In 2005 the local soccer community was looking for solutions to persistent problems plaguing the Santa Barbara youth soccer programs. The answers they found are charting a new course of cooperation, teamwork and collaboration for youth soccer in Southern California.
For years, several different clubs dotted the landscape of the soccer community, but the area’s population base wasn’t strong enough to make any of the teams truly competitive with the Los Angeles and Orange County powerhouses that ruled the sport.
As a result, Santa Barbara’s best and brightest stars were traveling south to join the stronger clubs, resulting in a hardship on families and a further lessening of available talent for the local teams.
So in 2005, leaders of the Santa Barbara soccer community decided to set aside differences and egos and together blaze a trail untaken by Southern California clubs. A new vehicle was chosen for the trip, and named the Santa Barbara Soccer Club (SBSC). While the journey isn’t over, the ride today is more enjoyable and the scenery is rich with the fruit of success.
In order to change the direction of local soccer, Santa Barbara SC took on a new structure, and a new philosophy.
What was clear was that the prevailing model would not work in Santa Barbara. What was needed was one club big enough to accommodate everyone on the drive toward excellence in youth soccer.
Everybody set aside any differences and decided to move forward. The pillars of the soccer community came together. The challenge was to create an environment where all these personalities who are driven to compete against each other could have some level of say and autonomy and feel like there was collaboration. A culture of working together was created.
Without a roadmap to lead the way, Santa Barbara SC created a unique structure for the club’s governance. Day-to-day operations and financial responsibility were handed over to the Operations Board chaired by Dave Odell. Soccer decisions, including coaching personnel, curriculum and the assignment of players to teams, were to be steered by A Coaching Director who would have the support of a Coaching Advisory Board chaired by Tim Vom Steeg. With the division of responsibilities, more people could be involved in making better decisions and in being more responsive.
Philosophically, the club set a new destination for its journey, led by Lloyd Biggs Coaching Director and after some time Billy Gallagher as an Asst. Coaching Director.
Santa Barbara SC has a unique structure because we are focused on development first. Our philosophy is focused around the development of the players. As coaches, we try to distance ourselves from the win; while always recognizing that winning is important for the player. Our goal is to help each player reach their personal potential. Not every player is going to be a college player or play on our white teams, but we know that there are players who love the game and want to be the best they can be.
In American youth sports there is a winning mentality and sacrifices are made to win games over the development of young players. A decision was made to begin and educate parents making development the focus. We are now beginning to see the fruits of this labor.
At the younger ages, Santa Barbara SC guarantees everyone plays by implementing a playing time policy. Playing time, touches on the ball, and confidence are key to player development. Santa Barbara SC emphasize individual technique and good decision making with and without the ball. Speed, agility and quickness training are incorporated into every session.
Because of the commitment to player development, Santa Barbara SC began to make a significant investment in coaching.
Before 2005 each coach had to coach three teams in order to generate enough income. On game day, the chance of the coach actually coaching the team was about 33 percent.
The model we came up with was to have age group head coaches. Where the goal would be to have a head coach who would be in charge of one team and oversee the other teams in that age group with an assistant coach. No head coach would be in charge of more than two divisions and therefore would be in charge of no more than two teams. As a result, every team has a coach who is with them for all of their practices and all of their games. Financially, the club had to step up to that model. The model also allows Santa Barbara SC to develop coaches.
It was not long before affirmation of this new model was realized by way of an invitation to participate in the Western College Development Academy (WCDA). Also 2010 saw the BU12 White team crowned Regional Champions along with 19 of Santa Barbara SC’s alumni moving on to Division 1, 2, 3 and NAIA colleges. In 2012 the BU14 White team won the US Youth Soccer National Championship, a feat that was repeated in 2013 when the BU15 White team again won the national title.
2013 was a paticularly exciting year as Santa Barbara SC was also invited to be a part of the US Soccer Development Academy at the U14 age. The US Soccer Development Academy is the elite player development program and gaming circuit for boys soccer in america. The program was craeted to directly feed the US Soccer National Team Programs.
With success in the rearview mirror and a team of talented people all pulling in the same direction, the road ahead for Santa Barbara SC looks bright. Hopefully lighting the way for the future of youth sports in Santa Barbara and beyond.