"The moniker of "The Communities Team" is one that has to be earned and not one that can be self-bestowed. It's one I hope it does earn."
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Good day, friends of AP, it's time for a new interview! A quick announcement before we dive in. If you read AP and live in the Kansas City, Missouri area, there will be new, regularly scheduled pick up soccer games in town run by John Pannebaker, our head writer. If you'd like to play, and eventually help the games grow into an actual organized adult league in KC, please email us email@example.com, subject line 'Pick Up Soccer,' and get yourself in the loop.
Now, today's interview hearkens back to the early days of AP, as Rockaway Beach FC technically does not exist yet. Scott McCarthy is looking to start the team in the near future, and an interview describing what he hopes to do is a great way to start drumming up more interest as he prepares for launch. So read away, like, share, and retweet, and let's make sure people know about Rockaway Beach FC. Check it out.
Well let’s start things off simple by talking about you real quick. Who you are, where you're from, and what your role is with Rockaway Beach FC.
I'm Scott McCarthy, and the founder of Rockaway Beach FC. I am from Broad Channel, Queens which is an island community in Jamaica Bay and part of the Rockaways.
How did you come to be a fan of soccer?
I fall into the category of I use to get really into it every four years when the World Cup would come around, and then I would follow the MLS and EPL here and there. It was exciting when MLS launched because soccer was getting a big push, but being in NYC I never felt connected to the MetroStars (now the Red Bulls) because they played in NJ and unlike the local NFL teams they did not have decades worth of history inside NYC to connect them to the NY fan base. I enjoyed what I was seeing in the Pacific Northwest from Seattle and Portland, and began following the Timbers, when MLS announced a second NYC team that would actually play inside NYC is when I got really excited, especially in the early stages when it really looked like it was going to be the reborn NY Cosmos as the second team. I was pretty young when the original NASL folded, but knew enough about it and the Cosmos to know they were a very big deal. I watched Once in a Lifetime, and recommend it to anyone who has an interest in sports but thinks soccer cannot be big in the United States, it has in the past and can be again. Obviously, the way things played out between MLS and Cosmos, it wasn't the end result I was expecting. That said, I was equally excited that Manchester City, a world renowned organization was investing in the game, despite the concerns of being a MCFC farm team. I still felt that it was a connection that would be an asset more than a burden. That the marketing power of Manchester City and the New York Yankees would really help promote the game in one of the most important markets in America. I followed both NYCFC and the Cosmos from that point, feeling no conflict of interest due to the closed league nature of soccer in America.
Then I learned more about the U.S. Open Cup and thought it was amazing that there was a tournament that gave clubs from all levels a chance to compete against each other. You will never see the New York Knicks suit up against the Brooklyn Skyrockets of the ABA, but you do have the chance to see the Red Bulls and NYCFC take on the Cosmos of the NASL for a chance at hardware. That's really cool. I know there is a lot of criticism directed at the MLS and a lot of it is deservedly so. However, it's existence can act as a gateway for a casual fan to learn about the game and once they venture down that rabbit hole, it's very easy to become a soccer convert. To the point that words like pitch, match and football become more natural to say than field, game and soccer. I think this is where grassroots community driven clubs can be very instrumental in not only developing talent, but fans. It's a very exciting game to watch, and soccer culture has begun to make its way into other sports, most notably the 7 Line Army that supports the New York Mets baseball team. They have their own section at Go to Field when the Mets are home and when they do "invasions" for road games, they have their own section just like how soccer matches have a section for away supporters. They even have TIFO's and have become so recognized that Sports Illustrated has done a documentary on them and they will be in MLB: The Show '17. I think soccer's time in the spotlight is approaching and while there are issues to deal with, it's nothing that can't be achieved if enough people want to see it.
I had not heard about 7 Line Army. Glad something like that has taken root in baseball. How did that casual interest in soccer lead you to this point, creating Rockaway Beach FC? I guess you could say, what's the story behind this idea?
