How do we not have a local community college soccer program for our high school players?
I’ve asked myself this question almost every day for three years.
Between Davis, Dixon, Woodland, Winters, Esparto and Vacaville, the talent pool in our area can stand up to nearly every corner of the country. Yet unlike Sacramento, San Francisco, Napa and San Jose our players do not have access to a local community college program unless they want to travel across the causeway hundreds of times every year.
That is not an appealing offer for an 18 year old who has to work full time, might not have a car and has to look after members of their family.
As a player who tried it for one year told me, “It sucks, bad.”
In the 2019 - 2020 season, there were 37 community college men's soccer programs in Northern California.
For players living west of the causeway, the two closest programs are American River College, also known as ARC, and Napa Valley College.
ARC is 25 miles from Davis, 26 miles from Woodland, 32 miles from Dixon, 40 miles from Winters, 42 miles from Esparto and 44 miles from Vacaville.
Napa Valley College is 24 miles from Vacaville, 36 miles from Dixon, 38 miles from Winters, 44 miles from Davis, 52 miles from Esparto, and 53 miles from Woodland.
I wanted to know what this drive would feel like for student-athletes, so for three different weeks in 2019 I drove from Davis to American River College Monday through Friday and evaluated the impact on my life.
Halfway through my first week, I was ready to quit.
Of the fifteen car rides taken during February, April, and October, the average round trip drive was over 1 hour and 43 minutes. This drive would be significantly longer for players living outside of Davis, with an average round trip being well over two hours.
One traffic packed Friday the trip took over 2 hours and 53 minutes.
Along the way I encountered countless accidents, deadlock traffic, road construction, high speed winds that blew over a semi-truck, an elderly lady driving the wrong way down an interstate entrance ramp, a police chase, a cap-sized truck that was hauling chickens and a gas station bill that would make any cross-country truck driver proud.
Also, two flat tires (thanks AAA!).
After experiencing how unsustainable it would be for the majority of our local players to make this journey for two full years, an unsettling question came to mind: What’s happened to all of our past local standouts?
If the responses I received were any indication, not too many people know.
Nearly every time I sought information on our local alumni I received the same response; a look of confusion followed by a shrug of the shoulders.
For the ones who did know, there was a disturbing trend. Not too many players continued with their studies or playing soccer and for the ones who did, a significant amount never made it past their first year.
Something needed to change, but how?
In 2018 I began seriously looking for answers to solve the problems facing our local players. How we do not have a local option for players to stay involved in the game and get a college education is unacceptable. The data is clear on the importance of getting a college degree and our community can not afford to let our most talented players become an all too familiar statistic without using soccer as a way to change their lives.
Naturally, trying to find answers to these questions led to Woodland Community College.
Initial conversations to start an athletic department began with former WCC President Dr. White. During our meeting we had great back-and-forth about the value of athletics for students post high school. As a former athlete, he was acutely aware of the positive impact a team environment has on an individual and their future.
In 2019, Dr. White stepped down. After exchanging emails with WCC leadership, an exploratory conversation with new WCC President Art Pimentel was scheduled. Art is a forward thinking, community oriented executive who believes in the transformative power sports can have in the lives of our local youth. We had a great conversation about the history of our local area, his vision for how WCC can impact our community and of course the COVID-19 situation. After multiple phone calls, it became apparent with the potential impacts of COVID-19 it may be some time before a full fledged program can be built out. I have no doubt in my mind that Art will be the person to accomplish this undertaking if the conditions allow and have all the confidence in the world an honest effort will be put forth to see an athletic vision through.
But as a community, what do we do until then?
After going through a variety of competing scenarios, debating how different organizations can be leveraged and in return, how to manage so many different moving parts, a thought came to mind: What if FC Davis just created its own community college team?
And just like that, FC Davis Futures was born.
FC Davis Community College Program? What is that about?
Start a hyper-local college program providing aspiring student-athletes a tangible opportunity to represent their community all while working towards a four year degree? Seems like a no brainer, right? Who wouldn’t be for that?
I had a feeling other leaders in the local soccer community felt the same way, so I began hitting the phone lines to start pitching a vision of an athletic and academic program local players in our area could call home post high school.
As I soon found out, pitching this concept was easier said than done.
Most of my initial conversations with friends went as follow:
Me: How cool would it be to have a local community college team for our players?
Friend: Holy S*%t man! That would be a total game changer...
Me: I know right! I’m thinking about creating my own team. What do you think?
Friend: Your own what?
Me: Community College Team!
Me: Through FC Davis.
Friend: Dude…what are you crazy?