One year strong with Players First: A Q&A with Kevin Payne

One year strong with Players First: A Q&A with Kevin Payne

Players First celebrated its first birthday two months ago, and since its launch at Nike World Headquarters in Aug. 2015, the platform has made significant progress.

Players First is a branded, holistic club soccer experience for parents and players, which emphasizes the development of each individual to his or her full potential, and helps parents make better choices about where their children should play.

An impressive list of partners have grown to cement themselves within the portfolio, as US Club Soccer’s way of providing clubs, coaches, parents and players with the resources they need to truly put Players First in youth soccer.

In no particular order, we’ve seen:

Outside of these valuable partnerships, US Club Soccer is also preparing Player Health & Safety summits and additional digital resources in the future. News about the highly anticipated Players First club licensing process is also coming soon.

The idea behind Players First came from US Club Soccer CEO Kevin Payne, who also has founding roles with Major League Soccer and D.C. United. In the Q&A below, Payne provides insight on not only the current state of affairs within the platform, but also future expectations and how Players First complements US Club Soccer’s vision, mission and core values.

First, are you satisfied with the progress of Players First through its first year and two months?
Kevin Payne: I am very rarely satisfied, and that is the case with Players First. I believe we have caused many in the soccer community to begin to think differently about the appropriate environment for young soccer players.  We’ve rolled out some exciting programs such as the LaLiga Formation Methodology courses, and provided new services to our member clubs and leagues, but we want to do a great deal more.

Personally speaking, have you had a “moment” where you realize the kind of impact Players First is having or soon will have?
KP: I have had a number of moments in which DOCs or coaches from our member clubs have approached me to discuss Players First, and have said how happy they are to finally begin trying to change the state of youth soccer for the better. I’ve also heard from experts in youth sports, and lots of parents, that they appreciate the direction we’re trying to head in.

What has been the biggest challenge US Club Soccer has faced in its Players First message?
KP: It’s difficult, given the size of our organization, to get a message like this out to everyone. We will keep pushing it out there, however, and are working hard to develop more resources to help us spread the word about Players First to soccer families everywhere.

US Club Soccer has a bold vision statement: “US Club Soccer will be the finest soccer organization in America and an integral part of U.S. National Team success.” How will US Club Soccer accomplish that vision?
KP: By remaining true to our vision, and to our mission and core values, and following through on the five pillars of Players First – Club Development, Coaching Development, Player Development, Parent Engagement & Education and Player Health & Safety.

In a recent letter to parents, you said: “We believe Player Health & Safety is our first and most important responsibility. To act otherwise would be irresponsible.” What do you want parents to think of when they think of US Club Soccer?
KP: I want them to think of Players First before anything else, because if we all focus on putting the best interests of the players above all else, we’ll be just fine.

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