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Pandemic hasn’t slowed ambition of new Sporting Delaware youth club

While soccer was shut down completely for months, the staff for a new Delaware youth club kept plugging away on Zoom

As timing goes, launching a new youth soccer club in the state of Delaware during a global pandemic isn’t exactly ideal.

But months stuck at home did little to slow the resolve of the staff behind Sporting Delaware. In fact, endless hours of meetings on Zoom enabled staff to focus on the administrative side of things and reinforced their vision.

“Coming into this and trying to start a brand new soccer club during a pandemic is an interesting thing to try to pull off,” said Erik Temple, college advisory director and director of coaching for boys zone 2 in a Zoom call last month. “We’ve been on a lot of Zoom calls, in our offices, not really on the field, but I think it’s also given us an opportunity to work together behind the scenes. It’s been beneficial to not have to try to balance being on the field and traveling on weekends, coaching teams and really just focusing on starting the club.”

Based at the 76ers Fieldhouse in Wilmington, Sporting Delaware is under the umbrella of BPG Sports, which manages the facility and holds an ownership stake in the Philadelphia Union. Sporting Delaware is fielding teams at the U9-U19 levels for boys and girls to compete in local, regional and national leagues like EDP, boys and girls ECNL, the Girls Academy and others.

Sporting Delaware

“Really the goal here is to be the best club in the country,” said Stephen Cavalier, general manager of the 76ers Fieldhouse. “For people to look at us and go, wow, not only is the soccer proper and well done, but everything behind the scenes, the communications, how they’re working with the families and things like that is done the best it can be. We looked at every single piece of, of what it means to be part of a club, dissected it and said, how can we make it better?”

Operating under the BPG Sports banner, which includes the G League Delaware Blue Coats that train and play at the facility, Nemours Sports Medicine and Titus Sports Academy, puts Sporting Delaware in a unique and enviable position, Cavalier said.

“Being under BPG Sports brings an immediate professionalism to the club,” Cavalier said. “We have an HR department, a legal department and a marketing department.”

The club was officially unveiled on April 10 with stay-at-home orders firmly in place throughout the region. Weekly announcements have followed the initial launch with news of jersey reveals, joining leagues, partnerships with area clubs like Kirkwood Soccer Club and more.

“Every Friday has been an absolute marathon Zoom meeting to put together what’s going to be released that day,” said Tyler Bastianelli, who is involved on the marketing side of things while also coaching the 2007 boys. “It takes all of us to to put those pieces together.”

In addition to the regular announcements, the club has relied on social media and email to spread not only the word about the club itself but also about all of the protocols in place for camps, leagues and other programs that have gradually started up as restrictions loosened in the First State.

As unconventional as the launch has been for the club, the countless hours spent on Zoom calls is something staff members have said has strengthened not only their love of the game but also their bond with each other.

Bastianelli and fellow staff members Ryan Flanigan, director of coaching for boys zone 1 and Mike Xarhoulakos, sporting director, all played together in high school locally at St. Mark’s and many of the coaches and staff members have known each other for years through connections at various local clubs and in the soccer community.

“It’s kind of come full circle being able to give back to the game that gave so much to me,” said Flanigan, who like Cavalier, played college ball at the University of Delaware. “I really believe in this project and I think that it’s going to be really successful not only in terms of the football, but in terms of sports in general just giving structure and teaching respect and teamwork.”

The club’s logo was inspired by a replica of the Swedish tall ship Kalmar Nyckel constructed in Wilmington that represents the First State wherever it sails.

“People take a lot of pride in Delaware,” Xarhoulakos said. “We want this club to be something everyone in Delaware can be proud of.”

For more information on Sporting Delaware, visit www.76ersfieldhouse.com/sportingdelaware.