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Monday, Nov. 9, 2015

Soccer in the city

Rafters

Shreveport Rafters begin building team’s nucleus

Debuting April 2016, the Shreveport Rafters F.C. soccer team will kick off its inaugural season. The team has so far, been warmly welcomed with interest from both players and coaches, as well as community support.

The team comes at a time in which soccer has becoming one of the fastest growing sports in the country, and Shreveport has taken notice, Head coach Greg Palmer said.

Palmer said he is excited about the buzz from the local community, and shared that things are moving along quickly with the recent finalization of their coaching staff and upcoming try outs.

Emmett Rutkowski, who is the soccer team’s head coach at Centenary College, will take the role of assistant coach; the head of opposition analysis will be Rob Stults who worked with Palmer coaching the girl’s soccer team at Caddo Magnet High School and Ian Coyer as the head of sports science, who recently worked with F.C. Dallas.

Palmer said in looking for the right players for the team, community is key. “It’s ideal that we have some Shreveport-based players,” he said. “We would like to build the nucleus around that, because other players will come and go but we’re looking at a lot of local [players] in the area. The whole deal is trying to build a family culture. From the time I was appointed [as head coach] that was the [objective] – to build a family culture club to get families to come out and watch the games and support. That’s why it’s important for us to have Shreveport-based players who can come out and play for their city.”

Creating a team from the ground up has come with its own set of challenges, but Palmer said, it starts with finding the right players with the right mindset.

“It’s not the same as walking into something where there’s already a club or a team, and I can look at the team and say, ‘This is what we need and what we need to add,’” he said.

“This is starting from scratch and it’s mainly about finding people who want to commit to this. I want players who have an interest in it and not only want to be a part of it this year, but for the years to come.”

Palmer, who also is the U15-U18 director of coaching and director of club development for Caddo Bossier Soccer Association, said it’s important to get players involved as early as they possibly can. With over 3,000 involved with CABOSA, it would be ideal to have a sort of pipeline and give players more opportunities in their soccer careers.

“It would be great to get some of these high school kids involved. We as the Rafters want to support them in their journey [of playing],” Palmer said. “Even if they do go off and play for any decent D1, D2 or D3 level, they can always come back and add to our program, or even be a part of us even before they leave as well. It’s all about building for the future.”

The season will start in April 2016 and Palmer said they will know the official schedule either middle or end of December. “The first year is always the most difficult year, but we want to be able to compete with the other teams and make the games tight,” he said. “We want to go out and try to win as many games as we can, and at the same time play the type of soccer that people want to see so that they want to come back and continue watching games.”

The sport is about more than just the game, Palmer said, it’s about the people. Palmer makes an effort even in recruiting to reach out to potential players personally, and establish that kind of relationship in the beginning.

“In my opinion, soccer is all about relationships,” he said. “It’s not just a soccer relationship, it’s a personal relationship.

From players to coaches, coaches to players and even coaches to parents – I think that’s the way we’re going to try to go with [the Rafters]. It’s not just about them playing soccer, it’s about investing in them as people.”

That investment in players as people will surely continue the current momentum that the team is having, and suggests that the Shreveport Rafters F.C. will be an investment in the city, as well.

–Katie Ho

Learn more:

For more information on the team, and to stay up-to-date on scheduling and other news go to www.raftersfc.com.

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