After over a decade of involvement in the Cosmopolitan Soccer League, Oliver Papraniku (Owner and General Manager) decided it was time to take the next step in the dream of forming a new soccer club. Last March he pulled Joe Sullivan (Director of Operations and Marketing), a long time friend from the CSL on board and purchased Jersey City Eagles only a few short months before the season was slated to start. Joe said, “…it wasn’t a last minute decision, but I don’t know that it was a fully planned out decision when he thought about marketing and fans and building a franchise. It was more having the opportunity to take the step from the level we were at.”
The CSL is a USASA league with a first division and several reserve divisions. The first division is considered to be on the 5th tier of the US Soccer pyramid. Storied clubs like New York Athletic Club, New York Pancyprian Freedoms, and Greek American Atlas Soccer Club all play in the CSL at a very high level of amateur competition. According to Joe, the purpose in founding a new club was to be able to implement a new system of youth and player development based on years of experience of dealing with clubs in the lower divisions of soccer in the United States. “What we want to do here is try and start building a better player from the ground up. But you don’t do that just from clinics, coaching and the type of games you’re playing. You have to do it holistically.”
Because of this ‘holistic’ approach to the club, Joe and Oliver knew they would need a special coach - and having played against Kevin Grogan’s teams in the CSL they knew he was the one they wanted. Kevin has a UEFA B coaching license, was signed by Sir Alex Ferguson at the age of 15 and was a part of an Irish U-16 side that won the European Championship in 1998. Joe says, “he is a jewel for our club”.
Coach secure, the next step was to find a youth club to partner with. The Clarkstown Soccer Club of Rockland County, NY provided a perfect candidate and thanks to Kevin’s involvement with the youth club an agreement has been put in place. As Joe tells is, “We identified that problem kind of last year, looking at the organizational standpoint [the problem of ground up development]. Kevin had recently been hired as director of coaching for a large club in Rockland County called Clarkstown Soccer Club…. we [immediately] saw the potential synergies there. Starting last September we entered discussion with Clarkstown Youth Club about a potential partnership….”
With this agreement Jersey City Eagles will move to Rockland County and re-brand themselves as Clarkstown SC Eagles. “Clarkstown SC Eagles… will be in one sense be the senior side to that youth club… that then allows more of the opportunity as kids come through the Clarkstown system they are being coached under Kevin’s tutelage… it allows us to really develop players and bring them through a system where there is a goal at the end. Then if they don’t get snapped up by [pro clubs] they’ll have a place to play after college and during college…. hopefully at some point the youth club will be a feeder for the senior side…”
Another part of this vision will be to locate and develop soccer fields for Clarkstown Soccer Club. “One of the things we are going to hopefully be helping with is finding and developing fields particularly in the NY area. We know that if you have your own field you control your own destiny… we hope that in the next 3 years we will have identified land.” Adding to that, Joe commented that long term he would love to see Rockland County become “soccer central for the Northeast Region.”
That first season saw the Eagles finish in third place in the Keystone Flight of the Northeast Region with a 6-3-2 record. Two of the three losses came at the hands of eventual national champions FC Sonic. Joe and Oliver are confident that they can learn from last season and feel that they are much more prepared for the 2013 campaign. “Our first season was complicated by the fact that there was an overlap between the CSL and the NPSL, so for our first 3 or 4 games we had players who were playing competitively in two leagues at once and a coach who was coaching in two leagues at once… he actually missed one of our NPSL games due to his commitment to his CSL club. We saw that we would have the same problems if we kept running things the same way… our players would go back to their CSL club teams [and be unavailable] so we kept our core group together and we entered them into the CSL in the first division so we could keep them playing together… and give our players more seasoning. [They have] now been together since September of last year.”
In a league that has seen its fair share of one-and-dones Oliver and Joe are hoping that they can help lead the way in developing a sustainable club model. And with the infrastructure they have built over the past year, 2013 looks to be an exciting season for the new Clarkstown SC Eagles.
Thanks to Marc Silverstein for inspiring this article, and many thanks to Joe Sullivan and Oliver Papraniku for agreeing to an interview.