2020 will mark the SIXTH year since the debut of Asheville Shield Football Club. With our club growing from strength to strength, it is always important to remember exactly why our club was created and the idea behind the famous “Shield”
Check out our story from Club Founder himself; Mark Girardi.
To whom it may interest, As founder of Asheville Shield Football Club (ASFC) I’m often asked about its origin, design, and purpose. I hope some of the following will be of help, and shine some light on why this club was started, and has progressively doubled in size since it’s inception in Spring, 2014:
a)I’ve been involved in both the youth and collegiate levels of the game forapprox. 20 years serving as a Manager/ Coach, or Assistant at varying levels on the youth sidewith the only local club in our region –ABYSA/ HFC (a branch that would merge). I was always heavily involved, even if my children weren’t on the team(s) I wasassigned to manage.
b) While a student of the game, I’ve never played, but rather raised four children, two of which have or are competing at a collegiate level.
c ) Seeing the growth in Asheville/ Buncombe County alone, it was becoming more and more apparent that there was a need for an alternative; a choice for families that may want to enjoy the game, but not necessarily be in alignment with the only club in town. Many would attempt the drive to Greenville for the closest alternative (CESA) but realized the commute to be too extreme. This is not meant to detract from the local club’s efforts, but rather just explore the options for providing something different for families to consider.
d) As the need became more and more apparent, I developed a course of action to start something new. I knew there would be a very strong resistance from the only club in town, as no group had managed to launch another successful program in two decades. How strong, I had no idea.
e) It was important to me that if this venture was to start and grow successfully, some key items had to be addressed and philosophies adhered to, insuring differentiation between the other club and our effort. Some of the key points which we still hold in high regard:
- Quality coaching for ALL players, not only the highest skilled teams.This was paramount, as many children would never get to experience and love the game if not taught properly. Our club never centers around a “superstar”. All of our players are stars and some of the brightest would appear in the least likely form .
- While winning games is fun, we would not put emphasis on “win at all cost” by bullying, pressuring, or intimidating our players or the opposition.Our coaches teach and lead by example.
- Our emphasis would lie rather on the player learning the beauty of the game and how to respect themselves and others while on the pitch and off. This was far more important to me, as once true teambuilding could be taught, it would carry through to far more areas of the players lives than just soccer.Playing the game proper!!
- While maintaining, running a youth sports club can be expensive, I was determined to not have the players badgered or learn sales skills to support the club. Fees are vital butwas determined for local business to overcome the financial shortfalls that always arise.
f) With the above points being our primary goals, we needed a name (my most frequently asked question). I cannot take full credit, as it was created by myself and another “soccer dad” back in our club’s initial launch (Spring 2014). We wanted something enduring and would characterize our approach. A powerful unified effort that could also guard and protect our players and families as we moved forward. A haven from all the things that can be so troublesome for children at times. A place where they knew everyone was treated equally and given the attention and care to thrive, while enjoying/ learning the worlds game. A SHIELD!!! It rang true to me and embodies what this club is and what it would become.
g) The attempts to derail our efforts have been relentless to this day, though we have attempted numerous times to engage in a positive manner. We choose and will continue to take the high road, focusing on our families and community as opposed to any negativity.While unfortunate, we would not be taken of course.
h) From one, rag-tag team in the Spring of 2014, we are now approaching 14 teams, maintaining a full 501c3 non for profit status, and continue to grow.
i) This club has never been about me, I just helped force the doors open, and have helped guide/ shape it’s path forward. I will be forever humbled by what has become of this effort, and grateful to be a part. It’s a special thing to watch our “one club, one family” grow and embody the vision that had been set forth. It will take strong, continued leadership, guidance, and funding to stay the course now, and beyond my days as an active member of the board.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and hope it provides some clarity into how ASFC started, and how it has become what it is today…a viable, great choice for youth soccer in our community.