Soccer Coach A Master At Juggling Events
By Alison Mitchell
Long-time soccer coach Charlie Slagle now devotes his time to the Capital Area Soccer League (CASL) in Raleigh, N.C. CASL provides a fun and safe environment for area youth to play soccer, according to Slagle.
“Our mission is to teach a sport that helps build character and gives the players a sense of worth and also teaches the advantages and camaraderie of being on and competing with a team,” said Slagle, CEO for CASL.CASL serves about 9,000 players each year and hosts national tournaments as well as ACC and NCAA Division I men’s and women’s tournaments.
Slagle sat down with SportsEvents to talk about running a non-profit soccer organization and what it’s like to juggle so many events.
Q: Please tell us about your job with the Capital Area Soccer League (CASL).
Before joining CASL I was the men’s soccer coach at Davidson College for 21 years. I will finish my ninth year at CASL on Aug. 1. I love the interaction with the various entities that care about soccer in the area and around the region and country. From players to coaches, to parents, to soccer administrators, to the CASL staff and the CASL board, the interaction with dedicated individuals makes my job enjoyable.
Q: How is CASL structured?
We have about 9,000 players playing at three main levels in CASL. It is a full-service club where there is a place for all ages and levels of players. We have recreation soccer for 4-year-olds all the way to 18-year-olds. We have a middle level, our challenge level, for ages 9 to 18 where we have our own league. Mainly parent coaches, who are not paid for their coaching services, coach these teams.
Our highest competitive level is our classic level for ages 8 through 18, where we have paid coaches and teams are picked as first teams then second teams, etc.
We have a variety of employees whose jobs encompass league registration, coaching, scheduling, IT, field maintenance, finance, customer relations, tournaments, etc. My job is to let these experienced employees to do their job while making informed decisions for the league.
Q: Tell us about some of the tournaments and events you plan.
We run many tournaments with the most prominent being the CASL visitraleigh.com National Soccer Series presented by Chelsea Football Club. This four-weekend tournament draws about 1,100 teams annually from 45 states and provides an economic impact to the Triangle area of around $10 million annually.
During our annual College Showcases, almost 1,000 coaches come to watch for future stars. We have also hosted US Youth Soccer events such as the regionals and the finals of the President’s Cup.
CASL also helps host the ACC Men’s and Women’s Soccer Tournaments annually and has hosted the NCAA Division I Men’s or Women’s College Cup (Final Four) for the last eight years.
CASL owns and maintains the 20+-field WRAL Soccer Center, which is the largest venue that the league uses for weekly games and tournaments.
We have many events going on in the fall and in the spring. We have some down times in the summer and winter as we only do outside soccer. We host about 350 league games every weekend in the spring and fall.
It is great to go to our multiple field sites and see kids of all ages and abilities playing on adjoining fields with the common threads being a soccer ball and youth having fun. On weekday afternoons and nights, those same fields are full of teams practicing for their weekend games. For the players, the games are the fun part of the week, but those practices build good soccer and life habits that, hopefully, carry on into the future.
Q: What do kids and coaches learn from your training opportunities?
Participants at our camps and academies get additional soccer training in a fun setting without the onus of worrying about their status on a team. It is always good for players to get coaching from different individuals other than their primary coach.
Camps for younger players are aimed at having fun through the game of soccer. It is a time to meet new friends and enjoy time away from family while doing something the youngster enjoys.
Coaches should always seek a learning experience be it a coaches’ clinic, licensing class or just watching other coaches coach. A coach can learn how to deal with a certain age bracket psychologically as well as what motivates their charges to become better players.
We teach coaching methodology as well as techniques and tactics and how to get the most out of the drills that allow their players to become better. Coaches should always be learning.
Q: How do you garner sponsorships for your events and teams? Do you generally find sponsors willing to help youth teams?
Sponsorships are garnered by providing our partners with return on their investment. In these economic times, there are fewer and fewer businesses that are doing purely charitable sponsorships; therefore, these businesses want to see a positive return for their expenditure.
We make sure that our partners are seen by our members via our website, signs at fields, naming rights, promotions, etc.
Ido find that businesses are willing to help youth teams. As big as CASL is, however, there are some businesses that see a disconnect between our organization and the youth. It is our job to show these businesses that despite our size our mission is to provide a great and fun experience for these youngsters.
Q: Do you work with the local CVB, sports commission or sports partners in the region when you plan events?
We work with the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau (GRCVB) for almost all of our outside events. They are a primary sponsor for the National Soccer Series. Since their involvement increased a few years ago, our customer service to our outside teams has increased greatly.
The GRCVB and their staff led by Scott Dupree and Jason Philbeck have opened our eyes to the customer service that can be provided to outside groups and teams. CASL with the GRCVB, NC State and the Town of Cary have worked closely together in bringing events such as the NCAA Division I College Cups and the ACC Soccer Tournaments to the area.
Establishing a good working relationship with partners is key to the success of the event(s). All of the entities have their own areas of emphasis but ask for and receive feedback from the other partners to improve the event.
Q: Do you have any tried and true methods that you use in planning events?
I have found that finding a leader for each event who is committed to the event is crucial. This person sets up the partner meetings, keeps the group on task and generally keeps the planning moving. The participating partners work well together when one entity is in charge, but all have areas of expertise and pull their weight in the process. Without this one stabilizing entity, there is less coordination between the partners and things that are important are omitted or forgotten until the last minute, which requires scrambling by all. That kind of scrambling can definitely hurt morale for future events.
Q: What do you see as your biggest challenge in planning a soccer event? Biggest reward?
In planning a youth soccer event, the biggest challenge is to make sure that the event runs smoothly. There are many facets to a big tournament and many teams from many states that have different state associations and different rules for tournaments.
Teams spend a great deal of money to travel to a tournament, and they expect a great experience. Being overly prepared and having the knowledge of potential snags from previous experiences can help the smoothness of the experience. Therefore, being prepared for anything that could happen in the tournament is vitally important.
The biggest rewards are pulling off a great finished product no matter the problems that have arisen and having teams that want to come back year after year. In planning a big spectator event, it is also important to make the event appealing to spectators. We want spectators to come back to an event and bring their friends with them. The reward is the acceptance of the sponsoring entity such as the NCAA or the ACC for a job well done.
- Pick an organizer who is committed and will keep all entities on task.
- Develop a great working relationship with the other event partners and do your part to ensure this.
- Learn what other similar events are doing to see what you can do to improve your own.
- Enlist the help of eager volunteers and/or staff and give them the instruction they need to do their job.
- Listen to others and take constructive criticism to heart. Also listen to “not so constructive” criticism and see if there is anything to be learned from the exchange.