Sport and Community Leadership

The Vancouver Whitecaps FC is leading positive change in Vancouver. We predict the club’s ideas, commitments and positive role modeling will soon send ripples throughout the worlds of sport, wellness and community. We look forward to measuring the myriad ways that Vancouver’s newest professional sporting club reaches its potentiality – on the pitch as well as in the community.

As part of their club vision, the Whitecaps are committed to being a significant community asset. For the past year, the club has been championing the Vancouver Street Soccer League through a unique partnership with the DTES community sport association. In addition to frequent ticket giveaways, practices with Whitecaps FC men and women’s teams and the recent nomination of VSSL President Alan Bates as their community MVP, the team has also looked to grow its roots within the youth soccer community. A recent example was their free community clinic at UBC where the Whitecaps invited over 100 students from Hastings Elementary and U-Hill Elementary for a coaching session with Carl Valentine (‘Caps Legend and current Booster), Jay DeMerit (the club’s Captain), and Russell Teibert (one of the club’s Canadian stars).

A new study by Griffith University’s School of Business will explore the relationship between new sporting clubs and the communities they impact by investigating “the benefits gained in terms of the fan base they will stimulate as well as the well-being of the communities they enter” and will aim to “identify ways to maximise both outcomes.” [Editor’s note: please take note of our outstanding quotations and credit-giving, Margaret Wente!].

A study by Up2Us of American professional sports leagues and the philanthropy that they deliver for communities, suggests that “‘team-based philanthropy’ centers around the following five categories: Funding; Signatures and Seats; Free Marketing; Team/Player Involvement; and Use of Space.” The report recommends that professional clubs go beyond providing hand-picked organizations with free tickets, signed merchandise and field space by truly inspiring and investing in their communities, even if it’s for transparently self-serving reasons.

For example, a team might address the challenge of youth health, wellness and fitness by, say, contributing to the construction and management a giant Soccer Training Centre that will provide access to youth in the Lower Mainland (and beyond), but will also provide an incubator for future Whitecaps FC talent. Another example from the report is a recommendation for clubs to not award grants to single community teams or local nonprofits, but to challenge these community-based organizations to develop campaigns or programs as part of a competition, where the winning organization would receive something cool (e.g. taco night with Jay DeMerit!) from the professional team.

In addition to Vancouver Whitecaps FC, here are some randomly-selected North American pro-sports clubs (and one very tall man) that are doing cool things:

What do you think of how sport clubs give and how such engagement helps communities realize their potential?

Bike Thief Gets Ambushed By Bike Thief Victim

Ever had your bike stolen? It really sucks doesn’t it. Well, one Portlander decided to not let sleeping dogs lie and went on the offensive. After tracking down his bike, which was being hawked on Craigslist in Seattle, he got a bunch of his buddies together and decided to confront the perpetrator. The resulting video is worth watching.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC Community Asset Review – Part 11

Editors’ note: Kurt and John are firm believers that Vancouver can and should be the Canadian epicenter for growing the sport and culture of soccer football soccer. This is a self-described healthy community. We can play outside year-round, as fields are rarely closed due to snow and/or freezing. And, most importantly, Vancouver is the place to expertly develop the sport of soccer because our city’s team, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, shares this goal and so demonstrates this vision through its Club Structure and the Whitecaps Foundation, which aims to create the fittest generation of BC Youth by 2020.

As Vancouver Whitecaps FC season ticket holders, Kurt and John are well-positioned to evaluate how the franchise showcases its commitment to “be a significant community asset” – so, following every match we will reflect on this commitment by answering two questions, which are below. Sometimes we bring friends and/or family-members to the game. And sometimes those awesome friends and/or family-members write awesome blog posts about the experience.

On July 18 the ‘Caps tied the LA Galaxy 2-2. On July 22 the ‘Caps defeated San Jose 2-1.

HOW IS THE CLUB A SIGNIFICANT COMMUNITY ASSET?

