*Count To Three*
You would not believe how many time, the moment I wake up, I have to go through this process, follow by this simple question:
Is this real life?
Several months ago I embarked on an endeavor a challenge, a goal; to develop women’s soccer at the premier level in the City of Fountains; known commonly as Kansas City.
Versus coastal cities in the United States, and the soccer havens of Europe and South America, the United States; let alone Kansas City wouldn’t seem to be ideal for soccer, especially women’s soccer.
Turns out that you, myself, and the rest of the world have been proven wrong. In the month of November in 2012; the Kansas City Shock has existed for a total of nine months [taxable existence at least]. It started as a simple tweet following the United States versus Canada “Welcome Home Tour” following the 2011 Women’s World Cup.
It has since manifested into a thought, a passion; that has been felt worldwide: literally.
In recent months we’ve teamed up with the same goal keeping glove company that sponsors MLS All-Star Jimmy Neilsen of Sporting Kansas City. I’ve traveled from Washington, D.C., to Dallas, Texas, to Baltimore, Maryland, all the way to Los Angeles, California; just to discover more about women’s soccer and what makes it tick [and what holds it back] in respective markets.
The consistent theme has been overwhelming:
Women’s soccer is similar to the youth player that doesn’t go towards the ball to meet it, but instead waits and anticipates that the ball will make it to the player. In a similar sense women’s soccer programs do not market themselves to a community, but instead expects the community, usually via youth clubs, to come directly to them.
I’ve learned very quickly that it isn’t the realization that Kansas City is opposed to women’s soccer, it’s merely the fact that they didn’t know that women’s soccer could exist at a premier level. With Sporting Kansas City’s new stadium, the Missouri Comets doing well [Major Indoor Soccer League] and both Major League Baseball and the National Football League local franchises failing miserably the atmosphere was and still is primed for our entrance.
In this update; I’d like to look at three primary areas: Office, Field, and Community
Office: The ‘office’ is where I spend my time. As the owner I don’t really ‘see the field’, but I see everything behind the scenes. At the moment it specific involves one of the biggest projects that we’ve completed to date: the 2013 Sponsorship and Budget Package. This packet [which is downloadable in our ‘downloadable documents’ section of our webpage] holds the key figures of our 2013 season when it comes to the budget, and also the several packages that we offer by ways of sponsorship. The pricing of these packages range from $20,000 to $100; some include jersey identification, some are just a one time deal; because businesses vary so much in size; it was believed that we should be able to offer something for everyone. Additionally, after gazing through the packages; you’d discover the the next page had a lot of numbers: our budget. It was also a belief in integrity to say that any business that invests with our company, deserves to know where their money is going, so the budget is outlined in this package and for those who invest; there will be a monthly budget report that is sent to each one. My thought was simple:
If we’re a business designed around honesty and integrity; there’s no reason to hide our information.
It was a page taken out of a painful divorce with my ex-wife. It was common knowledge in our relationship that she had free access to my cell phone, laptop, Facebook, e-mail, etc…I wanted to be sure that trust was always amplified in our marriage. While the marriage didn’t work out; I don’t see why the concept of good business ethics wouldn’t. It was a huge, daunting task. It still it. Just building the budget from what little we knew was a challenge [we still don’t even know our traveling schedule for next summer], and then our wonderful, wonderful allies at Weber Creative Arts; a business that got its kick-start from building our logo, built our package, visibly from the ground up. Rest assured, if you’ve downloaded the package you can see that the detail is absolutely incredible, rich, and vibrant. Make no mistake; that’s what our generation can offer. I love watching reactions of people when they learn the average age of our staff, and then businesses like Weber Creative; no different.
Now the next mission from the office has been simple, yet difficult; get businesses to buy in. Currently, our budget sits at $72,600 USD. A third of that is just for traveling due to our remote location. Some companies have spoken with us [again, we’re going out to those companies, not waiting for them to come to us], but many of them agree that they’ll need to look back at the topic in the beginning of the 2013 fiscal year after their books are closed for 2012. Thankfully, in that sense time is still on our side. One of the more remarkable stories out of this so far has been the individual, who is one of our Lifetime Ticket Holders, he is not just a ticket holder; he’s dedicated towards this success. He’s even been meeting with the supervisors of his business in Kansas City, looking for sponsorship opportunities as well. I don’t have all the right answers in this area, but I can already tell you that I have the right people who are dedicated towards the dream to make it happen.
