The badge and name, Arctic Rush, seem brand new, but what is the history of Rush in your community? How long has the Rush organization been home to soccer in Fairbanks?
Back in 2005, the Alaska Goldstrikers Soccer Club combined with Rush Soccer to become one of the biggest youth soccer organizations in Alaska. Arctic Rush came from the affiliation of Alaska Rush SC and Arctic North FC, an amateur men’s league team that was run by myself. I was approached by Josh Banks of AK City FC about the UPSL wanting to start a conference in Alaska, and he thought my team would be a good fit. With the help of Alaska Rush, the club I grew up playing with and now coach for, we were able to enter Arctic Rush in to the UPSL for this first season in The Last Frontier Conference.
For some soccer fans, the introduction of a men's side into a national league can be exciting? It can signal an interest in becoming a competitive market or in interest in greater things to come... but what's the goal of Arctic Rush? Why form a top-tier squad and join the UPSL?
The main goal of Arctic Rush is to help push the overall competitiveness of soccer in Alaska to the next level. By being part of Rush, we can move forward with the idea of promoting from within and having players "come up through the youth system into the first team." It gives kids something to look forward to locally, and can possible motivate a few to pursue a higher level of soccer.
The logistics of running a club in a national league can be complicated at best, how do you navigate the possibility of playoffs, financially speaking? Would you dare enter the US Open Cup qualifying rounds in the fall, knowing you could draw an away match?
We would never shy away from participating in any competition, especially one as big as the U.S. Open Cup. Financially, it will always be a little tougher on teams coming from Alaska, but that is what we are used to. In order to be a high-level athlete from Alaska, travel is more-or-less a requirement. So, our players are not unfamiliar with the idea of travel, and local businesses have always been willing to help out local sports teams. Also, just being associated with a nationwide league such as the UPSL can really attract some attention. So, I believe it's a hurdle that can easily be jumped when the time comes to start thinking about travel.
The seasons are fairly different to what we're used to down here; how has that affected your scheduling? What is the best time of year for a match? Are all matches indoors or are there outdoor facilities?
Unfortunately, the seasons do affect our schedule quite a bit. But just like with travel, it's nothing we aren't used to dealing with. On top of the summer being the only time to play, high school soccer is a spring sport in Alaska. So, we could technically start our UPSL season as soon as mid to late April, but that would cause quite the scheduling conflict, and would prevent those players from participating in the UPSL altogether. We are limited to playing games in June and July if we want to be involved in the playoffs that happen within the rest of the UPSL. The best time for a match in Alaska is probably the first week of June. It's that perfect transition from spring to summer, and produces the best weather more often than not. Outdoor matches can start in mid-April and be played all the way into September sometimes! During the winter months though, everyone becomes restricted to using one of two facilities to play soccer on turf. The Dome is the only facility with a full-size field and track, so it is obviously the most sought after, and thus, very expensive and availability is very limited. The other facility is the Fox Hollow Sports Dome, who have a 9v9 size field inside their dome, so some play is available there, but as is the case with The Dome, Fox Hollow has limited availability as well. Most indoor play is done on gym floors wherever they are available.
Are there any standout players who have developed from your organization in the past and moved onto do well in the college ranks, maybe played at another UPSL or NPSL side? (Women players are of interest to us as well, any player who has developed through your ranks, we'd love to know about!)
As for standout players from Alaska, the most well-known name from my lifetime has been Alev Kelter. She is now known for her rugby play at national level, but when she lived here, she was known for being one of the best and toughest women hockey and soccer players. Other than her, there have been so many Alaskans that have gone onto play at different levels of the game, from junior colleges to D1 athletes to UPSL and PDL clubs. The one that stands out to me the most, obviously, is my brother, Zak Naylor. Zak played his whole youth career here in Anchorage, graduating from South High, going onto Edmonds CC, then to Concordia University, then went on to play for the Vancouver Victory, Portland Spartans, and currently plays for Boise FC Cutthroats.