What does Independent FC cost per player?

Zero. Really. IFC does not charge any fee to be a part of our club. We ask families to donate toward the bulk cost of playing kits (about $110 every two years) and the pro-rated cost of league and tournament registrations ($200-350 per year, depending on league and number of tournaments). For families with limited resources, we'll ask you to donate, but it's OK if you don't. IFC also offers free and nominal-cost clinics, and reduced-price, non-mandatory gear such as backpacks, hoodies and jackets. We request family donations toward club-wide costs -- including coaching/training staff, equipment, player subsidies, etc. -- but there are no mandatory fees of any sort.

So, is IFC only for low-income families?

No, no, no. IFC does not ask — nor care about — what school a youngster attends, how much his or her family makes nor in what neighborhood they live. We only care about commitment to the game, coaches, teammates and IFC’s community ethos. By valuing a youngster's family wealth above all, "pay-to-play" in San Francisco harms all children. Fees are so high that only the most affluent of families can afford them; and even those who do pay them — or the very few who get so-called "scholarships" — don't get an opportunity to experience true soccer, just something much snootier and more like playground kickball.

The other competitive clubs charge more than $2,000 a year per player. How does Independent FC expect to survive without charging parents directly?

We hear this question a lot. It's simple. First, it does not need to cost so much. A club charging $2,000/yearly is collecting about $30,000 for a team. The club owner typically pays a coach about $10,000 per team per year. They typically hire coaches with very basic credentials and little soccer education and experience to keep coaching costs down. IFC eliminates that $20,000 difference (a 67% margin). Second, IFC has tailored it's coaching model to be much more cost-efficient. We emphasize professional, high level trainings twice a week, regular free play, and on well-trained volunteers (usually a parent) to coach during weekend games. This is much the way clubs throughout the soccer-playing world operate their children's divisions, almost always free to families, and with much better results than US soccer (sorry, it has to be said). In many countries, sports are subsidized by governmental agencies, usually municipal. That, of course, is not the case here. But what we've learned in our first year of operation is that a donor-based club that provides excellent service can thrive using parent donations and external fundraising. (Though, in forward-thinking San Francisco, independent municipal sports clubs would be a great idea).

But if a family pays nothing, how do you guarantee commitment from a child? How does a team survive if the players and their parents don't have "skin in the game"?

This is a pretty cynical view, usually used by club owners to justify high fees. Team and club commitment club is earned, not forced. It is not the case that the more expensive the club, the more committed the player and family will be; nor if it's free, "you get what you pay for". We believe it is our responsibility to craft and oversee a soccer and team experience that encourages all to participate fully. The idea that to get a player's full commitment you must be charging their parents is just wrong: A club doesn't "own" a player because his or her parents have paid them. The club must win a player's and family's commitment by offering an excellent experience that balances fun, development, collaboration and competition. A club must treat parents with respect and an understanding that they — not a club owner — are best-suited to make decisions for their children. When your child joins IFC, it's our job to build commitment. We don't use your money to force it on them.

What is IFC's coaching approach?

The one-coach, one-team model does not foster strong development. Independent FC's children receive training from multiple coaches with different experiences and skill sets. They include trained volunteers and highly experienced football professionals. Our excellent group of trainers are financed through donations from inside and outside the club. At games, teams are coached by a knowledgeable, well-trained volunteer, often a team parent. It's a youth model that works exceptionally well in Germany, Italy, Argentina, Brazil and virtually every other national soccer powerhouse where no kid pays to play the game.

Who is eligible to join IFC?

Independent FC is open to boys and girls ages 8-18 who reside in San Francisco. There are a few, very limited, openings to children who live outside the city and attend San Francisco public schools.

What are the club's policies on playing time?

At all playing levels, each player will be on the field at least 50 percent in aggregate of the games he or she attends. At the recreational level, the "minimum 50 percent" rule  applies to each game. At the competitive levels, the 50 percent rule applies across a season or a tournament.

Guest play?

IFC uses guest players to  give players an opportunity to "play up" in a more challenging competition and help fill game absences by team players. All guest players MUST be members of IFC and cannot be members of any non-IFC team or club, with the exception of members of the SF Elite Academy who may play with IFC for training purposes and injury rehabilitation. IFC players are allowed to, and often do, play as guests of the San Francisco Elite Academy teams.

Does IFC offer scholarships?

No. IFC has no scholarship program. Why should we? 

  1. We charge nothing that a scholarship can be applied to. Sure, some clubs offer a partial fee reduction and call it a scholarship. For us, that makes no sense because any fee reduction from zero is zero. Donate to us, or don't (ok, please do!); a scholarship doesn't accomplish a thing;

  2.  We have no “second-class” citizens in IFC. Poor or rich or in-between, you pay the same: $0.00;

  3.  Youth soccer scholarships in San Francisco are often a ruse, used by profiteering private clubs to ensure profits, not to serve families that need access. If scholarships worked, then San Francisco soccer would not be ridiculed like it is as "vanilla chocolate chip" (very light on the chocolate). Go watch any of these private clubs — particularly at the younger ages. Every single soccer weekend on San Francisco's fields, you can see with your own eyes that scholarships make no significant difference. Most private clubs are 80 percent or more private school kids.  Some even build teams through undisclosed try-outs in the most exclusive private schools. Those parents are misled by the clubs into believing they are the best because thousands of less fortunate but athletically gifted kids can't even get on the field. 

Does IFC accept teams that are already formed as well individual players? 

Yes. We accept individual players as well as fully and partially formed teams. If you are interested in bringing a full or partial team to the club, please contact us directly at [email protected] Individual players and families can write us, or visit our website for more information on tryouts, team formation, and how to join IFC. 

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