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Final Paper, Option 1 North Carolina FC Youth Organizational Challenges

Rachel Harris

Organizational Context

The formation of North Carolina FC Youth was announced in early 2017 as the result of the Capital Area Soccer League (CASL) entering into collaboration with the North Carolina Football Club (NCFC) and the Triangle Futbol Club Alliance (TFCA). The North Carolina Football Club is the professional men’s soccer organization based out of Cary, NC. CASL served the Triangle community for more than 43 years and TFCA has been in operation for 17 years. The collaboration of these three parties has allowed North Carolina FC Youth (NCFC Youth) to become the largest youth-to-pro soccer club in the country. Through the transition, CASL’s CEO, Gary Buete, now serves as the CEO for NCFC Youth and the CASL Board of Directors has become the NCFC Youth Board of Directors.

The mission for NCFC Youth is to provide positive, high quality soccer opportunities at all levels of play for youth and their families and to serve as a valuable community partner. This mission mirrors the previous missions of both CASL and TFCA, and the club is looking to use this mission to appeal to all members of the Triangle community.

NCFC Youth is now able to offer programming in Raleigh, Cary, Apex, Wake Forest, Garner, Durham/ Chapel Hill, and Holly Springs/ Fuquay-Varina. The Wake County Government reports that Wake County’s current growth rate is 62 people per day. With the expansion NCFC Youth is now capable of, the club has strategically positioned itself to appeal to as many of these new Wake County residents as possible.

Prior to the collaboration between CASL and TFCA, the clubs were widely known as rivals. Both clubs offered programming ranging from recreational to top-level competitive teams, so the rivalry continued to grow each year. Now that these clubs have come together, the culture has become extremely interesting. Both staff and members of the organization are now in uncharted territory! Before the transition, CASL’s office culture was very team-oriented and it was a close-knit group. Leadership has set out to foster a similar environment in the NCFC Youth office.

Perceived Problems

North Carolina FC Youth leadership faces a significant challenge in the unification of the club staff, as the staff is composed of both former CASL and TFCA staff members. The club must find a way to unite these staff members in a manner that buries the rivalries and strengthens the NCFC Youth product and image. This is a challenge that must be overcome by the club; the NCFC Youth staff must support and push the NCFC Youth mission for us to even hope to have our membership do the same. Many members of our clubs had played for both clubs at some point in their soccer career, and had harbored negative feelings towards the club they had left. The staff must lead the membership out of those negative feelings and through the difficult transition, and their attitude towards the collaboration in those moments will be extremely important to the members’ perception of it.

Another challenge facing NCFC Youth is the distribution of responsibilities and role clarity among staff members. There are several directors within the Classic program alone, as can be seen in the organizational chart attached as Appendix A. There are several responsibilities that fall on the Classic program directors and these responsibilities often overlap, which has recently lead to miscommunication and confusion among both staff and members. The roles need to be clarified and restructured as several members have been negatively affected by these misunderstandings and errors. I will outline this problem with the example of our recent struggles in communicating schedule changes as a result of inclement weather.

Problem Analysis- Uniting CASL & TFCA Staff Members

This is a challenge to the NCFC Youth leadership, but not a leadership problem. The NCFC Youth CEO (also formerly CASL CEO) has been very hands-on in the transition and has been accessible to both the staff and membership. He led multiple open house events in our many regions to ensure proper communication throughout the transition to NCFC Youth. Due to the extensive histories of CASL and TFCA, this is a truly complex leadership challenge. The challenge has structural, human resource, political, and cultural components rolled into it.

· Structural- With the merging of two organizations, each with full sets of staff, the club must do some significant restructuring. As there is not a need for multiple directors of operations, etc., there must be substantial changes to the staffing. The realigning of these roles will need to fit the tasks and needs of North Carolina FC Youth and the changing external environment of the club. The structural frame will also play an important role in goal setting for the direction of NCFC Youth and will guide leadership actions.

· Human Resource- In bringing together rivaling organizations, an open decision-making process within NCFC Youth will allow for the development of commitment to the club. The organization will need to hold informal meetings involving the new staff where their needs and feelings on the state of things can be openly communicated and discussed. This approach can prevent small issues from evolving into much larger conflicts. Additionally, the staff can be motivated by their massive opportunity for growth and career advancement through North Carolina FC Youth; we’re no longer working for successful youth soccer organizations, we’re working for the largest youth-to-pro soccer club in the country (and we hope to soon be MLS-affiliated).

· Political- From a strategic planning perspective (within the political frame), the former leaders of both CASL and TFCA will need to get together to discuss current and potential conflicts in the transition. The realigning of power will be closely watched by the members of both TFCA and CASL, so it is imperative that North Carolina FC Youth’s leadership sufficiently prepare for disagreements and grievances that may accompany the staff changes that emerge. The club’s structure and dynamics need a great deal of reorganizing as the two groups come together as one, and through the political frame NCFC Youth can redistribute power and put together a new structure to represent the various regions and programs of the club. Throughout these various sources of change, NCFC Youth can use the goal setting process to demonstrate to the new united membership that the club leadership remains committed to excellence.

· Cultural- The cultural frame to this leadership challenge is perhaps the most important. Sport often becomes a way of life for those involved. The decision-making process in NCFC Youth needs to establish new rituals and offer staff opportunities to bond and come together. Conflicts that arise must be used as an opportunity to develop and sharpen the new shared values of the club. Proper communication of the collaboration through the cultural frame is pivotal to the acceptance of the collaboration, both on a staff and membership level. It is essential to simultaneously celebrate CASL and TFCA’s great histories and highlight the future opportunities the collaboration presents.

Solution & Prognosis- Uniting CASL & TFCA Staff Members

The leadership team within North Carolina FC Youth has already organized various team building events to get the TFCA and CASL staffs familiar with each other, such as a staff ping pong tournament, building a house with Habitat for Humanity, etc. These events have been extremely helpful in getting the staff acquainted with each other, but have not specifically addressed the collaboration of our staffs. I propose the leadership organize a staff retreat to provide the staff with a more comprehensive introduction and orientation to our new relationships.

The retreat’s content would be guided by Kouzes and Posner’s Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership. The retreat will feature discussions and activities centered around applying the practices of modeling the way, inspiring a shared vision, challenging the process, enabling others to act, and encouraging the heart within our organization.

This solution will be effective because it provides staff a bonding opportunity that is leadership based and topically relevant. Not only will the staff become more comfortable with each other, but they will also have a greater understanding of the leadership NCFC Youth is looking for and the vision we’re operating within.

Of course, the majority of the program directors coach teams, so the retreat would be a one-day event lasting 8 hours (replacing a standard work day) during the week. Due to the flexible nature of our work environment, this would not be a difficult event to pull off. Our organization has various sponsors that could become involved and provide a venue, such as Daly Seven Hotels or Mellow Mushroom.

The retreat would be a fantastic way to cover a great deal of information quickly and get the staff up to speed. In looking at the long-term maintenance of the results obtained from the retreat, it would be wise to implement regular interdepartmental meetings reinforcing those concepts.

Problem Analysis- Role Clarification

The transition to North Carolina FC Youth swelled our full-time staff count to almost 65 people. That is an enormous amount, both in comparison to our previous staff size and to other similar soccer organizations. As shown in the organizational chart attached as Appendix A, the greatest number of full time staff can be found within our Classic program. With more than 160 teams, the Classic program is a massive competitive program that spans across four regions (North, South, Durham/ Chape