"Clubs like ours play for their community. It's not about winning or trophies, although those are nice, it's about representing where you're from."
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Happy 2018, faithful AP readers! I know it's been awhile since you last had anything to read on here, so thank you for your patience over the holidays. I don't want to delay you with a ton of stuff, other than don't forget to check out the Patreon page. There are some sweet rewards for supporters that you might be interested in.
Now, I connected with Alex Barene in early December, so some of this is a little dated. Because of that, I've put in notes and links to handy articles to get everyone up to speed. I was really impressed with what is going on at Grays Harbor (I mean, look at the crest, and look at the photo of the field!) and expect to see big things from these guys in the future. Check it out.
Tell readers a little about yourself. Who you are, where you're from, and what your role is Grays Harbor FC.
I am Alex Barene, co-founder of the club with my brother, Ben. I am 20 years old and he is 22. We grew up in Aberdeen and have lived here our whole lives. We are currently filling every role for the club. Working on sponsors, working on our badge, social media presence, player recruitment, etc. And I will also be playing for the team!
Don't worry about the badge, you guys have nailed it. How did you come to be a fan of the beautiful game, and interested in starting a team?
We have both been playing ever since we can remember, that's what sparked our love for the game, and we have always been really creative. We used to make up fictional teams and players, with badges, uniforms and everything. When the EPLWA was introduced a few years back, we dreamed about having a team out here in Grays Harbor. With the Western Washington Premier League starting up this spring we felt it was the perfect time to jump in and actually create something.
What prompted your decision to start a team and join the Western Washington Premier League, rather than joining the Evergreen Premier League?
Being a new club, and with WWPL being a new league, we feel that we can hopefully grow together.
Do you feel like there's some work to be done before joining a league like then EPL?
Certainly. The EPLWA is a league with some very high quality players. That's not to say that our players aren't high quality, but it would take us some time to get adjusted to that level. We feel that joining WWPL will allow us to get good experience against quality teams and hopefully we can grow from there.
Who are the other teams joining you in the WWPL, and are any of them close enough to you to be considered real rivals?
We actually haven't had our application accepted yet but it is looking good for us. If Twin City Union from Centralia are accepted into the league there will be a great rivalry there, as harbor teams have a lot of history playing Centralia and Chehalis. I think that Lacey FC will be another one of our rivals.
We should say, we have been accepted in principle, but not yet "officially." (The WWPL is now officially launched with 7 teams. Find out more by Clicking Here)
Gotcha. Still impressive that you should have a 4 to 6 team league right from the start. Having never been to your part of the country, how would you describe it to an outsider, like myself? What makes it special, and what does the local soccer scene look like?
Grays Harbor is usually a rainy, gray place. When you get past that, it is a beautiful part of the country. We have beaches, rivers, lakes, and so many amazing hikes and views. It really is a great place if you love the outdoors. And Grays Harbor in the Fall is beautiful when the trees on the hills turn red and orange.
What makes Grays Harbor special is the pride the residents have in their community. We take pride in being from where we are from. It is a smaller community, and a community that rallies to support its own. The local soccer scene past high school is bleak, hence the need for our Gulls. There are no select or club programs in the area, so our great talent often goes unnoticed. We have two high school programs who make it to the state tournament yearly, Aberdeen and Hoquiam. Our team will feature many graduates from these two schools. We also currently have 16 players committed who have collegiate soccer experience. We believe there could be more, but the closest college with a soccer program is an hour away. The local college, Grays Harbor College, does not sponsor men's soccer.
Do you have a place to call home for your upcoming season?
We plan on playing at Aberdeen's Stewart Field. It is a great place for a club such as ours. It is set between two hills and next to the Wishkah River.
Beautiful. Is it a good sized field for a first year team?
The field itself or the seating capacity?
The field is perfect. Its wider than other high school stadiums because it doesn't have a running track. The stadium seating itself will actually be too big, unless we garner more support than we are hoping for!
