NPSL Midland-Odessa FC’s Jeff VonHolle on Soccer Today
A youth soccer player from Middletown, OH grew up to be a leader in the NPSL — Jeff VonHolle is the General Manager for the successful NPSL team, Midland-Odessa FC. Here is a new interview with VonHolle on soccer today.
Diane Scavuzzo: What did you become involved with Midland-Odessa FC?
Jeff VonHolle: I’ve been involved with the club for each of our 9 seasons, since our inception in 2009.
I’m also an Assistant General Manager for the Midland RockHounds Professional Baseball Club — Double-A affiliate of the Oakland A’s, now in my 24th year.
The RockHounds are the 3-time defending champions of the Texas League — we won in 2014, 2015, and 2016, and draw about 300,000 fans/year to the ballpark over the course of our 70-game home season.
Minor League Professional Baseball is currently in its’ 46th year in Midland.
Diane Scavuzzo: When did you become involved with the NPSL?
Jeff VonHolle: We joined the NPSL for the 2017 season in December of 2016, after spending the previous 8 seasons in the PDL — from 2009 until 2016.
Having last played in the PDL as Midland-Odessa Sockers FC, we changed our name to Midland-Odessa FC for the 2017 NPSL season.
Diane Scavuzzo: Tell us about this NPSL season — What were the biggest challenges?
Jeff VonHolle: I think the biggest challenges this past season was timing.
- Having the majority of our team arrive into town for the first training session of the season 3 days before our first game. There just isn’t time for a “preseason” when waiting for college players to get done with their classes for the semester.
- Learning a new league – playing new opponents that we were somewhat unfamiliar with, and adjusting to playing against teams with older players than we were accustomed to during our PDL days.
Following up this season on the successful 2016 PDL playoff run which included our first ever berth in the National Semifinals. We felt like it was going to be a big challenge to “do it again”.
As is turns out, I think the biggest challenge was the combination of the longer NPSL post-season playoff schedule coupled with the fact that our team was largely comprised of NCAA Division 1 players — we also had some players from NCAA Division 2 soccer — who had school obligations the week of the NPSL National Championship Game.
Diane Scavuzzo: What were the best accomplishments?
Jeff VonHolle: Our biggest accomplishment was winning 5 straight playoff games against very good teams Dutch Lions FC, Shreveport Rafters, FC Wichita, Inter Nashville, and Detroit City FC … and making it all the way to the NPSL National Championship Game.
Getting to play for a National Championship is a special accomplishment.
Also, playing in Detroit City in perhaps amateur soccer’s best atmosphere in the United States was an experience that will never be forgotten.
Additionally, being the only NPSL or PDL team to reach the National Semifinals in back-to-back seasons this year and last year is a tremendous accomplishment, and is a great example of how hard we work to put ourselves in a position where we have a chance to succeed both on and off the field.
Diane Scavuzzo: Do you want the NPSL to be considered a pipeline to the pros?
Jeff VonHolle: Of course we want the NPSL to be a league that helps players get to the next level.
We generally have younger players on our team that we hope to be able to help develop for the professional ranks.
We take great pride in being an amateur team and playing a part in player development, especially for collegiate players.
Diane Scavuzzo: Who do you believe is your team’s biggest rival in the NPSL?
Jeff VonHolle: I’m not sure we really have “one” biggest rival.
We’re kind of isolated here in West Texas, with our “closest” trip being 5 hours one way. Until we play against a team from Abilene, Lubbock, San Angelo, or Amarillo, I just don’t think we have that natural rivalry that most teams have.
Diane Scavuzzo: What were your goals for this season? How did you reach them?
Jeff VonHolle: Our goal for this season was the same as it has been every other year – to give quality young players a chance to develop at an amateur level in an organization that prides itself on being run in a high-quality manner. I’d like to think that all of our players left here a better player than when they arrived here in May.
I’d like to think that all of our players left here a better player than when they arrived here in May.
Diane Scavuzzo: And goals for 2018?
Jeff VonHolle: We plan to continue to give college-age players a chance to develop their game throughout the summer months.
Diane Scavuzzo: NPSL has teams across the country – is your area in need of more competition or are you concerned about future expansion?
Jeff VonHolle: I think the NPSL can definitely benefit by having more teams in the West Texas ares. I know our club would benefit! If the league is able to expand to include more teams throughout Texas, and especially in cities close to where we are, that would create more opportunities for players to be able to improve the overall level of soccer in the United States.
I know our club would benefit!
If the league is able to expand to include more teams throughout Texas, and especially in cities close to where we are, that would create more opportunities for players to be able to improve the overall level of soccer in the United States.
Diane Scavuzzo: How important is it for NPSL to work with youth soccer clubs?
Jeff VonHolle: If any team, in the NPSL or otherwise, isn’t working with youth soccer clubs and organizations these days, then I don’t understand how they are growing the game in their market (and beyond) via grass roots marketing.
Diane Scavuzzo: When did you become in involved in soccer?
Jeff VonHolle: I played many years throughout my youth and high school years, but didn’t play beyond that.
I enjoy most sports, and I really appreciate the talent, determination, stamina, and strength it takes to play the beautiful game of soccer. I think it is a perfect sport.
Diane Scavuzzo: Would you like to see promotion and relegation exist in the USA? Why? How would it impact your NPSL team? Would it be fair to MLS owners?
Jeff VonHolle: In a perfect world, yes, I would like to see pro/rel in the USA.
That said, I’m not sure this country is ready for promotion and relegation.
I think there are a lot of obstacles that would need to be overcome in order for it to become reality, on both the promotion side as well as the relegation side.
Promotion/relegation would have ZERO impact on us.
Even if we were the best amateur team in the USA one year, we would still be playing in an amateur league the following year.
We’re true to our roots, and I feel like our market (for the sport of soccer, unlike for baseball) is much more suited to an amateur team than a professional one.
Diane Scavuzzo: What inspires you?
Jeff VonHolle: Striving to be the best I can inspire me. In both my personal and professional life, reaching for new heights is something that gets me excited every day.
Diane Scavuzzo: What surprises people about you the most?
Jeff VonHolle: I think a lot of people were pretty surprised when I set my mind to completing a Half Ironman earlier this year. They’re going to be shocked when I complete a full one soon and become an Ironman.