Beyond the Game

For FC Richmond, soccer is more than sport - it's also about developing responsible kids and helping the community

Article by Mary Ellin Arch

Photography by Hunter Henkel, Hunter Henkel Photography

Originally published in Midlothian Lifestyle

For FC Richmond youth soccer, the logo Beyond the Game” means more than just words.

In fact, games are just one part of what this recreational, player development and travel soccer organization does. A big component of the program is character-building and community service.

“Our staff at FC Richmond is committed to developing not only soccer players but also well-rounded, responsible young people,” said Trip Ellis, director of coaching.

FC Richmond is a private, nonprofit organization that uses all fees and contributions to enhance youth soccer in Greater Richmond. The league, led by Trip Ellis and Trip Dunville, assistant director of coaching, develops over 2,000 players each year. Trip Ellis holds USSF "A" and National Youth coaching licenses, and played professionally with Richmond’s Kickers as well as in Philadelphia and Raleigh. Trip Dunville was an elite high school player in the 1980s, was inducted into Douglas Freeman’s Hall of Fame in 2018, and played for the nationally ranked Senators at Davis and Elkins College.

The organization uses a Player Progression Model in which participants typically enter at the recreational level, which focuses on inclusive play and skills development at the U4 through U19 age levels. Competitive team selections begin at U9-U10 in the Futures Program and go through U11-U19 in the Classic and Elite travel team programs.

But learning soccer is just one component. Players are coached to develop not only soccer abilities but also work ethic, discipline, commitment, accountability, and other character traits essential to success in school and in life.

And FC Richmond takes the character component a step further, incorporating a Junior Board of Directors of youth members who serve as FC Richmond ambassadors, developing leadership, collaboration, event planning, and public speaking skills as they engage FC Richmond families and carry out community service projects.

Junior Board members, all high school sophomores or older with at least one season of participation, help select a monthly “Beyond the Game” player, assist with digital media, and organize activities including parent and player workshops, healthy lifestyle programming, coach appreciation events, and charity projects like Angel Tree adopt-a-family at Christmastime.

“Character building and community service are an important aspect of FC Richmond, teaching players to go “Beyond the Game” and have a presence and impact in our community,” said Lynne Ellis, community outreach program manager.

Founder Dave Amsler began organized soccer in Richmond in 1971, when he started the first summer soccer league. It quickly grew to more than 1,100 youth players. Five years later Dave founded the Richmond Strikers, Richmond’s first travel soccer program. In 1985 Dave founded FC Richmond. To date, FC Richmond has produced over 900 college players, 21 U.S. Youth National team players, 24 professional players, and a Gatorade National Player of the Year.

The league has been going strong ever since. Now with over 35 years of history under its belt, FC Soccer has become a fixture in Greater Richmond and a powerhouse on the local youth sports scene. While Dave passed away in June at age 73 – a personal blow for the league – FC Richmond has emerged from the loss more determined than ever to keep his legacy alive through future seasons and community service work.

“Dave was an impactful mentor and coach who established very high standards for all of his players,” said Trip Ellis. “These high standards have been the foundation of FC Richmond, creating an environment for producing high-level soccer players and successful individuals for generations. He will be greatly missed, but his legacy will continue on for many more generations to come.”


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