Doug Andreassen is the president of Washington Youth Soccer. In this edition of 10 Questions, Andreassen answers e-mails, including one asking for a few minutes to talk about the state of the youth game.
Each day, in addition to the correspondence dealing his two businesses, Doug Andreassen figures he gets between 30-50 e-mails about his volunteer work. That adds up to just short of 9,000 for the year. Such is life as the president of Washington Youth Soccer. Andreassen answers each one of those e-mails, including one asking for a few minutes to talk about the state of the youth game.
What moved you to first get involved in youth soccer?
My commitment to community, my commitment to the sport and my commitment to youth. Like most people in the youth community, my kids played soccer. When it came time for a coach, others stepped back and I stepped forward because I had played the game. After a number of years, I got into the administrative end, where I felt I could contribute. I was involved with the Fircrest Soccer Club, probably one of the smallest clubs in the state, for 15 years. I got involved at the association level, first as a representative, and served on that for two years before filling out the final two years of someone's officer term. Then I served as the association president for about 5-6 years, before jumping to Washington Youth Soccer.
Being a parent, it's hectic enough. What possessed you to have a go at the state presidency?
What spurred me on was I saw a number of things that I wanted improved at the state level. I own a couple businesses, and the state really wasn't being run as a business entity. We have a $3 million budget that we control directly and in this state, the clubs, associations and the state are a $35-40 million enterprise when you add it all up. I thought I've got time to serve and I wanted to see what I could do.
What can be done about it?
We're going to change the method of Washington Youth Soccer operations. We've been around for 41 years, since back when we had less than a thousand players. Now we have the same organizational structure but 130,000 players, and it doesn't work very well. It doesn't work well for making decisions, not for affecting the soccer landscape as it changes. So we're calling together our membership to say, we're going to present you with a new form of government, a new way of doing business. We've established a constitutional convention. Our first meeting is on Nov. 8 at the SeaTac Marriott Hotel. Members will be able to see what we've been working on for the past number of months, in an effort to provide them with a new form of leadership, of governance, that will really make them and us more reactive in how we serve the community, far better than what we do today.
The objective No. 1 for the association is to promote and develop the game. Tell us about a few initiatives toward that end?
First, we feel the connection with Sounders FC is a tremendous value to the Association. The more connections we have—be it with a professional club or the various colleges—enables kids and families to connect with those programs. If you have chance to take them to a collegiate program, even if we can get them a dollar off or something, those kids will be exposed to game at a very high level. Hopefully that will create a desire to move on and continue in the sport. Now with Sounders FC in town, it's best to push our initiatives forward.
People might say that given the numbers of youth playing, just keep on doing what you're doing.
We can't keep doing what we're doing. There are economic issues that are upon us. People's budgets are getting squeezed, whether they're a single or dual income, whether it's the cost of fuel, the cost of groceries or just the general cost of living. Families are starting to make decisions to not play the game because of economic factors. Mom and Dad are now sitting down at the table and saying they can't afford the $200 it takes to register their son or daughter for recreational soccer. Plus there are fuel expenses as well. That's just one part of it. The soccer landscape is also changing around us, with the U.S. Soccer Developmental Academy providing a whole different level of elite play. We've got to be able to grow and adapt and find different ways to get kids involved, get them excited about the game. Ultimately, no matter what level they play, we want them to become fans of the game. If they reach adulthood, and they want to give back to the game, to coach youth or just buy tickets and watch Sounders FC or the local college, so be it. We want them all to enjoy this game.
Was there any pre-existing tension in WYS reaching out to MLS?
There was some pre-existing tension on both sides. The tension on the Sounders FC side, you don't want the youth soccer to push them around and tell them what to do in regards to player development. These owners have put a lot of money into the program, and their hearts are definitely in the right place. In other states, youth organizations look at the professional club and see them taking their players and it's a sensitive issue. There are paid coaches who have been coaching these kids at a very, very high level. We've gotten over those hurdles; we've solved those issues. From the youth end, there was some tension, we said, 'Who are these guys? Can they form their own youth development programs?' We decided to sit down with the owners of Sounders FC, to ease those tensions and find a happy medium. Adrian, Joe and Drew Carey have actually gone way over and above to reach out to the youth game. They recognize what the youth community does and they believe we're important and that our contributions are important to Sounders FC. We've worked together.
Are there any existing relationships between associations and professional clubs, either in the U.S. or abroad, which resemble what is envisioned here?
I talk with my fellow state presidents—there are 55 of us—and nobody else in the United States that has such a relationship with an MLS team. We have great relationships with Adrian and Joe Roth and other people at Sounders FC. But there are no existing models out there. I've looked in Europe and there are some similar relationships. The European models don't fit, with their youth academies combining schools and soccer. What we're doing is the first of its kind.
If you're looking ahead what can Sounders FC do for WYS?
We're in discussions once a month with the people at Sounders FC. We talk about forming partnerships. We've already partnered Sounders FC with our youth academy training program at Starfire. Now they can come in and play under the Starfire and Sounders FC name. Another thing we have now branded our ODP with Sounders FC. Chris Henderson, the technical director, is helping to develop curriculum with Washington Youth Soccer. The kids in the ODP are now being trained and looked at in the method similar to what Sounders FC players will be trained. We already share an employee, Darren Sawatzky, and he's our bridge to the coaching staff with Sounders FC. When the ODP meets initially, they will wear the Sounders FC brand, which is a big deal.
Kids play, but eventually they move on. How does the Association go about re-connecting with those kids as they become ready to take on leadership roles?
We've started a program at Washington Youth Soccer that reaches out and touches our alumni. People who have played the game are now giving back to the community where they came from. All these people, these alumni, are reaching a point in life where they realize that Washington Youth Soccer provided them with a lot of initiative in their lives, and they want to give back now in many ways. We're seeing second and third generations coming through, and we're reaching out to those alumni and finding that now they want to help.
And how are they helping?
The first call we get is usually from someone who has young kids and they want to know how they can help coach. Jimmy McAlister was one of the first local players signed by the original Sounders. Now he's giving back, coaching for Washington Premier. A prime example is Adrian Hanauer. Adrian's a product of Washington Youth Soccer, and now he's now giving back to the game of soccer. Washington Youth Soccer affected his life at a very young age. He wasn't a great player but he discovered a passion for the game, and now he's got the resources and the desire to give back to the game. Now look what he's done for us in helping get us a Major League Soccer team. There are kids out there today who, 20 years from now, could be in the same position as Adrian Hanauer. That's why we need to nurture these kids. You never know what they're going to do in life.