"It’s actually pretty legendary because no one else has this from the top teams all the way down to amateurs."
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Good morning everyone! It's Thanksgiving week, and because I'll be out of town in Cheyenne, Wyoming, this weeks interview is coming out a couple of days early. There's a lot of fun stuff in here and some interesting stories, including the one behind Washington Square FC's jersey sponsor, RedTube. Check it out.
Welcome to AP, Jon. Start by telling us a little about who you are, where you're from, and what your role is with Washington Square FC.
Sure thing. I am Jon Klippert from Cumberland, Maine. Before the amateur side of things, I went to Lasell College as a Captain for the Men’s Soccer team (Graduated in 2012). During that time I played on the PDL side, Portland Phoenix (2-years) and my club growing up was Coastal United from Maine.
Now, I am the manager & captain for WSFC. I joined our team which was formally AC Boston in the spring of 2013 through an ex-girlfriend, actually. I took over the team during the Fall BSSL Campaign of 2014 after seeing how I could improve it as I was unhappy with losing almost every game in the CASA & BSSL. I was able to snag players I knew from Club play but most importantly from Lasell because I knew them and in this type of league, I want to enjoy the last years competitive play.
With that, we have been able to snag additional players through that type of network, which has really helped us grow as a team and improve the side. We want to have fun but really want to win because we’ve all played at a high level somewhere along the way. Knowing the good ole days are dwindling, it helps with the culture of our side which is important.
Outside of work, I am a top sales rep at an IT Integrator out of Waltham. I travel 2-3 weeks out of a month on a plane so the BSSL is something I look forward after all the grinding that needs to be done in the real world. My teams I support are Bayern Munich as my family, starting with my great grandparents, are from Germany. In college, I had to pick an EPL side because no one wanted to watch German soccer, so I chose QPR, which has been basically a scene out of a horror film. Things start off well, but always ends with everyone dead and gone. Which explains why I have a Joey Barton jersey.
What's the history of Washington Square FC, or what's the story behind it's creation?
WSFC (founded in 2013) came out of AC Boston, but taking over I wanted to turn the page on a poor history, giving us a new name and something of a fresh start. We actually only have 3 people (myself included) from 2013 which is good but also shows how far we have come. Since I took over we have gone 4-4-1 (half of 2014), 14-3-2 (3rd place), and 15-2-2 (one game left today to hopefully clinch the title!) and are currently in first in our D3N division. But one really cool thing this year was our epic cup run in the BSSL Cup where we made it to the semis, beating a D1 team (Eagles) and a D2 team, Southie FC, who might be arguably the best team in the region. We were the first ever team from D3 to make it to the semis out of 40 teams.
The reason for the name was because prior to my new location in Brighton, we had about half the team living in Washington Square in Brookline, MA. Now we have a nickname as the Squares which is cool to have some type of brand behind our team. It gives us an identity which I think is key for any club.
Identity is always a good thing. And speaking of identity, I'm really curious to hear the story behind securing RedTube as the teams jersey sponsor. Where did that idea come from, and how in the world did you pull it off?
Sure, it’s a hot topic for sure. The thought came from one of our former players (tore his ACL) Jaime Skelton, a forward for us came from Union College and played there for 4-years, and has now moved to New York to do creative writing for big time shows. He knew a player from Lasell and went to HS together, so that’s how he came to us outside of our Lasell mold. He and I were slightly intoxicated one night with a few other players and we were joking about getting sponsored by a Porn Company.
We thought it would be funny but also, I thought of it as one of those jokes where it’s funny but would never happen. But Jaime has a great talent for writing and is one for great whit. So, he crafted a letter than he and I did some edits, took a screen shot and sent it to RedTube’s Twitter. Here is where we met Emma, who runs their social media account and as soon as it went up, we got over 50 likes and are still getting more. She DM’d us and I spoke with here about what would be in the details of the agreement. She was awesome and really helpful and to be honest, I still can’t believe it happened. It’s actually pretty legendary because no one else has this from the top teams all the way down to amateurs. It’s a bit odd to have it and some people think it’s controversial but let’s be real here, it’s a men’s league club and we have done something that is unique.
You wound up getting a jersey sponsor because of a drunken joke and Twitter?
Yeah it was a thing we joked about all the time, like, "can you imagine being sponsored by a Porn Company?" I mean they're a massive website, in the Top 10 for visits worldwide. So thinking they would let us have their sponsorship was super funny and we couldn't believe it when it finally happened. We reached out via Twitter because in times like these, companies have to be on Twitter. Since we're hip with that and see all these outrageous things happening, why can't we make it happen? It started out as a joke but once we got into the discussions with them, it became so real and now it's official!
