East Penn Panther United's Juventud America team embodies the club's success in reaching its multicultural community.
Sometimes clubs’ best marketing initiatives are right in front of them. Read about how Ubaldo Murillo grew East Penn Panther United, based in East Pennsboro Township, from a club with two teams at the end of the 2017-18 season to one with a multicultural flair and low-cost soccer for all ages.
As a reminder, Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer is hosting its annual Business Summit on Friday, May 3. Topics this year will revolve around effective marketing and communications tactics for your organization in addition to securing strategic partnerships. There will be a panel discussion to conclude the event. For all information on the 2019 Business Summit, visit EPYSA.org.
When Ubaldo Murillo returned to youth soccer in the fall of 2018, he found a difficult situation. East Penn Panther United, the club Murillo had previously been involved with and now took over as president, had just two teams to close the 2017-18 season.
“When I came in, I kind of simply looked at all the financials, the information, the overhead, the fields, (and) the complex,” Murillo told Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer. “What we found was we have, in a sense, enough support from the community, and the overhead is nil.”
Murillo went about pulling resources. He found coaches in the area who believed in supporting low-cost travel soccer. He relied on support from the local school district and department of parks and recreation, which provided ample field space. He utilized his relationship with Central Penn College, where he serves as head women’s soccer coach, to offer classrooms for board meetings and chalk talks. He negotiated a uniform deal that outfits both Central Penn College as well as East Penn Panther United to keep fees low.
And the result was a remarkable growth that’s seen East Penn Panther United field six teams in 2018-19 from the Under-9 to Under-16 level.
“It was just a community effort,” Murillo said. “We’re getting a lot of individuals reaching out to us looking for a spot and a place. At this point, all the teams we did have are set to their max with roster spots. We’re looking to grow this fall even more than we anticipated.”
As much as Murillo cultivated physical resources and existing relationships, his—and by extension, the club’s—greatest success has been in making in-roads in the community. Take for example, Juventud America, East Penn Panther United’s U16 boys team. Juventud America is made up of players from Honduras, Mexico, Colombia and Morocco, a “conglomerate of countries” in Murillo’s words.
“It kind of arose organically,” Murillo said. “There was always the thought that there’s a lot of talent out there. They’re just looking for a place a play. They’re just playing pickup games, because number one, cost, and number two, they had no idea how the process worked.”
To reach the core group of players, Murillo enlisted Fausto Huaman, a coach with the club who knew the kids. Huaman trained the team, while Murillo, who was born in New York but spent much of his childhood in Ecuador, talked the parents through the registration process.
“The fact that I can stand up and have a conversation with (parents) in a different language is great,” Murillo said. “They just wanted to know the details. The fear was, ‘Is there any overhanging cost?’ That was the conversation, trying to convince them that I wasn’t lying, in a sense. They did trust me.”
After Juventud trained in the fall, they competed in an indoor league over the winter. This spring, they’re playing in the Central Pennsylvania Youth Soccer League (CPYSL), adding structure to their pickup style.
“They got acclimated very quickly with the process, with the formations, conversations were quick, speed of passing was quick,” Murillo said. “The way they play, it’s almost they play with a lot of freedom. They’re not restricted.”
The players and families also have strong mentors in Huaman, Murillo and Director of Coaching Youness Alami, a Moroccan who’s been pivotal in bringing the young Moroccan players into East Penn Panther United.
And in addition to offering playing experience to Juventud America, Murillo has developed a collegiate advisory program.
“I call it a big circle of love and family,” Murillo said. “You have them come in. You have them getting acclimated to the game. You team them how to apply for colleges. The idea is to holistically, inside and out, give them all the experience they need and mentor them through the process.”
It’s a simple message that permeates the club. This season is a “new beginning,” according to Murillo, for a club that’s been around since 2002. The new beginning has included aforementioned community outreach, education initiatives beyond soccer, a website upgrade with Stack Sports and a partnership with SuperNova FC to help continue East Penn Panther United’s growth.
“(East Penn Panther United) is something we’re passionate about,” Murillo said. “Not just me, but our entire board. It’s a great thing.”