D’uh, #winning #drawing against David Beckham and #winning against an MLS’s best team, the San Jose Earthquakes. BC Place was packed for both games, and the match against the LA Galaxy was sold out – had the ‘Caps not played to strikingly well, many of the casual fans who came to see His Royal Underwearness (rather than their home team) would have been very unlikely to return for another home game against, say, Real Salt Lake, FC Dallas, or another an MLS team from a tier-two American city with no almost-washed-up English Premier League stars on their roster.

As it turns out, putting a quality product on the field is a great way to demonstrate how the club is a significant community asset. Look, anytime David Beckham misses a free kick from this close it’s a beautiful thing:

WHAT COULD MAKE THE CLUB AN EVEN BETTER ASSET?

Destroy the spirit and will of referee-pushing Olympic turnaway David Beckham and his heels of teammates Donovan and Keane by beating them by a significant margin in front of more than 20,000 people, many of whom are not ‘Caps fans but will attend the match to experience the tour de force* that is The Beckham Show.

I’ve done the maths; a crushing victory over the Galaxy will secure at least 362 multi-game fans for the 2013 season and 73 season ticket holders for 2014.

For a sports club, being a significant community asset is, after all, about #winning.

Vote for Alan Bates!

Alan Bates with the Portland FC team at the Homeless World Cup in Brazil

Dear Gumbooteers.

Rarely do Kurt and I call on you for swift and decisive action. But we’re asking for it now. Please visit MLS W.O.R.K.S. (which stands for Major League Soccer … W.O.R.K.S?) and vote to make friend of The ‘Boot, Alan Bates, the MLS Community MVP. Nominated by Vancouver Whitecaps FC, here are a few words about Coach Bates:

For the last four years, Dr. Alan Bates has been leading Vancouver’s Street Soccer community. Street Soccer is soccer for people affected by homelessness. As a resident physician in Vancouver’s inner-city hospital, Dr. Bates sees many people affected by mental illness, addictions and homelessness in the emergency room. When he heard about Street Soccer, he recognized it as an opportunity to help a similar group of people, but through sport. Shortly after joining Vancouver’s first Street Soccer team as a volunteer, Dr. Bates partnered with a small number of grass-roots volunteers and the Portland Hotel Society (one of Vancouver’s largest social housing providers) to form Portland FC. With Dr. Bates as the volunteer Head Coach, Portland FC has gone on to play with or against the Vancouver Police, the Mayor of Vancouver and some of the Vancouver Whitecaps. In 2010, they represented Canada at the Homeless World Cup in Rio de Janeiro where they won the prestigious Fair Play award and were featured on national and international media including CBC, CTV, and CNN. In addition to providing amazing experiences for the players, the team has generated a lot of public interest in the issue of homelessness as people are able to identify with soccer players and the inherent humanity of the highs and lows of the beautiful game. Dr. Bates also played a significant role in creating Canada’s first ever women’s Street Soccer team which represented Canada at the Homeless World Cup in Paris in 2011. As the President of the Vancouver Street Soccer League, Dr. Bates has grown the League to nine teams including teams for women, new immigrants, street youth, and First Nations players. Dr. Bates’ research about Street Soccer has demonstrated that players find better housing, gain employment, reduce drug use, make friends, build confidence, improve their skills and physical fitness, gain medical support and decrease contact with police. For the last four years, players have known that every Sunday morning, rain or shine, all year-round, Dr. Bates will be there to lead practice and provide a safe and fun environment to play soccer with friends and supports.

Meta World Peace being honoured and priviledged to meet Coach Alan Bates

Thanks very much for your time and consideration, Awesome Community-Members. Now get out there and vote early, often and tell 10 friends about this post.

Enjoy!

Masthead photo courtesy of robholland’s photostream on Flickr

Long Tan Gone from the Whitecaps

Photo courtesy of Vancouver Sun

Today it was announced that striker Long Tan has been traded from the Vancouver Whitecaps to DC United after starting only four games this season. Tan had played a lot more last season (though the scoreboard didn’t particularly reflect it), but it seems this season he was moved to third string by the more formidable forward presences of Eric Hassli and Darren Mattocks.

