Atlanta wasn’t in our original travel plans when we hit the road for a three week OpenSports road trip/promotional tour through the US, but a spontaneous decision to take a 6 hour Greyhound ride from Charlotte to ATL ended up more than satisfying our desire to meet a cool soccer organization. We got to kick it with best friends with original personalities and global plans.
Like many sports group organizers, protective of the organization they have carefully built over the years, Court, Wedge, and Alex, founders of Sons of Pitches FC (SOPFC), Atlanta’s largest intown league/pickup/tournament soccer club, were originally apprehensive when we reached out to them to tell them about OpenSports. We hoped that they would consider switching from Meetup to OpenSports to manage their huge group and daily pickup soccer games, and to our dismay, we never heard back. But after hearing about us from Tim, founder of CASA Soccer in Philadelphia, they knew we were the real deal, reached back out to us, and we’ve had a burgeoning relationship since.
We finally met Court and Wedge at a tavern called Argosy on a colourful, trendy street in East Atlanta Village. Their excitement to meet was immediately apparent, and was reciprocated by us. Their laid back, social, and amicable dispositions put us at ease —after being on the road for a few weeks, we got to spend some quality time with best buddies who shared a special bond with each other, a friendship that was, as described by Wedge, “Love at first sight!”
They were curious about our trip, what our learnings were so far, and what was the most surprising thing that we saw an organizer do, to which we answered: the pickleback shots in NYC, and the Waitlist experience in Philly. After some unfiltered and genuinely authentic group chatter about morning footy, morning raves, and underage drinking experiences, Court started handing us what seemed like their entire spring collection of SOPFC T-shirts and tank tops (I haven’t stopped rocking these in Toronto, guys!)!!
Their pride oozed out as their t-shirt sharing was complimented with a bit more background on the history and growth of SOPFC, which they are now both managing full-time, with the help of a new addition to their staff, Zach, and a group of dedicated league coordinators and event managers. We were all ears as they recalled one of their classic rooftop soccer tournaments which brought in players from as far as 4 hours away, and described the nuances in the psychology behind running big pickup events whereby you need to achieve “critical mass” for the event to happen. While growing their pickup events and their leagues, they have experimented with several different field set ups, and we were excited to head off to our first actual SOPFC pickup soccer match to actually experience the entire event!
On field, I took note of something I have never really seen: Kids playing with adults. When I asked Wedge how old one young boy was, Wedge seemed sad to learn that this kind of age integration isn’t common place everywhere. To him, this integration of demographics is what makes pickup so special and fun, and was an important part of the pickup culture when he was growing up in South America.
Wedge and Court kindly offered to drive us home. Sitting between James and I in the back seat was “Quezz,” a 19 year old high school student who Wedge mentored through the SOPFC mentorship program which brings soccer coaches to public high schools and also hires some of the high school students to ref the games and become pickup event managers. The “club model” that Wedge and Court mentioned they were striving toward earlier in the evening, a model whereby their organization is so much more than just soccer and more about community fusion, was becoming more clear as we saw the different pieces of SOPFC coming together that evening.
As connected as Court and Wedge seemed to be to us and to OpenSports, they hadn’t even created a Group or an event yet! They hadn’t even updated their app for that matter! They simply liked us a lot and trusted us, which they conveyed over emails and phone calls prior to this trip, and which became very evident in person. As we said goodbye, they made very clear that they were really hoping to see us the next night at their pickup game.
Barely even able to digest how awesome of an evening we just had, James received a text from Court at 5:41am the next morning:
“I want to confirm ya’ll can make it to Maynard Jackson HS for pickup tonight 8–10:30pm. I’m going to run a test using OpenSports for tonight’s sessions and let people know they cam meet the founders and give feedback:)” — Court
Thanks to the loud bird songs outside of our park-side Victorian Airbnb in Atlanta, James was awoken just in time to respond saying, “That’s a great idea!” They quickly made their SOPFC Group on OpenSports and asked a bunch of questions, the most shocking of which was, “How do we make the maximum number of attendees 72?” James burst out laughing. Seventy-two!? For a pickup game!?
— Wedge’s soccer mentor
Throughout the day, James and I triumphantly observed as their attendees list filled up, eventually reaching 62 players by 8pm. The $1 promotion was such a brilliant marketing idea from SOPFC — a sure way to get players to join the game through the app. Upon arrival at the field that evening, Court presented James and I with two name tags that he handmade himself! These guys seemed to move so quickly with their decisions, and we were grateful to be caught in their never-ending stream of creativity and ideas. They are the types of leaders that we need on board and that we aspire to be like.
All 62 soccer players were anxious to get on the field after a 45 minute delay, but Wedge still took the time to corral the crowd and introduce us, thank us for coming, and announce that they would be using OpenSports instead of Meetup from now on. In a highly organized fashion, Wedge and a few co-organizers quickly set up the massive pitch, used the electronic OpenSports check-in system to distribute pinnies to paid players, and before long, there were three 8v8 games running in parallel, with 2 teams ready to rotate in.
For the second night in a row, I played pickup while James took some pictures, and chatted with the friendly and curious players on the sidelines. More conversations seamlessly flowed, as Court and Wedge shared ideas with James about everything from retrofitting parking lots with turfs, to bringing the concept of rooftop soccer to different countries, to Court’s unique sleeping habits, to their solution to their pinny logistics problem: co-branded reversible pinnies. All of this spoke to their originality and willingness to do things differently.
Wedge eventually had to run off to his league game at another field, non-surprisingly, as these guys seemed to always be on the move. Regardless of their tightly packed schedules, they seemed willing to meet us for drinks later that evening, but we had an early flight to California the next morning. We all agreed we would save our Mai Tai’s for our next collaborative “Global Tour” — an ongoing joke we referenced several times throughout our fun filled time in Atlanta.
In a moment alone with Court, he endearingly described Wedge as this crazy (innovative) guy who has all of these ideas. Their dynamic, one that could have been from a “bromantic comedy”, was so perfectly captured when we were leaving the field on the first night. Wedge pointed out a tiny little meadow of grass in a corner, noting that “It’ll be good for tournaments,” to which Court, composed but nevertheless very sarcastically replied, “That little field!?!?” while shaking his head and smiling. James and I exchanged smiles, excited to be a part of this celebration of friendship, innovative thinking, and passion about their work.
Collaboratively, there is no doubt their dreams for the future to be in new schools, new districts, new cities, and to service new sports, will come true. Sons of Pitches FC, it has been an absolute pleasure spending time together on and off the pitch. You really surprised us by creating your group while we were in Atlanta and posting a soccer game which would end up breaking the previously held record (in Toronto) for the largest pickup game through OpenSports — all in one day! We are so excited to continue to make history together! 🤗⚽️ 🎊🍻
Thank you so much for reading our story:) More stories from our USA road trip are in our OpenSports blog. It’s been a pleasure! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for questions and/or just to send us some ❤.