Along with the financial workings with the office, comes the legal stand point from tryouts being announced; liability waivers, tryout information [this side done by our head coach], and the list goes on. It’s been incredible to be able to actually spend some time working with the vice-president of USA National Deaf Soccer Program; in his ‘other job’ he is a lawyer, and knows a ton of sports legalities. He loves our passion, our drive, and our goal and thanks to Google Chat, we can converse in the mornings on the proper terminology to make sure that this L.L.C [the actual business identity] is protected on the legal side. Realistically; I’ve never been more grateful then now for obtaining that degree in Political Science in college.
However, I’m not literally cooped up in a office when I’m working; I tend to be traveling to Kansas City using technology as my guide. This Thursday I’ll be attending an event called KCnext. An event that’s designed specifically at networking with local technology companies. Since our program was build originally through the means of social media; I firmly believe that we must stay on the up-and-up 24/7 with technology. Kansas City is quickly becoming one of the technology hubs of the United States. Unlike soccer as a whole [globally], I refuse to allow our program to fall behind in the tech field. In order to dare to be different one must be able to think outside the box and approach it via every angle.
Coaches: To make up for the stress that was associated with bringing in the sponsorship package, we also have taken some time in recent months to pull in aspects of our coaching staff. Again, similar to about everything else that is associated with the Kansas City Shock, we went a little ‘out of box’ when looking at who we wanted to be the represented figure head, along with head coach of the program. Much of this was discussed in my most recent entry of here.
The town that she resides from [and I do mean a small town] is foaming at the mouth since the release of her coming on board. I mean, in some of these rural locations; it’s a huge deal. Furthermore, the continual praise that we’re receiving for bringing on someone who is local, and someone who can grow with the program is incredible. Additionally, her and the rest of our coaches [that I can’t say much about at the moment because we haven’t released the information on them], span three separate countries in North America; not to shabby for Kansas City being viewed by many as lacking in…diversity. Coach Ortiz will also be at the NSCAA convention in 2013, along with our General Manager, Assistant Coach, and Director of Marketing. I’ve been so, so pleased with our coaching staff. At the moment we have our head coach, assistant coach, and a strength/conditioning coach. Interestingly enough, all three knew each other in college [though there is some time between all of them], and even more incredible to me is that the assistant coach we brought on went fishing in the same village that I lived in, in Mexico. Realistically, you can’t make up those kind of stories. We’re a unique bunch, but all three of our coaches have the same exact concept: be a coach, don’t worry about the paperwork [my job], and make sure that we’re ready to wipe the floor with any and every team we come across. The fact that tryouts are being held outside at the wishes of Coach Ortiz on the last week of December is both impressive, and straight up terrifying due to what our winters can be like in the area. However, when Coach Ortiz simply stated this one thought, I knew we were on the same page:
I need an open field to view. If the players want on the team that badly, they’ll go the extra mile and make it work in the dead of winter.
Community: We’ve had a mobile app that’s been priced to us for building at $108K USD. I’m not making that up, and that’s discounted. The community, blending in with sponsorship, partners, and everything in between can become very daunting, very quickly.
While I could go into a five hour description of what we’ve been involved in; I’ll just give you a few highlights:
- Back In The Swing: This was one of the first very big moments for our organization. I’m not familiar with the process world wide, but October out here is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. There is a specific, nationally known organization that is based in Kansas City called Back In The Swing. I had the honor to meet with their president because our crew had created a unique shirt with a unique thought. Throughout the country side, from city to city, NFL, MLB, and everything in between October has become, in my opinion, a month to get a ‘quick buck’ by selling things that are pink. As the only women’s athletic organization in Kansas City; it’d be ludicrous to ignore the realization of this horrible disease. However, due to the integrity aspect of our program; I didn’t want us to fall into the trap of selling something pink for one month, getting a few dollars, and calling it good. That’s when Jamie Wiling; our Director of Marketing came up with this shirt: When we placed this shirt on our Facebook page, our 400+ fans went nuts, wanting to know when they could buy the shirt. The shirt still isn’t for sale because the president of Back In The Swing needs to meet with the board; why? Because a specific amount of proceeds from this shirt will go directly to that organization. That’s nice, but the other catch is really the big one. We will offer this shirt eleven (11) months out of the year. Which month will we not? October. It is a direct jab at companies who want to profit off of the misery of families and victims of breast cancer. It falls back to the Dare to be different mindset. Hopefully these shirts will be ready prior to Christmas [yes, we do ship internationally], and my biggest hope is that people will quickly realize that we’re not here to conform, we’re here to be just a little different from the status quo.
- As noted above; I’ll be attending a meeting of the ‘tech groups’ in the Kansas City area; including the company that gave me the bid on our mobile application. Because our program revolves so much around technology, and the holds onto the idea that women’s soccer can have a niche in the technology world [actually taken out of the pages of the defunct-WPS]; it’s imperative for us to be represented in these lectures. The other reason? Do you know how much money is in the tech industry? That’s a great opportunity to get our name out to potential sponsors.
