Soccer On The Bayou: An Interview with Jonathan Rednour, Commisioner of the Louisiana Premier League
Welcome back to the Pyramid ladies and gentlemen. Thanks to the gents over in Mobile, I got connected over the last couple of weeks with a man named Jonathan Rednour. Now Jonathan is the commissioner of the Louisiana Premier League. Currently the league featuers five teams from across the state and is looking to add more, not just in Louisiana, but throughout the deep south. I got to ask him the league, how Louisiana fits into the soccer landscape, and learn about the challenges of starting a soccer team from scratch, even if it's an amateur one. Interview after the break
American Pyramid: Welcome to American Pyramid Mr Rednour. Tell me a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you're from, what your role is with the Louisiana Premier League.
Jonathan Rednour: I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Raised in a small town about 30 miles west of the city called Laplace. I'm the store manager at Third Coast Soccer's Metairie location and coach high school soccer on the side. I sit on the executive board as Adult Competitions Commissioner for the Louisiana Soccer Association. My role with the LPL (Louisiana Premier League) is I am the LSA rep who oversees the league, so technically the "commish".
AP: Alright. When did you first get interested in soccer in general and running/founding a soccer league in particular?
JR: Coming from a small town dominated by football and baseball, soccer wasn't too popular, and by that I mean almost non-existent. I remember seeing the 1994 World Cup in the paper or on the news, I do recall watching parts of the Colombia/US game, but it wasn't until I moved to the city that I really got introduced to the sport. A few of my neighborhood friends were year round players, so when high school came around (circa 1997) I wanted to do what they were doing so I joined the high school team. From there I began to pay attention more and gradually started understanding the game. 2002 WC was my first WC watching experience and luckily for me it was one to remember.
How I got involved with founding a state wide soccer league probably stems from my involvement with high school soccer. We have a website (laprepsoccer.proboards.com) that all of the local coaches use to stay connected and over the years I've spent a good amount of time scouting the local scene, which has allowed me to monitor the level of play from kids ranging 15-19 years old. Louisiana only has three college programs, and the fact that Louisiana is the state with the most in-state students, majority of these kids opt to quit training after high school.
But in their defense, there isn't anything for them. Thus the LPL was born. I presented the idea of running a state wide U23 league to my friend Jeremy Poklemba, who is the manager for Pool Boys FC, and he insisted I put my name in the hat for the adult commissioner position with the LSA (circa 2011). After joining the LSA, the Adult VP and I sort of brainstormed and came up with the LPL concept. From there I've just been running with it.
AP: What are the three college programs in state right now?
JR: LSU Alexandria (NAIA) Louisiana College (NCAA DIII) Centenary (NCAA DIII)
AP: Interesting. You're not the first guy I've talked to who is trying to get a higher level of competition going after their own playing experience in school. Now tell me about Louisiana. I know that at least when I think about soccer and the United States, Louisiana is not the first place that comes to mind as being a hotbed of players or support.
JR: You would be surprised of the level of play in Louisiana. I don't think we offer a plethora of talent, but we have a decent amount of players that have the ability to play beyond the college game. Again, we have nothing here in-state that offers anything for them to continue to improve their game beyond 18 years old. To be honest 16 is where we start to see the decline. However as for support. That's an uphill battle we're slowly trying to overcome. Creating a club culture is one of our main objectives.
AP: How would you like to see your league help the state grow it's soccer footprint?
JR: I think my dream vision of how I want this league to do its part is one day I'm standing in the stands of 1,000 people, with the local club supporter group causing raucous, the kids off to the side playing possession, the crowd is electric while they cheer on their local guys who are proudly wearing the crest, going 120%, and the competition is fierce. I want our clubs to be more than Sunday teams. I want them to use these teams to funnel their youth talent in to. Offer that 16 year old kid who is playing up on the U18 team, and still dominating, a chance to play along side some highly seasoned players and really test his ability. Push these players to be better. Push the community to show their support.
AP: How do the local communities seem to respond to the idea of having a soccer team in town?
JR: Luckily three of our teams are created from youth organization so they already have a fan base, well sort of. We're still in the early stages of this league so as our teams grow we hope they are able to market themselves and start developing a presence in their communities. I think last year we averaged 20-50 per game. A number that needs to multiply by 10.
AP: What exactly do you do to help drum up support for the league?