Just goes to show it never hurts to try and chase your dreams, no matter how crazy it might seem. Have you noticed any increased interest in the team since all this has happened?
Exactly, we figured, what would be the worst thing? I mean it's caused so much interest around our team and increased our followers. We have even had coverage from a Men-IN-Blazers like show from Mexico. People asking for replica jerseys (which we're working on terms for) and asking to join from all over the state! It's super cool and since we're not pro's make it worthwhile. I mean we all want to do well and have fun, but this is a really cool bonus. It's helped with support from larger outlets like Non League Soccer as well who have been great. I think you'll see some cool stuff in the future from us to promote our team regionally because of the attention we have received.
You've built a pretty nice hype train for the team, that much is for sure. What division of the Bay State Soccer League are you currently playing in?
Thanks, it is pretty cool! I mean who doesn't want this for something you have built?
We were playing in D3N for the 3rd season of me taking over (2 1/2 with me at the helm). We won this past weekend which secured us promotion to D2, which is awesome. Last year we got caught up with red cards and due to that lost points which inevitably cost us the promotion. But I am happy that we didn't go up because we wouldn't have had the opportunity to have our historic cup run and a great campaign overall.
Very nice. How different is the quality of play between divisions in the BSSL? Is it pretty similar, or is there a marked difference?
Well it's for sure a different brand of soccer. In D3 we have seen is much less organized than the teams we've played compared to the ones in D2 and D1 from our experience in the cup. I would also add that players in those leagues mostly played at a high level in college. I know a few kids who played club with me back in Maine who were D1 stars and are in the top tier. It's noticeable but at this time in our lives it really comes down to work ethic and soccer smarts. You just need to be smart and work your ass off to be successful in a men's league like this.
It seems to me more and more that the BSSL might be one of the hidden gems of American soccer. Is that something you would agree with?
I think it surely is. It's so well run across all divisions and is always competitive. I mean if you take a look at the college layout or even the club level, some of the best soccer is in New England. Then when you add Boston, which is the main city in the area and the one most people flock to. It makes for a good amateur league. Playing soccer here my whole career, I think you can see it's one of the best regions in general for the sport.
What does fan support for the teams in general look like in your league, and for Washington Square in particular?
Normally it's not too big of a crowd. It's more of teams supporting each other on social media. For example, we're close with Sport Identity and Providence City FC. Fans for an amateur side tend to be social media based, but for us we have friends and family members attend games. Depending on the game, we'll have a range of 10-20 people. For our cup semi, there was around 30 people there to support both teams. But for this league it's hard because it's on a Saturday and most people have better things to do then watch some has-beens kick the ball around. But I hope when we have big games people come to watch because we have a good brand to draw some people. But for us it's about being a team and having fun together. We've had fans at our games before it's not the same.
Totally random question, but do you think there would be interest from people to go watch the games if their was something even higher to play for? Like promotion to a regional Northeastern League, for example, or something simple like more of a marketing push from the league itself?
So I think that would be a great structure. Like I could see if each state had a league like BSSL (Standard across the states) where you could connect the leagues when you have winners of each division. I mean the Open Cup is really all you have to play for at this level and even then you're up against teams from PDL/NPSL, which they're getting paid, to an extent. I would ideally like to unify one amateur league across the states and make it a national competition. Does that make sense? But if you did it down to regions/regional things that would be awesome. So if you take New England, D1 winners play for the cup and then all the way down to D3. So you can do it like a Champions League while competing in your local state league. In my head it makes sense and seems like a good idea.
Big things have small beginnings. Some one has to work on the idea to even begin advancing it. Anyway, back on topic. What are a few lessons you've learned, about soccer or about life, from being involved with Washington Square? Two from success, two from failure, if you can think of some.
Exactly, would love to see soccer over here become the prominent sport, but that’s a pipe dream. Kids play far too many sports and it’s not as cut throat where everyone gets a trophy or recognition. We need to take the best of the best and develop them with each other, hence why we see our top talent leave and play abroad. But anyway…. I think I have learned a few lessons along the way. It’s been a fun ride though. It’s much different managing a team then being a captain on a team. You have to do everything and not to mention with work now being a real human, it’s all about balance. Here are my examples below:
Success #1: Get the right people to fit the culture of the team. Like a business, you need people who fit with your philosophy and overall culture of the team. We have clearly done that and my success to that is keeping them within the network that I know. I feel like I played at a high level so the people I get are from there, which shows when I first took over and turned things around.
