Park Slope United was born on a small piece of paper, at a café overlooking a soccer field, tucked into a residential neighborhood in Zagreb, Croatia.
During his Master’s of Sport Psychology coursework, founder Nathan Bell lived in Croatia at the dormitories of Dinamo Zagreb, one of the top academies in the world. He was there to investigate how Croatia, with a population similar to the borough of Brooklyn, produced so many world-class soccer players. What were they doing differently than we were in the United States? He interviewed Croatian National Team coaches and players, played with a 3rd Division professional team and completed a book about his experiences traveling the world studying the way different cultures developed soccer players.
All Nathan’s experiences and research led back to the same place: Croatia produced some of the best players in the world because of their comprehensive soccer academies, the prevalence of unstructured soccer play, and the way soccer was integrated into the togetherness of families and community.
Overlooking each field where Nathan went to play or interview coaches was a café where people from the neighborhood congregated to eat or drink coffee, and where families gathered during youth practices. This is where our first pillar was born: Community. And in each neighborhood was a concrete soccer field where kids played winner-stays-on pick-up soccer games, developing their skills and creativity.
Could this environment of community engagement, comprehensive soccer training, and unstructured pick-up play be replicated in the United States? It can in Brooklyn!
Since 2012 Park Slope United has risen from a handful of five and six year olds to become the leading soccer program in Brooklyn with over 1400 players. Our soccer environment develops players who are confident to be creative, take risks, and be leaders in their communities. By staying true to our values of community, integrity, and excellence, we’ve integrated the path towards soccer excellence with personal development and family well-being.