By Jodi La Marco
The Kingston Stockade Football Club is the Hudson Valley’s very own semi-professional soccer team. Semi-pro teams are made up of amateur players, but don’t let the term “amateur” fool you. “Everyone on the team is either in college or they have another job on the side, but they’re still very skilled players,” says founder Dennis Crowley. “Players who are no longer in college might not have had the opportunity to try out for a pro team, or maybe they just never got scouted in the right way. Even though they finished school and they didn’t get drafted, they can still play at a high-level.”
The club gives these overlooked but talented players a chance to shine. In sports like baseball, a minor league team simply would not play against a major league team. But the structure of soccer’s hierarchy is different. Semi-pro teams can (and do) play against professional teams. “In baseball, football, and basketball, you have college teams and minor league teams, and it’s just inconceivable that they would ever play a pro team. But the way soccer works is that scrappy teams are always trying to find a way to play teams that are better than them (i.e. pro teams). It’s like boxing. Boxers start out on the bottom rung of the ladder and slowly work their way up by fighting bigger and better opponents. Soccer works kind of the same way,” Crowley explains.
So how does one start a semi-professional soccer team? When Crowley set out to start the Kingston Stockade Football Club, there were no online resources to guide him. As the co-founder of Foursquare, Crowley knew the challenges of building a new venture from the ground up. He decided to document the creation of the Kingston team, thus creating a road map for others to follow. “Once we understood that putting the club in the Hudson Valley—and putting it in Kingston—would be a very meaningful thing for the community, we decided we should go out of our way to help other people who were creating their own soccer teams. We decided to be super transparent about what works and what doesn’t, how much it costs, and whether we overspent or underspent. Now we can look at how those numbers change every year,” says Crowley. “Our thinking was that if we put a body of work out there, people can draft off of it, and it’ll make their jobs easier as they build their own clubs.”
Crowley’s next goal is to turn the Kingston Stockade Football Club into a pro team. “I haven’t figured that part of the puzzle out yet. But, I want to figure it out and then write about it. When and if we solve that, other people can draft off of those notes, too,” Crowley says.
Going pro would have a number of advantages. As a semi-pro team, many of the club’s players are college students who play only for a short time before returning to school. “We generally play May, June, and July, and then the season is over. If we were to transition to being a pro team, we would have pro players who would be playing for us all year long. They might still have second jobs, but they would be getting compensation for playing. We might be able to play from April until October,” explains Crowley. “If we’re able to do that, then the club would turn into more of a permanent fixture in the community.”
Even with its semi-pro status and short playing season, the club’s presence is already having a positive impact on the surrounding community. Dietz Stadium in Kingston is the team’s home field. When crowds of more than 800 fans began turning out for games, Crowley realized that he could steer attendees toward businesses in uptown Kingston. “When you go to the game and you open up the game day program, there’s the roster, and then there’s a map of Kingston. It shows you where to go to eat, drink, and shop. To see the club as a way to introduce people into the community and get them to frequent the businesses here is a really interesting thing.” During home games, Stockade also hosts a beer tent by local brewer Keegan Ales, as well as local food trucks.
The club also strives to do what it can for area kids. During Stockade’s first season, Crowley printed tee-shirts for his all-volunteer staff which featured the team’s logo in Japanese. The unusual shirts got a lot of attention, which prompted him to use the model for a good cause. “After President Trump got elected, everyone was talking about the Muslim ban. We wanted to show support for that community and printed the shirts in Arabic that year. We charged an additional $5 for the tee-shirts, then put the proceeds toward offering free soccer classes for kids. The shirts look super cool, it generates revenue for us, and we can invest that money back into the community,” says Crowley. Other “international editions” of the shirt have been printed in Russian, Arabic, and Hebrew, with proceeds going to the team’s future Youth Academy efforts.
The team has also distributed 1,000 free tickets to kids in the American Youth Soccer Organization. “I always think of the mission of the club as being to create more players and fans in the Hudson Valley,” Crowley says. “I want to bring the kids to games so they can see what it’s like and to have access to these role models in the community.”
The team operates as a nonprofit and strives to keep prices affordable (tickets for a family of four can run as low as $20)! For more information, including the team’s game schedule, visit stockadefc.com.