My first experience with a youth soccer club started at the age of 4 with the local recreation club Montgomery Soccer, Inc. known to many of us in the Washington, DC area as “MSI” like the millions of other kids who have passed through the program. Like others before me, I played travel soccer in the National Capital Soccer League (NCSL) before it became a recreational league, because of the Academy system, to play for various clubs in the area like Bethesda, Potomac, Columbia, and Olney. I played for some of the best coaches in the area Richie Burke, Myron Garnes, Kab Hakim, Lincoln Phillips and many others.
Being apart of a club took me from a young boy to the University of Delaware where I became a man and became a 3 year letter-winner for a “College Soccer Coach” who was a Physical Education teacher. I left the team my senior year to focus on completing a degree in Business Technical Writing despite not having a clue about what I wanted to do next. Like my brother, I dedicated my degree to my mother who never earned one herself but who along with my father, sacrificed for my siblings to become successful in America after emigrating from Trinidad and Tobago to Canada in the 70s and to the US three months after I was born.
After graduating in 2004, like many of my 23 year old peers, I took a low paid position of $28,000 to work for Magellan Health Services in the research department where I only lasted 6 months before leaving. I didn’t like this job, not because the wages were low, but because I couldn’t see myself sitting in a cubicle for the rest of my life. I knew that my love and passion were geared towards coaching and giving back to those kids in the community who would have never got the opportunity to be introduced to soccer if I didn’t start a club.
Six years prior to starting QuickFeet Soccer Club, I spent time learning from one of the best skill development coaches in the DC metropolitan area, Myron. I lived in my parents’ basement at the time in Prince George’s County and we would drive to Herndon and Reston, Virginia to coach U-12 and U-15 boys’ teams. We’d leave by 2:30 pm from Bowie, MD to get to Virginia for a 6:00 pm practice, and if any of you know DC traffic which has gotten substantially worse since 2005, you have to leave that early to avoid traffic. The days were long, seven hours, but I wanted to learn from one of the best.
I’d become the Head Coach on the days when Myron had a conflict coaching between the two teams. I’d go everywhere with the two teams to Virginia Beach, Williamsburg, Tampa, FL, wherever. I remember one time at a tournament in my first season with the Herndon Revolution, the U-12 boys team, waking up at 7:55 am to get to an 8:00 am game because I didn’t hear the alarm, and I remember speeding to the game, not stopping on speed bumps, the car elevating off the ground to get to the game by 8:25 am just to see the look on the faces of the parents of anger and disappointment as another parent stepped in to coach until I arrived. I apologized, but let us be honest it has probably happened to you before. Travel takes a toll on you. We ended up losing the game 4-0 to a team from Beach FC.
The next game Myron had another conflict between the U-15 Reston United team and the Revolution, so this time I got to the game 2 hours before to make up for being late last game, good thing it was in the afternoon and not 8 am. The team had a great warm-up, the kids were sweating, passes were crisp well as sharp as you are going to get for a U-12 Division 4 team, and they were ready to play their final game of the tournament on that Sunday. Within ten minutes of the match the other team had scored two goals. I remember our Goalkeeper not being the most athletic kid in the world, so both goals were savable opportunities if only he were a bit more of an athlete. I didn’t know what to do, that weekend was my first time as a head coach. I hadn’t taken any licensing courses so I coached off of what I had learned from the game all of these years.
I remember during the first ten minutes of the match, a parent yelling across the field to me “Coach, get your foot out of your ass and get these players going”. I remember other parents chiming in and getting on my case across the field. It was a nightmare! We’d eventually lose the game 7-0, and one of the parents, the Treasurer of the team came over to me extremely upset with how the game went. THIS was my first tournament experience as a youth soccer head coach!
I stayed in Virginia for two more years but the drive started to wear on me and as for the parents. Hmm let’s just say that this was when I determined that coaching soccer on the youth level would become a THANKLESS JOB. Besides I didn’t want to spend 21 hours (7 hours a day, 3 times a week) driving to and from Virginia anymore, I enjoyed the experience but since I was planning on taking on a new position as a teacher at the Riverdale Baptist School in Maryland I knew that it was time.