Unfortunately, the lack of playing time seems to have caused a great deal of frustration for the 24 year old “dragon” (as dubbed by the local Whitecaps cheer squad). Three weeks ago after sitting on the bench for yet another game, Tan tweeted:

“You don’t give me time to playing. You don’t want let me go. What do you want?? I do not understand! Keep me of win PDL champion?”

Obviously not a happy camper, which is understandable. I can’t imagine how tough it would be sitting on the bench, game after game, as the crowd bellowed Hassli’s name (not yours) at the 70 minute mark. Such a situation would not lead to a happy “work-place environment”.

At the end of the day, I wouldn’t be surprised if Tan’s trade will be best for everyone. Hopefully, he’ll receive more playing time (and job satisfaction) with his new team. I also have to wonder how much of the decision to trade him was driven by his frustrated online outburst and other tension under the surface?

Photo courtesy of Mafue

 

Australia’s Strange Sporting Obsession

Last Saturday night, with a level of hype and expectation akin to the lunar landing, a seriously large number of Australians stayed up late to watch the country’s most successful racehorse, Black Caviar, race at Royal Ascot in England. You read right – people lost sleep in order to watch a racehorse compete in a race thousands of kilometres away, in a country that everyone in Australia loves to hate. The reason why of course is that as a community, we are absolutely obsessed with sport. Any sport.

Babies born in Melbourne routinely have an Australian Rules football team before they have a name, and once that minor detail has been finalised, the next step is getting them straight on to the waiting list for membership of the Melbourne Cricket Club. The current waiting list for MCC membership, which entitles the holder to entry to all football and cricket games held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, is somewhere in the vicinity of seventeen years.

So what is it that makes Australians such sporting tragics? One school of thought is that as a young nation with comparatively few competing narratives, most of our national heroes have ended up coming from sport, and sporting success has come to be a key indicator of our success as a nation. We’ve got a small number of war heroes and a couple of cultural icons, but the vast majority of our identity comes from sport, and we measure our place in the world through it.

At the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Australia slipped to number six on the medal tally, after finishing fourth in 2000 and 2004. We still won half the amount of medals that the USA won (not bad for a country with one fourteenth the population) but the media response in Australia was uncompromisingly hostile. If you were visiting Australia at this time and happened to pick up a newspaper, you could have been forgiven for thinking that we’d come out at the bottom of the medal table, or that our entire Olympic team had been outed as drug cheats.

But while we’re totally obsessed with sport, I like to think we’ve also got pretty decent manners too. Every Friday night for most of the year, up to 90,000 people cram into a stadium to watch an Aussie Rules game. Fans from both teams travel to the game together, they sit together at the ground, and at the end of the night they pile sardine-like into a packed train together to go home. There’s no team-based segregation, no fights and no need for masses of police. Why? Because it’s community at its finest – Australians don’t care what sport you love, as long as you love sport. And they don’t care which team you support, as long as you support someone. It’s obsessive, but it’s kind of nice too.

Masthead photo from this photostream, body photo from this photostream. Both used with the permission of a Creative Commons license.

Whitecaps FC Community Asset Review – Part 7

Editors’ note: Kurt and John are firm believers that Vancouver can and should be the Canadian epicenter for growing the sport and culture of soccer football soccer. This is a self-described healthy community. We can play outside year-round, as fields are rarely closed due to snow and/or freezing. And, most importantly, Vancouver is the place to expertly develop the sport of soccer because our city’s team, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, shares this goal and so demonstrates this vision through its Club Structure and the Whitecaps Foundation, which aims to create the fittest generation of BC Youth by 2020.

As Vancouver Whitecaps FC season ticket holders, Kurt and John are well-positioned to evaluate how the franchise showcases its commitment to “be a significant community asset” – so, following every match we will reflect on this commitment by answering two questions, which are below. Sometimes we bring friends and/or family-members to the game. And sometimes those awesome friends and/or family-members write awesome blog posts about the experience.

Yesterday’s match was a 1-1 tie against the New York Red Bulls.

HOW IS THE CLUB A SIGNIFICANT COMMUNITY ASSET?