Yeah, The 7 Line Army actually had its beginnings as just one guy who made a t-shirt during a stretch of bad seasons for the Mets, and that one t-shirt got a lot of attention. He created a t-shirt company out of it, and that got so popular that it caught the attention of the New York Mets and they worked out a deal where there is an actual 7 Line merchandise stand at Citi Field, and they can use the Mets name and logo (that was always worked around prior to the deal) and from that The 7 Line Army was born. They do multiple road trips to other stadiums throughout the year. It is a great example of how one simple idea can gain momentum and turn into something much bigger than was originally intended. As for the idea of Rockaway Beach FC, It was a combination of ideas. I always thought the ideal ownership in mainstream professional American sports has been the Green Bay Packers, while there are many great organizations with great owners like the Mara’s with the New York Giants and the Rooney’s with the Pittsburgh Steelers or even Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks, no ownership structure is lives up to the intent of a community sports team like the Green Bay Packers.
I always wished there was a community owned sports team in New York City that was similar, I remember when Leon Hess had passed away and there was a push by the Jets fan to buy the Jets and have similar structure as the Packers. However the NFL has long banned that type of structure and it will never happen again in the NFL. In my research of the game of soccer I noticed a lot of teams started out for the purpose of benefiting their community, Celtic FC for example. Then I started hearing more and more about teams like Detroit City FC, Nashville FC, Stockade FC and San Francisco City FC among others and thought it could actually be more than just an idea. The Rockaways are a part of New York City, but in many ways are far removed from it. It is about an hour and half subway ride from Rockaway to Midtown Manhattan. There is also a lot of things going on in sports that are negative, such as teams relocating and leaving loyal fans behind. The thought crossed my mind to slowly take the idea and roll it out and see if it gained any traction. I was extremely surprised that within a couple of days of creating the Facebook page for it that I noticed that over 11,000 people were talking about it, with next to no promotion other than inviting some people to like the page. The one thing about the Rockaways is that there is a strong sense of community pride, people who long have moved elsewhere still consider their neighborhood in the Rockaways to be home even if they have not been back to it in years. The Rockaways are in what is Considered Zone A in New York City, which means it is one of the high risk areas for coastal flooding and was hit extremely hard by Superstorm Sandy, many people still have not recovered. It is a very self-resilient set of communities that make up the Rockaways and the idea of creating something that could be a unifying rallying point for each of them is something that really stuck in my head.
The thought of giving back to the community I was raised in, and creating something that could potentially help the volunteer fire departments, youth athletic leagues, animal rescues and other various non-profits just seemed like something that was worth the attempt of getting going. After the idea of the club came it was trying to decide on what to call it and coming up with a shield, a visual is something that works a lot better in catching someone’s attention than just a bunch of words. After toying with various names like Rockaway Emerald Tide, I decided to keep it simple and just go with Rockaway Beach FC, and let any potential nicknames come naturally later on. The badge has a Piping Plover in the center, which is a tiny endangered shorebird that is protected in the Rockaways, I thought the symbolism of its small stature and protected nature was perfect, why dance around the clubs minuscule size in comparison to teams like the Cosmos in the NASL or NYCFC in MLS or even the many long established teams in the Cosmopolitan league, when we could embrace it. While I decided to avoid the Irish laden moniker of Emerald Tide for a few reasons as already mentioned, but also because there are so many that already exist. I still wanted a nod to one of the Rockaways nicknames “The Irish Riviera” which is where the green comes in and the yellow is for the sand and surf of Rockaway Beach, the largest urban beach in the United States.
Here is a screenshot showing the amount of people talking about it back when I first made the FB page.
Wow. Getting that kind of exposure right off the bat is great. How has the conversation around the team continued to develop and progress? I know the team is still in it's incubator stage, but this kind of buzz has to be encouraging to you.
It’s extremely encouraging, it has been pretty sustained considering it is still an idea that is not fully out there, it is one of those things where you want to have more substance in place before you present it to a wide audience, but you really need to get that wide audience to gain that substance. That is the main reason I decided to not wait to do this interview, as it may be just what is needed to kick start this concept to the next level and get more people interested and maybe some ideas offered. I was more than a little surprised to see that high of a number, considering there was no public promotion outside of sending out some “Like page” requests to locals and soccer fans that I was already friends with, and it goes without saying I do not have 11,000 friends. I think it bodes well for the clubs potential to go from concept to reality.
