For youth soccer players across the greater Hardin County area, the Atletico Flames Futbol Club has been a familiar name for the sport at the local club level since 2003.
Nearly 20 years since its founding, the Flames are unveiling a brand-new look.
The club has rebranded and restructured as Elizabethtown FC, a change that Club Director of Coaching Justin Maddock says reflects soccer’s growth in the community and the region’s growth as a whole.
“We felt with the growth of the Elizabethtown area and the growth we’ve had in soccer in our community and where Flames has taken us, it was a good time to rebrand. Name, colors, structure and everything to try to make sure we continue to improve,” Maddock said. “It’s easy to stay comfortable, it’s easy to stay where we’re at, maybe use the word stagnant, but it was time to make a structural change to improve.”
Maddock added that this change reflected the club’s desire to be on more even footing with the clubs in nearby cities and communities. This included clubs in Louisville, Lexington, Bowling Green, Cincinnati and Evansville.
“(These clubs are) similar sizes and even bigger and we’re at a point where we’re getting close to delivering or families should expect to get a similar product,” Maddock said. “For us to get close to the next step of delivering that product, people involved believed it was time to go towards a structure that puts a few different people that have experience in spots to help develop our club.”
The club’s restructuring plan began around two years ago, around the time that Racing Louisville FC and Louisville City Academy started.
The plan picked up more steam to reach this point over the last year.
“As soon as they started, we started working with them in small amounts with a partnership and a pretty lose partnership in the sense of no transactions financially for anybody involved. It was more of a minds and support partnership,” Maddock said. “With that partnership of working with them and starting to see ways that their business model works and the way they do things in a professional standpoint, that started the conversation of how can we combine that partnership that we do with them and learn from them to improve what we do down here.”
This restructuring represents the next step in what Maddock described as an “alliance” with Louisville City Academy and Racing Louisville FC.
This alliance will allow the newly-named Elizabethtown FC to benefit from the above-mentioned organizations’ resources. This includes curriculum and practice planning, coaching development and college coaching resources.
“They have a goal to use their resources to help any club in the area without trying to change anything. They want to support clubs that they can with coaching development, player development and what they call affiliate friendlies and matches,” Maddock said. “All of those resources that they have, they will be sharing with us weekly and monthly as an affiliate. They do that with a few other organizations, but for us, it’s more we’ll be in their communication line for coaching education. During the winter, they will send down some of their academy coaches and players to train our kids during our skills training, which they were able to once this winter and hopefully going forward it’s going to turn into more times than that, so it’ll get their coaches in front of our players.”
This alliance will also give Elizabethtown FC additional scheduling opportunities in close proximity.
“They’re gonna send a lot of U-8, U-10 teams to play friendlies, so scrimmages and games, at both their location and down at Elizabethtown. What that does is that alleviates some of the travel,” Maddock said. “The leagues we’re in currently, a lot of the games we have to go play in Lexington, so that’s an hour and a half drive. We’re gonna cut that down even when we go play up on their fields.”
In addition to opportunities to play closer games more frequently, Maddock said Elizabethtown FC will also have more chances to play more road games on higher-quality fields than the club has been able to in the past. This included getting to play on more fields in Louisville and in other cities across the region.
“You go to Lexington and the fields aren’t even up to par to (Mike Carroll Soccer Complex) where we play at in town and then you include the (Elizabethtown Sports Park). It kind of has been a headache,” Maddock said. “Now with this affiliate and working with them, not only do we get to host things where they come down here and we do friendlies, we’ll get to go up to their place and play on their turf field and their facilities which are obviously top-notch too. Then they’ve connected us with (Southern Kentucky Soccer Club) in Bowling Green, we’re now connecting with Sports Tutor in Owensboro and (Valor United FC) in Hopkinsville. All those clubs along with them are creating some affiliates where we discuss playing more friendlies that just help us all financially and we all have amazing fields to play at.”
Off the field, the restructuring will allow club leaders like Maddock to have more streamlined responsibilities within the organization as well.
“I’ve been the director of the club for six going on seven years, but in the role, I’ve had to coach a lot of teams,” Maddock said. “Now, my new role will be that I simply don’t coach any youth teams and I’m involved with all 25 youth teams that we have and the coaches involved in those teams. I’m more of a resource and support to help make sure we’re improving and that should help us make sure we’re providing a similar setting for every team.”
These changes as part of the club’s restructuring and rebranding as Elizabethtown FC will help ensure the club can continue to grow and improve, both in the short-term and long-term.
“In the short-term, it is going to be the communication. Right now, I would say probably an area that we have to improve on as a club when you have 25 teams is the communication and having a direct path for communicating the positives that we do and communicating the things that we need to work and improve on,” Maddock said. “In the long-term, what I’m hoping is we’re reaching out to more kids, in the community in Hardin County and surrounding counties, to get involved. I think the biggest thing with this change is we really want to make it known that this isn’t about what school any of us are involved in, it’s about the community.”