The Virginia Beach City FC Difference | An Interview with Brian Hinkey
About Brian Hinkey:
Brian serves Virginia Beach City FC as the head coach of the men’s NPSL team, and as vice president of soccer operations. Hinkey is a US Soccer A License coach. Most recently, he was named as the head scout for DC United in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. Hinkey has worked full-time in the sport for over 16 years working with and for the Virginia Youth Soccer Association, Prince William Soccer Inc., NYSL, Beach FC, and Chesapeake. His playing career includes Vanderbilt and William and Mary, and professionally with the Cleveland Crunch, Kansas City Comets, and in the USL division with the Nashville Metros.
1. Team Formation and the Academy Format
"Players are selected to an age group and that is their team. This could include 24-32 players in a pool per age group. When we register for events and leagues, we develop “teams” to participate in those environments. This means players will have the opportunity to train and play with a variety of players from their age group. For players needing more of a challenge, we may move them to a higher age group to create a better balance between challenge and success. By virtue of our environment, we make these adjustments on a daily basis when needed in the best interest of the players. By creating this type of platform for players, we are not labeling them whereby they feel entitled as a “top player”, or disillusioned as a “bottom player”. We all know what happens when players don’t make the “top” team. Instead, we create environments where players are challenged and have opportunity. Players can advance and they can regress, and we have the flexibility to make adjustments based on the needs of the individual players. We don’t make these changes to simply win games. We make these changes to get the most out of the players and to help to motivate them when they truly want to grow."
2. Training Environment
"Logistically, age groups will train at the same location and time, providing an environment where all players in the age group will have the ability to train together and in small groups. This builds a connection between players to ensure a vibrant training environment where players get a variety and a high level of competition. Every player will receive instruction from the coaches in the age group's staff. This provides multiple voices for players as well as a team of coaches to work with the players. Having the entire academy training together will provide us the necessary flexibility to foster an environment for each player where there is an appropriate balance between challenge and success. We train three days per week in season and two days per week throughout the winter. This allows us to maintain a consistency and quality to our training environment that is unmatched in the area. Furthermore, by having an age group player pool, we are still able to provide flexible training environments and a variety of challenges.
Whether players are playing in their high school teams or having a tuba lesson, we are able to manage the environment to ensure a quality training session for the players there. We certainly expect a commitment but also understand that family, other activities and tuba lessons are important too. Whether you are the top player in the group or the 24th player selected in a group, you will receive the same environment, staff and regiment as the top tier players. This ensures opportunity for all the players to meet challenges, grow, and seek new challenges."
3. Match Play
"We utilize a mix of league play, friendlies and tournaments to ensure our players are getting a personalized approach to their match experiences based on the needs of the players and the team. We also strive to stay local when the competition level meets the match needs of our players. Only when there is a competitive need for the team will we incur the time and expense of travel.
We want to bring a more reasonable approach, when possible, to support the growth of high level competition locally. We strongly believe through high quality training and a variety of match environments, players will gain the necessary abilities and exposure to achieve higher levels of play. We do not subscribe to one league being better than another. It is not the label of the league you play in but the quality of the player that matters when seeking higher levels of play. MLS teams, NWSL teams, collegiate teams and high school teams want good players. They don’t care what college showcase you went to. We have recently become the official Hampton Roads soccer affiliate of DC United, which means our players will be getting exposure to that system and level of play on a frequent basis. We have already sent players to training sessions and will have the opportunity to play their development academy teams this summer and throughout the year. On the girls' side for this summer, we have added friendlies with the Washington Spirit teams and will continue to develop that relationship.
At times, we have played against college teams and college club teams. Match fixtures will be developed by the staff and club on an individual age group and “team” basis to ensure our players are getting what they need."
4. Professional Experience
"We offer a professional experience for our players. Our organizational structure, facility quality, coaching staff, and full-time staff are here to serve you."
"We are not run by a board structure. Instead, we are run by soccer professionals who leave politics out of the process. This structure allows us to make decisions quickly and in the best interest of players. It creates a customer orientation in our organization. We want to solve problems when they arise and take into consideration the needs of the players first and always. All of our staff are paid and are committed to the vision and direction of the club."
"We have a centrally located two turf field lighted complex we utilize for training and matches. Norfolk Collegiate School is and will continue to be the home of VB City FC. It allows us to train and play matches with consistency and little interruption. Norfolk Collegiate is centrally located in Hampton Roads and allows players from all areas to travel for great training rather than travel just for games. Development happens on the training field where players get touches, learn new tactics and get to try things consistently with feedback. Matches are a chance to try those things and we don't see the need to travel 8 hours just for one match on a consistent, year-by-year basis. We ask you do your traveling for training."
"We have professional coaches who are paid to serve the players and the families involved in our program. The staff works together across age groups to provide additional voices, eyes, and ears so we can provide the best possible environments."
"We have a full-time staff here to assist with questions, concerns and welcome feedback. I believe you will find our staff accessible, reasonable and focused on the needs of players. We understand we are not perfect and want feedback to ensure we continue to grow as a club and as people and are open to it. Our door is always open for people to walk through and have a reasonable conversation. We will be focused on player needs first at all times and flexible so we can find solutions in each situation."
"I believe what makes VB City FC different, ultimately, is our vision. The vision for the club is simple. We aim to create a professionalized environment focused on quality training and match environments to produce players who can play professionally and at the collegiate levels. We will do this by being inclusive and developing every player in our program. We cannot promise players will acheive collegiate and professional dreams as that is their responsibility. However, we will provide the platform for them to achieve it if they truly want it.
We do not to sell people that their kid will play in college and get a scholarship. However, we will work diligently to provide opportunities for those who put in the effort.
In our five years of existence, we have had multiple players come through our program who have moved on to higher levels of play. Some notables include: Sydney Rivera with Orlando City SC (MLS), Puerto Rico FC (NASL) and now Atlantic City FC (NPSL). Michael Nelson was drafted by Seattle Sounders of MLS. JJ Gibson and Patrick Thompson are in the Major Indoor Soccer League. We had several players placed into college programs last year and we are just getting started. Most recently, we have had boys training with DC United and identified as prospects for their programs.
The vision of a professionalized environment also includes having first teams. One the men’s side we play in the NPSL and on the women’s side, we play in the WPSL. These teams bring in players from across the country and from the local area who are aspiring professional players. Having these teams here is vital to the development of the game in our area as well as our youth players who start to identify with them. By having our youth players involved with these teams over the summer, they are able to connect with college players and former professionals. They see them train. They see them play matches. They are able to touch the level and gain a frame of reference for what it takes to play on a first team. When we can provide this level of play, we provide a platform for aspiring young players where they can dare to dream and feel a real connection to their club."