Photo courtesy of MafueOne of the great things about Whitecaps games is they’re generally jammed with positivity and good sportsmanship. On the playing field, players play hard but rarely overly roughly. Diving is kept to a minimum, partly because it doesn’t seem to be part of the North American soccer culture and partly because referees seem uninterested in stopping the play and humouring a player writhing in (pretend) agony unless he was legitimately crunched. While every once and a while you’ll see a body check (half the time by Eric Hassli) that seems to harken to the NHL, most games begin and end relatively clean. There’s doubtlessly yapping on the field, but it’s rare to see it get out of hand. Dirty play is kept to a minimum.

In the stands it is a similar situation. In our section in particular, the cheers tend to be all positive all the time. All the cheers are aimed at buoying the teams spirits, congratulating great moves, hyping up the nearby fans and acknowledging great players. Even when faced with a Red Bull goalie a mere 15 meters away who’s sporting a mullet, it was exceedingly tricky to elicit a hardy “Get a Haircut” chant out of our crew.

All and all, the general “goodness” that seems to be implicit in the Whitecaps generally contrasts with the angry fans you sometimes see out East (see below) or in other sports where it is de rigour to scream nasty things. Indeed, it was this bad behaviour that forced John and I to stand in an empty stadium in Seattle for two hours last year prior to the match to ensure our crew didn’t “mix” with the Seattle Sounders fans. Such were the fears that Vancouver fans would follow in the nasty steps of other soccer thugs.

 WHAT COULD MAKE THE CLUB AN EVEN BETTER ASSET?

On Saturday I attended a game where a group of drucken dudes on a stag started yelling nasty things at the Whitecaps Cheer Captain. “Sit down and watch the game @%%$%@&&”, they screamed.

While these fellows may have been new to the Whitecaps culture or really, really drunk (or both), it would have been nice if the community rallied to let them know their behaviour wasn’t appropriate. I totally understand this is easier said then done (heck, I wasn’t up there telling them to shut up) – but hey, this section is called “What could make the club an even better asset?” Community/crowd engagement of these obnoxious louts would have been nice.

Whitecaps FC Community Asset Review – Part 5

Editors’ note: Kurt and John are firm believers that Vancouver can and should be the Canadian epicenter for growing the sport and culture of soccer football soccer. This is a self-described healthy community. We can play outside year-round, as fields are rarely closed due to snow and/or freezing. And, most importantly, Vancouver is the place to expertly develop the sport of soccer because our city’s team, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, shares this goal and so demonstrates this vision through its Club Structure and the Whitecaps Foundation, which aims to create the fittest generation of BC Youth by 2020.

As Vancouver Whitecaps FC season ticket holders, Kurt and John are well-positioned to evaluate how the franchise showcases its commitment to “be a significant community asset” – so, following every match we will reflect on this commitment by answering two questions, which are below. Sometimes we bring friends and/or family-members to the game. And sometimes those awesome friends and/or family-members write awesome blog posts about the experience.

Yesterday’s match was a 3-1 victory for Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

HOW IS THE CLUB A SIGNIFICANT COMMUNITY ASSET?

Vancouver Whitecaps FC embraces the diversity of its community. The club fields players from 17 different countries, which is the most in the MLS (Seattle Sounders FC are second best, with players from 15 countries) – in fact, the ‘Caps might be the most culturally diverse team in professional sports in the world. The The Vancouver Sun’s Yvonne Zacharias wrote a great piece about the challenges of executing high level soccer performance when such a multicultural team is asked to communicate effectively with each other in the seven different languages that the players speak.

Diversity makes the club a significant community asset because it’s a rare thing for professional sports teams to reflect the community in which they play – sure, it’s not an exact reflection, but you get the idea. Our world is going to become more, not less, diverse in the years to come, and Vancouver Whitecaps FC is already showing how effectively diverse communities work to achieve goals.

Speaking of goals, yesterday the ‘Caps scored three goals and Houston Dynamo only scored one goal.

One of the many possible Whitecap Fusion dishes / vxla’s photostream on Flickr

WHAT COULD THE CLUB DO TO BE EVEN MORE SIGNIFICANT?

With such a diverse team made up of players from so many countries and cultures I immediately thought of food – I’m also hungry, but this doesn’t make my idea any less awesome.

