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Conversation with Scott Westcoat: Taking Beach Soccer into America’s Heartland.

In an exclusive interview with BSmag, Scott Westcoat, CEO of Inland Sand Soccer Tour, shares his insights and vision for the promotion of beach soccer into the hinterlands of the United States.

With the 2024 event series set to kick off this June, Scott delves into the inspiration behind the event tour across 13 US cities, its strategic partnerships, and the potential impact on the broader soccer community, bringing a unique perspective on the growth and development of the game from his days as a player, administrator and event organiser. Join us as we explore the future of beach soccer in the US.

“I envision beach soccer becoming a viable career path for players, allowing them to compete at a high level, earn a living, and serve as ambassadors for the sport.

– Scott

BSmag: Hello Scott, what inspired you to embark on a beach soccer event series in the US, particularly focusing on the involvement of professional soccer teams in different cities? and why did you choose Huntsville as the first location for the 2024 season?

Scott: As someone who had been involved in the sport as both a player, manager, team owner and event organiser, the beach game was a natural progression in the search for ways to keep the game fun while seeing it as a discipline where certain skill sets differed from what was seen as a more traditional approach to the game. It wasn’t always the bigger faster players and teams who utilised the speed game that excelled in the sport. As a goalkeeper, I saw it as a natural extension of not only blocking shots and making saves, but a way to become more involved in the overall flow of the game.

The integration with local professional teams allowed us to bridge the gap between the grassroots programs that were taking place at all levels, tying in a ticketing aspect, which not only added value to our events but was a way to help put butts in seats for those teams whose lifeblood revolves around creating a fan base that was willing to attend pro matches.

Due to limited access to beaches in landlocked US areas, we sought ways to bring the beach experience inland. We chose Huntsville for its existing sports infrastructure and amenities investment. The city has invested millions in sports infrastructure, contributing to its economic viability and showcasing its amenities. The 15-field sand volleyball complex is a premier destination for the growing sand volleyball community, offering high-level instruction and opportunities for youth athletes to develop skills for collegiate and professional levels. This facility stands out as one of the best on our 13-city tour through the US heartland.

BSmag: How do you envision beach soccer contributing to the cultivation of genuine soccer culture in the US, and what role do you see professional teams playing in promoting this cultural shift?

Scott: In my opinion, the US will only achieve true soccer culture when all disciplines within the game are accepted and embraced. Beach soccer, in particular, offers a unique opportunity to cultivate this culture. By introducing new experiences like beach soccer, we can move away from Americanised versions and towards a more authentic, global approach. Professional teams can play a significant role in promoting this cultural shift by investing in and supporting various soccer disciplines, including beach soccer. This will help create a richer, more inclusive soccer culture in the US.

As American clubs start to move away from the pay to play model and into a more “womb to tomb” system of cultivating talent from within, any and all formats of the game can be supported under the professional umbrella where the teams are not only investing in the future, but creating a fan base that feels truly invested in the success of their franchise.

BSmag: You mentioned the importance of integrating beach soccer into non-traditional coastal areas for mass adoption. Can you elaborate on your strategy for bringing beach soccer to places like Huntsville, and how you anticipate it will impact the broader soccer community?

Scott: Our strategy is quite simple, the more exposure to the sport of beach soccer can gain in non-traditional areas, the greater the sport becomes, giving options for players to excel and capitalise on their strengths that may lay outside the norm when we think of a traditional 11v11 format. When the professional options in the United States were limited and most players were striving to continue playing at a high level, the collegiate game was almost the pinnacle of the sport playing soccer and receiving an education was highly sought after and if one could parlay that into a scholarship opportunity, well that was just about as good as it could get.

Currently, the college soccer scholarship route isn’t necessarily the only way that skilled players can continue playing at a high-level. The numerous options now available, including various levels of professional and pre-professional leagues, both indoor, outdoor, and eventually professional futsal and beach leagues gives more opportunities for additional ways to pursue a career in the sport.

BSmag: Conversations with youth soccer association leaders suggest that beach soccer could become the next big thing in player development. Can you share your insights into how beach soccer aligns with the goals of youth soccer programs, and how you plan to collaborate with these organisations?

Scott: Beach soccer aligns perfectly with the goals of youth soccer programs, focusing on skill development, fun, and inclusivity. As we collaborate with youth soccer organisations, we need to address key questions about integrating beach soccer into existing structures. This includes exploring insurance options, securing suitable facilities, and delivering skilled training. Crucially, we must also establish a clear sanctioning process for leagues, programs, and events to formalize beach soccer’s place within the soccer community.

“Passion cannot be faked, it is contagious.

– Scott

BSmag: As the CEO of Inland Sand Soccer Tour, what innovative approaches or partnerships have you established to promote the beach soccer event series and increase participation, especially in non-coastal areas?

Scott: The innovation currently lies in the concept of not being tethered to coastal beach areas. By tapping into the resources and systems already in place with local youth organisations and tying a ticketing component for the professional teams in and around tour cities, we look at the tournament as something as simple as another opportunity to extend the reach of these existing entities to further entrench themselves deeper into their communities.

BSmag: Looking beyond the upcoming events, what are your long-term goals for the growth and development of beach soccer in the US, and how do you plan to achieve them through this event series?

