Tropics SC, Lakeland FC youth organization announce merger
LAKELAND – In a plan to more effectively and efficiently promote soccer in Polk County, all the way from youth league through the professional ranks, the Florida Tropics and Lakeland FC have agreed to a merger of the two operations.
The Florida Tropics SC will start their second season in the Major Arena Soccer League this November, with the home opener set Saturday, Nov. 11 against the Cedar Rapids Rampage. Their sister franchise, the Lakeland Tropics, completed their first season in the United Soccer League's Premier Development League this past summer.
Lakeland Futbol Club was founded in 2008 upon the merging of the Lakeland Soccer Club and Lakeland Heights Youth Soccer Association, making it one of the largest youth soccer organizations in Florida with almost 3,000 registered players.
The two organizations already had a close working relationship. Eoghan Conlon, who is Lakeland FC's technical director, also served as the head coach of the PDL Tropics side.
With the merger, the two organizations will combine office space and staff, and the youth organization will move forward under the banner of Lakeland Tropics FC, pending FYSA approval. The two organizations however will still remain separate entities, allowing the youth Club to continue to operate as usual. No price increases will go into effect for the Club members.
The Florida Tropics will have its players more directly involved with the youth organization as well, both as coaches and by staging a number of soccer clinics for players and coaches. A scholarship program is also being established to help families who otherwise might not be able to afford to have their kids play soccer.
Other avenues to take advantage of the combined resources in helping to bring a better understanding of the sport to would-be players and youth coaches, combined with a youth wellness component, will also be vigorously explored.
“It does not make sense for us to have a great club if it doesn't produce something positive in the community,” noted Dr. Panos Iakovidis, CEO of the Florida Tropics, and President and CEO of the Bond Clinic. “Yes, we can go kick the ball around, and some people will watch our games, and we'll win a few trophies but it doesn't mean anything if we don't make our community a better place. It's not worth it.”
He added that combining working space would help expedite some of the ideas both sides have come up with.
“We're going to start working side-by-side. We will get to know each other and create common goals, and it's not just going to be 'let's have great teams out there.' The major goal is to have kids who might not have quite enough talent, or interest, we want to change that, get them more active, become healthy,” Dr. Iakovidis added. “ Now that we have a youth organization with us, it's going to become easier, not easy, but easier to make those type of programs become reality and part of our community.”
Conlon said the move made good sense for their organization as well.
“For us, it allows us to be stronger operationally as a club and to have pathway all the way to the very top for our aspiring youth players,” Conlon said. “And it will allow us to reach more youth players, more kids in the community, that's the premise of it really. We want to grow the sport and grow the game in areas of our community where maybe it's not so popular right now. It's very fortunate we have an owner (Dr. Iakovidis) that's here for the long term. That's really important for us on the youth side. ”
He also noted that having Florida Tropics players more directly involved with the club's youngsters will be a big benefit too. The club has toddlers as young as 3 all the way up to age 19.
“Absolutely, that's going to be a huge factor. We want the players to be more integrated in the community and have access to and help train all our players from Munchkins to our U19 Inter-League teams, from our Academy players to enhancing our TOPS program. We want them working with all levels of our club. That's a really important piece.”
More information on the Florida Tropics can be found at www.fltropics.com, and on Lakeland FC at www.lakelandfc.org.