It takes a community to help develop a young soccer player.
That’s the philosophy of Richmond United Soccer Club (RUSC), which is ramping up plans to expand its ranks with a new boys program that will start league play this Spring, augmenting its already established and popular girls teams. RUSC will also conduct player valuations at the beginning of 2021, to prepare for the start of next season.
Established in 1974, the club is tapping into a rich and varied network of local soccer coaching talent and personal fitness specialists to help produce well-rounded youth and adult players, who compete on the pitch from recreational to elite levels.
“For us, the key is that a lot of soccer clubs have historically subscribed to a singular type of instruction or voice,” says Mandhir Punia, the director of soccer operations at RUSC. “But through our varied partnerships in the community, we provide a number of coaching styles, skills and systems that help open up the pathway for our players to reach the next level in the sport.”
The Richmond-based groups that RUSC has reached out to form a network of complimentary soccer training and fitness-specific opportunities includes Fusion FC, Brazilian Soccer School, Martin Bittengl School of Soccer, and Russel Sean Fitness.
“Whether it’s high-performance level training at Fusion FC, ball mastery with the Brazilian Soccer School, technical instruction with Martin Bittengl School of Soccer, or off-the-pitch strength and conditioning training with Russel Sean Fitness - we want to provide our players with a variety of ways to improve.”
That willingness to go beyond a typical soccer club’s borders, which includes working with the BC Chinese Soccer Federation, is a strength uncommon to most other soccer organizations.
“They (BC Chinese Soccer Federation) primarily focus on the Asian community and provide an opportunity for players in a semi-competitive environment. They currently don’t participate in league play,” Punia says. “So, we provide their players with a chance to play in a league environment with tournaments.”
Overall, the Richmond United Soccer Club’s main objective is to offer diverse options for all players to enjoy playing the “beautiful game.”
“What I like about our club’s structure and community partnerships is that it offers something for everyone,” says club president Marty Mueller. “Not every youngster aims to play at the highest, elite level in the sport. Lots of them just want to play soccer with their friends and have fun.
“And providing that wide variety of experiences is an important factor.”
“Creating those varied pathways also extends to college and university play, as well, because we provide recruitment opportunities for players heading in that direction,” Punia says.
That’s where links to organizations such as Fusion FC and Martin Bittengl School of Soccer come into play.
Fusion FC is a Richmond-based, BC Soccer Premier League (HPL) club that has players compete at the highest youth level in the province. The Martin Bittengl School of Soccer trains small groups of elite players in an environment on par with the academy programs adopted by professional clubs.
“Martin, who comes from the Czech Republic, will be one of only two certified coaches in B.C. who have attained a UEFA Pro Licence. The licence allows him to coach at a professional level anywhere in the world,” explains Marty.
“He’s an extremely technically focused coach who also puts a lot of passion and drive into his instructional techniques, for both boys and girls.”
And this has resulted in players reaching high standards of play to consider heading to Europe with the prospect of joining a professional club.
“That’s made possible with Martin’s connections in Europe and his standing within the sport’s coaching community,” Marty adds.
Away from the pitch, the partnership with Russel Sean Fitness is a unique link that can provide benefits beyond Richmond United Soccer Club players.
“They (Russel Sean Fitness) do a lot of strength and fitness training for youth and adults. And we’ve developed our own niche within their programming, whether you want to exclusively train to become a better soccer player with soccer-specific training, or do lifestyle conditioning for general wellbeing,” Punia says.
And that sometimes spills over to having a whole family get involved with a fitness regimen.
“It’s an option that our club now provides, by offering the best development opportunities for every player that doesn’t subscribe to just one voice or a singular coaching style.”
For more about how you can become part of Richmond United Soccer Club, visit richmondunitedsoccer.ca.