Like many of the young players in his club, Thomas Frambach was four years old when he was first introduced to soccer in his hometown of Washingtonville, in upstate New York.
The game turned out to be central to his life.
“I was fortunate to have good coaches and parent volunteers who had a love of the game as well,” he says. Frambach, now 38, is the general manager of Downtown United Soccer Club (DUSC) in New York City, the largest youth soccer organization in the city, with 2,000 active players, ages 4–18. DUSC employs 30 coaches (and in the summer 50 part-time staff for their soccer camps). They serve kids from all over the city, but mostly from Lower Manhattan. There are so many positive things that come out of the sport of soccer, Frambach says, such as friendships, confidence, maturity, learning how to work with teammates, understanding how to win and how to lose, and leadership skills. Soccer’s also an endurance sport. The kids play for 90 minutes with only one break at half time. So it requires strength, speed, agility, and quickness.
“It ticks all the boxes from a physical perspective,” Frambach says. As an international sport, it’s also inclusive. “We call soccer its own language, so people that may not necessarily be from New York or from the U.S. can come and play and participate.”
Another reason soccer is considered, inclusive is that it requires so little equipment. “All one needs is a soccer ball,” Frambach says. Still, finding space to practice and play in Manhattan is sometimes challenging.
“We’re always finding nooks and crannies to make sure we can offer places to play,” he says. It’s Pier 40, however, that the club calls home, and where members have the most permit time and hold most of their practices and competitive games. But they also use other parks, including James J. Walker Park, Chelsea Park, Riverside Park, and parks on Randall’s Island and Roosevelt Island.
DUSC is one of 11 youth affiliates in the NYC Football Club (NYCFC), wherein groups share resources. “They give us professional development for our coaches and our players, and work with other clubs across the region to help promote and improve soccer in New York City,” he says. THE DUSC offerings include a recreation league, an academy, and camp programs. The recreation leagues are for less committed players who want to enjoy the game at an introductory level, once a week. The recreation leagues are localized and parent-volunteer driven, but managed by the club. The academy level is where the student athletes are training three days a week with professional coaches and traveling for games. The classes are mostly fee-based, but the club offers free programming on the Lower East Side, thanks to a grant from NYC Football Club. The more advanced players who travel and make a bigger commitment have slightly higher fees. The Club offers a scholarship program and does not turn anybody away based on their financial situation, Frambach says. Frambach (originally from upstate New York) played in college at SUNY at Cortland. He started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at East Stroudsburg University, where he received his master’s degree, and worked his way up to assistant coach, and finally head coach at the college level at St. Andrews College in North Carolina (Division 2 School). He received a Non-profit Youth Services Diploma from Columbia Business School in 2008. He was also the Association Director of sports at Asphalt Green on the Upper East Side. For more than 10 years, he’s been involved in the nonprofit youth sector.
Frambach says, “We want to work together to offer soccer and education to our youth, provide an outlet for them, and see them continue to go through our system.”
He says a number of kids have been with the program for 10 to 15 years. We see our program as giving young people an opportunity to start early, at four or five years old. We’ve had a number of kids with our program for 10 to 15 years.
“They’ve obviously learned a lot,” he says. “We’re hoping to be a part of their growth.”