I do think starting the page in June, just as summer was kicking off helped in its exposure as I am sure searches for "Rockaway" were beginning to peak and it may have started showing up in suggested searches as people began typing in Rockaway.
I think that is also a benefit to the club name, there is some inherent brand value in Rockaway, it is a booming neighborhood and has some pop culture relevance...just ask any Ramones fan.
Let’s touch on that. Getting substance behind the idea. Are there any areas in particular that you feel like you could use support, help and ideas with?
Certainly, structuring a supporter owned team so that it is not only a functioning soccer club, but a legally operating business.
I would say 501(c)(3) is the ideal structure, at that point it would be about generating enough interest in the club to get people really excited about it and wanting to be a part of it. The most organic path to growth is supporters, and hopefully supporters group(s) start forming to back this project once word gets out, in New York City and beyond.
What kind of support are you getting for your project currently?
The current level is basically only those who have been told about it, everyone that does know is enthusiastic about the potential. It makes sense, you have the largest urban beach in the country, that is seeing a ton of interest from developers over the last few years. The issue though that aside from some really nice new eateries a vast majority of the development has been residential condos and nothing really is being done to provide entertainment for all these residents both lifelong and new comers. Growing up there, they had Playland Amusement Park which was great part of summers in The Rockaways. That was shuttered in the 80's and the movie theater closed a few years later. I think the area would really be welcoming to something like Rockaway Beach FC, there is a need and an opportunity to provide that entertainment need in a realistic manner. Rockaway is a very narrow peninsula and would never be able to handle a MLS level crowd, but it could handle a few thousand as it currently does every day of the summer. Doing interviews like this is an attempt to see exactly what the level of interest is. I think the club will not only heavily appeal to current residents, but those who have moved elsewhere that still consider the area home. I sent page invites to people without letting them know I was actually the person behind it. Because I wanted a natural response and not have it influenced because of friendship. Only a couple of friends who are big soccer fans know it is my idea at this point. Because I wanted an untainted response.
To circle back to the local developer projects and to get way ahead of myself with some long-term day dreaming for a moment, if this idea becomes a reality and the team does get the support I believe it can, I could see it playing a part in a potential small venue being built. something that could seat two to five thousand for soccer and other events like concerts. I know some residents have been talking about a desire for an amphitheater type of venue, this would fill that void while adding other options. Coney Island is not far from Rockaway and it has MCU Park which is home to the Brooklyn Cyclones the New York Mets NY/Penn League team, the NY Cosmos will begin play there this season, which should be fantastic for them, also in Coney Island is a brand new Amphitheater and the amusement park. There is no reason Rockaway should not have some entertainment options. In order for any of that to have a chance of happening it would require strong local support as well as support from afar.
Never hurts to start planning and dreaming long term. 'Where there is no vision, the people perish.' On the topic of planning and dreaming, when would you hope to have a team playing on the field, and what league would you want to be a part of?
The options to start out with are limited and each brings with it strengths and weaknesses. Fort Tilden has the most used fields for soccer, it is used for youth and rec leagues, it is a great field but is far from the nearest subway line. Since the goal is to appeal to the local community, it is not a major drawback however it may deter people from other surrounding neighborhoods from coming out. It is also city park land, so we would have to see what is and what is not allowed. There is also the football field at Beach Channel High School, it is pretty much at the midpoint of the peninsula and has a subway line and bus lines in walking distance. The third option is the Broad Channel Memorial Field, it is a great field maintained by the Broad Channel Athletic Club, arrangements would have to be made with them as many of its youth leagues use it and they should be the priority, Broad Channel offers some limitations in regards to crowd size, it is a small neighborhood that is only about 20 blocks long and large crowds would be an issue, however it could handle a local crowd just fine as everyone could just walk from their homes to the field. The last option would be Aviator Sports which is directly over the bridge from The Rockaways and offers the best fields for players and spectators, the downside is that it has no subway access and is not on the Rockaway peninsula.
