That was quick. And long. And relentless. And chaotic. And beautiful.
Year one is in the books as they say. Well actually the books are far from done and as I sit at the coffee shop writing these words the cars are still packed with inventory, the garages are both full of remnants including kit that hasn’t been washed, and what’s left of the towel stock that hasn’t found it’s way into a foreign kit bag by mistake is draped across the laundry room. Ticket stubs lay strewn across my dining room table and countless PDL patches remain on the office desk instead of ironed onto jerseys as planned. Yes, the last on field sessions have been completed and all the matches are now over, but the cheques haven’t all been sent, the wrap up is in full swing but requires many more man hours, and believe it or not, next season looms already.
It is hard to believe we made it through. To be honest it’s amazing that it went from an idea to a season of matches and all that comes with what that entails. The little academy that could did it again and in the space of a few months announced the club to the world.
From a December date in Tampa, Florida, where TSS FC Rovers was hidden under the rug because we weren’t official yet, all the way to a final match that was thrilling and exciting and all the things you’d hope young Canadian players could begin to be a part of, the first season was remarkable from the view in the cheap seats.
There are just so many highlights from this seat that I fear it’s too much for a the 140 characters most appreciate today, so here’s some bullet points:
- The very first time we laid eyes on many of our players was to play beer pong with Jay DeMerit and all the lads at the pub. Good start 😉
- Half the squad or more we never saw play a match before they signed.
- The first match of the year was the only match we had a full allotment of 6 substitutes. Never again throughout the season.
- The Rovers never once played the original starting lineup we had envisioned. Having said that, we hadn’t seen them all play so it was all guesswork anyways.
- We never started a single lineup the same for the entire season.
Out of a possible 154 player games, Canadians played the entire 154. This was both amazing and challenging.
- The Rovers played a starting lineup that only averaged just over 20 years old. We played a match that had 5 18year olds on the field at one time. Again, something to be proud of but also a considerable challenge. Mission: develop Canadian players. Stay the course.
- Our first ever match was in Calgary and we were extremely surprised to be up three nil before imploding and ultimately losing 3-4.
- Rovers punched themselves further in the face in that match by fielding an ineligible player and losing three more points to sit after week one at an awe inspiring -3 points.
- Now we were even more clear we didn’t know what we were doing and were reminded online, from the opposing supporters’ groups, and in the standings, every day. The joys of actually having people pay attention to the club. Great banter.
- Travel was a new experience and it became clear early on that this league was won and lost by those that protect their own house and nip a few points on the road. Long travel by bus and multiple matches within the same weekend is very taxing on the rosters and those that make the squad for the trips.
- Trips to Oregon, Washington, Alberta and to Vancouver Island had us meeting some of the best people in football, from supporters to management, the league and division we play in is packed full of people that care about the future of our young players and whom also know how to have a good time. Passion and purpose in abundance.
- Special shout outs to the Lane United Red Aces, Victoria Highlanders’ Lake Side Buoys, the Timbers Army, and Calgary Foothills’ Foot Soldiers. Each one equally made us feel like shit and proud to be a part of something that people care deeply about.
- Swangard Stadium became a home for our club, replete with a supporters group [we’ll get to them a bit later here] and a feeling it was a place we needed to protect, entertain and take care of.
- Swangard Stadium is bigger than TSS FC Rovers and we feel blessed to have it as a home. It was magnificent to get it in our first year.
- Guard the Swan became a thing. And we did the business. 4 Wins 3 Draws and only a single loss. Good start for year one at home.
- The season went as we suspected. Some ups. Some downs. Challenging on the field at times and a massive amount learned on and off the field.
- Basically we held on for dear life.
- Next year’s preparations have already begun.
Obviously, the story can’t completely be told because everybody sees it though a different lens. Some cup half full and some with a pint of Parallel 49. For the club we could not be happier, or more proud, of those that supported us and of those that helped get it started. And while it was primarily a few of us trying to figure each role out, along with all the ins and outs of the league, this really couldn’t have been pulled off without the help of so many volunteers and behind the scenes supporters.
Some thank you’s:
- To the Caritas Collective, our advisory board, who supported us financially, opened doors we would never be able to knock on and showed up at matches to vocally support our young Canadian players, you were all amazing and we look forward to working with you to move this vision forward. Immense.
- To Mike Mccoll and his gang of AFTN.ca writers, photographers and soccer fanatics. Without these guys jumping on board we don’t begin to reach beyond our own family and we appreciate their love and passion for the game more than we can express. The Rovers salute you all. Best in class.
