"A national tournament would be great for everyone!"
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Welcome to AP everyone, it's August now! That means it's hot everywhere, and most lower division leagues are wrapping up. AFC Cleveland plays Sonoma County in the National Premier Soccer League Championship game, and Calgary Foothills FC is preparing to play the Michigan Bucks in the Premier Development League Championship game. And to add to it all, rumors are swirling that Kitsap Pumas might jump leagues in the off-season.
But to today's interview. We're making a departure from the norm to talk about Indoor Soccer. John Crouch actually works in both leagues, running the Western Indoor Soccer League and also South Sound in the Evergreen Premier League. He's got some interesting things to sat about marketing the indoor game and marketing to fans, which is good for anyone involved with soccer to learn about. Check it out.
Tell me a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you're from, what your role is with the Western Indoor Soccer League.
My name is John Crouch, I'm from Tacoma Washington, and I have played soccer my whole life but became much more passionate about the game in my 30s with an adult perspective. I have been running the South Sound FC since 2009 and always sought the highest level I could find both for indoor and outdoor for my teams.
I work as retail store owner in clothing and skateboards, along with own a sales agency representing brands in that same industry to the Pacific Northwest Region.
I also work as the VP of Business Development for the Tacoma Stars professional indoor soccer team and was instrumental in revitalizing that organization in our region. Lastly, I am the founder and commissioner of the WISL.
When did you first get interested in soccer in general and running a soccer league in particular, and what made you start the WISL?
We started the WISL after we received the Tacoma Stars brand and wanted a league to put the team into. The PASL NW division was struggling at the time and we had a good template for this type of league when we founded the EPLWA so it seemed easy and possible to do it and do it right. We found interest in teams and went forward with the idea in Fall of 2014.
We were frustrated with the current opportunities for our team and a feud between some ownership groups and the league manager held us back from opportunities.
Was there a certain event that got you into the sport, or has soccer always been apart of your life?
Soccer has been a big part of my life since I was very young but right before I turned 30, I started playing again and it helped me regain my fitness, it helped me be healthy again and I really just fell in love with the game all over again as an adult with a different perspective.
What are some of the major differences between indoor and outdoor soccer?
Indoor is very fast and there are a lot of goals. With a lot of goals comes a lot of saves and opportunities for goals. The ball remains in play easier and the players sub on the fly. A lot of times the games will include a lot of 'culture' with music, mascots, etc in the arena to really bring it to life. When you play a game in an arena, it lends itself to a more physical game so that is always fun.
What kind of hurdles do you encounter trying to 'sell' people on the indoor game?
I think our country is finally tuning into the game of soccer and furthermore the club and youth teams are focusing on year round outdoor play. There isn't a well developed, high level league that is on the television familiarizing people with the sport so that hurts it's opportunities as well. For the soccer 'purist' Indoor isn't their sport, but on the flip side for the fan that doesn't like soccer, there are a lot of goals and a lot of action.
Some of your teams also play in the Evergreen Premier League. How would you describe your relationship with the EPL?
We are synonymous with the EPLWA in a lot of ways. We share league administrators in some cases and the administrative side of it is very similar.
How do the local communities seem to respond to the idea of having a soccer team in their town, especially an indoor one?
It all depends on how the team markets itself, but the sport is very entertaining and venue is always huge for attracting fans. The WISL teams are very grass roots types of organizations, so this can vary a ton.
What exactly do you do to help drum up support for the league?
We have a great media director in David Falk that creates great content for our league. This is huge as a lot of times the teams don't have the resources to do it.
Are there particular challenges or hurdles to getting a league off the ground, and then ensuring it keeps running?
Yes. We need the teams to have ease running their operations and also help them create success. Officiating can be a tough part of this game as well, so it's key to work to build great officiating. This isn't easy. We are very blessed to have a great assignor who is passionate for getting it right in John Snyder.
Why should the average soccer fan care about a league in Washington?
We are building local soccer that is drawing fans, some of our teams draw as many as 600 fans to a game. It's an affordable game and it's great for development of the game both for indoor and outdoor. The EPLWA gives a layer below the PDL to grow young players in the game and create player opportunities.
Where are all of the leagues teams currently located?
All of our teams are in Washington- Bremerton, Bellingham, Olympia, Tacoma, Snohomish, Everett, and we expect to get teams from Seattle and Yakima this year.
Cast a vision for me: Where would you like to see the WISL in 5 years in terms of growth and visibility?
We'd like to see more participation in our region and similar leagues develop around the nation whether it is with us or on their own, but a national tournament would be great for everyone!
Where can people find out more about yourself and the WISL?
You can find us at wislnews.wordpress.com
What would you like to say people about why they should get out and support the local game on all levels?
I think it's important to develop all levels of soccer, each young (or aging) player has different needs and different paths to get where they get. Challenging yourself to acheive success at the highest level possible is important for anyone and we are happy to provide those opportunities and also hope life lessons come with these experiences that last long beyond competitive playing games. We of course want to move players on to play at the highest level possible and that creates a lot of pride for us when it happens.
John, thanks for taking the time to do this interview, I really appreciate it. Remember, if you are enjoying the content I'm putting out, I'd encourage you to click here to Follow me on Twitter, or here to Like the page on Facebook. And if you'd like to read these interviews before everyone else, and make sure you aren't missing anything, 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. Make sure to spread the word by sharing these interviews, telling friends about the blog, those kind of things. I can't accomplish my goal of maximum exposure for all levels of the American Soccer Pyramid without YOU. Until next time, Stay Loyal, Support Local.