Phoenix Rising FC Youth Soccer takes holistic approach to student-athlete development

Getting underserved Scottsdale youth on the soccer pitch is transforming lives and changing perspectives on what a holistic approach to student-athlete development can accomplish. (Submitted photo)

The overarching goal of the Phoenix Rising FC Youth Soccer Club is to offer opportunities to children they may not experience otherwise.

Getting underserved Scottsdale youth on the soccer pitch, officials at the Phoenix Rising FC youth soccer club contend, is transforming lives and changing perspectives on what a field of grass and a holistic approach can accomplish.

“Our goal is to provide incredible experiences in soccer for children — from the developmental players to the elite player, from the youngest to the oldest, we want to provide programs and services that capture them all,” said Chris Brown, who is Executive Director of the Phoenix Rising FC Soccer Club.

A view of three members of the Phoenix Rising FC Youth soccer program’s coaching and volunteer staff. (Submitted photo)

The club has transformed into the Phoenix Rising outfit, but most recently known as the Scottsdale Blackhawks.

“We believe we are the leading club in Arizona that provides this,” Mr. Brown said.

Established as Arcadia Scottsdale United Soccer Club in 1989 as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization — then known as the Scottsdale Soccer Blackhawks, but now taking the Phoenix Rising moniker — the effort is solely focused on providing student athletes an opportunity to grow both as athletes and as people.

“We have always recognized the need to remove financial barriers so that all children can enjoy the programs and services in our club,” Mr. Brown points out.

“Five years ago we set up our foundation and have worked hard to raise funds to support those families who could not afford to participate. Annually, we raise over $100,000, and we give back 100 percent of those monies to our population through an application-based program with supporting tax returns.”

Mr. Brown explains many may not realize there are vulnerable populations who call Scottsdale home.

About 9 percent, or just over 21,000 human beings, live below the poverty line in Scottsdale, which is defined as a gross annual income less than $21,954 for a family of four, according to the latest Census figures.

“I have — time and time again — witnessed the development of children through our program who then graduate and go and play in college,” he said. “We have a College Advisory Program within our club that encourages and develops interest for the player to play in college. We have a reputation at the college level that players that attend those schools are well-rounded, grounded, motivated, and future leaders in America — we are immensely proud of that.”

Mr. Brown explains the soccer club is based upon three guiding principles: character, commitment and confidence.

“Our tag line is character, commitment and confidence, which does not mention technical or tactical aspects of soccer,” he said pointing out the holistic approach to student-athlete development. “It describes the growth of the child and the life lessons training and playing games can bring, under the watchful eyes of our staff.”

The Scottsdale Charros believe in the development of student-athletes and this past year offered the soccer club a $7,500 grant to bring more underserved Scottsdale youth to local pitches.

Jason Heetland

“Competitive athletic programs such as youth soccer offered by the Scottsdale Soccer Blackhawks is beneficial to youth participants on many levels,” said Jason Heetland, a Scottsdale Charro who offered his sponsorship of the soccer club grant application.

“Aside from the health benefits of exercise, youth are given the opportunity to compete, set goals, take direction and achieve individually as well as in a team atmosphere — these experiences help set Scottsdale youth up for success in life.”

For more than 50 years the Scottsdale Charros have been in constant pursuit of improving the lives of Scottsdale residents while preserving the community’s ties to its western heritage.

Mr. Heetland says providing opportunities for all is a keystone of what makes the Scottsdale community special.

“By offering the opportunity for all youth no matter their financial or social situation the opportunity to participate in sports such as soccer, we ensure the youth in Scottsdale have an equal opportunity for fitness, fun and life achievement,” he explained. “Positive youth activities for all youth are critical to a healthy and prosperous community.”

Participating in competitive sports is something that helped shaped Mr. Heetland, he says.

“I know how important playing sports was to me when I was a kid,” he said.

“I hope that the support the Charros have given to the soccer club and other sports programs help to give all Scottsdale youth the opportunity to have a rich experience no matter what their financial situation is.”

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Two happy members of the Phoenix Rising FC Youth Soccer Club. (Submitted photo)

Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at

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