Founder reinvents soccer club as model for sports education

August 19, 2011

By Quinn Eddy

NEW — 5:15 p.m. Aug. 19, 2011

During July, the Highlands Soccer Club reincorporated its nonprofit organization as the Community Sports Education Program, making the change from recreational club to an educational organization.

The goal is that, by using the success of the Highlands Soccer Club as a model, to one day have a program any neighborhood could use to create its own community-based sports program.

“Schools are just too cash strapped, they’re just not teaching the sports like they used to,” said Umit Gokce, founder, director and coaching coordinator for the Community Sports Education Program. “The idea is to get communities involved.”

The organization’s new mission is “to help public communities start and manage their own volunteer based sports education program benefiting children and adults with a factual understanding of technique, motivation and nutrition through the use of electronic learning materials and on-field instruction.”

Gokce, a technology entrepreneur, has focused on interactive education for 20 years.

“We were at this juncture where I could benefit our group by changing classification of the nonprofit,” Gokce said.

Spurred by the explosion of mobile tablet devices, such as the iPad, Gokce’s vision of sports education will soon happen both online and on the field. Using these devices, materials will be accessible anywhere.

“The iPad is truly revolutionary; it’s going to change everything,” Gokce said.

Because the coaching program in place was so well received, Gokce has begun development on an electronic version of the Highlands Soccer Club’s program. This includes videos to help with the training of coaches.

Additionally, Gokce is working on a special system that consists of wearable high-definition cameras. The idea is to give viewers a first-person perspective of the youngsters practicing. This electronic format allows parents at home to be on par with what is being taught at practices.

What to know

Community Sports Education Program

  • Registration for the next season ends Aug. 25, and space is limited.
  • Fees include a $49 program fee and a $39 uniform fee for new members. The program is open to residents of all communities.
  • Games take place on Sunday afternoons at the Issaquah Highlands Central Park turf fields.
  • Learn more at www.hsclub.org.

“The idea is that you can go back and review what was done that week,” Gokce said. “This will really help players stay on top of their skills.”

Gokce plans on having this project completed by the end of the year, possibly as soon as the end of the fall season.

He views this project as a model that transfers to other sports, and hopes this will give people options for year-round activity.

“I’d call soccer a gateway sport,” Gokce said. “It’s the whole idea of practice and discipline to improve transfers to life situations.”

For families experiencing financial hardships, the Community Sports Education Program has adopted a policy of offering scholarships — waived registration fees. Those who qualify only need to ask for it and volunteer in some capacity during the season.

“We’re working with the new YWCA Family Village in Issaquah to provide their residents with these scholarships to not only get beyond the cost of a youth sports program but also get quickly integrated within their new community,” Gokce said.

Gokce started the Highlands Soccer Club seven years ago. To get things moving, Gokce teamed up with another local resident and got twenty kids together that first year.

“I had just moved to Issaquah and I decided there wasn’t a soccer program I was really fond of,” he said.

Today, the group consists of nearly 400 children with more than 60 coaches and 10 youth coaches. Twenty teams make up the group, with players ranging from 3 to 12 years old.

“When kids get past 12 years old they have the option to come back and be assistant coaches for the teams,” Gokce said.

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