Photo by Midland/Odessa Sockers FC
"Location, location, location."
As the only PDL team in Texas, Midland/Odessa Sockers FC brings a much-needed development side to a region known for producing some talented players. And no one knows that more than Jeff VonHolle, Sockers FC co-owner.
"I think three things that make the Sockers unique are: The marketing 'arm' that we have in place with regards to some of the things that we do in promotions since we operate the [Double-A baseball team Midland] RockHounds, who play 70 home games (and 70 road games) every season. Our database of season ticket holders, groups, walk-up ticket buyers and sponsors is pretty large, due to the fact that we’ve had Double-A baseball here for the past 44 years. Location, location, location … we’re the only PDL team in Texas. I guess this can be both a good thing and a bad thing, but we try to look at the positive side of this and are able to get quality players to come here since they want to play in the PDL, and we’re the only Texas option.
"We offer nice perks such as apartment housing and food for all of our players, since we currently don’t have any local players. While this is a big hit to the expense portion of our budget, we feel like it’s something that we need to do in order to get top notch players to come to Midland. We travel to every single road game on a great 55-passenger bus, and offer an opportunity to play under a coach that will absolutely get the most out of all of our players."
The Head Coach of Sockers FC is Matt Barnes, who has the team sitting atop the Mid South Division standings with a 5-1-2 record.
“Our philosophy here with the Midland/Odessa Sockers FC is pretty simple: To provide a place where collegiate players can come during the summer months to become better players so that when they return back to college, each player is an improved player who is fit and ready for their season,” VonHolle said.
“We feel like our coach, Matt Barnes, has the trust and respect of a lot of college coaches who know that we’ll take good care of their players here in their short time with us. Ultimately, we want to have guys come here from all over the country as well as from other countries who we view as potential future professionals that we can help reach their goal of getting to the next level.”
The 2016 Sockers FC squad does exactly that – boast players from across the country. Current players on the roster come from San Jose State University, Texas A&M International, University of Rio Grande Valley and William Penn University - among many other colleges. Grand View University’s Bruno Henrique leads the team with four goals scored.
While these players may not be as well-known in the area as the ones who suit up for the local Double-A affiliate of Major League Baseball’s Oakland Athletics, VonHolle and his staff treat the two teams as equals.
“While our RockHounds players are in fact professional athletes who have been drafted by an MLB team and are being paid by the A’s, we try to promote and run the soccer side of our business the same way as we do the baseball side in terms of marketing, ticketing, community relations, etc.," VonHolle said. “We want to give our soccer fans the same type of experience when they come to our Sockers games as they get when they come to a baseball game, even though they are watching amateur soccer players.”
While the players may not be professionals during their time at Sockers FC, VonHolle and the club are doing everything they can to enhance players’ experiences and developments.
“The best thing about playing in the PDL is the quality of competition,” VonHolle said. “Every game, every night is a battle. There aren’t any easy wins in the PDL Mid South anymore. In looking at the standings, even the teams at the bottom of the table are giving the teams at the top of the standings a hard time every time they play. The competition level in the PDL is as high as it has ever been … at least for our eight seasons in the PDL.
“I think the Sockers help players develop into professionals by teaching them the right way to do things, and putting them in an environment that facilitates hard work in order to achieve success,” VonHolle added. “I absolutely believe that Coach Barnes does a great job of maximizing the talents of our players. He also puts together a program that includes a quality warm-up before games, a game plan that will take advantage of our strengths and the other teams’ weaknesses, and then recovery sessions that get our athletes ready to play again, often in a short turnaround. Our training sessions have purpose, and are well-defined and organized. If you aren’t a disciplined player, this probably isn’t the place for you.”