Success #2: I mean this is straight forward, but I think being honest with the players is key. I have been honest with people about playing time and positioning. Being the manager you get to choose the lineup and formation/tactics and sometimes you have to put players in different spot than what they’re used to. Also, this might change mid game. When you have people paying money to buy kits and league fees you need to let them know where you see them fitting in like any coach would. The players are all good friends of mine and we all want to win, so we have a great team with players who know their role. But sometimes we make tough choices, but our success has shown that because people embrace it.
Failure #1: Last year, I cost us promotion. It’s a tough subject to not only admit when you’re wrong but also when you are the leader and when you are who cost promotion, it’s even harder. Last year I got two red cards and we had a final one from another player which cost us winning matches and then losing points. I don’t think the guys know how much that bothered me but I had to change my attitude and how I approached the game this season. But this year, I got only one yellow all year and we had no reds. It’s a failure from last year but it still haunts me to this day. It was a rough period knowing I cost the team I created so much.
Failure #2: Can’t think of another one here. The first is one that’s a pretty solid one…
Great lessons learned right there. Where are you hoping to see Washington Square five years from now?
That's a great question. I actually had to think about that but also be realistic. I mean I hope we're still playing and we get even younger blood. My idea would be for this current team to age into the O30 league in 5 years for some of us and then keep the younger team (fresh out of college to 29) going. It would be cool to see it grow as a club but I would need some assistance to help run both teams. I think if you love the game so much you want to create something special. Not sure that is what WSFC is yet, but I sure love what I have here. Our brand and group of guys is something special and winning the league this year and our cup run is the most fun I have had playing the game in recent years.
Let's move into some easier questions. What's your favorite league and/or team to watch for fun?
Appreciate it and sorry if I went too crazy there. Anyway, I'm a Bayern Munich and QPR Fan. Relatives being from Germany we would always watch the Bundesliga (when we could) but I'm a huge Michael Ballack fan! Then when in school I needed to pick a team I chose QPR which might be the worst thing to do. But I was a fan of Joey Barton and still am. Not many people can say that but he's a special player in his own right. I think the Bundesliga should get more love than it does because it really is like the EPL with the physical aspects of the game. It's not quite there with the talent from each team but German plays are arguably the best in the world.
Favorite players, one past, one present.
As for favorite player now, current player: Phillip Lahm and past Michael Ballack.
Nice choices, not many people pick German guys. Do you have any books, soccer related or otherwise, that you would recommend?
I don't really have one. I read a ton of sales literature for work but I try to model what I do by myself. I mean I am going to read Joey's book and probably a few others but nothing of note.
Would you rather attend the Euros, AFC Asian Cup, or the World Cup?
Is that a real question.... WORLD CUP! Come on bro.
You never know. I've gotten at least one Euro, no takers on Asian Cup yet. Where can people find out more about you and about Washington Square FC?
True, I'll let it slide. You can find out more about us on the Facebook page. We really don't have an outlet to do that. Always wanted a team website but it takes more time. Who knows, this might be a launching pad for us. We're currently working on RedTube replica shirts for everyone which would require us to have some sort of internet presence to process these things because it's a massive market of opportunity to spread our team name.
Very true, good news is there are lots of tools to make that happen now. Last question. Why should people support teams and participate in soccer at the lower levels?
That's a good question! Well to be honest, if people love the game you should always play. If you have played for as long as most of the guys on our team have, you can't take the spirit out. You need that competitive aspect of the game. A league like this where this is promotion and relegation is perfect for that. Additionally, it's the best league in the state for after school. Amateur leagues have a huge role in the sport here in the states, more that people give them credit I think. You see players like Charlie Austin, Jamie Vardy, and the like who worked part time jobs and make it big. Why can't that some day happen here? It's important that players keep playing and raise the level of the game. Leagues like this only make it better for everyone else... COME ON YOU SQUARES!
Jon, thanks again for taking the time to do this. Remember, if you are enjoying the weekly content coming out on AP you can click here to Follow AP on Twitter, or here to Like AP on Facebook. The easiest way to make sure you never miss an interview, and get to read interviews before everyone, 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. Make sure to spread the word by sharing these interviews, telling friends about the blog, those kind of things. AP can't accomplish the goal of maximum exposure for all levels of the American Soccer Pyramid without YOU. Until next time, Stay Loyal, Support Local.