JR: Social media and just reaching out to any and all entities I feel that could benefit from what the LPL offers.
AP: Why should the average soccer fan care about a league in Louisiana?
JR: This is a hard one. As this sport continues to grow, the average fan dynamics are changing. Currently I think with the emergence of FIFA (EA) and BPL (Barclays Premier League, the top league in Britain and considered to be the best league in the world), Bundesliga (Germany's top league), Champions League, etc.... games now being televised in the U.S. a lot of these newly captured fans are indulging in the top leagues. Which is great! However if they were to scratch the surface and see how these teams got to greatness or where those players started their careers they may see that supporting a local club is extremely valuable in assisting their community to produce a better product. Jamie Vardy is a great example of a player who climbed his way through the ranks of amateur soccer to becoming the leading scorer in the BPL. I bet Sheffield Wednesday are kicking themselves. We may have our own Jamie Vardy just needing that extra nudge. Local support gives our teams the means to offer more.
AP: What do you think about the new team up in Shreveport?
JR: The NPSL team? I think it's a great thing, but I'm weary of organizations jumping right in to the mix without even testing the waters. It costs around $50k+ to keep a NPSL team afloat. I would have like to see them create a non-league season where they just spent a spring/summer playing some local teams and gauging the outcome. I hear they're in good hands so I think they can get over the hump.
AP: What kind of advantages would you say the LPL has over other leagues the NPSL or PDL?
JR: I think the biggest challenge for NPSL and PDL in our region is travel. The NPSL has added 2 new teams in two gulf states so it's growing but it's still a stretch for teams without a $50k budget. The LPL offers a low cost, more local, competitive environment. It gives the youth clubs in our state a chance to offer a semipro-like outlet to the players they've trained all their lives and some of these top amateur clubs a more competitive outlet.
AP: Where are all of the leagues teams currently located?
JR: Boca FC Knights (Shreveport), Cajun SC (Lafayette), Lake City Gamblers (Lake Charles), Motagua New Orleans, Pool Boys FC (Alexandria)
AP: Cast a vision for me: Where would you like to see the LPL in 5 years in terms of growth and visibility?
JR: 10 teams, each teams averaging 500 fans per game, 2-3 local players a year advancing their game to the USL/NASL/MLS ranks. Possibly a promotion relegation with geographical regions within the state as the second tier, city leagues as third tier.
AP: Do you have any plans for expansion? I know you might not be able to answer that, but I have to ask.
JR: We are all about expanding. Boca from Shreveport is a new team. We had two teams from Houma, LA and Biloxi, MS who were set to join but pulled out last minute. With the emergence of AFC Mobile we will be looking to have them aboard if they so wish. As mentioned on our website under our expansion page we want our surrounding neighbors to grow with us.
AP: That sounds like a solid, realistic vision. Alright, time for the Bonus Questions: Who's your pick to win the MLS Cup this year?
JR: Red Bulls seem to be the front runner. Tough to say.
AP: What's your favorite book, regardless of genre?
JR: No favorites. Anything that challenges me to see the world in a different light.
AP: Who's your favorite current soccer player?
JR: Current? Man, I'd have to say Ibrahimovic. All-time is Ronaldinho.
AP: Do you have a favorite soccer book, movie or podcast?
JR: No favorites. I enjoyed soccernomics. I enjoy reading the opinions of other fans and info on our amateur/semi-pro level. So blogs like this are where I like to look for reading material. YearZeroSoccer comes to mind.
AP: Soccernomics is a great book. If you're reading this, and you like reading and like soccer, go buy that book. Anyway, what's your favorite league/team to watch and why?
JR: Arsenal, because I've always enjoyed their playing style and Thierry Henry was a player I enjoyed watching. Champions League games are what I try to tune in to more than any other league.
AP: Where can people find out more about yourself and the team?
JR: Our website is www.lplsoccer.com/
Like us on Facebook www.facebook.com/lplsoccer
AP: Thanks for all of your time Jonathan. I think you've said a lot that casts light on what exactly soccer in the US looks like in the weird gap between being amateur and being professional. Go like the Louisiana Premier League on Facebook, support the team closest to you, and find ways you can be involved. As always, like the American Pyramid on Facebook, www.facebook.com/americanpyramid, and don't forget to comment with any questions you'd like to see asked of these owners and commissioners about what it's like to do soccer in the American Pyramid. Until next time.