As Sporting Columbus* celebrates their 5th year we were able to talk with President Jeffrey Warren about the club, how they started and their huge impact on our community in a short time.
*Sporting Columbus is an OSMD Insider and a paid Sponsor of Ohio Soccer Moms and Dads
Five years ago Dave Merrick, Geoff Starks and Jeffrey Warren were working together at the Columbus Crew leading the Player Development Program (Formerly Crew Jrs) when ownership issues arose and it was determined that their department was being eliminated. This devastating reality affected hundreds of boys and girls who were playing for Crew in their youth Player Development Program. “So, as one door closed another opened as the three of us formed Sporting Columbus” explained Warren.
From the start, Sporting Columbus took a very community based approach to developing their club. They built what can be described as a supportive and family type environment. The club as a whole took an interest in the interests of their members and the community. “We have done multiple gently used equipment drives and sent items overseas as well as to local nonprofits.” Warren also shared how they have supported player centric projects that support medical research and sponsored great events like the Gahanna Robotics Program, golf events for animal adoption and community events that raise money for Alzheimer research. This past spring Sporting kicked off a campaign to support Pelotonia and Cancer Research with the sale of “Sporting Columbus Kicks Cancer” shirts.
Although Sporting Columbus has had great competitive success and supported many players on with their next soccer opportunity whether it is making their high school team, collegiate play or promotion to signing on as a Crew SC Academy Player, they measure true success by creating and instilling a love of the game within every player that passes through their programs. “Some of our favorite moments at Sporting Columbus are when former players come back and start coaching for us. This shows total success…” shared Warren. The club currently has six former players on staff in various capacities. He continued by explaining that “this summer we created our first intern position for a former player so as to help her along her way to achieving her professional goals.”
When it comes to seeking out opportunities for players and creating programs to serve the community Sporting Columbus has stretched the limits. Whether it is Future Superstars or finding competitive leagues and tournaments that best fits the needs of players and teams. Sporting Columbus seems to find a way to be at the table for important developments in local soccer. “Willingness and openness to adapt and grow is the mantra of any great business,” Warren shared. “We have embraced change and believe this has allowed us to prosper in various environments.”
This may be an understatement, although they knew there would be challenges there is no way anyone could have known what challenges the pandemic years would bring to youth soccer. Many young clubs who started around the same time and smaller clubs did not survive. Sporting Columbus took that time to lean into their community based approach and the tight knit network among their families and coaches to grow stronger. They also used their network within the soccer community to grow player opportunities supporting pathways for boys up through Crew Academy, being one of the first clubs in the Crew Network and finding next level league options for both boys and girls. In 2022, Sporting Columbus became one of only two girls programs in the area to participate in ECNL RL and in 2023 they were announced as an expansion for Great Lakes ECNL RL on the boys side.
Five years is a significant milestone and Sporting Columbus is celebrating the same way they do everything; by bringing their community together. “Soccerfest is a three-hour event where players (will) participate in games and fun soccer oriented challenges,” explained Warren. Featuring fun activities like a soccer inflatable dart board, dunk tank, and photo booth. Warren explains that “the event will be full of fun, while also raising funds to support Sporting Columbus’ initiative to build out its financial aid budget.”
Founded out of a challenging situation, the club's community-based approach has been the driving force behind its accomplishments. From supporting local nonprofits and medical research to fostering a love for the game in every player, Sporting Columbus has gone above and beyond to serve its members and the wider community. Their commitment to adaptability and growth has allowed them to thrive even during the uncertainties brought about by the pandemic years. As they celebrated their fifth anniversary, it was clear that Sporting Columbus is not only a soccer club but a tight-knit family that brings people together and makes a meaningful difference in the lives of its players and beyond. With exciting developments in league participation and continued dedication to providing opportunities for players, the future looks bright for Sporting Columbus as they continue to create a positive impact on the sporting landscape and the community they hold dear.