I first heard about the San Diego Flash through a social media online network known as Twitter in the spring of 2012. Warren Barton, who I had recently starting following, tweeted something about a tryout for those late bloomers like myself, who managed to fall through the cracks (chasms really) of the American soccer system. As a player this instantly appealed to me and I began to look into this club that was offering this unique and fairly outlandish opportunity. As I delved deeper into the history of the club I began to get a tingle up my spine as I realized exactly what I was dealing with.
The San Diego Flash is a Men’s Outdoor Professional Soccer Club based in San Diego, California. They were originally founded in 1998, but folded in 2001 due to lack of suitable infrastructure. After a period of 8 fallow years the team was resurrected in 2010 by a new ownership group spearheaded by Clenton Alexander, a former investment banker, and including Warren Barton himself as head coach and other highly reputable soccer personalities like former US international and San Diego native, Eric Wynalda. The Flash returned to competitive play in 2011 when they made its debut in the Southwest Flight of the West Division of the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), the fourth tier of the American soccer pyramid.
Since returning to competitive play, the Flash, lead by Barton and assistant coach slash former Flash player Jerome Watson, have taken their opponents largely by storm. Winning the Southwestern division of the NPSL last season in 2011 with a record of 12-1-1 and advanced to the playoffs where they narrowly lost out to the reigning champions, the Sacramento Gold. This season the team is currently 8-1-0 on a 7 game winning streak and have only conceded 4 goals whilst banging in 31(!!) up the other end. The Flash, while dominant on the pitch is still looking to improve and expand as a brand in their home city. The people behind the scenes are working hard to bring this fabulous team to the attention of soccer fans of all ages in the area. CEO Clent Alexander has stated that, “The mission of the San Diego Flash is to inspire all youth players, boys and girls, to playing the sport of soccer at higher levels by giving them quality soccer to watch, as well as give local players the opportunity to play professionally in their hometown of San Diego.” In an effort to do just that, the Flash recently unveiled a new and interactive way for youth players to get involved. By visiting the Flash’s homepage, (http://sandiegoflashsoccer.com/) players can upload a picture of themselves with their team, and then actually attend flash home matches to receive personalized passes with their own picture on them! This simple yet effective measure demonstrates that the Flash as an organization is a club with its fingers firmly on the pulse of the people. We all want quality soccer in our backyards and the Flash aim to give it in a variety of new and interactive ways.
As fans of soccer in America, we find ourselves in an awkward and frankly embarrassing position. No one wants to be associated with mediocrity, and yet on an international scale, our domestic league and most of our players are unfortunately just that. In order to improve into the world power on the pitch that we are off of it, we are going to need to take a good hard look at ourselves. Where can we direct our gaze and identify where to bend our will in order to develop? We can’t afford to cast our sights across the pond at European football forever. In order to rival and eventually surpass the rest of the world we are going to have to grow our game. The easiest and probably most effective way to take great strides in a short period of time is to invest in our local clubs. Supporting a club like the San Diego Flash with a solid business model off the pitch and scintillating football on it is a PERFECT way to begin to address the disparity between ourselves and the rest of the world.
Success isn’t something that comes overnight. It takes years of meticulous planning, investment of resources both precious and plentiful, sleepless nights, a little luck, but most importantly what success needs in order to become synonymous with United States soccer is the time and attention of the United States people. San Diegans are lucky. We have in our own backyard; a team to support that plays entertaining, free flowing football. A team that we can go and support as they look to climb the ladder with local lads and a dedicated coaching staff of former professionals who know exactly what it takes to rise to the top of the crop.
Team photo of the 2012 San Diego Flash
What can you do you ask? Its simple:
- Find your local club whether it be MLS, USL, PDL, NPSL and go watch a home game
- Get online and use social media to connect with other like-minded locals who are interested in grassroots soccer in America. Use the hashtag #GrowTheGame on Twitter and you’ll be amazed at what’s going on
- Visit the website of your club and learn more about their history and the people involved in running them
- Perhaps buy yourself or your child a jersey from the club?
- Get creative in your support! Whether it be funds, time, specific expertise… etc. Whatever you do helps so chip in as you can. The movement starts with you