The stadium also has a stand behind the goal/end zone, which is a unique feature.
Unfortunately they had to replace the wooden roof on the main stand last year, but it still has that kind of English non-league look. Very unique.
Goals and plans are a big part of ensuring any business or organization has a clear vision and path forward. What are some of your goals and plans for year one, and then three to five years down road?
Our goal for year one is to get accepted into WWPL and have a good season. Later down the road we would hope to field a women's team. We also want to have a youth team since there is no club soccer in our area.
How do you plan on going about marketing the team to the local community to start to fill that stadium? Any thoughts about fan ownership to create more of a community feel?
Currently we are working with a local radio station and on a story with the local newspaper. As we move forward, we will spend more time and money on posters, flyers, and having the local businesses promote our team. Our Facebook and Twitter accounts have also gone pretty well for our first week. We have thought about community ownership and have a few interested parties. Upon our official acceptance into the league, we will get more serious with those talks.
Oh, we also plan on holding events at restaurants and breweries around the harbor to promote and hold fundraisers for our team.
Good start. When it comes to getting players, where do you plan on finding your talent? You had mentioned earlier there isn't much going on soccer wise at the collegiate level, so I'm really curious about where your players will come from.
Right now we have about 15 guys with college experience committed to our team. We have a lot of players in the area who could have played in college or at a high level who just never had the means or resources to do so. There's lots of raw talent around here that we can really put to use.
Will you be doing some open tryouts to find these kind of players?
We currently have a list 31 players who have contacted us and are going to try out, but we will also hold open try outs. We have a ton of talent here so we are pretty happy with where we sit on the player front.
Do you see being able to use local players as an asset when it comes to marketing the team to the community?
Yes, absolutely! We want to keep everything on the Harbor from our marketing and sponsors to our players and coaches. This will help us to grow our fan base on the Harbor and continue to grow our local support group.
Not a bad plan at all. What are one or two things that have been easier than you thought about starting a team, and one or two things that have been more difficult?
We've been really happy with the amount of local publicity we have received. We have already been announced on the radio and we will be on live next week. We will also have a story in the local paper out next week. Also the amount of support in such a short amount of time has been great. As of right now, the most difficult thing has been waiting. We have been told "there is no reason" why we would not be accepted into the WWPL, but waiting for an official acceptance has been excruciating! I am sure as we get deeper into the financial aspect, that is where our difficulties will lie.
Lets start wrapping this up with some short questions. What's your favorite league and or team to watch for fun?
Ben's favorite club is Seattle Sounders FC, favorite league is the EPL, and my favrorite club internationally is Juventus
We're both huge Sounders fans, that's the club we support. I also started supporting Everton, and even got to go see a match at Goodison. I wouldn't say being an Everton fan is very fun...I try to watch Bundesliga when I can as well
The Old Lady? That's a first time answer for AP. Favorite players, one past, one present.
Forza Juve! And not just because they're a big club. Ben's favorite player currently is Paul Pogba and one from the past is probably Ronaldinho
That's a tough question for me. I think I have too many. Past: Zidane, present: Zlatan
The Sounders fan in me is saying past: Steve Zakuani and present: Clint Dempsey
Do you have any books or podcasts, soccer related or otherwise, that you would recommend to the people reading this?
Men in Blazers is hilarious. Mundial Magazine is a good one. I'd recommend the YouTube channel Become Elite to any young players or anyone interested in the life of a pro American player.
If you could meet one person from world soccer, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
For me it would be Zlatan. He's just such a character and I think it would be such an interesting conversation.
Where can be people find out more about you and the team online?
There is a story about our club by Goal Washington (to read, Click Here). We also have Facebook and Twitter accounts, and an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Closing question. What would you say to someone asking you, ‘why should I support an amateur soccer club, like Grays Harbor Gulls FC?’
Because clubs like ours play for their community. It's not about winning or trophies, although those are nice, it's about representing where you're from.
Alex, 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.