After nearly two years of negotiating, the former Rushmore Soccer Club and Rapid City Youth Soccer League are joining forces, and they’re doing it in a way never before seen in South Dakota.
The two organizations announced Wednesday that the new Black Hills Soccer Club will be affiliated with Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids, creating the first youth sports organization in South Dakota with a partnership with a professional team.
“This is huge,” said Rob Tschetter, a longtime Rapid City soccer player, supporter and a driving force in the merger between RCYSL and Rushmore. “Not only is it going to give kids in this area that much more opportunity, it’s also going to create a process where our coaches, players and parents are all moving in the same direction.”
Under the agreement, the Colorado Rapids will be in charge of the Rapid City operation, providing enhanced training and competition opportunities, coach education, parent education programs, administrative support and access to Colorado Rapids facilities and staff.
Tschetter said having an MLS team calling the shots in terms of player development should help iron out some of the wrinkles involved with merging two longtime organizations. There will be no misunderstandings when it comes to the direction of the new club.
“Egos in any merger can be hurt,” Tschetter said. “People who helped build one organization up over the years and have power don’t want to lose that, and that’s completely natural and understandable. This will help in that process because the Rapids and their organization will be directing us in terms of development. They’re in charge and we will do what they instruct us to do.”
The partnership announcement was made by Colorado Rapids Senior Director of Youth Development Brian Crookham and the Black Hills Soccer Club’s Board of Directors at the Hotel Alex Johnson.
“We’re unbelievably proud of where we put our badge,” Crookham said. “As we looked at this (partnership), we wanted to make sure … that we were putting our name on people we trusted and that everything we brought to the table was of value to the club as well. We wanted to make sure that we had the best possible partners for the Colorado Rapids, and we feel like that’s the case now.”
Mayor Sam Kooiker also spoke at the event, which was attended by local soccer officials, coaches, players, volunteers and fans.
“I’m really excited about with the organizations coming together,” Kooiker said. “We now have the merger of these two organizations which gives us a large group of kids that are all pointed in one direction and working together. It’s something to be really excited about.”
The Black Hills Rapids will join three other clubs under the umbrella of the Rapids adidas Alliance. Colorado is also affiliated with the Rio Rapids in Albuquerque, N.M., the Carolina Rapids in Charlotte, N.C., and the Downtown Las Vegas Soccer Club.
“Soccer is an exciting and growing sport in many communities throughout our state,” South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard said in a press release. “The partnership through the newly formed Black Hills Soccer Club and the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer is the first of its kind in South Dakota and should greatly expand opportunities for youth of all ages in the Rapid City area.”
Crookham said that regardless of a player’s skill level or desire to reach a certain level, the affiliation with an MLS organization can only help everyone involved.
“We want to create environments in any community that we work in where we provide a model for youth development,” Crookham said. “We want the experience of every player to match their needs, to match their ability and their desire … it doesn’t matter if you’re a 5-year-old boy or girl, high school boy or girl, or an aspiring professional. We want to make sure the pathway is there.”