Scott: I do see a professional beach league in the United States in the not-too-distant future. The acceleration of the process lies in the hands of those who have been committed to creating beach opportunities for players and by Increasing the instructional programs available and catering to players earlier in their soccer careers is crucial. knowing that there are opportunities available at the higher levels will allow players to focus solely on beach soccer thus increasing the number of players who actively seek the sport as a way to earn a living.

BSmag: What do you hope attendees and participants will take away from the beach soccer events, both in terms of experience and broader impact on the soccer community?

Scott: Our goal is to provide a memorable experience to both players and attendees in hopes that they encourage others to take a look at the sport as a unique and fun way that exists, can be played anywhere, and doesn’t have to be thought of as only a coastal experience.

BSmag: Can you share any exciting features or elements of the beach soccer events that differentiate them from traditional soccer tournaments and contribute to the overall excitement and appeal?

Scott: Fully understanding that bringing beach soccer into areas that aren’t accustomed to having this available in their backyard, we look to capture the essence of what is envisioned as a sport that historically thought of as only available in a coastal setting and bring the beach lifestyle to play. I think that these events can be looked at in two ways. One where you are at a tiki beach party and a soccer tournament breaks out, and two, attending a fun and exciting soccer tournament that just so happens to have the look and feel of actually being on a coastal beach. The addition of island music, and taking place in a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere allows the crowd to become a part of the overall event vibe.

BSmag: Lets look at this further, how do you see the involvement of professional teams and the integration of beach soccer into different cities contributing to the expansion and mainstream acceptance of the sport in the US?

Scott: I hope the professional teams see these tour stops that are taking place in their cities as an opportunity to extend their brand in a fun and positive manner that might speak to a different audience, allowing them to create additional fans, and taping into new demographics.

BSmag: Indeed, taping into new demographics is an interesting perspective. Building on that idea, how do you envision the outcome? are there any specific challenges you anticipate these pro teams might face as they engage with beach soccer events?

Scott: That’s a great question! So far, we haven’t received any pushback against the concept. We want to make it easy for teams to participate, so we handle all the logistics to make it a turnkey experience. With my background in owning a W-League franchise and working in arenas, I know how important it is to fill seats and create a successful event. We believe these events can be a win-win for teams, allowing them to engage with their community in new and creative ways. For example, teams could use sand facilities for training or host community clinics. We’d love to see teams get creative and host events like “SAND NIGHT,” combining volleyball, soccer, and family-friendly activities like sandcastle building. Let’s make it fun, memorable, and a great experience for all.

BSmag: Fair enough targeting a win-win far all that can be the much needed catalyst for growth. What are your aspirations for the future of beach soccer in the US, and how do you anticipate the sport evolving and growing its fan base in the coming years?

Scott: I envision beach soccer becoming a viable career path for players, allowing them to compete at a high level, earn a living, and serve as ambassadors for the sport. With the sport still in its early stages in the US, we have a unique opportunity to shape its growth and development, creating a sustainable and thriving ecosystem for beach soccer. This will enable us to establish a strong foundation for the sport, attract a dedicated fan base, and provide opportunities for players to succeed and thrive.

BSmag: Thank you Scott. One last question. With all these great efforts in place, you must have some partners giving yo the needed push, any you like to tell us about?

Scott: Absolutely! I want to express my gratitude to our incredible staff, who are the driving force behind this initiative. They’re passionate about spreading the word and serving as soccer ambassadors, exploring the country, and experiencing the beauty of the US. It’s a travelling soccer magic carpet ride!.

Our sponsors and partners are equally essential, as they help make this roadshow possible. We’re proud to have ADIDAS, a truly integrated partner, working with us to spread the word at the grassroots level through local club teams and MLS teams. HEX PERFORMANCE provides eco-friendly detergent products for soccer families, while BIOM Pharmaceuticals, Probiomlyte product helps keep players hydrated and gut health in check. We’re committed to sustainability, thanks to partners like ENVIRONMENTS and Odyssey Event Sustainability who help us reduce our carbon footprint.

Sporfie revolutionises content distribution through its streaming platform, allowing anyone to become a content creator and share personalised stories globally. Our technology partners, including TicketSocket, Crystal Creative, Mirror Marketing, TeamSnaq Tournaments, Innovative Concepts, and SwagDog, provide crucial support behind the scenes. And, of course, my family – Kathy, Maddy, and Trevor – are the ones who make it all happen and inspire me to leave a lasting legacy for the beach soccer community.

Lastly, I want to thank all the individuals like yourself who have invested time, money, and effort into growing beach soccer. Having a global network of friends and resources within the game makes it all worthwhile. I appreciate your contributions and can envision us looking back on these pioneering days, reminiscing about how far we’ve come. From humble beginnings in Maryland to a full-blown tournament tour reaching non-coastal areas. We are now sharing our journey on global platforms through our partnership with BSmag. It’s an incredible story to be told, and I’m honoured to be a part of it. Passion cannot be faked, it is contagious. Thank you for including us along for the ride and be part of your journey to see the game thrive.

Follow the event tour on Inland Sand Soccer

BSmag

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