- To the TSS FC coaching and sport science staff, all donating hours and hours of time to help the players reach their peak. Cody Low at Peak Sports Performance, our head of sport science, Martin Vaca, our goalkeeper coach, the massive group at Total Therapy, Tonya, Erin, Cheyenne, Mae, Andy, Colin and Antony, that never expected to work as hard as they did on a group that was in a constant state of injury crisis. Incredible knowledge and array of services. All of which we ended up needing! We can’t thank you all enough. The players are better off for knowing you and getting all of your expertise. Best staff in the league.
- All of our partners, who all stepped up and took a chance on a new club. One without players, without any assets, without numbers, and who were unsure what it all would look like. From a simple vision they jumped on board and helped make a team full of Canadians happen. Brad and Blair at Soccer Express for setting us up to look amazing and top class in our Puma kit. Nick, Mike, Marissa and the crew at Parallel 49 Brewing for the extra touch on that jersey and providing some cold ones to ease the pains. Paul and the full crew from Total Therapy, who as mentioned, couldn’t have provided more people and resources to serve our athletes in the sport science arena. Top end and sight unseen jumped in with both feet. Pete at Mahony and Sons, who just said yes and helped bring the noise we needed. Our home away from Swangard. Our soccer star Jay DeMerit & Portmanteau Stereo Co., who was an advisor, spent time on the field, spent time with supporters and came to almost all the home matches. Amazing ambassador. Greg from Play Better who gave all our fans money to give away to their favourite charity.The guy literally did every job and couldn’t do enough. Grateful for his support and for helping teach everyone about what community means. And not least of all, to those that generously supported the team with their own money or time. It all went into making a team possible and we all did it together. Thank you all.
- The Swanguardians – what can you say about this crew? At TSS FC we’ve said all along that all voices matter and it isn’t our place to create, control or manage a supporters group, whatever that might look like. So we waited and hoped one might start. And start it did, just like the club itself. Small but committed. But it grew and then it grew again and before we all knew it, there was a bustling band of Bohemian Rhapsody singing supporters. The club is so blessed to have these people on our side and if we haven’t said it before we will write it here; the supporters are partners in this club and football just isn’t the same without the fans. Thank you all for your messages, your effort, your smoke, your flares, your questioning and your love of the players. We promise to represent you with passion and commitment and always value your voices. All voices matter.
- The volunteers that made the game days happens. From our amazing Mum team, Maria, Sonja, Elaine and Karen, at the door to Joe the stats man, Harley the newly anointed game day commentator, Sienna busting out anthems, Gideon and Mike on the online call making us look pro, and Ernie and the game-day crew of largely TSS FC youth players, who helped move benches, sell jerseys, smile when it wasn’t going quite right and who believed in the vision of the club so much that they gave their time and Friday nights to the team. Incredible. First class.
- To TSS families and TSS Academy, who all ended up supporting the team and the players more than anyone. They showed up, stuck their kids out there as ball retrievers, bought hot dogs when they could be at home and got behind the pathway when everybody was unsure what it would all look like. Your belief and understanding was just what we needed when we were unsure of ourselves. Thank you.
- To every single person that bought a ticket, came out to a match, supported online and dropped us a note on social media. You are one of the main reasons we tried to build this. Soccer is about fans and people and inspiring the next generation to pick up ball and play. Big thanks for giving us a chance. Canadians can do this.
- And last but not least the players. You came to a club that didn’t have any history, had never played a match, had never had a youth team play in a league locally, and was nothing more than a vision. It took a while but slowly your personality and spirit took over and you showed the fans and coaches what you were capable of. We told you that you would always be a part of the history of the club no matter where your football journey should take you and that is official now. You made us proud and excited to wake up and do what we do every day. Thanks for your commitment, your effort and for believing in TSS FC Rovers. Well done guys. May the football Gods bless you.
With the club’s vision and values posted on a donated website the TSS FC Rovers were born. Ups and downs, a ruthless schedule, incredible demands on personal lives, and with barely a clue of what was coming next we stepped into the fray to support young Canadian soccer players in any small way we could.
And while we still don’t know what we are doing we do know one thing for certain, and to us this is all that is needed…
We know WHY this matters.
Thanks for supporting us this year. Thanks for supporting Canadians players and Canadian soccer.
Looking forward to seeing you all through the year!
TSS FC Rovers,
Colin, Willie, and Darren