Fast forward to 2011, the start of QuickFeet Soccer Club. Prior to the club I had started a training organization in 2006 that I still own to this day called QuickFeet Soccer Training. The training company started in my home county of Prince George’s, the same county where Kevin Durant grew up. I had four locations Laurel, Bowie, Upper Marlboro, and Fort Washington. All four locations provided me north and south access which enabled me to serve the entire county.
I loved the fact that my county was and is to this day 70% black because that meant that I could serve kids who look like me. My club was open to everyone of course, I had probably the most multi-cultural small club in the state. Every time we travelled for a game whether it was Calvert County or Frederick County where most of the kids were white, we left an everlasting impression that yes Black, Latin, White, Asian, and Arabian kids can all play together on the same team. It was a beautiful sight to see it was a true representation of America.
I would grow the club to 5 teams – 4 boy teams and 1 girl team combining for 60 players between the ages of 7-12 years old. Most of these kids came from the training organization as we also had a league that we operated throughout the four cities in the county for kids between 3-8 years old. The league travelled and gave the kids their first exposure to travel soccer.
The club featured players who would have been overlooked by local clubs like Freestate Soccer Club, now Maryland United, and even the local Boys and Girls Club. These kids were athletic and eager to play the game. To this day several have moved on to the DC United Academy, and one, Jonathan Godette who started at age 4, now 17, has had several trails in England and just accepted a full scholarship to play at Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, MD, a campus where I first visited at 12 to attend Lincoln Phillips’ Residential Soccer Camp.
The club was rolling, African American kids from Prince George’s who thought that basketball and football were their only options, started to believe in the sport and that yes they too could experience soccer like the others. Kids who couldn’t walk without tripping over themselves started to enjoy the new skills that they were developing. We started to build up a school field called Kingsford Elementary where we purchased two sets of goals (6 x 18 and 7 x 21), and built a shed to store our equipment. Then it happened! Not a vandal who would steal the equipment from our shed, but, a vandal from a bigger club, the Bethesda Soccer Club, who would begin stealing our better players by talking to the parents who I thought had the club’s back.
Bethesda was a club that I admired a lot and wanted the QuickFeet Soccer Club to model itself after. It was a club that my brother grew up playing for and one that several of the coaches in our association have or currently work for today. I played for the club as a kid for a season before one day I went to an overnight tournament in Virginia Beach at the age of 13, where I played a total of 10 minutes for three games at the tournament because the parent coach at the time, who like my college coach knew nothing about soccer, decided to play his son in my center-midfield position. I was better than his son, the team knew it, and my father who played for Fatima College in Trinidad and Tobago back in the late 60s knew it too. After playing only 10 minutes on Saturday, and not playing the entire first half on Sunday, my father was furious and called me over from the opposite sideline as the 2nd half began. He said, “Let’s go”.
Bethesda would bite me again 16 years later, but this time it was a former youth soccer teammate of mine who I played with in my last year as a youth player in Columbia, MD in the late 1990s. His name? Billy Brusch.
It happened in June of 2013. I had started a soccer tournament that year in Calvert County with Myron who was the Technical Director of the tournament host club, Patuxent Football Academy called the Calvert Beach Cup at the time. I’d always wanted to run a tournament, but didn’t know how, so we just did it. No business plan, no budget.
This was the first tournament so I decided to invite all of my former teammates who were now coaching as well as clubs throughout the east coast. I also entered two QuickFeet Soccer Club teams into the tournament but couldn’t coach them because the tournament needed me. We had 33 teams enter the tournament that year. It was a great start. I also invited Billy and his U-10 Boys team because I knew that Billy loved the game like me and that he would support the tournament.
The tournament was a success, we had four age groups and teams from New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia who took home the trophies. The two QuickFeet teams didn’t win their age groups, but the players had a great time and got to expose themselves to teams outside of the DC area and their league the Central Maryland Small-Soccer League (CMSSL).
During the tournament, I saw Billy talking to one of the parents on the team, Most Ray. I didn’t think much of it because I had known most my entire life and knew that he’d have my back. He had worked with my mother for several years at a non-profit organization in Rockville, MD and he was a great family friend. He had three boys in the club and the location of the club’s practice and home fields were about 3 miles from his home. Most was also an advocate for the club and one of the parents who encouraged me to start the club. I was happy just training players, but I guess the thrill of owning a club at the age of 27, and establishing a Board of Directors was just too exciting to pass up.