As for the league, we would be in the LISFL which is a well-established league and since all of the teams are local, it would greatly reduce expenses of the more regional leagues like the Cosmopolitan League or NPSL, both great leagues which down the road would be great to see the team compete in. The reality is that the community I am trying to get interested in this project would see no difference between any of the leagues or their tiers. I am sure there are some big soccer fans, but most are like myself when I first really got into soccer and only see it as MLS and everyone else, because that is how most Americans view sports, it's MLB or the minors, it's the NBA or D-league or ABA or NPL, it's NHL or AHL. Soccer is a vastly different animal, because of things like the U.S. Open Cup which as I previously mentioned allows teams from all levels to compete against each other. The tournament existed well before the MLS existed, and because of the resources of the MLS teams, they tend to dominate the tournament (although the Cosmos have eliminated both NYCFC and the Red Bulls) but the day a non MLS team wins it all against an MLS team would be that Super Bowl III type moment where the AFL proved its legitimacy against the NFL. MLS has no reason to welcome Promotion and Relegation, they have invested millions into their franchises and have no reason to put themselves in position to be relegated, even though I believe in the long run it would be beneficial to all teams in all leagues.
Besides wins and losses, the biggest driver of sports is narratives. 2016 had several, the Chicago Cubs ending their World Series drought of over a hundred years, Cleveland winning a world championship in the NBA and right up there was Leicester City winning the EPL and toppling the giants of that league. Aside from wins and losses, it's the stories both of individual athletes and teams that really resonate with people. You think about how even the teams people choose to root for is based on the image the team has built for themselves. The Cowboys are "Americas Team" because of the clean cut image and big personalities, the Pittsburgh Steelers are a blue collar workers team, the Yankees are the clean cut corporate team that has a history unmatched in American sports and the Lakers are Hollywood Showtime team that you think of the celebrities in the stands as much as you do the players on the court.
So you'd like the identity of Rockaway Beach FC to be 'The Communities Team?'
I would certainly hope the community would embrace the concept, however that would not and should not prevent anyone from elsewhere from wanting to support the team. There is currently a shift happening, more hours of YouTube videos have been watched than cable television, more people are cutting the cord and being on television is no longer necessary to reach a wide audience. Social media and video services should be implemented by any organization trying to reach a wide audience.
But gaining the moniker of "The Communities Team" is one that has to be earned and not one that can be self-bestowed. It's one I hope it does earn.
I like that, earning the moniker. Way too many teams and their owners seem to think that just existing makes them the community team or guarantees them fans. How do you plan on reaching out to the Rockaway community and earning that moniker?
You do that by being upfront with the goals of the team, by giving back to the community and it's various organizations like youth athletic leagues, volunteer fire departments and animal rescue organizations as well as help maintain and improve existing sports fields, parks and rinks. Besides community, another aspect I would like the team to promote is conservancy, as being a shore community and having a wild life refuge in Broad Channel it is an important aspect of everyday life. It is also the reason why the piping plover was used as a key component of the badge, as shorebirds are prevalent throughout the Rockaways, besides plovers there are seagulls and swans as well as ample other species of birds that are inside the wild life refuge.
Those are some solid, practical steps for getting a team involved. What are two things that have been easier than you thought they would be, and two things that have been more difficult than you expected?
The two easiest things have to be how quickly buzz was generated without much push, it boxes well for when a concentrated effort is actually made to promote the project. The other is how easy it is to get advice and assistance from other clubs without seeking it out. People from Nashville FC had contacted me early on and offered help as did the Lansdowne Bhoys. I'm certain there are going to be several obstacles to come that will be daunting, there is nothing worthwhile doing that is going to be easy at every turn, but at this stage of the game it is mostly trying to find the best path the bringing this one step closer to a reality. I would rather the building process take longer than expected and it launches the right way than to rush it and it crashes and burns. Finding the right people to help build the team both on and off the field.
The soccer community is a very welcoming and inclusive one and clubs genuinely want to see each other be successful.
Take for example Dennis Crowley's well done articles that essentially puts in the public domain a blueprint for anyone, anywhere on how to start a club and what to expect and it can be tweaked for any size club in any league. Where else would you find that besides soccer? The inclusiveness of the game in every regard is what really endears me to the game. I've already mentioned the off the off the field examples. Let's not forget the on the field examples as well, soccer is the one sport in America that is equally gender inclusive and on the national level the women have been more successful than the men’s team, the men's team has made great strides and as soccer continues to grow in popularity here and kids opt to stay with it beyond youth leagues instead of going into baseball, basketball or football.
