After winning eight conference championships in their first 10 years as an amateur club in the NPSL Southeastern Conference, the Chattanooga Football Club will find out if their dominance can continue during their first year as a truly professional team. During his press conference at the Moxy Hotel, Head coach Peter Fuller said he is fully aware of the challenges that will come from a jump in the quality of competition.
“I think the big thing for us is going from a three and a half month season in the NPSL to what is basically a 10-month season,” said coach Fuller. “You’d probably say to yourself, ‘That’s not a big deal, why is that a big deal?’ It’s hard on the players, because a lot of the players that come from the college ranks are used to a three-month season. Ten months is a grind, and getting used to that grind is going to be an adjustment.”
One of those new players is Alec Redington, a 20-year-old goalkeeper who has experience with a St. Louis amateur club and collegiate experience with the Charlotte 49ers. While stalwart Phil D’Amico is the unquestioned starter at the moment, Redington was attracted to the team by the strong fan support CFC receives from their fan base.
“The feel around the city felt more inviting than other cities, so that was a big thing for me,” said Redington. “Being a young player, I’m only 20, I feel like I can bring some life into the game.”
With so many new players, coach Fuller will need to adjust his coaching style in order to reach the next generation of players. While the new wave of CFC players are talented and coachable, he said he would tweak his methods in order to lead the Chattanooga Football Club.
“Dealing with the modern player, you have to understand they’re used to social media, video, and if they don’t like something at a particular moment, they’ll go and change to something else,” said coach Fuller. “I think that it’s important when dealing with the modern player, to keep training fun and interesting. And to figure out a way while you’re doing that to get them to learn.”
It would be grossly misleading to characterize the Chattanooga Football Club as completely bereft of experience though. Veterans such as Joao Costa and Soren Yuhaschek were also present at the media event, and they will be leaned upon to provide leadership during the 2020 season.
“I just want to be a good inspiration for all of my teammates and be a good role model,” said five-year veteran Yuhaschek. “It’s a long season and take care of your body, because injuries occur and you don’t want that to happen. I’m excited, and there should be some good football being played!”
“Hopefully they’re going to help us a lot. It’s almost like a brand new team, and we only have a few players coming back from last year’s team,” said Costa. “I think the new players are going to bring a lot of energy and a lot of new skills.”
While players such as Costa and Yuhaschek will be elder statesmen in the locker room, coach Fuller was hesitant to call them “coaches on the field.” In his eyes, being a team leader extends far beyond what they do on the pitch. For coach Fuller, what those older players do on a day-to-day basis is just as important.
“The one thing I always shy away from is, rather than calling them coaches on the field, it’s the leadership in terms of how you do things and how you don’t do things,” said coach Fuller. “How you go about your daily business. What time do you get into the locker room in the morning, and how do you prepare? Did you eat breakfast before you got to the stadium, or are you training on an empty stomach. And those guys, when we were an amateur club, those guys behaved as professionals, so it’ll be no different for them.”
Off the field, new Managing Director Jeremy Alumbaugh made it obvious that the club has committed itself to promoting itself in a professional manner, saying “Our front office staff has expanded so we can offer an even better game day experience at Finley. We’ve got some hospitality areas and we’ve added some group experiences, and we’re just continuing to build that part of the game day experience. So when somebody comes to Finley Stadium, they have a professional experience.”
When asked about the kinds of partners or sponsors the professional club is looking to work with, Alumbaugh emphasized CFC’s community-based mindset. Despite being a professional team, he said the Chattanooga Football Club will continue to focus on being involved in the Scenic City and their local fans.
“We’re looking for partners,” said Alumbaugh. “We’re looking for someone who cares about the community and cares about the community as much as we do. We’ve been like that for 10 years, and this city means something to the people who are involved.”
Alumbaugh and the rest of the management is also looking for even more talented players. Building out the roster has presented unique challenges to the front office because of NISA’s roster restrictions. Unlike the NPSL, who allowed as many international players as a team could afford to sign, NISA limits their teams to seven international signings.
Marketing director Owen Seaton handles much of the public relations and off-field matters for CFC. One of the projects the team is looking into is some sort of application that would help fans watch the games on devices like Roku. He also has been talking with other teams to talk about possible exhibitions, but he was unable to give specific details about who those possible teams could be.
“We’ll have some friendlies in late June or early July after the Spring NISA season is over,” said Seaton. “We’re still negotiating and working a lot of those out, including potentially an international friendly. There’s a lot of discussions happening with a couple of different teams, so it’s too early to say.”
As much as the Chattanooga Football Club has changed during the last few months, the different players, coaches, and front office members continually referenced the importance of representing the community above all other things. As CFC moves into their future as a professional team, coach Fuller said the team will continue to focus on the foundation of the team.
“It’s really important for me to strike a balance between pushing forward into the future as a professional club, and not losing sight of why we are where we are,” said coach Fuller. “It’s because of our fan base, and it’s because of the people who have forged and built the club.”