In order to be an even more significant community asset, Vancouver Whitecaps FC should serve – at games or via a superawesome Whitecaps Food Truck (©Copyright John Horn 2012) – dishes from players’ home countries. Not only would this idea celebrate the club’s diversity, but it would also be very, very tasty, especially if some of the city’s best culinary minds explore how to deliciously fuse some of the dishes (e.g. salt fish kimchi crepes?!) into amazingly unique Whitecaps creations.

moriza’s photostream on Flickr

Here are some of the potential menu items:

So there it is. My latest idea regarding how Vancouver Whitecaps FC can be an even more significant community asset. No need to thank me, Bob, John, Tom, et al – I share these gems because I’m a fan. And, for the record, I would absolutely eat a haggis empanada with some fufu poutine any day of the week…

Vancouver Lawyers Head to the “World Cup”

Unlike the rest of us, lawyers don’t have to wait four years for the World Cup to come around. A team of Vancouver lawyers is representing Canada at MUNDIAVOCAT – the Football World Cup for Lawyers – a serious tournament for competitive players.

The 2012 tournament takes place June 1 to 10 in Rovinj, Croatia. MUNDIAVOCAT takes place every two years and Vancouver’s legal community will again have a strong representation with a team of 18 lawyers from nine firms. The team this year includes lawyers at all points in their careers.

According to team Captain Kinji Bourchier, a partner at Lawson Lundell, there is an elite level of play at this tournament because most teams come from countries with a football culture.

“This global gathering of lawyers brings together people that are so different but at the same time, they all share a similar bond for the love of the game, and for 90 minutes on the pitch we are all equal and focused on a common goal” says Bourchier.

Lawyers and international soccer? Who knew?

Whitecaps FC Community Asset Review – Part 4

Editors’ note: Kurt and John are firm believers that Vancouver can and should be the Canadian epicenter for growing the sport and culture of soccer football soccer. This is a self-described healthy community. We can play outside year-round, as fields are rarely closed due to snow and/or freezing. And, most importantly, Vancouver is the place to expertly develop the sport of soccer because our city’s team, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, shares this goal and so demonstrates this vision through its Club Structure and the Whitecaps Foundation, which aims to create the fittest generation of BC Youth by 2020.

As Vancouver Whitecaps FC season ticket holders, Kurt and John are well-positioned to evaluate how the franchise showcases its commitment to “be a significant community asset” – so, following every match we will reflect on this commitment by answering two questions, which are below. Sometimes we bring friends and/or family-members to the game. And sometimes those awesome friends and/or family-members write awesome blog posts about the experience.

How is the team a significant community asset?

Vancouver Whitecaps FC is not only a bicycle friendly organization, they make cycling to games easy by collaborating with The Bicycle Valet. This encourages bike riding to and from the game, which certainly aligns with the club’s vision to develop the “fittest generation of youth in BC by 2020.”

I was lucky enough to attend both home games last week and rode my bike to the games with Michelle on Wednesday and Kurt on Saturday. There was certainly some powerful community building in the lineup for the Bicycle Valet, too, as cyclist chatted about Eric Hassli’s brilliant goal (below), tips about how to get to and from the game, and how beautiful a city Vancouver is for cycling.

WHAT COULD MAKE THE CLUB AN EVEN BETTER ASSET?

With the summer season upon us and BC Place located in our city’s gorgeous False Creek/Downtown ‘hood, Vancouver Whitecaps FC has an opportunity to leverage the beauty of its community – there might not be a better place to spend summer than in Vancouver. For some cyclists, though, getting outside for exercise isn’t enough, so my proposal is that the club incentivize cycling to and from games.

What does this look like and how can it be done? Simple gestures, such as coupons or gift certificates to Whitecaps FC business partners, represent great strating points. Grander gestures, such as “Bicycle Day” or “‘Capscycle”, would go a bit further to honour the folks that travel to experience sport by, well, experiencing sport and emitting far fewer emissions en route to doing so.

So, think  about it, Vancouver Whitecaps FC. See you at the bike valet!

Masthead photo courtesy of Mafue’s photostream on Flickr