Powered by MOJO: Tuscaloosa United

How one fast-growing soccer club leverages MOJO to grow the game.

Laura Lambert

| 3 min read

Tuscaloosa United

All told, Barry Spitzer has 36 years of coaching under his belt, from 3-year-olds through college athletes. But it wasn’t until he joined Tuscaloosa United as the executive director, in May 2019, that he found a just-right fit. “Tuscaloosa United serves the whole county,” says Spitzer. “It gave me a population to focus on.”

But what happens when the population you serve is a lot bigger than you think? 

You turn to tools — like MOJO — that extend your reach.

Growing the game

Tuscaloosa United’s main soccer programs take place at the Sokol North Complex, a short drive from the center of the city, with a secondary program at Bobby Miller Activity Center, serving the south side of town. But there’s been a growing need for what Spitzer calls satellite programs. 

“We’re being stretched east and west,” says Spitzer. 

The demand for soccer programming in and around Tuscaloosa has been up since Covid, says Spitzer. At the beginning of the pandemic, Tuscaloosa United had figured out how to deliver a safe, fun soccer experience for its community.

“That helped us grow,” says Spitzer. “And with that you had more underserved markets reaching out.” Communities where soccer wasn’t the main sport began coming to Spitzer and asking him to introduce a soccer program. 

Spreading the word

One of the first satellite programs was for the west end of Tuscaloosa, a 20-minute drive from both the Sokol North Complex and Bobby Miller Activity Center. In spring of 2022, TUSC started a low-cost soccer program two nights a week for kids 5 to 10 years old, with no child turned away.

But you can’t grow a program without the people who power practices.

“To move into underserved markets, we have to grow coaches and grow the interest in players,” says Spritzer. 

And that is where the MOJO app came in.

“Having something we can hand them that’s a great tool is key,” says Spitzer. 

Spitzer brought in TUSC coaching staff to the West End Soccer Strong program at first, but then sought to empower local volunteers to take charge. 

“What the MOJO app has given us, it’s very reproducible,” says Spitzer. “The novice parent volunteer coach who has never played soccer has a tool to immediately do that first practice.”

Looking farther afield

In fall 2022, several other communities reached out to TUSC, including one town outside county lines — Marion, Alabama, a city of 3,000 an hour’s drive from the Sokol North Complex. “It was too late for the fall,” he says. But he was able to put together a small program for them, with 17 kids.

With more than 74 recreational soccer teams, from 4v4 leagues full of pre-K and kindergarteners to non-competitive U13+ leagues, TUSC sees a lot of recreational play — nearly all of it powered by volunteers. 

But there’s always room for more, says Spitzer.

“My personal goal in life is to exponentially grow the love of the game,” says Spitzer. “I would love to spark the love of a game in a child and then they go and play at the highest level they can play. Or maybe they play, love the game and come back 15 years later and coach in the club. Both are wins to me.”

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