Take it to Eleven: Lacey Pocket Gophers FC
What makes a good soccer kit? In our previous installments of Uni-formity, we have discussed unique designs and how the creative process influenced the final product. For Troy Kirby, Owner of Lacey Pocket Gophers FC, creating a kit is only one part of the overall goal, connecting to the community.
“This is where soccer operators may be missing an opportunity, they worry about the soccer fan, but you need to worry about the people that are coming for the first time, they've never experienced soccer, you have to entertain them and give them a show. I'm not disrespecting the soccer fans, I already know that whenever we announce our schedule they will have those days marked off on their calendar. We need to make sure that the rest of the community knows about our matches as well.”
So what is a pocket gopher? The pocket gopher is a species of rodent, different from other gophers due to their small size. The Mazama pocket gopher, a small sub-species, is endangered and protected by the ESA ( endangered species act). Being ever present in Lacey, WA, the citizens have had to learn to live with these small critters, and it's not your typical living arrangement. There are “ gopher review processes” that can tamper with city development. These creatures can't be hurt, harmed, captured or even chased out of your front yard. Everyone in Lacey knows about the pocket gophers.
“Nobody could ever tell you what a pocket gopher looked like, and we are apparently one of the only counties in the entire US that has this endangered species. [ Branding our club] was more about finding something people knew about, heard about, and had an opinion on. Once you have an opinion on what your product is, then you have an ability to have conversations. That's what made it easier, especially when you had mascots rolling around, people would be like 'oh those are the pocket gophers!' The people you think would be against it, weren't. And the people you thought would care, just laughed it off. But, here's the thing, they constantly talk about us, and that's how we got our audience.”
Connecting to the community should be priority number one for any local club, and for the Pocket Gophers, it is.
“We went to the city council with our mascots, we had 19,000 people reached by that one video. Now, I'm getting pictures with city council members and the council chamber wants to be apart of our club, because it says Lacey FC. The problem with some other clubs, is that they're not willing to name their club after the town they reside in. When you do that you eliminate the civic pride and the opportunity that the community will invest in you.”
The Lacey Pocket Gopher's jersey, while outrageous, is a culmination of what the Lacey soccer club represents. It's about the community, it highlights something every community member understands, it doesn't take itself too seriously and it's fun, just like their matches.
“You have to be willing to work outside the box. No player that was on our team seemed to mind that we had music playing in the stands, throughout the entire game. We have bounce houses. We have Gopher Gut Nachos, the Mazama Burger (another type of pocket gopher). We had a 6 ft soccer ball at half-time, just to kick it. We are a Van Halen party, not Van Hagar.”
The focal point of the kit, is the aggressive pocket gopher located at the bottom of the kit, as if it's poking out of a gopher hole. The field player's kit comes with a white top and brown shorts, which flows perfectly into the gopher design. Cascading from the neck to the head of the pocket gopher, are abstract cross-hatched cubes, that just add a level of depth to the jersey. Different from the traditional crest location, above the heart, the Lacey crest lies on the right sleeve.
The keeper's kit features the same pocket gopher, but uses vibrant and loud colors to grab the viewer's attention. They have two color variations: one bright pink jersey and the other a neon green. The green jersey is my favorite, the green hue plays perfectly into the background and allows the gopher to pop off the jersey.
The Lacey jersey did something few clubs ever try, they had fun. That's what spoke to me. I saw pictures of fans embracing this jersey and the soccer culture in their city. I saw a club who was committed to the community, appearing in city council and what seemed like every city event. I went searching for a cool jersey and found an even greater club.
This isn't the final product for Lacey either, Troy promises more next year.
“Next years kit will be more outrageous. It's like Spinal Tap said 'take it to eleven!'“
- Steven Ramirez