It’s been about a year since the Athletic Club of Los Banos officially opened its doors, and the youth soccer club is thriving, according to club president Michael Perkins.
The club now features seven teams – five boys teams (U15, U14, U11, U10 and U9) and a pair of girls teams (U15 and U11) and while the teams are performing to various levels of success on the field, the club itself has seen its growing pains.
“I think one of the challenges has been complete uniformity, getting all coaches, all parents, all players on the same page,” Perkins said. “A lot of people have an idea of what a team is. In the past, teams have operated as their own entity. It’s been hard getting people to understand that we make decisions for the benefit of all teams. People haven’t always wanted to buy into that – financial policies, team policies, getting people to understand why things are done a certain way.”
The teams compete in the NorCal Premier League, local region of USA Soccer. Formerly, teams from Los Banos competed under the umbrella of Fuego FC out of Livingston, or various other area clubs. AC Los Banos has worked to unite the soccer community in town.
The on-field success includes the 10-year-old team winning the NorCal Premier League state cup in the fall, the 2013 Copa Univision tournament in Fresno and second-place finishes in several other tournaments.
The Terremotos’ U11 team added another second-place finish to its resume last week at the eight-team Central California Cup in Selma.
Currently the club is working on expanding its services to younger children, such as a youth academy.
“On the field, we seeing a lot of positive results,” Perkins said. “Last Friday night, we started the summer academy for kids 6 to 8 years old. That will roll over into our development academy in the fall. It’s all about developing skill sets.”
Being an isolated community, the club must grow its coaching staff rather than attracting coaches that are already polished.
“We’re 45 minutes from everywhere, and the isolation impacts coaching pools,” Perkins said. “There’s not the coaching pool a lot of large metropolitan areas have. So we look for coaches that are willing to go to the trainings. We have several coaches go up to Dublin for a Fiorentina training, and these are things we try to do.”
The isolation may also affect the club’s long-term viability. Currently the club is pushed along by a small group of administrators, but the ultimate goal is to get to the point where, when the board members (Perkins, Mario Gonzalez, Deserie Perkins, Karla Ramirez and Brady Taylor) move on, the club will persist.
“That is what we’re working on,” Perkins said. “You can’t understate it enough that we have a very small group of people pushing this, we’re trying to open the doors and get more people involved, that hopefully three or four years down the road we can step aside and it will still move forward. That’s hopefully the long-term goal.”