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Youth Boys Jul 08, 2011

Tommy Park brings fresh outlook to Alexandria Soccer Association

By Brooks Hays

Late last month, the Alexandria Soccer Association (ASA) set their club on a new and exciting course with the hiring of an energetic young soccer enthusiast, Tommy Park, as the club’s executive director.

A regional All-American during his college career at the University of Mary Washington, Park has experience at many levels of the region’s soccer scene. He played and coached in the D.C. United system, and has served as an assistant coach at local prep powerhouse DeMatha Catholic High School in addition to a leading role with successful Maryland Under-19 boys’ side SAC United Premier.

John Timmons, president of ASA, characterized the excitement around Park’s new role, saying, “We are excited to bring new energy and direction to the club. Tommy is a proven leader with top-level experience playing and coaching.”

Now, having just barely settled into his new title and chair, Park is already making changes, and thinking both big and small about how to grow and improve ASA.

“The picture for me right now is very broad, while at the same time I’m brainstorming about, and even beginning to implement, very specific initiatives,” Park says.

One initiative has been installed right off the bat. Park has begun hosting age-specific open sessions, free and open to any level player on Wednesday nights in July at Ben Brenman Park, located off Duke Street in south Alexandria. This is a small example of something Park hopes will help him achieve much larger objectives.

It is such intra-club activities and events that Park wants to see more of.

“I want to make an effort to develop a stronger bond to the club,” he explains, “by enhancing and maintaining a distinct club culture and identity.”

Park hopes that developing a more inclusive atmosphere, and by bringing parents and coaches together more often, he will eliminate the chance that clubs and coaches will adopt singular or selfish perspectives.

Depth and inclusion seem to be key words for Park and his outlook. “We understand the value of focusing on all levels of play, including recreational clubs,” he says.

That doesn’t mean highly competitive travel clubs aren’t a top priority for Park. While some clubs might focus exclusively on player development at only the highest levels, he thinks a more inclusive approach can eventually pay off at the upper levels as well.

“I want to put in some initiatives that develop some kids at younger ages, that will in turn evolve eventually into the opportunity for kids to play at the next level,” he says. “We will focus on unique physical and technical development initiatives that will improve players top to bottom.”

By comprehensiveness, Park means he doesn’t want his team to have to go elsewhere for indoor soccer, nor for speed and agility training or college prep classes.

“We want to do everything we can in-house,” he says.

His concept also includes parents and coaches.

“There aren’t very many programs in place right now that give incentive to our coaches to progress onward and upward,” says Park. He plans to change that by offering more in-house training opportunities.

The same goes for parents, whom Park will encourage to take a basic coaching course.

“If I can get the parents to reiterate, reinforce the techniques, now all of sudden it’s not just once a month, it’s more constant technical training,” he notes.

That also applies to the community at large. What some might consider a challenge, operating in a more complex urban environment than many area clubs, Park considers a strength.

“We have great diversity in Alexandria, both racially and socio-economically,” he says, noting that great soccer players come from all walks of life.

“We just have to do a better job of communicating with the community,” says Park. “We need to improve our scholarship program, so that we have less barriers to kids that want to play soccer; and we need to educate people about the programs we have to offer their kids.”

Park’s interest in the community is not just an effort to discover talented soccer players, it is a genuine, comprehensive appeal.

“We need to continue to partner with the city of Alexandria on other programs outside of player development. Healthy living initiatives through soccer, soccer for children with disabilities, and soccer for toddlers,” explains Park.

It’s clear ASA has a lot of good things ahead of them, if Park can follow through on some of these large and aggressive objectives. He knows he’s got a lot on his plate, but he’s confident that he is working from a solid foundation.

“We have great facilities, very motivated parents and board members,” says Park.

Park believes that with that kind of positive structure, and a few new faces to help (he plans to bring on a director of coaching in charge of player development) he should be able to hit the ground running, and running fast.

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