It's easier to destroy than to create; it's a law of nature. And creating something new while simultaneously taking on a powerful, monolithic establishment and orthodoxy? Now that's a real challenge! It's the kind of challenge requiring not only courage, a better solution and a compelling reason for change, but something extra and much more rare. It requires vulnerability.
Eagleclaw Football Club is a project steeped in vulnerability. But by vulnerability we don't mean pointlessly opening up to abuse and criticism. No. We mean the entrepreneurial ethic of vulnerability. For us, it means honestly setting upon a different path, a road less travelled. A path we firmly believe leads to a better outcome for kids who are passionate about soccer. It means taking calculated risks to achieve a more perfect solution to the development of youth soccer players. And it means baring our ideas, our heart and our souls in an effort to persuade others that we genuinely have a better way that will truly help kids thrive and develop as soccer players and as human beings. Finally, it means putting our beliefs into action, with conviction and honesty, and letting parents, kids, coaches and the established youth soccer orthodoxy see what we do and how we do it and take their best shots at us.
GOING OUT ON A LIMB
25 years ago, James Hetfield, front man for thrash metal band Metallica, was on tour and missing his girlfriend. As they were talking by phone, James was holding a guitar and suddenly the first few bars and lyrics of a new song came to him. Inspiration met talent! But this was something different, unique. The music pouring out of James' brain, heart and guitar was definitely not in line with Metallica's style of music. It was definitely not the kind of music Metallica's fans craved or demanded. This was a ballad. A love song. And James had no intention of letting this song go anywhere. It was his private creation, not meant to be heard by anyone else. And at every stop on the tour, in the privacy of his hotel room, James continued to work on that song and play it for himself.
Then Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich heard it. That's when something changed. Lars wanted the other band members to hear it. James resisted, but Lars finally persuaded him to let the other guys hear it. The other band members liked what they heard. They were working on a new album and Lars wanted to include this song. James was hesitant. It was such a personal and heartfelt song. It was his. What if the fans hated it? The guys pressed. They wanted the song. James gave in and let his creation go.
The song was called Nothing Else Matters. It was recorded in 1990 in a small studio space in Lars' home. In 1991, Metallica released its fifth album which had no title and a black cover. The album represented a major artistic shift for the band from the blistering speed metal sound to a slower, more melodic style of rock. It became known as the Black Album
Initially, Metallica's fans were critical of the change in style and especially of the new ballad. Critics were also skeptical. Had the band gone too far? Had they taken too big a risk? Would fans desert them? As it turned out, the answer was emphatically, no! The Black Album won over millions more fans and remains the bands best selling album of all time, selling over 16 million copies in the United States alone.
NOTHING ELSE MATTERS
"It was a song for myself in my room on tour when I was bumming out about being away from home. It's quite amazing, it's a true testament to honesty and exposing yourself, putting your real self out there, and taking the risk, taking a gamble that someone's either going to step on your heart with spikes on or they're going to put their heart right next to it, and you never know until you try. That solidified, I think, that we were doing the right thing, writing from the heart about what we felt, and you can't go wrong that way. I'm grateful that the guys forced me to take it out of my tape player and make it Metallica." - James Hetfield, Metallica
So close no matter how far
Couldn’t be much more from the heart
Forever trusting who we are
And nothing else matters
Eagleclaw is on an extraordinary mission. All we do is develop talented players. and every other club in Seattle knows that is exactly what we do. That's why they try so hard to recruit our players away. We've built an organizational philosophy, game model and curriculum that makes us better than any other program at developing young players.
And we are on the verge of upending the fossilized youth soccer model in Seattle. We are so close, but still have so far to go. We are infiltrating the dominant soccer culture on a daily basis. One conversation at a time. One family at a time. One player at a time.
This is a deeply personal project. Our motivations come from deep within our hearts. Eagleclaw was created because we saw the state of youth soccer in Seattle. We saw the massive numbers of players progressing through the old, fossilized "premier" soccer club model with deficient technical abilities and low game intelligence. We saw a system focusing too much on tryouts, cuts and trotting teams around the state and the country without taking any personal responsibility for addressing deficits in learning and skills.