- Press Release: Every so often, such as the event with the tryouts [referred to as #whiteout12 due to the thing being in the middle of winter], we are sure that our information gets dispersed throughout our media contact list [well over 80 media outlets and growing]. However, as we learned last week, what happens to the information after that; it’s completely up in the air. A few days ago, more so for entertainment then anything else, I typed “Kansas City Shock” into Google and hit search. While it was immediately awesome to find our webpage as the number one result through that search, it was what I found down the map that was extremely pleasing. One of the media outlets; Women Talk Sports, had picked up our flyer and press release and had it on their site. This pleased me to begin with. However, as I continued my adventure through the Google giant, I started to see repeat links to WTS, our homepage, and even my personal blog. It was when I finally clicked on a page that I wasn’t familiar with and my Google Translator kicked in to full drive. Somehow, someway this release about the tryouts had ventured out far enough that it was now being translated in areas where English may not be the primary language. Of course, I say the more the merrier. We move these releases through at a constant basis, but just now; especially after the release of #whiteout12 are we really starting to see the surge in feedback across the nation and world. Just today I received a message that our Director of Media found, the player that was interested is from Nebraska; that was after we received another message from the state of Delaware. Make no mistake; when you put the effort in; your information will be spread. It’s just natural to do so in today’s globally driven media.
- Again, one of the things that comes with community, is recognizing who your community is. Originally, and still very much true; the concept of our outreach was to the people of Kansas City, and to the people of the Great Plains. This hasn’t changed. What has changed was realizing that even though we may have ‘wanted’ tunnel vision, women’s soccer is growing so rapidly at the grassroots level that people are just looking for teams and fields. This is why I’ve been in contact with players and managers from Australia, clubs in England, and connections in Sweden. I don’t have immediate, 100% good answers on moving players around, but I’ll guarantee you this: if our coach sees the film, like the player, and wants it to happen; we’ll find a way to get the player. One of the biggest Catch 22 ideas with our program is understanding that our budget is low due to the fact that we cannot pay players due to collegiate players being on our roster [potentially], but when we can’t pay our players and there lies the potential for a player to come in from another country; that shakes everything up.
- Local Business+International Experience=Success. It’s a formula that is basic, and something that I’m hoping will breathe additionally success into the program. I am a huge advocate of local businesses; teaming up with Weber Creative Arts, Pro Ebiria Gloves, and even Freebirds all revolve around the same theme: local. Kansas City and the surrounding area has so, so much to be proud of and I want to flaunt that to the best of its ability. Because of that, when/if the international player comes about, we have actually developed a position within our crew that is designated towards keeping in contact with the player, working on finding them housing and employment well beyond their expected time of arrival. Of course, this is all theoretical at the moment as we haven’t had to make this process, but part of me is very, very curious about the process and to see it work. Currently we’re in the ‘trial’ phase with a potential player from another state that would be looking to relocate to this area. However, to do that, they would have to find new employment that mimics their current job. So, with the amazing assistance of our staff and outside sources; there has been a task group at work just looking to find employment for this one player. Understand, this, mixed with the budget is one of the most frustrating tasks out there. I absolutely hate how my head coach isn’t paid full time, I hate how our players cannot be paid, and I hate how I know that some leagues/programs look at this and just chuckle. I’ve already made it very, very clear: WHEN we are profitable, I will not cut myself a check until the IRS [Internal Revenue Service] legally requires me to cut a check. My goals are simple; full time coaching staff, a budget paid a year ahead, and investments into areas that’ll continue to move us in the direction of a professional league when it is ready to launch. I don’t have to be successful as an individual, but the Kansas City Shock and Kansas City must be successful as a unit.
Make no mistake, this is an absolute daunting process. We’re still trying to find our sponsors, get ready for tryouts, we have four people heading to a convention the third week of January [NSCAA], and myself and our Player Resource Manager, Darci; will be heading to Las Vegas the weekend after that for the Annual General Meeting of the Women’s Premier Soccer League [WPSL]; add into the complexity of that our season starting in May, the new professional league lurking around the the United States as well, and it makes for a bit of anxiety in the office.
However, it’s hard to look at the growth of the Kansas City Shock and simply just stop.
We’ve come so far since the beginning, why stop now? We have no reason to.
Finally, I’ll leave you with a few pieces of ‘eye-candy’ thanks to Weber Creative Arts. Our ‘winterized’ logo for #whiteout12 and our official #whiteout12 flyer.
Be sure to keep up with us on Twitter (@kcSHOCK_WPSL) and Facebook (Facebook.com/KansasCityShock}, and as always be sure to follow my continued chaos as well (@CoachDaugherty).