal from the first time Real played Atletico in the Champions League final. What books, soccer related or otherwise, would you recommend?
I’m going to get into some much trouble for this answer. I’m not a big fan of a lot of books and who has time to sit and read anymore. The world has gone digital in my opinion and the content is not being shared as often in that form. I could give you a list of suggested reading material but I think the beauty of the internet is everything is out there and everyone can create content. If I want to hear any specific managers thoughts or ideas I can go to his FB page. Most of the content I read today comes off blogs and podcasts just like yours.
That's a fair point. Most people actually don't have many answers if I ask them about podcasts, so I stick to books. But I'll ask that instead. What kind of podcasts do you like to listen to?
You know I listen to different ones, but lately I have gotten into 2 or 3 that I really like. The United States of Soccer, the World Wide Soccer Podcast with Simon Allen, and the third is a local pod I just started listening to call Flakoglost.
I listen to Flakoglost, solid stuff. Since Colorado has a good beer scene, are there any beers you like that other people wouldn't be familiar with?
Colorado has some really great beer and well, being a true native of Colorado and from Wheat Ridge/ Arvada areas I always have to give it to the big guys up the street for having always been there with quality beer before this craft beer scene started up, and that’s a good old Coors banquet style beer. I know if me and the guys from Wheat Ridge all got back together we would have to grab some of those, but there is also another brewery in Idaho Springs that will always get my approval and that is Tommy Knockers
Tommy Knockers. I'll keep my eyes out for that one. Would you rather attend the Euros, AFC Nations Cup, or the World Cup?
That’s a tough question. It’s a tie between the Euros and World Cup.
Alright. Last question and we'll have this wrapped up. Why should people care about the Rush? Why they should they attend games, buy jerseys and scarves, and support the team?
Really fans should support the Rush UPSL team and all their small local teams for the same reasons. These are the players that are growing up and living in their local communities. These are the guys who work all day long in your neighborhoods and go to school there. These guys sacrifice time with friends and families to train like a professional but usually at ridiculous times of night or early mornings cause there are no decent facilities available to them at any other time. There is no limelight or fancy cars for these guys and they really appreciate the people who come watch. The coaches and everyone involved are usually volunteers for the most part and when you put 5 or 10 dollars towards a program like this it goes a long way to support programs that help develop good people.
Find a small local team that plays a brand of soccer you really enjoy and start to support them. Who knows, you may be watching the next Pulisic or Messi. And on that note I want to give a shout out to and recognize a few people. First my wife, without her support, love, and guidance there is absolutely no way I could ever go out on these crazy soccer endeavors that I do and live my passion. My two sons are amazing. I have great friends and family that support me and volunteer to help do some thankless tasks and those people know who they are. I also want to recognize the people who run the Rush community programs such as Rush Reach and Rush Thunder, amazing programs helping all over the world. Also all the Volunteers and amazing Rush Rec coaches who are really the ones who are teaching the next generation of players to love this game through their relentless love and devotion to the kids. And also thanks to you John for taking the time to dive a little deeper into the Rush and all of the Soccer that you do. Folks like you grow this game just as much by sharing the message and getting these hard conversations going. You might have a little “Passion with a Purpose” too, maybe a blossoming Rush Fan. You never know.
Joe, thanks again for taking the time to help make this happen. Remember, if you are enjoying the weekly content coming out on AP you can Follow AP on Twitter, or Like AP on Facebook. And if you want make sure you never miss an interview, and want to read articles before everyone else, click here and sign up for the Newsletter. You'll be the first to know when articles are released and learn about other exciting content down the road.
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