We put our hearts on the table, knowing we might get stepped on, crushed. Exactly the opposite happened. Acceptance. Agreement. Ambition. One by one, parents put their hearts on the table next to ours. They joined with us in finding a better way for their kids to have a more educational, joyful and uplifting youth soccer experience. Together, we are the Revolution.
We know we have a better way and it shows in our players. We take the risks and speak truth to the youth soccer power brokers. We stick to our principles, trusting in our philosophy, our method and our principles, trusting who we are. We are doing the right thing, from the heart. And nothing else matters.
Never opened myself this way
Life is ours, we live it our way
All these words I don't just say
And nothing else matters
Launching Eagleclaw in 2010 was a massively important decision. The personal convictions we felt about creating change only magnified the importance of the decision. But we knew we had to do it. This was necessary. We could give in and let our kids live their soccer lives by rules and structures created by those who care little for their individual developmental needs, or we could do it our way, the right way.
We decided to act. We decided to create a new way. At the heart of it all was a fervent belief that from age 5 to 13, kids need a quality of teaching and learning that no one in Seattle was providing. Plans were drawn up. Money was invested. Time was committed. The time for words was over. It was time to act. And nothing else matters.
Trust I seek and I find in you
Every day for us something new
Open mind for a different view
And nothing else matters
To do our work, we need trust. We need players and parents to trust that our philosophy and methods are effective. We ask for that trust. Perhaps more importantly, we ask for their patience. Developing quality players takes years of careful work and effort by players and coaches. It does not happen overnight or in one season.
We are deeply grateful to the parents who have trusted us with developing their children as soccer players. We know players and families feel they are taking a risk by walking away from the stale "premier" clubs that dominate the youth soccer landscape and trying something new and revolutionary. That is a natural reaction. But in taking that risk with us, they experience something new on a daily basis. New ways of training. New ways of learning. New ways of playing. New ways of keeping the joy of soccer alive for kids. The open-mindedness of our players and parents is the key to new realizations, new ideas and discovering a better path forward.
Revolutions are exciting and uncomfortable. Yet, the gravitational pull to the old ways is still there, making parents and players impatient. Impatience is the enemy of development. It makes parents mistake improvement in their players' skills and abilities for a sign that they've "arrived", "made it", or are "good enough" and should return to the old "premier" club system.
Those that cannot resist the pull, soon find that the initial excitement of making the "A" team at Acme Premier FC wears off quickly. A gray reality sets in. The education has stopped. The pressure is unnecessarily increased. The passion is drying up. It's not the positive education environment they experienced at Eagleclaw. Soccer starts to feel like a job. The kids are no longer playing soccer. No one is taking the time to work with the player. It's all about the team now. But really, its now all about the coach and Acme Premier FC. The kids are now climbing a rickety "corporate ladder" of youth soccer. It's not fun anymore.
The other side of the equation is vastly brighter! Every year, more and more players and families walk away from the old "premier" club system and look to Eagleclaw. They look to us to make the positive differences in their players' skills and abilities that the old clubs can't or won't. They leave the "A" teams, "DA" teams and all the other structures that create an impersonal, high-pressure, low-education environment that fails their children and leads to developmental stagnation. They come to Eagleclaw with an open mind, looking for a different view. We are grateful for their open-mindedness and their willingness to explore better paths for their children. We are grateful for their trust. And nothing else matters.
Never cared for what they do
Never cared for what they know
But I know
Eagleclaw has its critics. We don't care. We are challenging and disrupting the prevailing and failed model of youth soccer, so obviously some people are upset about that. We don't care. Eagleclaw was never about them. It was never about the adults who control the old "premier" youth club system or leagues and use it to satisfy adult ambitions. Eagleclaw has always been about the kids. Always.
When Eagleclaw began with 8 excited kids, we asked them to pick a name for the club. Why not? After all, it was to be their club. Most of the kids attended St. John School in Seattle where the symbol is an eagle clutching a bible in its talons. Naturally, the kids started brainstorming eagle names. "It's got to have "eagle" in the name.", said one boy. "But grabbing a soccer ball, not a bible.", said another. "Yeah! A soccer ball in the claws. Eagle claws. Eagleclaw."
That's how it happened. By the kids, about the kids and for the kids. Always. We know that. And nothing else matters.
Take it from the amazing, talented boy in the video below! Nothing else matters.