After the tournament I started to hear what I thought were rumors from parents that there were players who were considering leaving the U-10 team, one of the teams that one of Most’s sons played for. There were 12 players on the team and the core consisted of five players who if we had ranked the players would have been ranked 1-5 in the depth chart. Most’s son was among the five.
Later that August, the rumors became a reality. We were getting ready for pre-season training but were missing 2 of our better players. Most’s son was among the two. I hadn’t reached out to the boys and girls club to market this team that year because I thought that I had a committed 12. I also didn’t like to carry more than 12 players because I wanted the players to get a lot of time on the field to support their development. The remaining 10 parents started to question where the other two players were. I told them that I didn’t know. Eventually I would learn that they had officially made their transition to Bethesda and that the players had been training with Bethesda since the Calvert Beach Cup, but now they had finally made their move.
The remaining ten stayed on and we ended up adding one more player to the roster during the season. We had moved to the top division of the Central Maryland Small-Sided League after winning the second division the season prior, but when 1st teams for clubs far bigger than ours sent their best players, we were totally unmatched. That year we finished 0-9 and that was it. Parents were pissed. They gave me an ultimatum either we play to win or they leave. I was all about development.
We had a hard time growing, not only were players being recruited away from the U-10 team, but they were also being recruited from the U-11 and U-12 teams. Most was the common denominator, he had a U-12 son as well as a seven year old who played for the youngest team in the club. If a parent can’t see where their kids are going to be next year by having older age group teams in your club, then it makes it very hard to maintain a club. We began to lose more players than spots that could be filled. Prince George’s isn’t a soccer county, so unlike teams in neighboring Montgomery where Bethesda resides, and Howard counties, we didn’t have 30-40 players coming to our tryouts for 12 roster spots.
To this day, I would never blame Billy for what he did, although I was furious at the time for being undermined. He had done it to others before and after me. He would later apologize to me face to face, so we moved on. As for Most, I don’t blame him either, although he too undermined me, he was doing what he thought was best thing for his kids.
As for Bethesda, they have developed a vulture culture at their club, they now have Bethesda South which stretches into Northern Virginia and Bethesda North which stretches into Northern Maryland with a mindset of whatever it takes. Yet, I don’t blame Bethesda either, it’s just business. Since there are so many loopholes in recruiting at the youth level in US Soccer it makes it very easy to quite frankly do whatever you want. Bethesda’s revenue to date is $3.5 million a year including $1 million from their tournament, so really, what do they care? My club’s revenue was only $50,000 in its last year in 2013, not enough to make Maryland State Soccer Association smile as they collected $7.50 per kid and shared their revenues with US Soccer.
US Soccer and their inability to protect the smaller clubs makes me think to this day, why in the world would anyone want to start a youth soccer club in this country? I’ve always believed that in order for kids to play in their communities that US Soccer must protect the clubs that they play for, and if another club wants a player then that player should be valued monetarily, and there should be a transfer fee just like in Europe. Canada has even adopted this policy where grassroots clubs are paid if a player signs a professional contract. Toronto FC, 2017 MLS Cup Champions and finalist for the CONCACAF Champions League, have been a beneficiary of this program and has helped the smaller clubs to be sustainable.
There are so many kids out here in the country who want to play but never get the opportunity to do so because they aren’t good enough to make MD United or because they don’t have the money to afford Bethesda. We are fine and have remodeled QuickFeet’s structure to offer training programs for kids 2-7 years old in thirteen locations including two in Price George’s, throughout the DC metropolitan area including Potomac which is nearby Bethesda, this way when players move on to clubs, our organization is positioned to attain more. But for the kids in Prince George’s who had a club on the rise, one who gave African-American kids who wanted more than the Boys and Girls Club an opportunity to travel to away tournaments, a chance to make new friends, a chance to be a part of something special, unless someone else comes along to build a black run organization, then they may never get that chance again unless US Soccer implements policies to protect the smaller clubs.