A brief travel program club history
After searching for a more stable and competitive league for our most successful teams, the NRU Board voted to accept the offer from SOCA (club that runs the Skyline) to take the top-flight teams in each age group from the BRSL and enter them into the Skyline league. NRU was instantly successful in the new league. Within the year, NRU won the overall club championship in the Skyline league, followed by additional club championships in the Spring of 2010 and again in the Spring of 2011. In addition, our second teams that maintained their membership in the BRSL, had continued competitive success.
The club’s rapid success in the Skyline league created a new set of problems. A few NRU teams were so dominant that those players and teams were not seeing growth. Outscoring opponents by 5-8 goals a game, players/parents/coaches grew frustrated by the lack of competition. This frustration resulted in a small exodus of families and players from the NRU Skyline league seeking a more competitive environment at Roanoke Star. At the time NRU’s travel program size could not handle the loss of players and their families. The resulting snowball effect caused NRU to lose 3-4 teams the following year.
After taking almost 2 years to fully recover and develop back to a full slate of teams, in the spring of 2014 NRU won the Skyline Club Championship. Seeing multiple club teams (predominantly boys) reassert their age group dominance, NRU sought out a new solution to provide the most appropriate competitive environment for those teams. This resulted in a decision to have a majority of our boy’s teams play up a full age division in the Skyline League. This meant that our players would be competing against kids who were a full year older than themselves. This decision was intended as a temporary solution, allowing for a stronger competitive environment that was not being fulfilled at the age appropriate levels. Since 2014, when NRU has played at age appropriate levels across the Skyline league, we have won the Skyline Club Championship. In spring of 2016, NRU won the league championship by the largest margin in Skyline history winning 5 out of 8 divisions.
Over the last 3 years, NRU has sought a higher level of competition for the club’s competitive teams. NRU has been challenged with the lack of leadership from the Skyline League, which unfortunately has done little to improve or promote the league. The Skyline League represents the primary funding resource for SOCA and their elite teams that currently compete in the CCL. This represents the current state of affairs as NRU approached the Spring 2018 season.
NRU and the past year
Over the past 3 years, NRU has received multiple requests for plans to develop and enhance our competitive offerings. From consistent feedback at the Annual meeting, to our players, families, and teams reaching out directly, the desire for better competition has been a constant membership request. To serve our membership better, the Club pursued several crafted opportunities. These included high level friendly matches, premiere tournament showcase events, State Cup teams, and collegiate camps. These a la carte options provided our teams and players some competitive offerings, but the Club continued to be challenged by the lack of better league play.
December 2017/January 2018
On Dec 23rd, 2017 the Club Champions League (CCL) contacted our Executive Director about the opportunity for NRU to apply and join the CCL. This opportunity was not based on any request or campaign by NRU directly but rather as the CCL’s own recognition of NRU’s competitive talents. Earlier in the month of December, during a CCL executive retreat, the directors voted to expand the league by four clubs and NRU was one of those clubs chosen. NRU was informed that we would need to go through the formal application process, however the application was non-binding and did not obligate NRU to join CCL if accepted. NRU was required to submit the application no later than January 5th, followed by a formal presentation to CCL leadership at the Coaches Convention in Philadelphia on January 17th.
Because of the short time horizon and the important fact that the application process was non-binding, the NRU Board of Directors decided to move forward with the CCL application. Any future decisions regarding CCL membership would come later and only after meeting with and hearing from our entire membership. This continues to be the case today.
At the Coaches Convention, our Executive Director presented NRU’s formal application to the CCL Board of Directors and a vote was scheduled to take place to consider offering league membership to New River United. Based on the feedback our Executive Director was receiving at the convention, we were given every indication that our application was well received and would be successful. However, our Executive Director was later informed that one CCL Member Club protested NRU’s application and suggested they would pull their support for CCL if NRU was granted admission. It was revealed to us that SOCA, who had the last vote, was not in favor of NRU becoming a CLL member club. SOCA is the same club who runs the Skyline league and is the sole beneficiary of the monetary proceeds from Skyline league fees. From the information passed along to our Executive Director, when SOCA questioned NRU’s readiness to join the CCL, a few other CCL members rescinded their support and suggested that the vote be tabled until the next league meeting, scheduled to take place in March 2018.
Instead of pursuing another vote in March 2018, NRU’s Executive Director chose to reach out to the CCL leadership and request status as a provisional club, allowing NRU to play in a series of friendly matches for the Fall 2018. This unique opportunity allowed our members to have a better understanding of what the CCL league would entail for our families. The CCL leadership agreed to withdraw NRU’s application and schedule four friendly matches with CCL league club teams in the Fall 2018 season.
Next, the Club reached out to membership and scheduled an informational meeting on January 29th, 2018. During that meeting, the Executive Director gave a full account of all developments regarding the CCL and the 4 scheduled matches with CCL clubs in the upcoming fall season. The information session included discussions on the integration of 4 additional matches into a full Skyline schedule and the potential match sites for additional travel. Also discussed at this information session was the importance and priority of gathering membership feedback from travel families’ experiences during the Fall 2018 season.
Throughout the Spring 2018 season, the club received a considerable amount of feedback regarding the CCL. Membership responses ranged from total support for CCL membership to no support for any type of CCL affiliation. Additionally, several members expressed an indifference, that was partially due to their desire to proceed through the fall season and learn more information.
Overall, what the Club learned from the spring feedback was that there existed a healthy membership desire for higher competition and a need to provide additional options and training environments for the entire region. To that end, NRU’s Executive Director met with the leadership of both Roanoke Star and Valley AFC. In this meeting the idea of a regional partnership between all three clubs was discussed and how to best provide a level of competition that some players in our region are seeking. The idea of a partnership was to address the range of competitive offerings that the three individual clubs felt they couldn’t provide alone. One concept discussed was to have all three clubs individually join the CCL 2. The CCL 2 is a secondary league within the CCL. Essentially, the 3 clubs and potentially other clubs from the Skyline league, could create a regional CCL 2 league. As a club in the CCL 2 we would be members of the entire CCL and this would provide an avenue for those players within each club that wanted to play and travel in the CCL. Those players on the Club’s current BRSL teams would have the opportunity to also play in the CCL 2 or continue in the BRSL. The approach would be designed to ensure the best fit for those separately tiered teams. The benefit of this concept was to enable all 3 clubs an ability to provide a pathway and access to CCL level competition, instead of Roanoke Star having the only avenue. It is important to note that this idea is still conceptual, and no decisions have been made. Ideally, these initial conversations have allowed for the strengthening of regional relationships that have been strained in the past and to work together to enhance soccer in the region as a benefit for all.
NRU’s goal this fall was to provide our current Skyline teams with the experience of what membership in the CCL may look like. The biggest challenge for our Club this fall was that we had to compete in 2 separate leagues at the same time. To aggravate matters, the Skyline League did not honor our scheduling requests for open weekends during our CCL matches. While this was unfortunately out of our control, the Club realized the additional burden it placed on many of our travel families and we apologize for that.
To ensure that all our travel teams had a full complement of players for the CCL friendlies, we took advantage of the strong relationship we enjoy with Valley AFC. We asked Valley if they would consider providing some additional players to our travel teams that needed roster support. Valley agreed and have been very helpful throughout the process. We had 13 NRU teams competing in CCL matches along with 2 supporting teams from Valley AFC, for a total of fifteen teams participating in the 4 CCL friendly matches. Our overall record as a club was 22 wins, 22 losses, 7 ties.
Our oldest girls’ team is currently competing as a full member in the CCL under Roanoke Star’s flag. Their record was 2 wins, 1 loss, 2 ties.