The community among lower level soccer is incredibly supportive, and that makes it much 'easier' to start a team than it was to do so even just a few years ago. You've touched on joining the Long Island Soccer Football League. What can you tell me about the league? What's drawing you towards as you enter the next phase of launching this team?
The LISFL offers a stable and established league, there is something to be said about longevity like theirs. The teams in the league would offer strong competition and it offers an opportunity to play against competitive teams without the expense involved of traveling long distances and the travel costs involved in playing teams that are in other states. Playing friendlies in other states would be something to look into, but limiting doing so during a regular schedule when starting out is probably the wisest path the follow. Things like this are fluid, and can change as others come on board and based on the level of support the team gets.
The LISFL has been around since 1948 and is part of USASA and teams from the league have gone on to win state cups.
Very nice. What do you think of the other leagues starting to set up shop in your area, like the CSL and UPSL. Is there presence a good thing for teams like Rockaway Beach, and people looking to start similar teams, or are they too late to the party?
I think there is ample room for growth and more than enough room for new teams and leagues. The Cosmopolitan League has been around a long time and has some really established teams like the Brooklyn Italians who have won the U.S. Open Cup in the pre MLS days.
I think if lower level teams and leagues focus on catering to their neighborhoods and its surrounding areas multiple teams and leagues can do well in the same market.
Do you think more lower level teams would thrive, period, if they focused more on catering to their neighborhoods and really connecting with their respective communities?
Definitely, let the MLS and NASL market towards entire cities. I think there is something inherently rewarding for not only excepting a lower level teams smaller market, but it gives them an opportunity to thrive. Take the New York city market, there 12 big league teams across the 5 big sports leagues in the New York metropolitan area, and any sports fan is already going to have an allegiance to their teams and have a closet filled with the New York _______'s gear. However they may be interested in a team that openly represents their neighborhood. People have pride in where they are from. The bottom line is any team can start with the most altruistic of goals, but it has to be paired with a solid dose of reality, and the reality is be it a non-profit or for profit for any business to survive, it needs to generate revenue. So taking that mindset, there is little chance for a lower level team in New York to challenge NYCFC or the Red Bulls for the New York market, no lower level team can even attempt to make a dent in the NY Cosmos market share, their resources are too great to compete with. So you take the old baseball adage of "Hit it where they ain't" while there is little chance of a lower level team being New York City's team, there is less competition and an easier path to being Rockaway's team or Woodhaven's team or Gravesend's team or Hell's Kitchen's team.
Now you've got my mind working. Hell's Kitchen FC. 'The Daredevils.' What are the top three things you believe a team should do to connect with its neighborhood? It can be anything from outreach to service, even the name of the team.
Give back to the community, support the supporters if you will. If there's a known need help provide it or assist those who do provide it so they can do so even better. If you want the community to embrace your concept the brand must, absolutely must represent it in the most clear and simplistic way, no need to over complicate it. People can sense when they see BS, it has to be authentic and genuine. and giving opportunities to locals, be it playing for the team, coaching or volunteering for the team. Most teams focus on the players and coaches and helping them maybe find opportunities at the next level, and they should as that is the bread and butter of the teams existence, but why stop there. Not every person who loves sports wants to play it forever, there are also far fewer spots for pros then there is people who want to play in the pros so why not put equal emphasis on developing the next great ticketing agent or next great sports executive or next great merchandise designer finding paths to grant the most future opportunities to as many people in the community as possible is a sure fire way to create a long lasting connections between the team and it's community. Maybe some kid who wants to go to college and major in Sports Management because he wants to be the next Billy Beane or Brian Cashman gets an edge down the road because on their resume even before they earned their degree they were involved in some capacity with the day to day operations of a team.
