Providing quality without paying quantity.
That’s the mindset of the R.I. Strikers FC premier youth soccer organization as it kicks off its second season of existence.
After fielding five teams last season, including an Under-13 boys’ squad that captured the R.I. State Cup, the Strikers are looking to expand to nine teams this summer and include young talent from across the Blackstone Valley.
And they’re doing so with the repeat promise of offering the lowest premier fees in southeastern New England.
“We want to cater to kids from northern Rhode Island and be able to give a good package to them, but we also want to give them a high level of training and the ability to do different things,” offered Anthony Bettencourt, who is the registrar on the Strikers’ Board of Directors.
“There are a lot of kids in Woonsocket, Pawtucket, and Cumberland that can play at a very high level, but may not be able to afford some of these bigger clubs. We want to be an option for them to come and showcase their talent at the premier level without having to break the bank.”
Keeping the costs down to run a top-notch organization has been somewhat tricky, but the Strikers, which is a non-profit organization, have found ways to keep playing “the beautiful game” affordable.
One thing that stands out in their budget is the salaries they pay their Board of Directors and coaches. They don’t pay a cent to them.
“You don’t have Jenny’s dad who’s just out there coaching the team because his kid plays,” said Bettencourt. “The coaches that are currently on our staff are highly skilled. One has played at the pro level in Ireland. Everyone here carries an [USSF National] ‘E’ coaching license, all the way up to a ‘B’. An ‘A’ is the highest, but ‘B’ is very, very good.”
The fees, which were $750 per player last year, but are yet to be determined for the upcoming season, include year-round goalkeeper and striker training, strength and conditioning sessions and indoor futsal training during the cold winter, and tournament and league fees.
The Strikers have also received a welcomed boost from its recent affiliation with another R.I. youth club, Bayside FC, which became official on May 5 and will be basically geared towards the Under-13 age group and above.
“(The affiliation) will allow our best players to play in the NPL [National Premier League] without leaving our club,” said Bettencourt. “It also allows our club to play (in the upcoming season) in the New England Premiership. The NEP is a higher level of play that the league we currently play in, the Massachusetts Premier League.”
The club will hold tryouts for its 2014-15 season during the second week of June. The tryouts for the boys’ U11 and U14 and girls’ U12 and U13 teams are Monday, June 9 and Wednesday, June 11, while the tryouts for the boys’ U10 and girls’ U9, U10, U11, and U15 teams take place Tuesday, June 10 and Thursday, June 12.
The tryouts will take place at Deerfield Park in Smithfield. Check in starts at 5 p.m. and the tryouts each night will last from 5:30-7 p.m.
“The park is beautiful,” said Bettencourt. “Kids love to play soccer on those fields. The town takes care of them and does a wonderful job.”
Before the tryouts get under way, the club has two events highlighted on its calendar, including a fundraiser for the club on Sunday, June 1, at Kirkbrae Country Club that includes a small dinner, silent auction, and a 50/50 raffle.
And this weekend, Deerfield Park will host the R.I. State Cup, which gathers the state’s best youth soccer teams, and the Strikers will be well represented with three teams in the field.
“For a small club like ours to have three of our five teams competing in it is tremendous,” said Bettencourt. “On Sunday, the U12 girls are playing in the championship, and on Saturday, the U11 and U14 girls will be playing in the semifinals.”
For more information on the league, its tryouts, its teams, and its fundraiser, visit the website ristrikersfc.com.
Follow Eric Benevides on Twitter @EricBen24