Editor’s Note: US Club Soccer continues to showcase the growing community of Players First-licensed clubs. Arizona Arsenal SC was one of the first clubs to get licensed, and club directors and staff continue to take advantage of Players First offerings to the fullest.
Question: One of the Players First philosophies is: “Players First represents our club’s commitment to placing the long-term interests of each individual player at the heart of every decision in structuring, operating, and managing our club.” Why does your club feel the need to focus on the long-term interests of each individual player?
David Belfort, Technical Director: Arizona Arsenal Soccer Club feels the need to focus on the long-term interests of each individual player, because at the foundation of what we do it is about the players. Their experiences, their opportunities, their lessons and their memories.
At Arizona Arsenal Soccer Club, we strive to maximize player potential and give them as many resources possible to be successful, prepare them for college soccer, and life.
Question: How does the Players First philosophy relate to your club’s mission?
Belfort: The mission statement of Arizona Arsenal Soccer Club is: “honor the past, be grateful for the present and be striving for the future of Arizona Arsenal Soccer Club.” We feel that this relates to the Players First philosophy, as we work tirelessly to improve our environment, our coaching education, our programming and the experience we can give to our players.
When we talk about striving for the future we know we have areas that can be improved. When we hit certain benchmarks, we then want to improve on those benchmarks and reach higher ones.
This drive to do this benefits our players first-hand from what they experience at our organization.
Question: If you could “shout out” one member of your club (could be a player, coach or parent) for representing Players First in the best way possible, who would it be and why?
Belfort: At Arizona Arsenal Soccer Club, we have a ton of board members, directors, coaches, goalkeeping staff, strength & conditioning staff and parents that I could mention that truly #bleedTEAL to represent Players First in the best possible way, and that is one of the things that makes Arizona Arsenal Soccer Club special.
That being said, one coach that we could highlight is pro staff coach and Arizona Arsenal Soccer Club alumni Jake Zimmerman. For the 2020-21 season, coach Zimmerman will be working with our 2011 Boys Teal, 2010 Boys Teal, 2009 Boys Pre-ECNL, 2008 Boys ECNL and 2005 Boys ECNL teams. Along with doing this, he is also our field manager at the facility we operate in Paloma Soccer Complex.
The commitment that he shows to his teams, players and our facility is second to none. He works tirelessly in all facets of what he does!
Question: What does Players First mean to you? Why is it important for your child to play soccer with a club that has met the standards of a Players First club?
Geoff Borger, President of the club and parent: Arizona Arsenal Soccer Club says it always puts the kids first, and I believe this shows up in several different ways. The focus from our technical director down is on the entirety of the youth – not just the technical soccer aspect. The club focuses on community, leadership, volunteerism, charity, as well as instituting a wonderful curriculum that enriches the players’ soccer technical skills and full-body well-being and health.
Question: Players First clubs are committed to placing the long-term interests of each player at the heart of every decision in structuring, operating and managing the club. How do you see this in your child’s experience?
Gretchen Thompson, Vice President of the club and parent: My children are seven years apart in age and are at different stages in their development. Regardless of the age and the skill level, both of my children feel at home when they are on the Arsenal fields at Paloma. They each feel connected to their teams and to their coaches. During this unique time of being locked down in a pandemic, they have stayed connected (virtually) to their teammates even more than they have connected with their friends from school. Arsenal has given each of them a sense of community and togetherness that will serve them for many years. As a club, we use the hashtag #bleedteal, which describes how being an Arsenal player has penetrated the player’s soul and that feeling will stay with them for a lifetime. Both of my children have the pleasure of being coached by coaches who were once Arsenal players. They are two of many previous Arsenal players who now coach for the club and give back to the community and game that helped shape them as human beings.
Question: What aspects of your child’s soccer experience are most important to you, and why?
Thompson: It is most important to me that my children have and help create a positive holistic experience. I want them to have fun while they develop a love for the game, appreciate competition, be a disciplined hard-working teammate, learn to win with grace and lose with pride, cultivate positive relationships, and understand there are many types of personalities and they must work to each one’s individual strength for the good of the team. As each of these is achieved, the player will enjoy the game and love what they do.
Question: How do you feel your club best exemplifies a Players First club?
Summer Anderson, pro staff coach: Our organization has always been built around community and serving our membership. The forefront of what we strive to do at Arizona Arsenal Soccer Club is create a culture that is unshakable and that starts with the vision of our leadership.
Question: One of the Players First philosophies is: “Players First represents our club’s commitment to providing a holistic approach in player development for all of our players, recognizing that the soccer experience must include lessons and opportunity both on the field and off.” Why do you believe teaching your players lessons that will help them both on and off the field is important?
Anderson: As a coach, my philosophy has always been to develop the total person. Everyone will play their last soccer game at some point in their life. The most fulfilling part of coaching to me is far more than winning games; it’s watching players win in life (college, careers, family etc).
Question: How do you best teach these types of lessons at practice? Feel free to share a story or give an example.
Anderson: We strive for excellence in every training session. Our training sessions are fast-paced; we focus on the details of the game. We create game-like situations that require players to problem solve with their peers and deal with adversity like they do in games and in life.