An issue at the development level is the "pay to play" model, while I completely understand its existence it acts as a barrier that is preventing a good portion of kids from pursuing soccer. It alienates a segment of the community that cannot afford to attend these academies or play for those travel teams. Think about how many outstanding talents go undeveloped or go into other sports because the path in soccer is not one their families can afford to support. Finding a way to develop local talent, any and all talent at all skill levels for anyone who wants to play while remaining financially solvent should be of the up most urgency for all teams, and working towards that end will be a priority for Rockaway Beach FC.
Do you think, as the team grows, you can find a way to not only get the team involved with the community, but to get the community involved with the team to help make soccer accessible through Rockaway Beach to the portions of the community that can't afford these pay to play programs?
That will definitely be an area that will receive heavy attention, the Rockaways have a wide range of neighborhoods of various economic levels from the working class to the very affluent, Rockaway Beach FC will strive to offer the same opportunities to anyone with the desire to be involved.
Since I've never been to New York or the Rockaways, how would you describe your neighborhood to an outsider? Is it diverse? Artsy? Hipster?
It has in the past few years been "discovered" and become known as "The Hipster Hamptons" it can be traced back to the opening of Rockaway Taco which became massively popular and other eateries have followed suit. It still retains its working class vibe, but in the summer months it is becomes a seaside Williamsburg. The peninsula overall is very diverse from one end to the other.
What are some of the next steps for getting Rockaway Beach FC from concept to kicking a ball on the field?
Finding the right person to make the soccer decisions, finding that general manager for the lack of a better term, that person that can identify the coaching and playing talent to put the puzzle together and also finding sponsors that match our philosophies. Just taking a sponsorship deal because of the funding that comes with does a disservice to the team and the sponsor. If their logo is on the jersey the team represents them and they represent the team, so it's integral for that match to be natural.
Sage advice for those looking for sponsors. Let’s get into some of the shorter questions to wrap things up. What's your favorite league and or team to watch for fun?
I have a few, locally I really like NYCFC in the MLS and the New York Cosmos in the NASL, I still have a strong affinity for the Portland Timbers as they were the first MLS team to really grab my attention.
In the EPL, I like Manchester City, it just seemed natural to root for "the other" Manchester team since that is how I am with the New York teams in other sports (Mets & Jets...) I also like Celtic FC.
Who are your favorite players. One past, one present?
Past: Giorgio Chinaglia Current: Jack Harrison
Would you rather attend the Euros, Gold Cup, or AFC Nations Cup?
Do you have any books or podcasts, soccer related or otherwise, that you would recommend to people?
I certainly do, It is not strictly soccer related but it is a fantastic book on general sports reform and I highly recommend “How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan” by Ken Reed. The next is Sounders FC: Authentic Masterpiece by Mike Gastineau this is a fantastic inside look at how one of the most successful sports team launches in recent memory and the last book I would recommend in Das Reboot by Raphael Honigstein which is an outstanding look at German soccer. For podcasts, you really cannot go wrong with Men in Blazers and I am a big fan of Howler Magazine, they put out a fantastic product.
Das Reboot is fantastic. If you could meet one person from soccer history, who would it be?
That is an amazingly thought provoking question, and after mulling a few options I would have to say Johan Cruyff would have to be the choice.
Cruyff eems to be a pretty popular answer to that question. Where can people find out more about you and Rockaway Beach FC?
@RockawayBeachFC on Facebook and Twitter is where current information can be found.
Closing question. What would you say to the person asking you, 'Why should I support a team like Rockaway Beach FC?'
Support Rockaway Beach FC if you want to get behind a team that wants to provide a competitive squad on the field, that will support our supporters by giving back to our community by backing it's nonprofits and by providing opportunities in multiple aspects of soccer and sports in general and will be forward thinking in regards to using technology to promote and distribute our content and a team that will always be willing to help other teams forge the same path we are attempting to take and one willing to work with existing and future teams to address the issues regarding the closed league nature of American soccer and work towards providing an alternative.
Scott, thanks again for taking the time to do this, I really appreciate it. Remember, if you are enjoying the weekly content coming out on AP you can Follow AP on Twitter, or Like AP on Facebook. And if you want make sure you never miss an interview, and want to read articles before everyone else, click here and sign up for the Newsletter. You'll be the first to know when articles are released and learn about other exciting content down the road.
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