This Summer, LAS will be following around the NJ Riot 2016 club team, and by following them, we will try to gain some insight into the elite travel team scene. We will interview some players, and talk to parents, but let’s start from the beginning with an interview with the NJ Riot founder, Lee Southren…
Why did you start the NJ Riot team? What are the program goals?
One of the main goals for the NJ Riot Team is obviously to be successful in our games and tourneys, but in all honestly, we have already seen some small successes in the way our boys are coming together on and off the field, building the foundation to be part of something a bit bigger than each individual. We have added to top flight players in the last month who were available, and not already committed to play any Club Ball: Cooper Telesco, of Ridgewood & Donald Magner, of Mahwah.
Where do the rest of your players come from?
Our Players come from an array of towns including 2 boys from Suffern, NY. Some towns represented in NJ are Ridgewood, Mahwah, Millburn, Randolph, New Providence, Roxbury, Flanders, North Hunterdon, and Mendham, to name a few.
Where will you be playing this summer?
This Summer we will be playing at The Bryant Bulldog Classic at Bryant U on June 21st, then at Lafayette College for the Leopard Classic on July 3rd. Then we head to the National Invite Best of the Best on July 6, the Jersey Shootout on July 14th, the Patriot Games on July 21st. In addition, all of our boys will be attending a host of Showcases and Camps including Jake Reed, National Invite 175, Top 205, Fab Frosh, and Blue Chip 225.
As a parent and coach, what have you learned about the club system?
WOW! That is an excellent question and one that is not answered quickly.
Here we go, as a Parent, we all have a tendency to over commit our kids to things, put pressure on them to succeed, and try to (at times) push them to pursue things that maybe we want more than they do. I HAVE BEEN AS GUILTY AS ANYONE OVER THE YEARS.
If I look back, I realized that my sons’ “path” from Middle Schoolers to HS to even soon to graduates, and College students, was happening in their head regardless of what I had to say about it. I used to make a big deal about playing time, roster sizes, and coaching when the boys were in 5-8 grade and now realize how insignificant it was. If they were having fun, learning a few new things and making some new friends, then I, as a parent, had already won.
As I HAVE MATURED A LITTLE and have been a parent with 6 different NJ Clubs in the last 7 years, I realize that they all had some good aspects to them. Unfortunately, I have never been one who was satisfied with just some good things. Over the years, especially in the 2016 Class, I developed some real good friends as well as some real good seasonal Lax Friends. As this group was nearing HS, AND if a young man wanted the opportunity to really pursue being recruited to play in College, then just okay or decent just WASN’T GOOD ENOUGH.
I have been respectful to many Clubs and future programs in not pursuing their players to join Riot 2016. I did initially email a vast list to see if anyone was interested last fall, but have since dialed that back. I will also never begrudge any entity who is for-profit, even if it a lot of profit. That is their right as business people and if people are willing to pay, then even better. NJ Riot has chosen to NOT do that as I, the Founder, also pay the fees for my son, who plays on the team, and I know how expensive these things can get.
If it makes others look bad, sorry, but that’s not my problem, I decided to do that to do something different. The doing something different model is also evident in our communication, as players and parents have input. I have a love for the game, a love for our membership, and a passion to be different. **By the way, we are starting a 2017 Team run by Barry Marenberg in our system, and so far, he has well over 100 2017 quality players coming to our evals for a spot on our 22-23 man Team… I assume we must be doing something right, eh?
What works is consistent communication, what works is perfecting deliverables, what works is giving the boys attention to what their particular goals are and offering them a solution. What works (surprisingly I even have to list this) is returning calls, texts, and emails in TIMELY manner. What works is BROTHERHOOD.
What doesn’t work?
What doesn’t work is the opposite of everything I listed above. Be who you say are, do what you say do, stand up to criticism, and never run from your detractors. I have developed many detractors over the years for being opinionated and aggressive with my beliefs. I am and have always been very easy to reach if anyone has a bone to pick. Most people would rather do it in the back round, but to each their own. We try to be open, and honest, and that works for us.
What do you hope the NJ Riot can do differently?
Honestly, it’s still too early to tell that, as we are just about to start our inaugural Summer season. We may need to check back for this one…